Dog walks with Mi­randa and a West End brunch

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

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

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