Heal­ing, Heaven and horror films

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

In the past, when I did a lot of the­atre, I would have three per­for­mances over a weekend and it would be tougher for me than Mon­day to Fri­day. But now that I’m a grand­mother and don’t work so much, week­ends mean fam­ily time and they are just great. My grand­son [the first child of her daugh­ter Lara, by Rula’s first hus­band Brian Dea­con] is 18 months old and he’s an ab­so­lute de­light. He reminds me so much of Lara, who was a re­ally cheeky, bouncy baby too, that it’s like re­liv­ing the whole ex­pe­ri­ence. Un­for­tu­nately I haven’t been much use as a babysit­ter re­cently be­cause I had a shoul­der op­er­a­tion two months ago that has put me out of ac­tion, but soon I hope to have him to stay overnight.

I live in Chiswick, west Lon­don, and Lara and her fam­ily are only half an hour away in Twick­en­ham so I see them all the time. I’ve grown to love Lon­don since mov­ing back here from the beau­ti­ful house in the coun­try I owned when I was mar­ried to Den­nis [Water­man, her sec­ond hus­band, whom she di­vorced in 1998]. Chiswick has a very wel­com­ing, vil­lagey at­mos­phere. I was brought up in Eng­land and will be for­ever grate­ful to this coun­try, but I have to say that the older I get, the more my heart and soul feel Pol­ish. I haven’t vis­ited much for some years now since break­ing up with my boyfriend, Wladek, who lived in Krakow, in 2007, but as time goes by I find that my roots feel more im­por­tant. My Pol­ish par­ents were al­ways de­ter­mined that we should re­mem­ber our her­itage and learn the lan­guage, and as a child I hated this be­cause I just wanted to be like ev­ery­one else. Now, though, I’m enor­mously grate­ful. Know­ing the ac­cent is use­ful as an ac­tress, for one thing, but I like to be able to cook Pol­ish food too. I don’t do it when I’m alone (I only cook for my cat, Chica Luna) but my fam­ily and I al­ways make clas­sic Pol­ish dishes like fish pie and fudge tarts and beetroot soup for Christ­mas. The lat­ter is an ac­quired taste, I have to say.

One of the great lux­u­ries of be­ing on your own is the way you can read in bed for as long as you like on a weekend. I tend to have two or three books on the go. When I even­tu­ally get up and get go­ing about the day, no two days are the same.

Writ­ing my au­to­bi­og­ra­phy has oc­cu­pied most of my time re­cently. I de­cided to do it partly for the chal­lenge – I’ve al­ways loved writ­ing and I’m known in my fam­ily for writ­ing odes and po­ems for spe­cial oc­ca­sions – but also be­cause my ex-hus­band Den­nis ad­mit­ted on Piers Mor­gan’s show Life Sto­ries last year some­thing about our mar­riage [that he had hit Rula] that he’d al­ways pre­vi­ously de­nied and that was a cathar­tic mo­ment. I wanted to write about it in a very fair way be­cause I don’t carry any anger about it any more, though there’s still sad­ness, ob­vi­ously. I wanted to show the world, too, that there is a lot more to me than my ex-mar­riages and my time on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006.

My life in­volves a lot of travel – both to visit the con­ser­va­tion projects I sup­port and for fun. I pre­fer in­trepid trav­el­ling where you live slightly rough to stay­ing in glossy ho­tels which are the same the world over. I’ll keep go­ing to ex­otic places for as long as pos­si­ble, I think, be­cause the minute you give in to your age is when you’ll give up al­to­gether. Fun­nily enough, I thought that be­ing a “free woman” would be the per­fect time to go off trav­el­ling along, but that quickly lost its ap­peal and now I go with friends or

Herbal tea or stiff drink? As­tiff drink – vodka and soda with lime.

Favourite item of cloth­ing? My­hippy chic long shift dresses from Hamp­stead Bazaar.

What are you most proud of? My­daugh­ter and, by proxy, my­grand­son.

Best place to be in the world? Africa. Ei­ther on the Kenyan coast in a place called Kil­ifi, or at the ele­phant or­phan­age just out­side Nairobi. Thai. I love the del­i­cate flavours and spices. My­grand­son Myhome Abeau­ti­ful wooden ele­phant arm­chair given tomeby the lady who played Jet in Glad­i­a­tors, years ago – we did panto to­gether

My­col­lec­tion of wildlife art by Gary Hodges

Good mem­o­ries with one of my sis­ters.

Fam­ily is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to me th­ese days and I’m par­tic­u­larly close to my sis­ters. I’m 10 years older than the youngest one but she lives in Lon­don too and we still love go­ing to the oc­ca­sional club for a dance to­gether on a Satur­day night. We’ll go to Heaven, the gay club near Char­ing Cross (I’ve al­ways had a lot of fans in the gay quar­ter), or Shadow Lounge in Soho, and I have no em­bar­rass­ment at all about be­ing a slightly older per­son on the dance floor. I just love danc­ing. It’s the only ex­er­cise I do, apart from swim­ming oc­ca­sion­ally.

I don’t re­ally watch what I eat ei­ther, ex­cept from a health point of view. The only ma­jor dis­ci­pline in my life is my Bud­dhist chant­ing, which comes from a Ja­panese branch of the re­li­gion called Nichiren Bud­dhism. I’ve been in and out of Bud­dhism for about 25 years and I try to chant ev­ery day for per­sonal goals and the hap­pi­ness of all mankind. It is gen­tle but very pow­er­ful too, and when I don’t do it for a while I feel bad be­cause just like ex­er­cise, you get out what you put in. It helps to keep me fo­cused, which I need dur­ing times when I’m out of work, as I am now while I’m wait­ing for my shoul­der to re­cu­per­ate.

Some­thing else I’ve done for years, when I haven’t been in work, is record­ing au­dio books. I love it. The stu­dio is in Bath and the or­gan­is­ers put you up in a lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel, and then you go and read books in front of a mi­cro­phone for seven or eight hours a day. I’ve met the most won­der­ful peo­ple through it, from David Ten­nant to Ti­mothy West and Prunella Scales. We al­ways get a jolly lunch, where we gos­sip about the books we’re read­ing, and then the af­ter­noons be­come dan­ger­ous be­cause you get so­porific and make howl­ing mis­takes. I was once read­ing a deeply in­volved spy novel set in East­ern Europe, full of Rus­sians and Prus­sians. By the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon I was feel­ing ter­ri­bly sleepy and could see my pro­ducer nod­ding off. Sud­denly I read: “Chap­ter 16. The streets of Dji­bouti were over­flow­ing with Arab sea­men.” That woke the pro­ducer up: we got ter­ri­ble gig­gles and I couldn’t read for the next 20 min­utes with­out fall­ing off the stool!

My next project, once my arm has healed and my book pub­lic­ity has calmed down, is go­ing to be a onewoman cabaret show I’ve been asked to write, and then I’m hop­ing for some more chal­leng­ing tele­vi­sion parts to come my way.

With all this go­ing on, there are a lot of things I have to say no to if I want to see my fam­ily as of­ten as I’d like to. One good way to do this is to get them all around for Sun­day lunch. Then the last thing I’ll of­ten do on a Sun­day night is have a “chilled sis­ter evening” – we’ll curl up on the so­fas with a good horror film and scare our­selves wit­less.

Rula by Rula Len­ska (The Rob­son Press, RRP £20), is avail­able to or­der from Tele­graph Books at £18 + £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.tele­graph.co.uk.

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