Date: 23 December 2002
Originally published in: Daily Express (UK)
Gardening is something I adore but it has developed from a relaxing hobby into my second career. This has brought a whole lot of pressures that weren’t there before, so I don’t really equate gardening with relaxation any more.
Nothing is more satisfying than learning something new and gardening has challenged me that way. Despite my success as a singer, the challenges in my musical career eventually became thin on the ground. I seem to thrive on challenge but I didn’t actually know that about myself until I got into horticulture. In fact, I always thought I was lazier than I actually am.
I couldn’t really afford to be lazy though. While studying horticulture and starting the TV gardening work, I’ve also raised two babies which has been tough at times.
I’m not very good at looking after myself. Then my body fights back and I’m laid low with flu. However, I’m learning to take things more easily.
I’ll visit my GP perhaps twice a year – if that – but I’m a great advocate of alternative therapy. I’ve found acupuncture very effective for back pain and I have a full-body massage fairly often. I carry a lot of tension and stress in my shoulders so it’s essential. I had pain in my lower back for most of this year and was delighted when I was asked to go on a 10-day detox trip to the Koh Samui Health Spa in Thailand. When I was there, I fasted for seven days, only having detoxifying drinks. The detox really woke me up about looking after myself, although I still find it hard to prioritise my needs. I tend to focus on everyone else first.
I did things like yoga, which really helps my lower back. After I got home I had a sneaking suspicion I might be whea tand dairy intolerant, so I’ve almost completely cut them out. I eat loads more fresh fruit and vegetables and a lot less red meat. I feel much better and have kept off the weight I lost in Thailand.
Channel 5 has made a documentary about my experiences, which will go out in January.
My skin is great on the new diet. One of my biggest luxuries is my pot of Creme de La Mer – one of the most expensive face creams there is. I was given a jar and from then on I was hooked. It’s my only expensive bad habit.
Hal and I belong to a gym and I sometimes use the walking machine. I don’t run any more – I did last year but it had a bad effect on my back. I like fast walking but stretching is the key. Once you get past 40, you’ve really got to stretch yourself out.
My greatest relaxation is playing with the children or pottering in the garden once all the work is done. When I was in Thailand I had lots of time to think about how I wanted to change my lifestyle.
Work is hard to refuse and I’ve always been terrible about taking time off but the first thing I did when I got back was to book two holidays. We’ve just had the first – a week in CenterParcs with the children.
Then, together with my best friend whom I’ve known since I was eight, I’ve organised all our oldest friends with their babies to convene in the South of France next summer.
We’ve booked an old manor house. It’s the sort of thing we’ve talked about for years and never done. It’s a lovely thing to look forward to.