Haydn Gwynne
Why I have to Work
Actress Haydn Gwynne has a busy life juggling work and motherhood. She's said goodbye to her role in the TV drama Merseybeat and is trying to decide what's next...

I'm determined to be a funny old lady with khaki shorts and wrinkly knees,' announces Haydn Gvwnne. But she's not talking about a wardrobe change or her next role, rather a hankering to go travelling that she's had to suppress since becoming a mum and a busy actress.

She's certainty known more liberated days, having spent five years working as a lecturer in Italy in her 20s. But she came back to Britain to try her hand at acting.

'For years I hid the fact I wanted to act l - thought I should do anything but. l'd always been interested in it but I wanted to work abroad and travel too. I don't miss lecturing but I do miss aspects of living in Italy.'

Her change of career paid off well.Aside from many a role in theatre, her first big TV break came in 1990 with cult comedy Drop The Dead Donkey. She went on to star in Peak Practice,The Secret and as Superintendent Susan Blake in two series of BBC1'S Merseybeat.

'I'm amazed people still recognise me from Drop The Dead Donkey. It was ages ago.'

Haydn, now 40, has two children - Orlando, five, and Harry, two, with her partner of seven years, Jason.The children are too young to realise Mum's a celebrity - Haydn's concerned Harry might even think she actually is a policewoman.

At the moment Jason's training to be a psychoanalyst so Haydn has had to keep working. And so far she's been successful at juggling acting and motherhood.

'l rented a place in Chester while I was on Merseybeat and kept the children with me,' she explains.'lt worked when they were both pre-school but it's more difficult now Orlando's started proper school. I've turned down work because I didn't want to be away from them. 'I promised my family l'd have a few months off after filming. l've managed to keep to it but I'm now at a crossroads,' she confides.

'l used to do more theatre but having children changed my choices. Ideally l'd like to have a balance between TV and theatre but it's hard to plan?

You can't help but wonder if Haydn and Jason are planning something else - more kids. 'I've thought about it - l wouldn't mind a brood but it's a different ball game for us girls, particularly if you need to work as well. If I was a bloke I'd happily have more kids?

Haydn's a doting mum who wants to spend as much time with her family as she can. But her work's so irregular it's hard to organise her time - especially for holidays.

'l'm horrified by this law of fining parents who take their kids away in term-time she says.'Holidays cost twice as much out of school-time so if you want to take them somewhere exotic you can't afford it. Family holidays can be very educational and to compare them with truanting is absolutely mad.

'You have to enjoy the time the kids want to spend with you while you can.All too horribly soon you're going to be the most boring person they know.' In January, Haydn set off on an adventure of her own to India, in support Of Sight Savers International.

There she visited hospitals, schools, rehab centres and outreach projects that help people with sight problems. But it meant leaving her children for the first time. 'l'd not even left them for a weekend. I thought they could survive without me for five days. It wasn't as hard as going to work for the first time, which I found really difficult. I spoke to them twice a day while I was away and they were fine.

Seeing sick children is always particularly poignant, as a mum. But I was seeing the ones who are being helped. It would be very distressing to see the ones that weren't.'

Out of all the projects Haydn visited, it was a hospital in Coimbatore which struck her the most. lt has state-of-the-art technology and its surgeons perform 30 cataract operations a day. In the UK a surgeon would probably perform just four.

'It's such a simple, seven-minute operation-yet it can change people's lives. And it's ail done on such a massive scale. Scores of patients lie in huge dormitories on mats or in cots, side by side, quietly waiting for treatment. The operations are performed in batches. It was strange seeing rows of green sheets with just an eye poking out-so different from how it would be handled over here. But they've got so much expertise and if I needed a cataract operation l'd happily book myself a cheap flight and have it done in India.'

Sarah Waterfall
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