Fay Ripley opens up on her family life during coronavirus lockdown

YOU might imagine that after being locked down with two teenagers for eight weeks, actress Fay Ripley would be tearing her hair out.

Not a bit of it! The Cold Feet star is delighted that the stay-at-home rules are keeping her youngsters right where she can see them. No unexpected phone calls demanding immediate collection from get-togethers you hadn’t even been told about. No claims to be the only person in the class who’s been refused permission to go to the gig, festival or sleepover. “Pre-lockdown, because of the age of my children, I was mainly ferrying them to and from parties, hoping they wouldn’t take drugs,” jokes Fay Ripley, 54, with a laugh.

“Now I can actually relax. It’s a teen parent’s holiday, really. All of that worry has gone.”

She had also been anxiously trying to prepare herself for the fast approaching time when her “almost adults” finally strike out on their own. Now that’s looking much less imminent.

“I’ve had that fear of the empty nest,” she admits, “because my kids soon won’t be here.

“Now I’m the Wicked Witch of the West, cackling: “Ha ha! You’re going nowhere! They’re locked into Mummy Hell.”

Fay Ripley is referring to the family home in north London which she shares with her husband, actor Daniel Lapaine – of The Durrells and Catastrophe – and their daughter Parker, 17, and son Sonny, 13. To be fair, it doesn’t sound much like “Mummy Hell” when Fay reveals she’s dealing with being unable to work by focusing on her passion for cooking. She has written three cookery books and her Instagram feed is filled with posts of delectable treats she’s whipped up during lockdown.

“My way of getting through anything is with cooking,” she confesses. “I felt like I had a big win yesterday when Sonny said, “Mum, we’ve never eaten better.”

“Obviously, I’m having to be inventive with only half the ingredients I’d normally have, but I’m having fun making something out of an old shoe and a bit of dog meat. I’m like, ‘We’re having dog food toasties’!” In case some readers are starting to feel inadequate compared to Fay’s domestic goddess attributes, she is eager to explain that not everything is rosy in the Ripley-Lapaine household.

For example, Parker and Sonny have refused point-blank to chip in with the housework.

“My friends are telling me they’re doing proper rotas and their kids are hoovering,” sighs Fay. “When I try asking my kids, the screams, the shouting and sometimes the tears when asked to do said thing means it’s so not worth it.

“I try, and then I cave in. Also, I’m a control freak and they’re bad at the hoovering, so I’m thinking I’ll have to do it again anyway.

“There are still some rows. There are a whole load of hormones around ours, including my own, but for the most part we can get through each day punctuated by some delicious food.”

It seems there are no screams, shouting or tears from husband Dan when he’s asked to do his bit.

“We have been married a long time, and Dan understands that no one is to sit down and have a cup of tea,” she says. “Oh, no.

We’re up with the kids at 7.30 and it’s busy.

“There are four of us here and stuff that needs doing. We have a happy marriage our way. You can read between the lines: he does what I say!” Fay Ripley has developed a few lockdown tricks to emulate a change of scenery.

“I’ve designated a corner of the sitting room “the pub,” so it’s become the only place you can consume alcohol in the house. So you invite the others to the pub for fizzy drinks and crisps. Mummy gets to have rosé and that’s quite fun.

“My other trick is to rotate furniture, bringing things from upstairs. The kids are wouldn’t Ilike, ‘Why is there a single bed in the sitting room?’

“I said, ‘I’m calling it a chaise longue. Doesn’t it feel like a new home?’ “I’ve moved the kitchen table around to places where it shouldn’t be. ‘Look, it’s a new and exciting restaurant area!’ and they’re like, ‘It’s in the hall, Mum’.”

Fay Ripley is clearly using her sense of humour to chivvy her loved ones along during the pandemic. But she confesses her parental skills failed her completely when Sonny got a thorn lodged in his foot.

“The thorn was there for three weeks, and as a very bad parent I let it stay in his foot – I didn’t want to bother the hospital,” she confesses. “But I saw his mood sliding, and he couldn’t exercise, so I got some advice from a doctor neighbour and took him to the A&E. “It was actually a joyous moment because the doctors and nurses at the Whittington Hospital were jumping up and down.

“They had had really hard stuff to deal with that day, but a thorn in the foot was a thing they could easily fix. They were very sweet, and I made them cakes just to say thank you.”

But life after lockdown is looking a bit different for Fay now that she knows she won’t be returning to Manchester to film a 10th series of Cold Feet.

After ITV revived the series in 2016 (it originally ran from 1997-2003), the network announced in February that Cold Feet would be rested for now.

“I’m gutted, actually, is the truth, but that’s showbiz,” sighs Fay. “It’s a numbers game. We were always aware while filming it could be the last series, so we weren’t that surprised. Actors are a pessimistic lot.”

Fay Ripley can’t yet mention other projects she may take up once lockdown is lifted, but during the stay-at-home period she has been devoting time to a charity that is more needed than ever during the pandemic.

The Hygiene Bank distributes free items such as soap, shower gel, razors, toothbrushes and laundry detergent to those in need.

“I’m often asked how I relax,” she says, “and my answer is, ‘I have a bath.’ It’s been my time out ever since my kids were little.

“I have bubble bath and use soap and that doesn’t sound like much, but that thing I take for granted is something way too many people cannot take for granted and cannot afford.

“So I got involved with the Hygiene Bank when I discovered that some families have to share one toothbrush, and some mums have to reuse nappies. I’m not OK with that.”

Exacerbating the problem is the loss of work during lockdown, increasing the strain on family finances.

“Normally you can bung your donations in a box at Boots or various drop-off points, but during the pandemic that’s become difficult, so you can just text to make a donation instead. A fiver is achievable and makes a difference.”

If Fay seems to be sailing relatively easily through lockdown, it’s probably because it’s not that different from her normal life, she suggests.

“Actors have been in training for the lockdown our whole lives. This is what we do: sit at home waiting for something to happen. “Now everybody is living the actor’s life.

“I’m not sure how we’re going to pay the mortgage but I feel genuinely privileged that I have a small London back garden where I can sit and listen to the birds, which I’d previously taken for granted.”

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