My Mother My Inspiration (Part 2)

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Actress Emilia Fox, 37, lives in London with her one-year-old daughter Rose.

Mum and I share a lot of friends – my pals adore Mum and confide in her, because she’s completely unshockable. Rose’s father and I have separated, and one good thing to come out of that is spending more time with Mum. In my twenties I was busy doing my own thing, but now I have a child, Mum and I have become virtually inseparable! For the first time in years, I really need her.

Description: Actress Emilia Fox

“My friends love Mum because she’s unshockable”

Mum and I have started “the scrambled eggs club” with our friends. Each of us takes a turn to cook a course that’s out of our comfort zone. The joy is, if it all goes wrong, you just cook scrambled eggs! I’ve always been lucky and had partners who have cooked so I’ve had to learn how to do it pretty quickly. I recently made hot plums with ginger and cinnamon cream, and it was a surprising success.

I never had any ambition to be an actor. My parents encouraged me to go to university, so I worked hard and went to Oxford. Then I landed my first big acting job – with Mum in Pride And Prejudice, when the director was looking for a young actress to play Colin Firth’s sister. I was a lousy waitress so that seemed like a better summer job. At the end of a day’s filming I sensibly went to bed at 9pm. Meanwhile, Mum was up having a wild time with Colin Firth and Adrian Lukis until the early hours! That was a real Ab Fab moment. But that is very much Mum – she keeps laughing, whatever life throws her way. I wish I was more like her.

Emilia stars in the latest series of Silent Witness on BBC One this spring.

Actress Joanna David, 65, lives in London with husband Edward Fox and their son, actor Freddie Fox, 22.


Description: Actress Joanna David

“When I was ill, Emilia came to the hospital with cushions and bed linen”

I’ve had a difficult few years, and Emilia has been wonderful supportive. Three years ago I suffered a seizure and was rushed to hospital where I was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, which affects the inner ear. Emilia turned up with cushions and glorious bed linen to make my hospital room more like home.

After the diagnosis I suffered with anxiety and depression. Ménière’s can affect your balance and I was falling over and having trouble walking straight. I was scared to work in case I had another seizure. I have a great psychiatrist and I’m on antidepressants now, and I’m working again so I feel more positive. Emilia has been a wonderfully reassuring presence.

When Emilia became a mum it put into focus why I’ll never stop worrying about her. She is bringing up Rose on her own, which isn’t an enviable situation, but she’s a very competent and inventive mother. She recently renovated her house while working and caring for Rose – those are all incredibly grown-up things to do and I’m very proud of her. Emilia asks me for parenting advice, but I’m relearning everything with Rose, and enjoying every moment.

Cookery writer and broadcaster Prue Leith, 72, lives in London


“I worried I wouldn’t love my adopted daughter”

Before we had our son Daniel, my husband Rayne and I decided to have one child and adopt one. Rayne had three children from his previous relationship and we wanted to help a child that needed parents. A friend told us about a little girl called Li-Da, aged 16 months – six months younger than Daniel – who’d been flown out of Cambodia by an American who’d planned to adopt her, but his wife had died so Li-Da was staying with a family in Paris.

I took Daniel with me to Paris and the moment I saw Li-Da I fell in love. Li-Da’s mother had been killed in a rocket attack, and her father, who was fighting against the Khmer Rouge, had carried her to an orphanage in Phnom Penh before disappearing. I phoned Rayne and listed the reasons we shouldn’t adopt her, but he knew I’d already made up my mind.

On Li-Da’s first night with us I had a moment of panic. I looked in on the children sleeping in their cots and noticed the room smelled different. I burst into tears, feeling like I’d made a mistake. Rayne told me to sleep on it. The next morning the smell had gone, and I never had another moment of regret. Li-Da and Daniel interacted like twins, inventing their own language. Now as adults they’re totally different – Daniel is very conservative and intellectual while Li-Da is funny and philosophical.

I’m probably closer to Li-Da than I am to Daniel. I often embarrass him because I talk too much! Li-Da doesn’t mind, though. She is such a wonderful  woman, and it’s strange to think that I once worried that it wouldn’t be possible to love her as much as I loved Daniel. Love just comes.

Li-Da Kruger, 37, is a documentary filmmaker and lives in London.


Description: Li-Da Kruger, 37, is a documentary filmmaker and lives in London.

“I grew up feeling very lucky to have been adopted by Mum and Dad”

I grew up feeling like my life was a fairytale. I’d been saved. My party trick was to tell the story of how an American soldier had flown me out of Phnom Penh days before it was taken by the Khmer Rouge. Mum wanted me to know my roots, and she recorded documentaries about Cambodia for me. When I was 18 and travelling in Thailand, I phoned to tell her I was going to Cambodia. It was still a dangerous place, but she didn’t deter me.

Returning to Cambodia reinforced my feeling of being from the West. I realised how lucky I was to have survived and to have been adopted by Mum and Dad. I also felt guilty to have got that chance and still feel like I mustn’t waste it.

My relationship with Dad could be difficult – I often felt he wanted me to be more studious. But Mum has always understood me. Before Dad died in 2002 he told me he was proud of me, which meant a lot. Since his death, Mum and I have got even closer and go on holiday together. We went to Laos a few years ago and at one point found ourselves sleeping with pigs! Mum never complained – she just loves an adventure.

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