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ROSEMARIE'S BABY; She has remained silent about her love for Robert Lindsay but now Rosemarie Ford tells Angela Hagan why she wants to settle down and have children; ROLF'S AMAZING WORLD OF ANIMALS; SUNDAY BBC1 6.45pm.

Rosemarie Ford is choosing her words cautiously. She looks uncomfortable, as if she knew this moment would arrive but it still makes her cringe.

She's just admitted she plans to have a baby with the man she's blissfully in love with - actor Robert Lindsay. For the last four years since she started dating the handsome Citizen Smith star she's avoided talking about their relationship.

And the reasons the couple have opted for such a low public profile are simple.

Robert left his lover of 15 years - actress Diana Weston - four years ago for Rosemarie in a blaze of publicity which threatened to leave her goody goody image in tatters.

To make matters worse Diana, who found fame in The Upper Hand, was left to not only pick up the pieces of her own life but that of their daughter Sydney, now aged ten.

Rosemarie shifts her position and smiles nervously. "My whole outlook on life has changed quite a lot," she says, her cheeks slightly reddening.

"I'm not as ambitious as I used to be. My personal life now comes way before my career and it has done for some time.

"I really do want children, I love them, although I don't know how many I'll have."

At 36, Rosemarie, who returns to the screens this weekend as a roving reporter on Rolf's Amazing World Of Animals, knows that her biological clock is ticking.

"I'm not quite sure when it will happen but yes, I am aware it has to be quite soon. Having children and my dogs and my lovely home is really what I want right now, it's very important to me."

The couple first met in 1986 when Robert, now 47, was appearing alongside Rosemarie on stage in Me And My Girl. Despite his commitments at home their friendship blossomed into romance when they bumped into each other later at a party.

Robert, who was once married to Cheryl Hall, his screen girlfriend in Citizen Smith, then shook the world of showbiz when he walked out on what everyone thought was a rock-solid union to be with the leggy Come Dancing presenter.

It was, as are all showbiz splits, a messy affair. Since then Diana, who lives with their daughter in west London, has made the occasional barbed comment about her child's father.

She once accused Robert of being unfaithful throughout their relationship and recently said, "The only people I meet now are actors, and I'm never going to have another one of them, that's for sure. They don't stop talking about themselves."

With all this in mind, Rosemarie is extra careful to never mention Robert by name. At the most she stretches to saying "we". One thing she loves to talk about, though, is the beautiful mansion the couple share in a sleepy Buckinghamshire village where they lead what can only be described as an idyllic existence.

Their two dogs Chelsea, a scary-looking mastiff who, she insists, is a real softie, and Dodger, a cross-breed, are quite clearly the apples of their eyes.

Rosemarie glows with pride when she talks about the endless phonecalls from amused neighbours to say that Dodger has once again escaped into a nearby garden.

"We really have hours of fun with them, they're so loving and rewarding, they're just like children really.

"I love my home, it's my sanctuary and when I'm away I miss it a lot."

Such a lot in fact that when she was travelling to South Africa to film a special report about Virginia McKenna's work with lions, she found herself in tears during the flight.

"I love travelling," says Rosemarie, who also visited Sri Lanka and the States for the television series. "But I've always found the best part is getting home.

"Last year for a period of about four months I was travelling all over the place and I was absolutely exhausted. I remember putting my sleeping mask on when we were on the plane and just crying.

"I was so busy last year I was hardly ever at home, I missed it a lot."

But she admits one of her biggest failings is not being able to just sit down and relax.

Last year she packed in a punishing work schedule - balancing a film of Cats, a stage play in Chichester, the filming of the ever-popular Come Dancing as well as this series with Rolf Harris.

"I had probably taken on too much but that's me all over. I realised that as long as I kept myself fit and tried to catnap as much as possible, I managed to get by on about four hours sleep a night.

"Sometimes I'd get home and just about make it to my bedroom before falling into a deep sleep.

"I find it so difficult to relax, even now I've got some time off at the moment and I've just started a huge job of repainting the windows on our house. But they're not ordinary windows, they're the old leaded squares, which are very fiddly and intricate.

"Even on the rare occasions I watch TV I do my tapestry so I'm always occupied with something. My Mum often has a go at me about it."

She's especially close to her widowed mother, who lives in the north Yorkshire village where she was born and bred.

Rosemarie started off her showbiz career at the tender age of six when she started dancing lessons and made her stage debut in the local parish hall concert.

Once hooked, she says her Dad Harold, a plumber, scrimped and saved to send her to the classes.

Rosemarie became a rising star of the stage in the West End and all over the country and her credits are almost as long as her legs.

Her big break came in 1990 when she was spotted by Bruce Forsyth and became his co-host on the Generation Game. In1995 she won the role of Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical Cats.

Her success led to her presenting the much-loved Come Dancing, which she still hosts.

Despite her fame, Rosemarie clearly feels her family are the most important thing in her life and talks lovingly of her mother and older sister Christine.

"I try to see them as much as possible," says Rosemarie, whose new series of Come Dancing will be televised later on in the year.

Her father died seven years ago at the age of 60 from rheumatoid arthritis and lung cancer and Rosemarie admits she has worried over the years about her mother.

"But she's proved to be tougher than we thought, she's a real survivor," she smiles. "Since my Dad died I've realised that Mum and I are a lot more like each other than I'd thought. We are actually a lot stronger than we look."

And with that she rushes off to walk the dogs. There's little doubt that Rosemarie has inherited her mother's strength of character.
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Hagan, Angela
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 23, 1998
Previous Article:Video week.
Next Article:Princess Diana was my Uptown Girl and the Queen wanted to Charleston; MY DIARY: BY NIGEL TULLY ROYAL MINSTREL.

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