Actress Lesley Nicol, 59, lives in London with her husband, Da’aboth. She plays Mrs Patmore, the cook, in Downton Abbey.
I get invited to a lot more glamorous parties since I’ve been in Downton Abbey, which has made me much more fashion conscious. Luckily, I have a wonderful, stylish friend, Debbie, who takes me shopping – she knows exactly what suits me.
I don’t have any rules when it comes to clothes. I’ll wear anything if it fits and looks good. But I struggle to find anything that suits me in high-street shops. I like clothes designed for women who are not age 14: grown-up, nicely cut and not frumpy. I’m not going to start dressing like an old lady just because I’m approaching 60.
I inherited my weight problem from my mum. She was always on diets. If there was a box of chocolates in the house, she’d eat half a chocolate, then put the other half back. She loved me, but she did encourage me to diet in my teens. I spoke to her about it years later and explained that all she did was make me want to run down the street and buy a Mars bar. She was mortified, because she was trying to do what she thought was right for me. I’m glad we had that conversation before she died. She apologised and we put it behind us.
For many years, I picked the wrong men, or they picked me. I think if you don’t feel attractive or worth something as a woman, you attract men who don’t really look after you. That’s what happened to me, but I realise that those relationships were like a journey, helping me to learn something about myself.
I’d ruled out getting married, but then I fell in love in my fifties! I’m quite into spiritual and alternative therapies, and when my friend Debbie told me she’d discovered a Reiki practitioner called Da’abath, I laughed like a drain, because it sounded like Darth Vader! But I felt very comfortable with him from the moment we met.
It wasn’t love at first sight, but as the months passed, I became drawn to him. I knew that if he had feelings, he’d never act on them because it would be unprofessional. I did something completely out of character one day when we were standing outside his house in the rain – I turned to him and kissed him! It was very brave, but I had to take a chance, and I’m glad I did because he admitted he liked me too. We’ve been married for six years, and I now feel totally accepted and loved. My dad used to say to me, ”I want you to find somebody who puts you first,” and after all these years, I’ve found it.
I’ve recently started power-walking and running. My friend Nadia suggested we try it together. It’s not easy, especially when Nadia powers ahead and shouts at me to keep up! She’s very bossy, but that’s what I need because I’ve always been the kind of person who joins a gym, goes for a few weeks and then gives up. I need someone to motivate me.
Lesley is appearing in Downton Abbey on ITV1.