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DAY TWO: MARTIN CLUNES' EX-WIFE REVEALS INSULT THAT DROVE THE FINAL NAIL INTO THEIR MARRIAGE; We were out for dinner..suddenly Martin exploded in rage and spat out the words YOU'RE AN EMBARRASSMENT.

Lucy Clunes sat in stunned silence - her husband's words stinging like a slap in the face.

What should have been a cosy night out in their favourite Chinese restaurant had turned into another argument over his antics.

But this time Men Behaving Badly star Martin Clunes was in no mood for explanations.

For half an hour she had calmly demanded why he hadn't invited her to the party he'd "forgotten" to tell her about the night before.

At first he'd been defensive, then his famously funny face twisted in rage as he spat out: "You are an embarrassment."

At that instant Lucy finally accepted that their marriage was over after three short years. Though she still loved him, there was no going back.

Lucy says: "He told me I was boring and different and I just thought: 'No more.' I stood up and said 'thanks for dinner - this is the end' and stormed out. I sat in the car shaking with rage.

"Later I went back and Martin was sitting there, surrounded by take- away cartons filled with our meal. He just looked at me. I took off my gold wedding ring, slammed it on the table and walked out. We both knew it was over.

"I was furious when I found out he had gone to a party without telling me. Worse than that, he had said he was going out with just a couple of male actor friends.

"He tried to make out he had told me, but the truth is he just didn't want me there. The sad thing is I had become an embarrassment to him.

When we met, we were both party animals, we wanted the same things in life - but then I changed. I wanted more out of life but he thought I'd become dull and boring."

Lucy Aston and Martin married in 1990. The last two years of their three- year partnership were a constant battle over his lifestyle.

Lucy begged him to cool the partying, drinking and dabbling in drugs. As things got more strained, their once passionate sex life dwindled. She stayed at home studying to become a crisis counsellor, her dreams of having a baby put on hold.

She says: "That night I realised I couldn't take any more. I didn't cry. I drove to Alexandra Palace and sat smoking a cigarette, looking at the view.

"It was June 4 and I thought: 'This is my Independence Day'. I was shaking with relief. Relief that I had finished something that was causing me a lot of heartache."

By the time she got back to their North London flat, Lucy knew there was no way they could pick up the pieces. They talked calmly about their future, agreed it was best to part and vowed to stay friends.

Then Martin went off to another party. That night he stayed with a friend and a couple of days later he moved his belongings. Lucy says: "We just looked at each other and said 'Bye, then'."

Today Lucy, 35, an actress herself, has little money or taste for the luxuries she used to enjoy. When their divorce came through last summer, she was in a new relationship and five months pregnant.

Martin earns a fortune as a TV star, making pounds 100,000 for each series of Men Behaving Badly. He lives in a swanky riverside apartment in London overlooking The Globe Theatre.

Lucy relies on income support to bring up her four month-old daughter, eats organic food and walks her dog Charlie in the park. She is now alone again in the rambling flat she shared with Martin. Her new relationship broke down but she is happy being a mum.

"When Martin and I met we both wanted children," she says. "But how can you bring up a baby with that lifestyle, with Martin working and coming home at all hours from parties.

"He wanted success and a career. He's got what he wanted and I've got what I wanted. I have a beautiful baby and in a way if I hadn't had the experience of Martin, the terrible lows as well as the wonderful highs, I wouldn't be where I am today."

It was after a magical first year of marriage that the cracks started to appear. Martin was landing starring roles while Lucy was working in a health food shop, earning pounds 3.50 an hour, and had started training as a counsellor.

"It was crunch time for me. I thought: 'What the hell am I doing here, frittering away my life?' Doing the counselling made me see life in a different light - perhaps I became too serious and demanding of Martin.

"I think he was aware things were going wrong, but his way of dealing with it was to bury himself in work and get drunk with his friends.

"I tried to hang in there. I'd say: 'You must stop drinking' but he'd just say it wasn't a problem. There came a point when I had to say 'no more'."

With his star rising, Martin could be dismissive of Lucy's own acting ambitions.

She says: "I went to an audition once and when I came back Martin said: 'What have you got on your face?' I said: 'Make-up.' My sister told me I looked gorgeous but Martin just said: 'Wash that muck off.' He was much happier being the star in the relationship. I always thought it funny that he never mentioned me in interviews - it was only after we split up that he started talking about me.

"When he took me to awards dinners, I would be the one left at the table talking to someone else's wife while Martin flitted around."

Like his Men Behaving Badly character, Martin could be hilarious and endearingly infuriating.

"His first Christmas present to me was a grass skirt. I opened it and said 'Oh'. I was so disappointed. But he thought it was fabulous and wanted me to wear it the whole time. I think I shoved in a cupboard."

But there was also a sharp edge to his humour. "Gary in the show is stupid, but Martin is smart. If he met a real-life Gary, he'd call him a p***k.

"If he met someone he disliked, he would often say 'Hello ... p***k.' But he did it under his breath, so subtly that the poor person couldn't believe what they'd just heard."

After the split Lucy went to America for ten weeks. By the time she returned Martin was going out with TV producer Philippa Braithwaite, the woman he plans to marry this summer. They had become friends while making the movie Staggered.

"It was a bombshell when he told me he was with Philippa," says Lucy. Yet it was she who finally asked for the divorce. She felt it was time to put the past behind her and move on.

"I didn't want to be Lucy Clunes any more, I wanted to be Lucy Aston again."

Martin has given his own explanation of why the marriage failed. "We had a problem enjoying each other but now I can enjoy Lucy again. We are friends and can appreciate each other."

Not any more. Last summer they fell out after a row over the divorce settlement and haven't spoken since.

As for the wedding ring Lucy threw at Martin that night in the restaurant, it has never been returned.

"He still wore his own wedding ring on his other hand. I used to see it when I watched Men Behaving Badly," she says.

"I found that quite touching - but I've noticed lately that he's no longer wearing it."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Weathers, Helen
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 15, 1997
Words:1278
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