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Mel Giedroyc: 'There is more to life than the trappings of wealth'

Comedian Mel Giedroyc hopes to return to stand-up with her pal Sue Perkins and reveals how a financial crisis made her re-evaluate her priorities.

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Television star Mel Giedroyc has just written her first book

Television star Mel Giedroyc has just written her first book

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Television star Mel Giedroyc has just written her first book

Mel Giedroyc makes no secret of the fact she'd love to return to stand-up with her good friend Sue Perkins, original Great British Bake Off presenters and anchor duo of former daytime show, Light Lunch.

"I really miss stand-up," says the bright, witty 52-year-old writer, actor and presenter.

"The last conversation that Sue and I had a few days ago, we ended up saying, 'When the Edinburgh Festival's back on again, shall we do it?'

"We'd love to do some live stuff together and that's going to happen. Now that my girls are pretty much ready to fly the coop, life is different."

What subjects would they tackle now? "We'd probably be talking about menopause and old age by the time we get it together," she predicts.

"It'll be the usual shambolic collective of madness. We are not very good with deadlines."

They have both done a lot of telly individually too, which was always important to them.

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"You have to plough your own furrow and Sue is brilliant at things that I'm not brilliant at, and hopefully I can do stuff that she maybe doesn't want to do, or doesn't feel so akin with. But it's lovely to come back together. It feels like a treat."

Under normal circumstances they would be constantly in and out of each other's houses, although they have walked their dogs together during lockdown.

Giedroyc has also written her debut novel, The Best Things. It's a witty and thought-provoking tale about a middle class yummy mummy in Surrey who finds her own identity and newfound strength in the wake of the collapse of her husband's business, when they lose their home and their savings in one fell swoop.

Giedroyc, who lives in West London with her husband, TV director Ben Morris and daughters, can certainly relate to the cushion of a comfortable life being swept from under her feet - the family almost went bankrupt when the girls, Vita and Florence, now 17 and 18 respectively, were little. She explains they'd bought a large house in west London, spent far too much money on it and had a huge mortgage.

"I had a nice little gig with Kingsmill bread. Sue and I were making two ads for them a year, which was keeping things ticking along really nicely financially. I had the girls and I thought, 'This is great! I can be a stay-at-home mum and do the odd advert and keep the coffers going and life is good'.

"Then a letter came through the door saying, 'We don't need you any more for the advert' - and that was it. We were wiped out financially.

"We had to sell the house, which was scary. It was just at the time when the housing market was going to pot, around the crash in 2007. There were many sleepless nights and chats around, 'Oh my God, what have we done? We can't afford to be here, we're going to be declared bankrupt'."

They sold their house just in time, she recalls, and rented a small two-bedroom flat for nearly two years. "We got a good deal from a friend of a friend and we would meet him in a layby off the A1 with cash for our rent," she recalls. "I'm sure it's a story many of us have been through. You push the boat out a bit too much and you think it's fine, we all live on credit, don't we? And then it bites you on the a***."

Enjoying TV success before the finances went awry didn't make the fall harder, she reflects. "It took Sue and I seven years to get the Light Lunch gig. People go, 'Oh, you went to Cambridge, got out of university and just walked into TV'. Absolutely not! We put in a good few years of sh**** jobs grafting, not knowing where our next rent was going to come from.

"At the end of the day, you know you're going to be okay because you've got your family.

"This is a big theme running through my book." The novel is set in Leatherhead, a setting familiar to Giedroyc, who was brought up on the outskirts of the Surrey suburb by her Lithuanian father, an aircraft designer, and her mother, a nurse.

Despite the financial chaos and flawed characters in her story, it ends hopefully.

"They learn through these awful experiences that there is more to life than the trappings of wealth. Family is the most important thing. Life doesn't turn out the way you expect it, but if you keep yourself on the right track and the people that matter close to you, you're going to be alright."

And the work keeps coming. She's recently presented a new celebrity confessional series, Unforgivable, and is filming a new series of Sky comedy drama Hitmen with Perkins.

She hasn't watched Bake Off, their most high profile presenting job, since it moved to Channel 4, she admits. "I barely saw it when it was on BBC," she says. "I've just started to dip my toes in a couple of our series, but I find it very hard to watch anything that I'm involved in. It's probably vanity, thinking, 'I could have done that better', which is stupid.

"But one should watch one's own stuff because then you learn. And I'll probably watch the Channel 4 Bake Off in about seven years' time."

The Best Things by Mel Giedroyc, Headline Review, priced £12.99, is available now


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