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I found out that I was pregnant in the loo at Topshop; EMMERDALE STAR ON HER SHOCKING DISCOVERY.

Byline: JANE SIMON

IT'S the sort of predicament you could imagine Emmerdale's dippy Laurel Potts ending up in - learning she is going to be a mum for the first time in a public lavatory. And that's exactly what happened to Charlotte Bellamy, who plays her.

"I found out in the toilets at Topshop," says Charlotte, 31, with a sheepish grin. "I was in London on my way to record a voiceover for a cartoon and I decided to do a pregnancy test on the spur of the moment.

"You imagine it's going to be so romantic - you and your partner looking at the little blue line. But my reaction was, 'God! That can't be right!' I walked out in a daze and went to phone my boyfriend, Mungo.

"I was in a state of disbelief. I'd never done a pregnancy test before and I was sure I'd done it wrong. So I did another five and took them all to my doctor.

"I did that second lot of tests in the toilets at King's Cross Station, which was even worse."

As the accident-prone cleaner with a heart of gold, Charlotte has been a big hit with Emmerdale fans - especially since Laurel found love with the Rev Ashley Thomas, played by John Middleton.

Although she is being written out of the soap for four months while on maternity leave, Laurel will be back. And her final episodes, to be shown later this month, promise to be her most dramatic - and romantic - yet.

"I didn't tell the producers until after my first scan and they were great," beams Charlotte, whose baby is due on September 12. "I love playing Laurel, but if they'd decided this was the end of the road I'd have understood. Luckily, it wasn't."

At seven months' pregnant, Charlotte has only a tiny bump and, so far, has only put on 7lbs. It means she hasn't had to disguise her pregnancy onscreen, hiding behind large handbags or strategically placed pot-plants - although viewers may spot a few new ponchos in Laurel's eccentric wardrobe.

"I feel absolutely normal," says Charlotte. "I had a few weeks of feeling nauseous - being in the Woolpack at 8am with the smell of all those pub lunches was a bit unpleasant - but I was never sick. I could have carried on working for a few more weeks, I think."

Charlotte filmed her last scene just over a week ago, but even she doesn't know whether Laurel and Ashley will eventually get married - although it's the question she is asked most often.

SHE says: "Laurel would love to get married, I think that's her dream," but goes on to add that it is not one she shares.

She met TV researcher Mungo Denison, 31, when they were 18-year-old performing arts students at Middlesex University. They live in North London and don't feel any need to tie the knot - even after 13 years together and with a baby on the way.

"We've got a mortgage - what more commitment do you need?" she says. "Mungo would probably love a massive wedding because he's very sociable, but I'd like it to be just me and him. Maybe we should get married one day, but it's not on the agenda. Weddings are so expensive and I'd rather go to New York or something like that.

"We met at a drunken party, like you do when you're students, and actually split up for two years when I left uni.

"It wasn't a big, traumatic break-up. We both went out with other people but we never lost contact. That was the best thing we did because when we got back together we knew we were with the right person.

"When you are really young you think, 'I can't have met the man I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. It can't be that easy.' But it was."

Charlotte hasn't been put off the idea of marriage because her late father David and mum Gillian split up when she was 14.

"Their divorce wasn't a big deal to me because I still had a stable homelife, so I've never felt wibbly wobbly about anything," she insists. "If I wanted to get married I would."

She puts her happiness down to lots of laughs - Mungo used to be a stand-up comedian.

"If somebody makes you laugh there's nothing more attractive," she says. "We're not the perfect couple - we have rows - but we never take each other for granted."

Another thing Charlotte doesn't take for granted is being in Emmerdale. Before she was cast as Laurel Potts two years ago, she did various menial jobs to make ends meet.

"I didn't enjoy cleaning as much as Laurel does," she laughs. "I did ironing and waitressing for pounds 1 an hour. I had more varicose veins then than I have now I'm pregnant. All actors know they will have long periods out of work but it hasn't been easy for me. So having regular work in Emmerdale is great."

In 1998 she made the TV series The Brokers' Man with Kevin Whately and has appeared in A Touch Of Frost and The Bill. Nine years ago, Charlotte also played one of Sarah Hill's "weirdo" religious friends in EastEnders. She is proud that Emmerdale is now snapping at EastEnders' heels in the ratings and has even beaten it on two occasions.

"We have strong stories but we also have comedy and people always tell me how much they like that," she says. "They don't want to watch depressing things all the time. Plus, it has the beautiful countryside.

"Before I was in Emmerdale I'd think, 'I'd love to live in that village. They've got sheep and there's no litter or graffiti'. It's a really nice world and I'm happy that I'll be coming back to it after my baby is born."

mirrorfeatures@mgn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

PREGNANT PAUSE: Charlotte is being written out of the soap for four months; BABY BLISS: Charlotte and Mungo; LOVE IN THE DALES: Laurel and Ashley
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 4, 2004
Words:1007
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