Anna Richard­son

‘Sue is an amaz­ing cook, I’m the house­keeper’

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page -

Anna Richard­son is watch­ing, wideeyed, at the bar of The Dorch­ester ho­tel, as stars from Made in

Chelsea lope past in their fin­ery, head­ing to an awards cer­e­mony in the next room. “Look at that dress! Oh Christ, I’ve just rocked up in an M&S shirt.”

We are chat­ting over a cou­ple of glasses of sau­vi­gnon blanc, bid­ing time be­fore Richard­son is pre­sent­ing a tro­phy at the Stroke Awards in Lon­don. While she has a per­sonal link with the char­ity (her fa­ther suf­fered a stroke last year), she finds showbiz dos un­bear­able. “I get the hee­bie-jee­bies,” she says, “es­pe­cially if I’m on my own, be­cause I never know any­one.”

The TV pre­sen­ter is with­out her side­kick tonight; her part­ner of nearly five years, Sue Perkins. Richard­son was pre­vi­ously in a re­la­tion­ship with di­rec­tor Charles Martin for 18 years, be­fore they sep­a­rated, and she met Perkins in 2013, a night she de­scribes as “mag­netic and ex­tra­or­di­nary”. ”.

“The plan­ets were singing, there was some­thing mag­i­cal in the air, and sud­denly I re­alised I wanted this per­son in my life.” That Richard­son found love with Perkins at 43 has never seemed sig­nif­i­cant to her. “I just hap­pen to have fallen in love with a woman – sim­ple as that.”

And this year, when life threat­ened to over­whelm them, she was more glad than ever to have the for­mer Bake Off pre­sen­ter by her side. “What’s in­ter­est­ing about a re­la­tion­ship with a woman is that you find a fel­low nur­turer, which you don’t al­ways get with a guy,” she says.

As the cou­ple ap­proach 50, does she ever wish, I won­der, that chil­dren had been in the pic­ture? Yes, dearly. But it isn’t, she says, some­thing she has ruled out. “I can’t speak for Sue, but as I push to­wards 50, I’m sad that I don’t have a fam­ily… That’s all I can say.”

The past year has been taken up with other mat­ters, and the pair have bat­tled a dif­fi­cult few months. Perkins, 48, lost her fat fa­ther to can­cer – some­thing she ad­mit t ad­mit­ted, last week, that she had only started to deal with while film­ing her BBC tr travel se­ries The Ganges – while Richar Richard­son was cop­ing with her own fa fa­ther’s stroke and subsequent diag-no di­ag­no­sis of vas­cu­lar de­men­tia.

Then Then, this sum­mer, her pre­vi­ously strong and healthy mother suf­fered a break break­down so pro­found she be­came sui­ci­dal. Reg­u­lar trips up the M1 to the Peak District – where her mum an and brother still live – and a bat­tle to get her the right care, took over. Lit Lit­tle won­der she and Perkins have ne needed each other more than ever. “W “We’re quite a tough lit­tle unit,” she says. “We pull to­gether. Sue has bee been ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble. She has bee been through a lot in the past year as well, so we’ve been able to re­ally sup­port each other.

“It was aw­ful to see her go­ing through the trauma of her dad dy­ing. She was so brave, and she did a lot of the car­ing. I’ve tried to help her and she, in turn, has been there for me, es­pe­cially while my mum has been ill. She has been bril­liant. She came up and did a lot of the cook­ing.

“I think it shocked her to see my mum so un­well, es­pe­cially so soon after her own loss. She’s had a re­ally dif­fi­cult time, but I think that’s what made her so un­der­stand­ing when I was quite fright­ened.”

Richard­son knows bet­ter than most the im­por­tance of sup­port­ing your loved ones in dark times. She has, she says, suf­fered ter­ri­bly from men­tal ill­ness her en­tire adult life. She lists a num­ber of ex­pe­ri­ences that have contributed to bouts of se­vere anx­i­ety and PTSD, in­clud­ing an ec­topic preg­nancy that left her fight­ing for her life at 21, a ter­ri­fy­ing in­ci­dent when she woke up in a ho­tel room to find bur­glars ran­sack­ing the place, and dis­cov­er­ing she was in­fer­tile after hav­ing tests as part of a TV pro­gramme she was mak­ing on sex ed­u­ca­tion in 2008.

