My Biggest Mistake

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Executive manager of the Athenaeum Hotel in London, which this month celebrates its 21st anniversdary. Now aged 45, she has had a wide variety of jobs. She confesses how, at an early age, she sacrificed a promising film career.

I AM NOT sure if this is my biggest mistake. But it certainly changed my life.

It goes back to doing a film when I as 12. The film was The Pure Hell of St Trinian's, and I was playing a character called Maud Birdhanger. It was a great part, but I lost it because I was so enamoured of my sister's boyfriend.

On this day I thought I wasn't going to be called to do any shooting. I knew that my sister was having lunch with her boyfriend (Paul Mitchell, who went on to run a well-known hairdressing business). So I got on a train from London to Bognor Regis, where we lived, just so that I could see him.

Of course, that was the day the studio called me for the biggest scene. When they couldn't find me they put another girl in instead. When I got back from the lunch everybody at the studio was furious with me.

I had the long hair and freckles that were much in demand in commercials at the time, so I had been working constantly for a while. But this episode ended my film career.

When I left school I decided to become a nanny. I answered an ad in the Lady, which turned out to be for a job looking after Peter Cook's children. When I got there Dudley Moore told me not to take it because, he said, they were all round the bend.

However, I stayed three years and met a lot of pop stars - including John Lennon, whose then wife Cynthia offered me much more money and weekends off to look after their son, Julian.

Even so, I felt that I was not sure that I wanted to be a nanny all my life and went off to Malta. There, somebody I met asked me to do a radio show and I ended up hosting a programme twice a week.

I did not know what I wanted to do. I was about to be married - but I changed my mind.

In 1976 I came back to London. I walked into the Athenaeum and lied my way into a job as reservations clerk. After a while I became supervisor and then manager - although I was the only one in the department - before becoming sales and public relations manager.

I was never quite sure what I was doing, but it all seemed to work.

Ten years later I left and ran smaller hotels - the Draycott and the Pelham - before being asked to come back to the Athenaeum as executive manager two years ago.

It was like going back to school as a teacher after being a pupil. It was wonderful to see what they had done with it, and now we're celebrating the hotel's 21st birthday.

I will never know whether I would have been a wonderful actor or whether I enjoyed that lunch more. But there are certain similarities between the two lives, and I still have links with that world.

My brother is the actor Jeremy Bulloch, and my half-brother, Robert Watts, is the producer of the Indiana Jones films and other box-office successes. I'm the only one who has got a proper job.

Every day is fascinating. You go home whenever it's time to go home, and the hotel is like a stage: it has its 'front of house' and the like, and you deal with a lot of entertainment people - though now I'm like the director of the film rather than the actress.

(Photograph omitted)

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