Mother and daughter Capricorns, born within seven days – and 23 years – of each other. We can promise much laughter, lots of cooking and the occasional insight. Welcome to the little world of The de-la-Haye Girls.
If you’d have told me in March of this year that I would be spending the next four months pottering around my flat in Surrey, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it. Yet, this is our current reality, our new normal and if I’m being truthful – I haven’t hated it. So often, my job as an actress takes me away – a total privilege, I know! – and I have relished getting to spend time at home with my love and allowing myself to not feel guilty about this.
During our 2020 hibernation, I’ve indulged myself in all sorts of media – honestly, you name it and I probably watched it. Whilst this post isn’t an ode to Tiger King, (which I found almost unwatchable – the memes were far superior to the programme content in my humble opinion), I did want to share with you some of my favourite books, series and films that have helped soothe my anxiety during the last few months.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams – I adored this novel and raced through the chapters each morning with my coffee. I normally only allow myself time to read for pleasure during the daytime when on holiday. Am I the only one who does this? Lockdown has allowed me to reframe that thinking. Why should my reading be earned? Especially when the story is this good! I lent it to E the moment I finished it, I know Queenie’s story will bring as much joy and laughter to her as it did to me.
For Sama by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts – Ok, this is not an easy watch but worth every second. This BAFTA Award winning documentary follows filmmaker Waad as she becomes a mother during the uprising in Syria. I watched this on a day that everything felt a little overwhelming and I’m so glad I did. The fortitude and bravery she shows is so inspiring and hearing Waad talk about her beloved Aleppo really struck a chord.
Most Haunted – I’ve managed to consume all 21 seasons of this so far. I’m a creature of habit and I love nothing more than getting into a routine with a series, watching an episode before bed. I actually delayed watching Line of Duty until it had a good few seasons behind it so that I could shoehorn it into my system. I am fascinated by anything paranormal and love a good horror film. I inherited this from my Dad, not from E – she prefers a costume drama to a chiller diller.
And finally, we have both indulged in some nostalgia thanks to Disney+. We split the subscription between us and have both loved catching up on our favourite childhood movies. The animated ones were always my favourite and I’ve made it my mission to watch every single one, in order, before the year is out. I did cheat and watch The Rescuers early doors but it’s my numero uno!
What’s been keeping you happy during the lockdown? ~L.
Lily and Emma play a de-la-Haye Girls version of Mr and Mrs
In the early 1970s, my grandparents appeared on the television show “Mr and Mrs”, and they won. I don’t recall watching the broadcast of the show but have no doubt that most of the (by today’s standards modest) cash prize would have been spent on treats for me and my cousins. The other prize they won was a silver candelabra which, many years later, found its way to me and is one of my most treasured knick-knacks.
The format of “Mr and Mrs” was that the husband was locked in a sound-proof booth while the wife was asked questions about his likes, dislikes, habits, etc. Then the couple switched around and the exercise was repeated. The more answers the couple agreed on the bigger the prize. The show’s popularity hinged on two aspects: amusement at the couples who evidently knew very little about each other’s preferences and applause for those, like my grandparents, who seemingly knew everything about each other.
Reminiscing about this got me and Lily pondering whether we would give accurate answers for each other, and how surprised we might be by the answers we each gave to a set of questions. Lily had played this with some of cast on a recent theatrical job – to much hilarity. One thing led to another and we ended up interviewing each other around a set of questions; some of the questions we asked each other were the same, others a variation on a theme, a handful cover very different subjects. It gave us a giggle and we hope you enjoy!
L: Alright, here we go. First question: what’s one family tradition you’d like to carry on in the future?
E: Our family get-together at Christmas. I really enjoy these, even though they can be loud with everyone talking over each other, and occasionally stressful with 10 people all trying to help with the same thing at once. I love them and want to carry on these occasions of the close family getting together. They also carry lots of memories as I can remember celebrating this way with my grandparents.
L: I enjoy these days too. Ready for the next one? What’s one skill you’ve always wanted to pick up and why?
E: I’m torn on this question as I have two answers and I can’t decide between them.
L: You can say both.
E: OK. The one is to be able to play the piano…
L: Yeah, same here. Why would you like this skill?
E: It looks such an incredible thing to be able to do and is so far beyond my comprehension and experience – I don’t even read music – and I would love to be able to do it. The second is a more recent and growing desire: I was born and grew up in Wales at a time when, in the area where I lived, I received no teaching in the Welsh language and I would like to be able to speak Welsh. It is interesting to me – and it is a thing they say about the Welsh – that you feel more Welsh when you live outside of Wales than you did when you lived there!
L: Isn’t that funny – these are the two things I’ve tried to teach myself during lockdown.
E: How are you getting on?
L: Welsh is really hard! I can say: “actores di-waith dw i”, which means “I am an unemployed actress”.
E: Oh right. Excellent…
L: “Actores Cymraeg di-waith dw i.”
L&E: “I am an unemployed Welsh-speaking actress!”
L: Anyway, onwards. What qualities do you admire in yourself?
E: Energy; people I work with tell me they like my energy and I like this about myself. In my first ever proper job, after I had been there a day or two, I remember a lovely colleague, Val, saying to me: “you are like a breath of fresh air, Emma”, and I’ve always held on to that. I think I bring an energy and outlook to work that people enjoy. I admire my sense of humour. I think I am witty. I have a very British sense of humour – heavy on the self-deprecation and lots of gentle sarcasm. And I think I am quite nice to people; I try to be kind.
