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My first home: Emma Fielding

The Telegraph - 15th December 2001

Actress Emma Fielding talks to Rosanna Greenstreet about her Queen's Park flat'AT the beginning of 1995, I paid £76,000 for a flat in Queen's Park. Two old ladies had lived in the whole Victorian building, and then it was converted into three flats. When I moved in, it was all done up by the developer who, contrary to all my expectations, turned out to be the best freeholder ever. Any difficulties, he would be there straight away.

"It was a two-bedroom flat with a lounge, kitchen, bathroom and separate loo. I converted the loft and added a roof terrace, which I wouldn't do again in a hurry. With builders, you don't know whether to nag them like a mother to get things done quickly and effectively, or to be completely innocent and slightly dippy. I tried to be their mother.

"I boned up on wet roofs, dry roofs etc, so I could immediately quote jargon back at them, shut them up and stop them patronising me. It didn't work: three sets of builders came and went. The loft conversion company was awful. All the builders had been sub-contracted and weren't making enough money to make ends meet, so they were going off to other jobs. The conversion was supposed to take five weeks, and ended up taking 12.

"For the area, the flat was cheap - although £76,000 was the most money in the world to me - because it backs on to two railway tracks, a Tube line and the main London to Scotland route. I thought I'd got used to it. It wasn't until I moved away that I realised I'd had nights of broken sleep - I suddenly had more energy and people kept saying how much younger I looked.

"I remember the morning of the Paddington rail crash, looking out of the newly converted loft window and seeing the smoke rising. I turned on the radio and heard what it was. That was chilling.

"I like quite bright colours. I had a deep yellow in the hallway so it looked sunny all the time, even though it wasn't, and a dark Georgian blue down one wall of the kitchen.

"After the loft was done, I changed the kitchen. I put in freestanding units from Ikea and a laminate floor. The splash backs were safety glass with wire in. The men in the glass shop went, `Safety glass splash backs? That'll look horrible. Are you sure you don't want mirrors, luv?' When they fitted the glass, they grudgingly agreed that it looked all right. `Quite nice' was their final verdict.

"In 1999 it was time to move: I'm from an army family and four years is the longest I've been anywhere. I sold for £170,000. Even though I'd invested £22,000 in the loft conversion, that increase was ludicrous."

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