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Run After Arthur?  There Isn't a Man on Earth I'd Chase

It's TV's most unlikely affair ever . . .  But it's got 20 million viewers hooked

EastEnder Arthur Fowler has left Albert Square after wife Pauline's furious reaction to his affair with posh Mrs. Hewitt.  Now, the soap's fans have been left wondering whether Pauline is right not to chase after her wayward husband.  Actress Wendy Richard, who's played the popular character for eight years, has no doubts.  "I don't think there's any man on earth who's worth running after," says Wendy.

Three-times married Wendy, 46 [sic], has never been one to dither around in her own life when it comes to relationships.  She says:  "Life's too short.  I've always thought, 'you're either with me or you're not.  If you want to go off with someone else, well then, off you go'.  If a man can't make up his mind between two women, the women make him decide."  And she adds:  "If I was Pauline, I'd make Arthur suffer a bit more!"

On the surface, Wendy and Pauline's lives couldn't be more different.  Wendy wed her current husband, Paul, three years ago and has no children.  EastEnders Pauline and Arthur are grandparents with over 20 years of marriage behind them.  But that didn't damp down the fireworks when Arthur finally confessed that he hadn't been spending those extra hours down the allotment . . .  He'd been tucked up in bed with Christine Hewitt, his fancy woman from down the road.

Pauline and Arthur have also had to cope with a daughter who's a single mum and a son who's HIV positive.  And Wendy confesses:  "I've got a lot of sympathy for Pauline.  She hasn't had it easy.

"As I've never had children, it's impossible to compare our lives -- but I think we share the same strength of character and determination.  Pauline's a survivor -- and so am I."

If Wendy does know the outcome of the Pauline/Arthur saga, she isn't letting on.  "I've no idea how the story will work out.  I'm only paid to be an actress, not write the script," she says.  And she confides:  "Sometimes, I think the scriptwriters don't get it quite right.  I have got home and thought, 'That's not what a woman in that situation would have done'."

But, generally, she tries to keep Pauline out of her home life.  She explains:  "You'd go daft if you only talked about work all the time.  I try not to moan to Paul about work.  He's the same.  But he's very supportive when we do watch the show together.  He'll comment on my scenes, and say, 'That was a good one' or 'that's one you should be proud of.'

"Half the time I'm so tired I go to bed at 8.30, to learn my lines for the next day.  I get so angry when people say we've got it easy, doing two programmes a week.  I love the work, it's my life, but I could do without getting up at 5 am.  At least we don't work until 10 pm any more, we tend to wind up at around seven.

"It's not just the working hours, though.  As an actress and housewife, you have to do the washing, go and do the shopping and organize the meals.  It is a full-time job."

Off screen, she quickly removes the famous Fowler cardigan -- which has become a bit of an issue with Wendy.  "We have tried to tidy Pauline up a bit.  We have cut back on the cardigans.  I had to have a word with the wardrobe department about them."  And she adds:  "I'm going to a health farm for the last few days of my holidays, just to relax.  I go alone, they don't encourage phone calls -- and I relax completely.  I treat myself to facials occasionally.  After all, there's not a lot of point going to buy a new handbag for a night out if your skin looks like one, is there?"  If Pauline heard that, she might start getting ideas.  Mind you, a trip to town with the girls wouldn't do her any harm.

"Female friends are terribly important," says Wendy.  "My closest friends aren't actresses, either, and we don't talk about my work.  We talk about anything that we've been up to."  She pauses to adjust her designer outfit.  "Like, how much we've paid for veg down the market," she adds.

Come in Pauline Fowler . . . you're there under that outfit after all.

Gillian Carter

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