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Joanna Lumley talks Patsy, makeup and why she had to get rid of her Ferrari

Joanna Lumley on growing up with Gurkhas and what she’s learnt from Patsy...

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Joanna Lumley

Joanna Lumley

What are your memories of growing up with the gurkhas in Singapore and Malaysia?  My father would often be away in the jungle for months at a time and I remember that my mother used to take us to visit injured Gurkhas in hospital and she would speak Urdu to them.   

Was it a culture shock moving to England aged eight? Yes, incredibly so. The tropics are just so extreme, with their primary colours, thunderstorms, blazing sunsets and bright, bold birdsong. In contrast, England’s beauty lies in its softness, its thick hedgerows and milder light.

How can we best help the situation in Nepal?  Of course, you can donate to the disaster relief fund but, if you want money to go direct to the cause – and know that they will be there when everyone else has left – give money to the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

The Officer’s Field set

The Officer’s Field set

What’s your favourite piece from the Ghurka leather collection just launched at Fortnums?  The Officer’s Field set is just divine. Everyone should have one!

Ab Fab is back! What have you learnt from Patsy?  She’s mine. I’m not hers. And she’s learnt absolutely nothing from me!

Strangest thing you’ve had to do in your career?  Being thrown in a black bin liner onto a boat on the Thames with my legs sticking out for an episode of Ab Fab!

If you could turn back time what would you fix?  I’d bang the drum a lot louder about climate change.

You’ve met a lot of interesting people… who has pleasantly surprised you?  I was terrified of meeting Leonardo DiCaprio because I so admired him, but he was everything I had hoped for. Fabulous, courteous, hardworking, modest and funny.

What is the most common thing people ask you when they meet you?  It’s not something they ask, it’s something they say: ‘Well done on the Gurkhas’. It’s lovely.

A gurkha in the Ghurka shop

A gurkha in the Ghurka shop

What’s a waste of time?  Lunch! Don’t sit about eating when you could be doing something.

What would surprise us about you?  How good I am at darning and how bad I am at baking. I also cut and dye my own hair.

Mayor for a day. What would you do?  Take away every single speed bump. They’re ghastly. I had to sell my Ferrari because of them!

How do you stay looking absolutely fabulous?  Lashings of makeup, Imedeen every day, lots of mascara. And I’m also a vegetarian.

Ab Fab – The Movie Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Ab Fab – The Movie Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight


Bolthole Our cottage in the Southern Upland Way in Scotland.
Country style Tired old men’s clothes.
Shoes Gumboots.
Can’t leave the house without… Rive Gauche, the only perfume I ever wear.
Present for the host? If they’re very grand, nothing. If they’re less grand, like me, a box of Fortnum & Mason Rose and Violet creams.
View The hills and valleys from the cottage.
Flower Cow Parsley.
Sunday paper They change. I don’t like to be influenced by their editorial.
Hotel The Old Hotel in Buxton.
Saturday night DVD A Tale of Two Cities, with Dirk Bogarde.
Exercise Running around being busy and gardening.
Relaxation Reading, walking, talking, eating with friends.
Sunday morning means… Cutting the lawn and getting my secateurs out.


Village Stockwell.
Style Fabulous, darling! Lots of black stuff I’ve had for years.
Bag My gorgeous powder blue Ghurka bag.
Can’t leave the house without My phone, which I need for parking.
Wake up music Silence.
City supper Salads.
Museum Sir John Soane.
Restaurant The Delaunay.
Magazine Private Eye, The Week and Resurgence (a title on ecology).
Secret address Myddelton Square in Clerkenwell. Beautiful.
Shop The Rippon Cheese shop in Pimlico.
Extravagance Paintings.
Night out Theatre.
Relaxation Sleeping.
Thursday night means… Cooking in our music room for friends with more candles than you can see and flowers (well, weeds) from the garden.

Originally featured in our July issue 2015.