Q&A: Joanna Lumley

Actress, campaigner and national treasure

Which politician do you admire most – and why?

Hmmmm. Times are changing fast but I am looking forward to hearing and seeing much more of Kamala. I love Angela ‘Mütti’ Merkel.

Which politician do you admire least – and why?

For this slot I would choose Lukoshenko of Belarus for sheer beastliness.

Who would you ask to Christmas lunch if all restrictions were lifted?

Many dear friends, some waifs and strays, all the lonely people and Eleanor Rigby.

What keeps you awake at night?

Strange dreams that I am doing the wrong things, saying awful things, drifting into odd places and knowing I cannot get out.

What topic doesn’t get enough media coverage?

Cruelty to animals. It’s unforgivable to leave lobsters to die on the quayside, to keep mink in tiny cages, to hunt pangolins to extinction. Just stop. Eat stuff, mostly vegetables, not too much. A bit of compassion should season every dish.

If you could give one bit of advice to your young self, what would it be?

Don’t think you know everything. Think before you speak. Don’t fret about being a disaster. Try to stop talking so much.

Who’d win in a fight? Donald Trump or Genghis Khan?

The terrible Genghis Khan: he was merciless in a way that can hardly be believed.

Zoom or telephone?

Telephone. Email better: pen and ink best.

What simple pleasure do you rate most highly?

Reading. I shall have books in my coffin. Morning, noon and night; books are the greatest luxury ever made.

Are you for lockdown, or less locked?

Less locked, and actually I think we shall get it right JUST before the vaccine is approved.

If you could spend lockdown anywhere, where would you go?

To our faraway cottage in the Scottish hills. Silence, and valleys, and the sun rising and setting through every window. Cold air. Starry skies and log fires.

What one measure would you take to help the environment?

Create a truly reusable plastic which would have value so people would collect it for money. Paint our roofs white. Wear more jerseys.

What one person has had the most influence in your life?

My parents: my mother in particular. She loved all life and was kind and strong but could fight like a tiger if pushed.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

Walking with my sister to the tin mines in Malaya and treading on dried mud so shiny it looked like chocolate. Picking up chunks of crystal quartz on our way to school. Reading under the blankets. Tropical thunderstorms and rain on corrugated iron.

Who would you appoint as your spiritual guru?

Ruby Wax, because she is wise beyond her years, makes me laugh all the time and is always searching for a solution to sorrow.

If you could appoint a world king or queen, who would it be?

The Queen.

What have you learned about yourself during lockdown?

That if I took a bit more care sanding things down before I painted them they would have a smoother finish. That I don’t have a short story just waiting to be written. That it is sheer bliss to wake up and say, ‘What shall I do today?’



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