L: You are very kind. I’d also say that you’re trustworthy.
E: Do you think that? That’s lovely, thank you.
L: Yes, I do. I think I could murder someone, tell you where I hid the body and I don’t think you’d ever crack. You are the person I’d get to bury a body with me, definitely. OK, OK! Next one – list three things that make you smile.
E: There are hundreds, not just three, but top of today’s list: . a beautiful cottage garden, and in the same vein, beautiful period properties, stately homes. I love the innate beauty of these sorts of things.
My second is seeing my children, my family and my beautiful Tyler-cat, looking cute. And thirdly, turning off the beaten track and driving or better still walking down the road I’ve never been down before; turning off the path and exploring a new route, just to see what’s down there, to see where it leads. Gentle exploration.
L: I like that too. Next one: list three books that have made a profound impact on you and why?
E: “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh.
L: You love that!
E: I do love it, because of the sense of period and the sense of Oxford that comes through the early part of the book. Sticking with Oxford, Lyra’s Oxford, I’m going to cheat and choose a trilogy as my second book, Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials”. It is extraordinary writing and the characters throughout are imaginatively and, to my mind, perfectly drawn.
L: Ah, I love it too. I reread it, blasting through it in my dressing room between shows in Japan.
E: My third book choice is “Birdsong” by Sebastian Faulks, a book I started three or four times and couldn’t get past the early chapters of Stephen’s summer in Amiens with the Azaire family; I just didn’t like it. Once I pushed through these and got into it, I loved the book and it became profounding affecting and resparked my interest in the human stories of the First World War and led, in part, to you, me and Nanny Val, visiting Thiepval a couple of years ago on that amazing trip. My choices are all strongly character driven.
L: They are and they are all set in very specific time periods, they are of a time. I’m interested in what you say about sticking “Birdsong”. I always think you should give a book one hundred pages; you should give any book this long to unfold itself. I couldn’t get into “Harry Potter” the first three or four times. I just didn’t like those early chapters set at the Dursley’s. It was only when Harry got to Hogwarts that I was hooked. OK, great. Next one: describe one thing you are grateful you learned from your parent or grandparents.
E: So linked to my Christmas gathering answer earlier, I’d say I’m grateful to have learned that I am loved unconditionally by my family. That sense that if you are a de-la-Haye you are never alone, you are never going to have to face things alone; there’s a whole tribe supporting, nurturing and rooting for you, no matter what muddle you’ve got yourself into. That’s been huge for me and I hope is a sense that I have passed on.
L: Very good; good answer. On to the next one. What do you appreciate about your life right now and why?
E: My answer to this one is easy: I travel a huge amount for work – over a third of 2019 I spent away from home – so I’m enjoying being at home. I’m grateful for sleeping in my own bed, having the privilege of being able to do my work from my little broadcast studio here in the cottage and being able to enjoy my garden more, which was particularly lovely in the gorgeous weather we had this spring.
L: Time for your last question: what’s your earliest memory?
E: I have a memory, from when I was about two years old, of walking along the pavement opposite the hospital, my little hand in my dad’s, waving up at my mum who was somewhere behind one of the many windows of the hospital wing. I don’t remember seeing her, or her waving back and I have no other memories from that time. That’s it; that’s my earliest memory.
L: I love that. I’ve got such a bad memory. Well, I remember my friend Selina from up the road and dancing to The Spice Girls in her lounge but I must have been about five years old then. That’s not very young for a first memory. And I remember being sick in Auntie Christine’s lap on the way to Grandma and Grandad’s house.
E: OK, so that’s a bit earlier. You would have been four, I think.
L: What a nice memory to have – vomiting over my godmother.
E: Well it’s often the trauma we remember!
We loved doing this together and my questions to Lily will be posted in a couple of weeks. That evening, as I often do, the lighted candelabra was on the table as we ate dinner and I smiled thinking of Billy and Chris, my beloved grandparents, who inspired our fun. ~ E.
Sketching, painting, interior design and decorating. Playing the piano, playing the guitar and playing FIFA on the Xbox. Sewing, running, Hinching, rearranging all the furniture in my flat. Colour coding my iPhone apps. Learning Welsh, Japanese and Italian. In the last few months, if you name it, I probably tried it. Except for baking banana bread; I drew the line there. In the spring of this year, after the initial novelty of a life in lockdown had worn off, I found myself feeling all at sea, adrift and unsettled. My Mum, Emma – or E as I’ll call her now – had agreed that she felt the same way and a couple of days later, she floated an idea passed me.
We needed something to indulge our creativity. We both love to tell stories and are always jotting ideas down on paper. E takes the most beautiful photographs and I love nothing more than getting lost down an Instagram hole. And so, my brilliant Mamacita suggested the idea of a shared blog: The de-la-Haye Girls.
We agreed that The de-la-Haye Girls could be a window into our world, filled with all of our favourite things. Curated with love and a generous dollop of humour. Something we could create and nurture together – from a social distance, of course. It certainly trumps bingeing another boxset or packet of Bourbons.
We hope you’ll join us on the journey. Go on…who wants to attend another Zoom quiz anyway?