Then there was the time, 15 years ago, when she be­came em­broiled in a le­gal bat­tle after al­leg­ing that Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger had groped her, when she was in­ter­view­ing him. She took the star and two of his aides to court, claim­ing they had at­tempted to ruin her rep­u­ta­tion by say­ing she had fab­ri­cated the in­ci­dent; they even­tu­ally reached a set­tle­ment.

It is some­thing she has put be­hind her, though the sex­ual ha­rass­ment rev­e­la­tions of the past weeks have, un­der­stand­ably, brought it all back.

“It makes me so an­gry that I ex­pe­ri­enced this 15 years ago and here we are, over a decade later, with women com­ing for­ward say­ing: ‘I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the same thing and noth­ing was done about it.’”

Along­side her TV ca­reer (she is known for ex­per­i­men­tal dat­ing shows like Naked At­trac­tion), her fo­cus these days is on help­ing oth­ers. It’s why she has set up a new web­site called Mind­box, which she hopes will give peo­ple all over the UK ac­cess to af­ford­able ther­apy.

This project, too, has a fam­ily con­nec­tion. Richard­son’s grand­mother killed her­self when her mother was only 19, and her mum’s break­down this year was – she and her broth­ers be­lieve – in part, a de­layed re­ac­tion to that early trauma.

“I wasn’t pre­pared for my mum, who is ro­bust and so­cia­ble, hav­ing a com­plete col­lapse. I was gen­uinely fright­ened she was go­ing to kill her­self. It was a bank hol­i­day week­end and she was say­ing: ‘I am se­ri­ously on the edge and I don’t know what is wrong, but I’m go­ing mad.’ I drove her to A&E. I told them they needed to call the men­tal health team. They said there was no­body avail­able: ‘It’s a bank hol­i­day, what do you ex­pect?’”

Her 74-year-old mother, Janet, was sent home with Val­ium and told to see her GP on the Tues­day. Luck­ily, Richard­son had the means to get her to a pri­vate psy­chi­a­trist, and she is feel­ing bet­ter after reg­u­lar ther­apy.

“I wanted to grab those in A&E by the throat and go: ‘Can you not see that this per­son is on the edge?’ It’s not good enough to say: ‘We haven’t got a con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist on call, you’re just go­ing to have to wait’,” says Richard­son, the strain of the past weeks clear in her voice.

Mind­box, which launched last week, of­fers users 24-hour ac­cess to more than 300 psy­chother­a­pists and hyp­nother­a­pists, over the phone or on­line. There are also videos and pod­casts of ther­a­peu­tic tech­niques.

“Ther­apy is chang­ing,” says Richard­son, a trained hyp­nother­a­pist. “You should be able to do it from your own home, you should be able to get it at any time of the day, and you shouldn’t have to pay £200 an hour, or sit on an NHS wait­ing list.”

She and Perkins are be­gin­ning to emerge from the fog of the past few months, and their home in north Lon­don, which they share with their res­cue dog Tig, has been their haven. These days, she val­ues sim­ple things – the coun­try­side, walk­ing Tig and re­lax­ing. “Sue is an amaz­ing cook, I’m the house­keeper. She drops her pants on the floor, I pick them up.”

She seems, above all, a sur­vivor. Ap­proach­ing 50, Richard­son is more de­ter­mined than ever to do worth­while work and en­joy a life lived well. “Right now, I’m re­ally good. I know my­self re­ally well and I’m in a good head space.”

For more in­for­ma­tion or to ac­cess a ther­a­pist, visit mind-box.co.uk

‘I just hap­pen to have fallen in love with a woman – sim­ple as that’

Sur­vivor: Anna Richard­son, above, has ex­pe­ri­enced a hard few months, but has been buoyed by her part­ner, for­mer Bake Off pre­sen­ter Sue Perkins, below

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