Losing a beloved pet can be heart-breaking – especially right now, after many of us have spent a lot more time than usual cooped up with our animals during the lockdowns.
It’s something Georgia Taylor – best known for playing Toyah Battersby on Coronation Street – can relate to. The actress, 41, recently said goodbye to her cat; her second pet bereavement in the space of a few years.
We caught up with Wigan-born Taylor to talk pets, parks and the joy of gardening TV…
How important a role do pets play in your life?
“We’re actually without pets at the moment, for the first time in a number of years. We had two cats, Claude and Audrey, who were brother and sister, but we lost Claude three years ago and had to put Audrey to sleep earlier this year.
“You really notice it – those moments when they’ll curl up with you on the sofa purring – and it’s quieter because Audrey was particularly chatty. You miss the gentle companionship. They just make the house a warmer place.”
Have you always had pets?
“I wasn’t allowed a dog or cat when I was younger, but I had a rabbit. As soon as I was independent, one of my priorities was getting a cat, and that was about 20 years ago. For most of the last two decades, I’ve had a least one animal.”
Have they all had different personalities?
“Oh absolutely. Our cats were raised together but were completely different. I always wondered why one would be terrified by a noise, while the other wouldn’t even bat an eyelid. Claude loved being held on his back, as you would a baby, but if you tried that with Audrey she’d scratch your arm off. All those little things make up rounded personalities.”
How have you coped with pet bereavement, and what would your advice be to others?
“It depends on your situation. I’m with my partner, Mark, and we’ve had a shared grief. We have those little memories of Audrey, and we love looking through photographs, even though it’s upsetting. I think it’s nice to look back and remember.
“For those people who live alone, or are finding things particularly difficult, Cats Protection has an amazing ‘Paws to Listen’ service, which you can call or email, and talk to someone who will understand and be able to offer practical advice. Don’t be afraid to reach out and don’t feel silly – you’re not. You’ve invested time, love, money and care in this living thing for however many months or years, and you’re bound to feel that loss.”
The pandemic has affected so much. How challenging has it been working on Corrie with the restrictions?
“We’re really used to it now. Because we wear masks in rehearsals, we only take them off when we’re going for a take, so you don’t get to see someone’s face until they say ‘action’, which is a bit strange.
“I’m not a party animal any more by any means, but you miss the social side of it. When it’s a sunny day and someone says, ‘Let’s go for a drink after work’, or me and Jane Danson or Jennie McAlpine (my closest friends on set) can get lunch when we have a break. Those silly little things that make your day that bit nicer.”
Some have found work an escape from the pandemic, while others have found it much more difficult – where do you stand?
“It’s been a positive for me. When we first locked-down, nobody knew anything, we were all thinking [it would be] three or four weeks and it just snowballed, so it was such a blessing that we were back in June.
“Even then, there was that fear we could be shut down again at any moment, like if there was an outbreak at work. Thankfully there wasn’t, and it was a chance to see people and feel a small semblance of normality. I was still learning my lines, reading my scripts and going to work. A lot was standard and familiar, and I took great comfort in that.”
Did you and Mark experience any cabin fever at home?
“We’re very lucky because we’re really close to a park, so we could exercise every day. I like to run anyway, so I just cranked that up and enjoyed the amazing weather. We don’t have a massive garden, but we did a lot of work on it and turned it into our own little sanctuary.
“I exercise for my head as much as anything – it just clears my mind completely. I used to run to music, but now I run to podcasts. It gives you that bit of time when you can switch off, not worry about anything, and just have people talking.”
What else is important to your wellbeing?
“Reading and cooking. I’m by no means a fantastic chef, but I really enjoy cooking and I love food. Last year, we were trying to limit our trips to the supermarket, which made us think ahead and properly plan our meals. We had so many gorgeous recipe books that we hadn’t used, so we just went though them, saying, ‘Let’s try this’. I really enjoyed it – it made me feel calm and content.”
TV soaps have provided much needed comfort during the pandemic – what have you been watching?
“We watch a lot on Netflix, but we also love house and gardening programmes. Grand Designs; Location, Location, Location; Gardeners’ World. If you’d said to me 10 years ago I’d be sitting down with a glass of wine to watch Monty Don on a Friday night, I wouldn’t have believed you, but it’s just so soothing – almost like a sort of meditation.”
What are you most looking forward to post-pandemic?
“Going out for food. The luxury of someone else cooking a gorgeous meal for you is one of my favourite treats, and also going to the theatre and cinema. Getting loads of snacks and switching off for two hours to watch a film – I feel like we really took those sorts of simple pleasures for granted.”
‘Paws to Listen’ is a free bereavement support service for cat owners run by Cats Protection, to help grieving owners cope with the loss of their cat. To speak to a volunteer, call 0800 024 94 94 (9am to 5pm, Monday-Friday). Online guides and leaflets to help with a range of grief-related issues for cat owners are also available. Visit www.cats.org.uk/grief