Kitchen Sink Drama

Nottingham-born Su Pollard made her name as the perpetually lovelorn chalet maid Peggy in the now classic Hi De Hi!. Currently she's back as Ethel in the BBC's comedy series Oh, Dr Beeching! She lives alone in a modern town house in North London.

"I bought this house new 13 years ago with the agent hissing terrible warnings at me when it looked like I was going to bargain. Well, I love a bargain and, although I paid up, no questions asked, this house was a bargain, because I just love it. I don't drive and I don't cook much, so I walk to all these great restaurants in Islington. My idea of bliss on a day off is a five hour lunch with a friend.

"At home, things are a bit different. Entertaining gets me into a right old dither. Any more than four people and I send out an SOS for the caterers. I've tried, God knows I've tried. I once spent all day preparing for my guests - everything looked just lovely - only, unfortunately I went out to the pub with them and forgot to switch on the oven. Well, that happens, doesn't it?

"They were very nice about it. Now, let me think, what did we have instead? I think it must have been Welsh rarebit. I do a rare old Welsh rarebit.

"Otherwise, I give haute cuisine a bit of a wide berth. I'm a dab hand at salads though, and I make a very nice cup of tea. So if my kitchen is nice and tidy - which it is, though I say so myself - it's because it'll never get stressed out at my hands.

"Funnily enough, I'm still getting the odd royalty cheque for doing The Reluctant Cook with Kevin Woodford 10 years ago. He was a bit dubious, to say the least, when he entered my happy home. He took a look around my nice bare kitchen, and said, 'Su, haven't you got anything?'

"Under pressure, I went out and bought a pepper mill and a garlic crusher - they won't be drawing their pensions for a long time yet.

"I wish I was more domesticated, actually. But I'm not. What can you do? You can't teach an old dog new tricks. It's not as if I don't like food. I love it. And I love my kitchen, it's so light and bright and the big window looks out over gardens and you'd never think you were in London. It's peaceful, that's what it is. So why should I spoil the peace and quiet with mixers and whirring things and ditzy gizmos? Especially when I can just nip to the fridge for a lump of cheese.

"Mind you I have to ration my cheese visits. I'm getting to the stage of my life now where I could easily let go - or things could let go of me! We don't want that, oh no. So, every so often, I'll run past the fridge and pin my thoughts on higher things, like how soon I can eat lunch - that's what used to be my dinner at home in Nottingham. We had tea at dinner time and dinner at lunch time. I was a bit at sea when I first came to London. Now I know otherwise thanks to my education in this great metropolis."

Interview by Eithne Power.

Saturday Magazine
July 1997