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My life is too scandalous to write about - so I made a movie; Doctor, lawyer and socialite Anna Brocklebank on her debut film.


Anna Brocklebank believes her Viking blood from her Orkney-born dad has helped her cope with the difficulties she's faced in life.

And it's also given her the courage to star in her first movie, even though she's in her 60s.

The retired doctor and lawyer is a former socialite who regularly featured in the gossip pages for her flamboyant antics. More recently, she was a judge on ITV's Ladettes to Ladies and a winner of Channel 4's Come Dine With Me.

She battled back from a painkiller addiction but was forced to take early retirement from her career as a doctor after developing a debilitating auto immune disease.

But, refusing to let her illness get her down, she's now made her debut feature film, a psychological thriller called Malevolent Shadows, which is due to be released next month.

Anna's father William Dunnet was born in the Orkneys and became a leading consultant surgeon and epidemiologist. He was one of 10 siblings - seven of whom died from TB.

She said: "His motto was 'Orcadian. Above all a Viking!' He had a big influence on my life and he was frightfully proud of our Viking ancestry. I believe around a third of people from Orkney have Viking DNA.

"When I had a broken heart he'd say to me, 'You're a Viking, you're a fighter, pull yourself together'.

"It was the survival of the fittest up there. My father was very bright. He got degrees in Latin, maths and medicine and he was a great gambler and could count cards. He made enough money to buy our first house in London for PS4500 in 1956 from poker. He was a doctor at that stage - but couldn't have bought that house on his doctor's pay.

"I did spend a great deal of time up in Orkney.

My first memories are when I was two and I jumped into a great big cowpat on purpose. I got very sick and ended up in a coma."

Her mum Etienne, who came from Patagonia, prayed for her to live.

Anna said: "She looked into the eyes of a seal on the Orkney shore and prayed to God and said if I was to live she would go to mass for the rest of her life."

Anna enjoyed spending time with her aunt, Anne Dunnet, on Orkney. Her aunt loved whisky and card games and, according to Anna, was one of the first women to ride a motorbike on the wall of death in the UK.

The family graveyard is at Dunnet Head - a peninsula in Caithness which includes the most northerly point of the mainland of Britain.

Anna, now 64, lives in Surrey, but after she qualified as a doctor she returned to Scotland in the 1970s to work in casualty at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, for four years.

She'd fallen in love with medicine, from age three, when her father would take her with him onto hospital wards.

She said: "Medicine was the oxygen that I breathed."

She was also a model and society girl as a young woman and in her 20s was engaged to one of Prince Charles's close friends, referring to the next in line to the throne as Chukka.

She said: "He would give me the most withering looks when I called him that. I spent a lot of time going to dinners and royal yachts." Although she decided against marrying the prince's friend.

She added: "Old Chukka insisted all his friends had to call him 'Sir'. I simply could not marry a man who would bow down and call his best friend sir."

She became a lady when she married Sir Aubrey Brocklebank in 1979 and the couple had two children Beanie, 37, and Hamish, 30, who's married to The Good Wife actress Jess Weixler.

But Anna's husband left her after eight years of marriage and her life fell apart.

She said: "I'm a clear-headed academic but with matters of the heart I'm a disaster. When my first husband left me, I went to pieces.

"At the same time, I'd broken my coccyx and was given pethidine. Then I found not only did it get rid of the pain of my broken coccyx, it got rid of the emotional pain I was facing."

Anna became addicted to the morphinelike painkiller for around 10 years through her 30s, even though she was running a successful private GP practice.

She said: "I had a big private doctors' practice, I was earning enough for two nannies and a cook and I became a junkie."

She looked at herself in the mirror one day and realised how bad the drug was making her look and feel then booked herself into rehab.

Although it was hard for her sons when news of her addiction came out, she doesn't regret it.

She said: "I've never learned from my triumphs, I've learned from my mistakes. And I've made a lot of mistakes."

Alongside her medical work, she also qualified as a lawyer at the age of 40 - she started training following a drunken bet.

She said: "I had this philosophy that just because you have one job doesn't mean you can't do anything else."

She beat her addiction but had to face a hearing of the General Medical Council and was sent back to hospital work.

She said: "They sent me to work in sexually transmitted diseases as they thought it was a punishment but it was what I'd always wanted to do."

While there, she met a woman from Sierra Leone in West Africa who had suffered horrific abuse as a child.

Hearing of the plight of young people in the African country led Anna to launch an album of Christmas music to raise funds for the charity Street Child of Sierra Leone (SCoSL) to build schools for kids living on the streets.

She visited the country with the charity around seven years ago - but when she returned she fell ill. She developed a growth on her lip and this triggered an auto-immune response leaving her with granuloma, which ended her medical career.

She said: "For the first six months, I was blind. That's when I started writing my own music."

Doctors felt her ill health was connected to her trip to Sierra Leone - but Anna believes it could have been triggered by having lip filler 15 years ago.

She decided to set herself a new challenge. She said: "Since I've been retired I thought, 'What am I supposed to do all day?' I'm not going to sit in the corner knitting and I don't like daytime telly. So I thought I'd make a film for fun even though I was told it would be impossible."

Anna founded A&E Productions with fellow medic and friend Dr Emily Mabonga, and made the movie Malevolent Shadows. Anna has written the script and starred in the movie, which was filmed in Corsica where Anna has a home.

She said: "I understand the island mentality. It's like Orkney in the sun.

"It's a psychological thriller in art form. I wanted to make it artistic. The film is a metaphor of my life. Publishers have asked me to write my life story but it's far too scandalous - I wouldn't do that. I've kept diaries and people can wait until I'm dead."

Anna keeps fit with kung fu and remains glamorous. She is a muse for designer Charles Svingholm, who gave her a one-off black bejewelled dress supermodel Naomi Campbell and Madonna fought over. And she refuses to let her difficulties keep her down.

She said: "My Viking blood helped me through. Everyone says they don't understand how I'm still alive after all the difficulties I've had in my life." l Malevolent Shadows will be released by A&E Productions Ltd on February 5, 2018 on DVD and Vimeo, for PS9.99.


GLAM... Anna in the black bejewelled dress Naomi Campbell and Madonna wanted

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS ... Anna won Come Dine With Me, left, and credits Viking blood from her Orkneyborn dad for keeping her strong from a yong age, below

DETERMINED... Anna Brocklebank started writing her own music after losing her sight due to an illness
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 6, 2018
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