In The Hotseat with Lynda Bellingham

Lynda Bellingham
Lynda Bellingham

WHILE preparing for her starring role in Calendar Girls, showing at the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough this week, actress Lynda Bellingham took time out to talk to Whitby Gazette reporter Karl Hansell for this week’s In The Hotseat.

Known to most as “the OXO mum” Lynda plays Chris in the play, a part she admits delight at being cast for as it allows her to show a friskier side of her personality than we are used to.

Calendar Girls is based on the story of Rylstone Women’s Institute, whose members’ decision to strip for their first calendar was inspired by the death of group member Angela Baker’s husband, John, from non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999.

Since then the women have raised more than £3m for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and the story spawned both a feature film and this stage play.

The show requires Lynda and her other cast members to remove their clothes on stage, but for the Whitby Gazette, she kept her clothes firmly on.

1 What are your first memories of Whitby?

I filmed a short film in Whitby about five years ago called Fish Supper.

It was all about a lady saving a lobster from the fish shop and she carries it in her bag to the seaside and frees it.

2 What makes Whitby special to you?

I have always loved the sea.

Although I was brought up inland there’s something about the sea that I feel happy to be close to it.

I do have a close affinity with the moors from my time in All Creatures Great and Small.

All children should spend some time on a farm so they understand the cycle of life.

3 Life’s highlight?

The highlight of my life has been being adopted by my parents because I wouldn’t have had the life I’ve had without them, which you can read about in my novel Lost and Found.

4 Biggest regret?

There was a time when OXO was at its height and I was struggling in my marriage that I was very upset and thought ‘well this is terrible’.

I was not offered jobs I would’ve liked because I was seen as too mumsy and homely and it’s only in the last 10 years I’ve been able to re-invent myself.

5 What did you have for breakfast this morning?

I have just had haddock and poached egg which was delicious.

I’m on this diet where you can only eat protein, it seemed like a good idea to do while I was taking my clothes off on tour.

6 What is your favourite eating place?

Sheeky’s fish restaurant in London.

Funnily enough I came to go there regularly when I was in Calendar Girls in the West End in 2009.

I used to love just strolling around the West End, taking in all the galleries and then treating myself to a little bit of smoked salmon and an oyster.

7 What is your favourite pub?

I don’t drink so I don’t do pubs any more, but if I pop anywhere it’s to the Ivy Club because it’s nice to have a place where you can go.

8 Where are the best fish and chips?

I did have amazing fish and chips in Whitby.

I can’t remember the name of the place but they were fabulous.

9 What is your worst habit?

I’ve got so many – I chew my nails.

10 Where was your last holiday?

In early June I went for four days on a yacht in the south of France.

I don’t have many wealthy friends but I do have one whose complete aim in life was to own a yacht.

To board a yacht in St Tropez is just ‘hello poor people’, I could hardly bear it.

I was too fat but it was gorgeous.

11 When was the last time you cried?

I cry every night in the play.

I find that if you have rehearsed it in the right places it tends to happen every night.

My sister died of lung cancer so it does make me tearful.

Ninety per cent of the audience has been affected by cancer so if you’re doing it right then it’s the audience that should be crying.

12 What would be your ideal day in Whitby?

I think it’s got to be an early-morning walk by the sea, especially if it’s blustery and raining, followed by fish and chips, a bit of a nap, and on to the theatre.

13 What was your first job?

Frinton Summer Theatre in 1969.

It was a little scout hall on the Essex coast and was an amazing success.

They used to do West End plays and everyone used to laugh but even Vanessa Redgrave performed there.

She had to bend over all the time because she was too tall for the stage, so she always played old ladies.

14 What is your favourite film?

Laurence of Arabia

15 What is your favourite book?

A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Wind in the Willows.

I’m longing for a grandchild to read it to.

16 If you won the Lottery, what would you do with it?

Say it was £10million, we would buy my son’s homes and I would but myself a home in the south of France and I would invest the rest with so much each year going to various charities, such as Barnardos because I’m adopted.

17 Dracula or Captain Cook?

Captain Cook.

I always think people who are Dracula are basically a bit depressed and I don’t want that, I want to be loving with a sense of adventure and giving it some welly.

18 What is your signature dish?

Full English breakfast.

We’re talking everything – fried bread, fried eggs, very crispy bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, sausages, even a bit of haggis if you’re lucky.

As a child I used to sit with my dad and fried bread.

He used to put a bit of sugar on his tomatoes and then when you fried your bread in that you got this amazing coating of caramel, it’s heaven.

19 Favourite drink?

My favourite now is ginger beer, and there’s all sorts.

Tesco do ginger and lemongrass which has got a kick to it.

I stopped drinking alcoholic drinks because I drank too much and as a woman, as I got older, it becomes very negative.

There’s a lot of research to link depression and long-term alcohol consumption so when my husband quit drinking I decided to stop too.

20 What would be your epitaph?

Tries hard, could do better.