Emma’s speciality has always been her ability to stand up to people. If her father ever bullied her siblings she would stand between them and say, ‘Don’t talk to them like that!’
Emma was definitely a little nervous when she first ran the idea of Killing Kittens past me. It was fine with me, but I said, ‘You’re going to lose friends – and whatever you do, do not cross the line and join in.’ It wasn’t an easy time, but once your children reach a certain age you have to allow them to make their own decisions.
We had such laughs living together. Her apartment was full of wonderful people that I would never have been able to talk to if I was still married. Once my sister and I found ourselves making a cake in the shape of a penis for one of her events.
I never attended any of Emma’s parties but
I did go on plenty of nights out with her.
There was one shameful night when I got very drunk at a dinner. I was sitting next to one of her handsome friends and told him how gorgeous he was. He offered to walk me home but Emma said, ‘You will not!’ She took me home, gave me a glass of water, put a bucket by the bed and said, ‘You’re grounded now!’
Every time I opened my eyes the room spun and I saw myself surrounded by bottles of champagne, masks and condoms. I thought, ‘Whatever’s happened to the good little army wife?’
Emma even let me become an honorary member of the Sisterhood, the all-female group she’d set up, which briefly included her old schoolfriend Kate Middleton. It raised money for charity through events such as marathons. They called me ‘the mothership’. I accompanied them to Venice for a dragon boat race and just couldn’t stop sobbing – I couldn’t get over my freedom.
Emma looked after me, but I looked after her, too. For a while she was engaged to [cricketer Ian Botham’s son] Liam Botham, whom I loathed. She was invited to a party and was going to take some friends. Just like my ex would have done, Liam told her she couldn’t go.
She was shaking when she was talking to him and about to cave in, so I called him and said, ‘You’re a bully. You seem to have leant on your father’s name the whole of your life and you need a reality check.’ Emma went to the party. They broke up shortly afterwards.
In contrast, Emma’s husband – Olympic hockey player James Tindall – is the loveliest man. He’s quite happy to stand in the background but if Emma says, ‘I need someone to dress up as Batman tonight for a party,’ he’ll dress up as Batman.
I couldn’t have been more thrilled when Emma became pregnant with Raffy, now five, followed by Lily, three, and Maly Jean, one. With so much on her plate Emma was struggling so I moved near to her home to help out. Her work’s never stopped – even during lockdown she was frantically moving Killing Kittens parties on to Zoom.
I thought Killing Kittens would be a flash in the pan, but 15 years later it’s still thriving. Now Emma’s becoming a champion for abused women, launching her campaign Hiit Against Hit where people were encouraged to post videos of themselves working out online to raise funds for Women’s Aid.
People still make snide comments but James and I agree we see the Emma no one else does – an Emma who has a very soft side and who, underneath her cool façade, is actually quite shy.
Don’t Bother to Dress Up by Maly Sayle will be published by Matador at €12.99 on 28 August
MALY WITH EMMA, GEORGIE AND JONJON IN CAIRO, 1993