Dog walks with Miranda and a West End brunch
Friday night is usually a recovery night so you’ll find me lying in a heap, exhausted from the week. I can occasionally be tempted out, but it’s rare that I get the chance to do nothing and I relish it.
I’m not as early a riser as I’d like to be and that’s my body’s fault. As anyone who spends any time in a theatre knows, you’re rarely in bed before midnight and that means a 6am wake-up is not an option. I try hard to sleep earlier when I’m not in a show, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been listening to the radio getting ready for bed when I hear the “dong, dong” of midnight, and then you might as well forget it.
I have a terrible hair shirt mentality. Even if I had a whole weekend stretching before me with no particular engagements with my husband [Peter Owen, the music publisher whom she married in 1976] or sons [Alexander, 24, and Edward, 21], I’d have to get quite a lot of things done on Saturday to earn my right to time out.
So I’d do some drudgery in the morning, washing and such like, and then I like to accompany one of my dog-owning friends on a walk near my house in Barnes, south-west London. There’s one particular route I love that goes along the towpath, and in an ideal world my dog-walking companion would be Miranda Hart. I’m in love with her dog Peggy, a shih tzu cross. She’s just the nicest dog ever.
As we walk we have heart-to-hearts – sorry, Hart-to-hearts – discussing life and the universe. Miranda’s very wise. I think she’s had to delve a long way into herself for her comedy so she’s very good at delving into other people, without being in any way invasive. Considering I’m meant to be her mother [Penny in the BBC sitcom Miranda] she’s said some wonderful things which have been very well received by me. We have a lot of laughs too, of course.
It’s bad enough when you get recognised on your own, but when people see the two of us together, or in any combination with the rest of the Miranda family [Sarah Hadland, who plays Stevie, or Tom Ellis, Gary] it’s just bizarre. They often go completely mental and start hyperventilating. Perhaps they think the show’s actually real.
I’ve enjoyed working on Miranda more than I’d enjoyed anything for a long time. I first joined the cast in 2008 when it was a radio show, Miranda Hart’s Joke Shop, and I found the scripts delightful because I felt they were a return to the style of comedy I’d grown up with. Miranda was marvellous and it was such a clever and inventive group I was joining that I realised I really had to step up to the plate. When they asked me to play the role on television it was a very easy yes, though nerve-racking.
I’d done situation comedy early in my career and I know what a high-wire act it is. You have to admire anyone who attempts it. My eldest son, Alexander, is getting into comedy and acting too and I worry, but all I can do is watch from afar and support him. Believe me, Miranda is so brave. I’ve seen her in utter agony with terrifying
Drink of choice? Champagne.
Whom do you most admire? Mylifelong champion is Paul Newman and, by complete coincidence, I always adored Joanne Woodward. The fact they were married made it perfect.
If not an actress, what would you have been? An architect. I think it’s an extraordinary discipline but I’d never have had the mathematical capability. Pullingmyhair. It’s a nervous thing.
Describe your style? It’s just what appeals to me. Recently I was told by a style guru I was “classic gamine”.
Have you done your Christmas shopping? Don’t be silly. Haven’t done anything. Yes, I know there are only four days to go – all ideas on a postcard, please. Myhome Mycar – a Mercedes B-class Myjob Myfamily Myfriends nerves before performing, but she does it. The whole show is her inspiration and we’re just facets of it, trying to fulfil our roles as best we can. I adore my character and though I don’t think I’m anything like Penny, there are many elements I recognise. My own mother always said the now-famous phrase “what I call”, unaware that she did it, and even watching me saying it in the show she still didn’t get it.
If Miranda and I have put the world to rights on our Saturday walk, I’ll probably reward myself with lunch at one of my favourite places in Barnes. I’ve lived in this area since 1975 and I love that it hasn’t changed much. It’s still one of London’s villages and it’s beautiful. I never go mad on lunch so I’d have something light and would waste quite a bit of the afternoon chatting.
Afterwards I might come home and do a bit