I was really independent very young, and got a flat in Notting Hill Gate in the 60s when I was 23. I tended to live on my own, though I had boyfriends. A girlfriend did come to stay; I found her very irritating. Then I met my ex-husband, Tom [Kempinski] and I had my first child there. I was there for about seven and a half years, and I didn’t even know it was swinging, but apparently it was. I thought, “Hang on, they’re walking around in kaftans, can’t blame them.” When Ab Fab was on, my daughter decided that I was a mixture of Edina and Patsy.
I’ve known most of my closest friends from when I was a child, but I couldn’t live with any of them. I think I’m just impossible because there’s nothing about them where I could say that they were irritating. My boyfriends and husband always told me that I was sort of impossible really. But I knew they loved me very much.
I remember at my 60th birthday, my brother said, “Well Frankie doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘compromise’.” And now I’m older and so-called wiser, if a person does bore me a bit, I really have to move on.
I think that the point of reference on your compass changes as you get older, but I think I’m as angry and as fun-loving as I ever was. I love the same music I always did, I’ve the same attitude to politics and love. I think what’s changed is family. Having had children deeply affects you – suddenly there’s a different point of reference and they come first. I became very political in the 70s; it was a very politicising time so that to me became more important than acting – but it was never more important than my children. I’ve never feared loneliness because once you’re a mother, you’re never, ever alone.
I speak to my ex-husband about dying. It’s like we’re on parole, isn’t it? There is no time concept when you’re younger and then you go, “Oh, there is”. It’s a very strange feeling. About five years ago I remember saying to the children, “I don’t want to work any more, I’m going to stop now, I’ve had enough. I’ve paid my dues.” I’ve spent 45 years on the boards, mainly the stage, and it’s a long time.
Then the next acting job I did I thought, “Well this is wonderful.” It wasn’t actually so much even just missing the audience; it was the comradeship, it was the colleagues at work. Now I’ve decided that I’m going to work until I drop, because it’s very good for me to go to work. It won’t be a question of whether I will give up work, it will give me up. I’d like to just keep going, even if it’s just a tiny part of an old lady in whatever it is.
Frances de la Tour stars in Vicious which starts tonight at 9:00pm on ITV