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My perfect weekend: Martine McCutcheon, singer
Sunday 6 April 2014
My perfect weekend: Martine McCutcheon, singer
The 37-year-old singer Martine McCutcheon on finally recovering from her ill health and financial problems and making her musical comeback
On a perfect Friday night, I’d invite a couple of my gay friends to come and watch old musicals with me. I live in a Victorian cottage on the Surrey-Berkshire border and have an ancient, cosy Aga, so it’s easy to make everyone feel at home. I like to light lots of candles too, even if my friends say it looks like a church. We’d have something naughty to eat – I’m not the best cook in the world so we’d make do with delicious treats from Whole Foods – and play music that we love, but my absolute favourite thing about these nights is that they’re private, so I can let my hair down. My husband, Jack [McManus, 30, the singer and songwriter who she married in 2012], is sometimes there too if he’s not abroad with work, and he knows it’s my time to indulge in all things fabulous.
On Saturdays we lie in until about 11am, if we can, then go for a walk in the forests behind our house with “the boys”. These are my two American spaniels, which look like the female dog from Lady and the Tramp: there’s Freddie, named after the singer Freddie Mercury, and Harry, after Prince Harry because they’ve got the same strawberry blonde hair. I just adore them and they love the countryside around us. We’ve only lived in this house since May [Martine had to move from London after being declared bankrupt in January 2013] and although the area is beautiful the cottage is just a stopgap until we can find somewhere to buy.
The last few years have been pretty difficult because I’ve been so ill, and it’s only recently that I’ve started to get my life back on track. I was officially diagnosed with ME in 2012 but I’d been suffering from the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome for about six years before that.
It’s hard to explain what chronic fatigue is like and I don’t think the name itself is very useful: it makes it sound as though it’s just tiredness. It doesn’t explain that it’s a neurological illness and affects the brain, and it doesn’t say anything about the pain, muscle spasms, depression or dizziness, or the way it makes simple things, like going to the shops, suddenly beyond you.
I now know that the causes of chronic fatigue vary from person to person, but in my case it was staying on that wheel of work for so long, always being on show with all guns blazing and always running to the next thing. Eventually, I felt as though I was playing a role rather than living my own life. I never gave myself time to recharge and as a result, even when my mind felt strong, my body started to get every infection going. It got to the stage where I couldn’t rely on myself to turn up for work and in the end my body just collapsed. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t even lift the television remote control. It was a living hell, really – I couldn’t sing or concentrate at all and even looking at a computer would hurt my eyes.
I got myself out of it by taking a massive break and being as kind and patient with myself as I could. Jack was absolutely brilliant but as you can imagine, I was not the most fun in the world. I learnt to keep my diet really clean and ate nothing but plain, boring food (that’s pretty hard when you’re the biggest foodie on the planet) and finally, just recently, I’ve discovered that drinking a fruit or vegetable juice is the make or break factor in whether I get through a day or not. If someone had said that to me a year ago I’d have punched them, but for me personally, it really was that simple. Jack and I now are addicted to Jason Vale’s juice therapy programme, where you replace toxins such as processed food and refined sugars with fruits and vegetables, and we always make a huge jug of juice at weekends.
Finally feeling good again is like getting a new lease of life, despite the ups and downs of last year. Getting sick meant I had huge medical bills and had to turn down work, then I lost a massive [advertising] deal and finally something had to give. It is never nice when private things go public but it was a relief to be able to say, “I’m normal, I’ve worked hard all my life and I’ve never had [money] problems before.” The number of really famous people, some of whom I’d admired from afar for years, who took the time to get in touch with me and tell me that [bankruptcy] had happened to them and not to worry because I’d come back bigger and better, was really inspiring.
So now I’m just keen to get back everything I lost: my energy, health, career, friendships – my whole life, really. Jack is particularly eager to see me restored to my rightful glory and we’ve been working on a new album together. I’ve also got a tour with Don Black coming up as well as a regular slot on Eamonn Holmes’s show: I’m loving this new momentum and the fact that such amazing people still want to work with me after all this time. My manager Jaine, who’s also a great friend, is making sure I stick to a certain amount of hours per day – she knows that when I’m on form, I deliver, and as long as I get enough rest, I’m fine. She’ll be the one wrestling champagne away from me at parties from now on!
Weekends, which are my recharge time, are more important than ever now and the most active thing I usually want to do is go to a restaurant on a Saturday night with friends. It’s always embarrassing when I get recognised, however – it’s a nice problem to have but it does drive me mad when people come and talk if you’ve got a mouthful of food or, worse, they sneakily film you because they don’t want to interrupt. It makes me feel I’m being spied on.
The very best times are Sundays, when I can switch off and have complete normality. If my mum comes over we might venture to the country pub nearby where they do huge Yorkshire puddings, but otherwise Jack and I stay in, put our feet up and barely so much as murmur to each other all day. We like to stay in our jogging bottoms or pyjamas and mooch about the house, or doss down on the sofa like a little old couple. I’m a bit stuck in the past and I love watching reruns of television shows like Friends and The Golden Girls, unless CSI is on.
On Sunday evenings I’ll have a hot bath with lavender oil to help me sleep – my Twitter followers will tell you I have a nightmare sleeping – then we stick a DVD on and the dogs join us at the end of the bed for a cuddle.
Herbal tea or stiff drink?
Best way to relax?
Sleep, if you can get it.
What annoys you?
A jam doughnut.
Never leaving myself enough time to pack my bag in the mornings.
Resolution for 2014?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
FIVE FAVOURITE THINGS
My manager, Jaine
My new state of mind
Martine McCutcheon guest-stars on the Don Black Songbook Tour, March 25–April 8. ticketmaster.co.uk
The above originally appeared here.
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