“My grief finally gave me the courage to live as a proud gay man”
There’s a new man in my life, Dickie Cant. We were talking about fame on our first date – he’s an actor – and he mentioned that his dad was Brian Cant who, as the voice and face of kids’ TV in the 1960s and 1970s, was a huge part of my childhood. Watching Dickie at work makes my heart beat faster; he’s stunning. When I saw him in The Vortex at Chichester, I felt like standing up and screaming: “That’s my Dickie!”
I thought I was out of the game after losing my husband David in 2019 but, like a bear coming out of hibernation, I suddenly felt hungry for someone to share my life with. We met online, which I’d never tried before. What a brilliant invention! If you’re worried about online dating, I’d recommend it.
David’s death left a huge hole in my life. Part of the tragedy was that, in some ways, it was self-inflicted. He was in the grip of an addiction. People call it the demon drink – it does take possession of you. At first, I used to get angry with him, but I realised it served no purpose.
All you can do when living with a partner in that situation is try to be patient, understanding and sympathetic. Grief is a pain that takes things away from you, things you never get back. You can either sit in the corner waiting for the end or can face forward and fully engage with life.
I love crime novels and, as a vicar, I often thought there are certain crossovers between the clergy and the police. They need to be good listeners; they’re often called in when things go wrong.
No one was more surprised than me when I found God in my late twenties.
People assume the main character in my debut detective novel, Murder Before Evensong, and the new sequel, A Death in the Parish, is based on me. Not really. But I did inspire Tom Hollander’s character in BBC sitcom Rev.
No one was more surprised than me when I found God in my late twenties. I’d had a fairly successful pop career with The Communards and had indulged in every opportunity that had come my way. I was a complete reprobate. Although my faith means so much to me and has changed me profoundly, there are more and more people who seem to find it a bit daft. It doesn’t speak to them and I find that rather depressing.
My civil partnership with David was blessed in a church, but the Church of England refuses to recognise same-sex marriages. I recently revealed I conducted secret same-sex marriage ceremonies in my old church and… I suppose my attachment to the institution of the church became quite volatile. Although my faith in God was never affected, institutions, by their nature, do warp you to a certain extent.
I retired from the clergy last year and, after 12 wonderful years, I’ve retired as the host of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live. BBC Radio always seems to be searching for a new, younger audience, but I sometimes wonder if in doing so it overlooks its core listenership.
I don’t think my leaving was an age-related thing. It was simply that the decision was made to base the show in Cardiff, not London, and that made the whole thing impractical. Having my weekends free after all that time is quite nice and this will be the first time I’ll be able to spend Christmas with my family in almost 20 years.
Home is now a village in that wonderful bit of the country where the South Downs meets the sea. Cities are exciting but I desire peace and quiet too much. Earlier this year, I had a three-week holiday with my two dachshunds, Pongo and Daisy, in Kintyre, Scotland, my favourite place in the world for peace and quiet.
Do I feel closer to God in the country? The wonderful thing about God is he’s bespoke and universal. Whenever and wherever you eventually meet him, you will realise he’s been there all along.