Happily married and busier than ever, how Lynda Bellingham is having time of her life at 63
Ahead of appearing in Calendar Girls in Belfast, Loose Women’s Lynda Bellingham tells Gabrielle Fagan about finally finding true love and staying young-at-heart.
Ahead of appearing in Lynda Bellingham is certainly a woman who can multitask — she's simultaneously making a cup of tea, taking several phone calls and managing in between to talk engagingly about life, love and the joys of ageing.
If it appears a little frenetic that's because the actress, who at 63 is the oldest member on ITV1's Loose Women panel and who's also starring nude on stage in Calendar Girls, is so busy these days she feels she can't waste a minute.
“At one stage I did think, ‘Ooh, what will happen when I get older?” she says. “Will I just end up sitting around because everything's tailed off?' But that hasn't happened at all, and I feel so lucky to be enjoying a lot of success at the moment.”
In fact, she's emerging as a charismatic role model for older women who want to defy the outdated stereotype of them as mumsy and ‘invisible’.
On Loose Women her compassionate, down-to-earth views have made her a hit and, as well as taking her kit off on stage playing Chris (Helen Mirren's part in the film), she's also strutting her stuff as a model for isme, a new range of clothes tailored specifically for 40-plus women.
“The perception of ageing is completely different nowadays. I remember at 45 my own mother was considered old — nowadays that's definitely not so.
“We're all working longer, some of us might be on our own through being widowed or divorced and looking for another partner, and we certainly don't want to look fuddy-duddy.
“The clothes from isme fit and flatter because they are tailored to account for the fact that our bodies change, especially with the menopause, and weight shifts to the waist and boobs.”
It's not just her professional success and polished appearance (she's losing weight through the Dukan Diet) that she's relishing — it's also the personal happiness that she's found. She had a
roller-coaster ride through two marriages, her first was unconsummated and, in her second, she reportedly suffered mental and physical abuse. But three years ago, on her 60th birthday, she married property developer Michael Pattemore, whom she met in Spain and is eight years her junior.
“When happiness comes later in your life you don't take it for granted, you really appreciate it,” says Bellingham, who has two sons from her second marriage, actor Michael (28), who is in Calendar Girls, and Robbie (23), who's in hospitality.
“I was on my own for 10 years before I met Michael and I didn't want a relationship just for the sake of it. I think that can be more lonely than being on your own.
“But we have so much in common — a sense of humour and he's romantic.”
She credits Michael with helping her turn her life around, as together they both gave up drinking.”[My drinking] was a problem. It had a depressant effect and a negative impact on my life. I haven't drunk for seven years. It's been very liberating and I find I have so much more energy now.”
That alcohol problem may, she believes, be rooted in self-esteem issues linked to the fact that she was adopted as a four-month-old baby, which she revealed in her autobiography, Lost And Found.
She was born in Canada to Marjorie Moorhouse, whose lover, an American sailor, deserted her when he discovered she was pregnant. Although Bellingham enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Buckinghamshire, with her English adoptive parents, pilot Don Bellingham and his wife Ruth, an actress, she struggled with insecurities.
“My parents were fantastic but secretly I had a lack of self-worth. I think it has a lot to do with a sense of abandonment.
Poignantly, she's had to learn about Alzheimer's. Five years ago her adoptive mother died after a battle with the disease, and a year later she discovered her birth mother, aged 88, also has the condition.
“I do feel terrible guilt about my birth mother in Canada because as it's so far I can't visit all the time. But I ring regularly and she still knows it's me.”
Still, on the whole, Lynda feels upbeat: “Life's pretty good and if you embrace it, you can have a fantastic time.”
Lynda Bellingham is brand ambassador for isme.com, which offers fashion tailored for 40-plus women. For more info, tel: 0844 811 8112 or visit www.isme.com. She will be appearing in Calendar Girls at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, from Oct 3-8. For tickets, tel: 028 9024 1919