WOMAN, 21 March 1989
We're used to seeing her on television in a cramped and tatty terraced house. But actress Wendy Richard, who's made the careworn Pauline Fowler one of soap's most popular characters, really puts on the style when she goes home after a day on the EastEnders set.
Her large, one-bedroomed basement flat in central London is elegant and unusual, but comfortable and relaxed.
Yet, however luxurious a home may be, Wendy knows what makes it special is sharing it with some one you love. Her fiancé of three years, 39-year-old carpet supplier Paul Glorney, lives with her. And happy photographs of Wendy and Paul and his three teenage children are proudly displayed.
"I like to have someone to care for," explains Wendy. "Paul is romantic and very protective. Like me, he's Cancerian and we're both home-builders. We're a good partnership. he's very motivating. When he moved in he took one look at the lounge, which was piled high with boxes, and he just said 'I can't live with that.' "
"He made me put all the boxes into store, choose the wallpaper and get the decorators in. Now I think it's really lovely. Mind you, Paul chose the carpet and I have to be careful not to drop anything on it. He'd kill me -- we never have dinner in front of the telly!" she says with a laugh.
When she moved into her flat five years ago, it was the first time she'd owned her own home. "It's a bit of security," says Wendy. She grew up with parents in the hotel trade and has since experienced two broken marriages, so she has had her share of upheaval.
"I sold some furniture and decided I was going to start again," she continues. "I wanted to do everything properly, so I decided to do one room a year.
"During breaks in filming, I'd nip to the local antique shops. I think everybody likes to feel they've found a bargain, but that takes time. And I know what it's like to be without money, so I'm careful.
"The best thing about EastEnders is knowing that I can always pay the gas bill. I've been in the position when I've had to worry about bills -- I think everybody has -- and now my luxury is to have the flat really warm."
When Wendy moved in, the flat was dark and dank. Now it's decorated in warm pink and peach colours. Her bedroom in particular is transformed. Now pink with a large mirrored cupboard fit for a film star, it used to be painted battleship grey. "Awful!" Wendy shudders at the terrible memory.
One thing 45-year-old Wendy doesn't have to do when she gets home is start cleaning. "I have somebody in to do the cleaning because I simply don't have time," she explains, while her beautiful, well-manicured long nails are certainly not those one would expect to see on Pauline.
"They haven't noticed them yet at the EastEnders set," confides Wendy. "But I feel that if Pauline did have any vanity it would be her nails, she's got very little else to be proud of.
"I do feel very lucky compared with Pauline. All she's ever had is that terraced house that her mum lived in, poor thing. Arthur really should paint the outside. It's a disgrace! As it is, everybody feels sorry for Pauline."
Wendy receives at least 80 letters a week from fans, many of whom pour their problems out to her. She says: "It does make me feel sad and I try to help.
"I get some wonderful gifts too, particularly the special frogs (she is well-known for her collection of more than 400 frog ornaments) and the EastEnders mug I was given when I was doing pantomime! But I do like my privacy at home very much.
"I'm not a show business kind of person. My friends have all known me for years. We like each other for what we are, rather than what we do.
"My best friend is someone I've known for 16 years and I've watched her children grow up. I didn't have any children and that's that, but I like being an aunt."
Wendy looks around her flat. "I'm very happy here. Paul works very hard, so we can't spend as much time together as we'd like.
"I'm committed to EastEnders until next April, then maybe I'll get a chance to spend more time at home."