Actress and writer Arabella Weir on rebellious reading, sentimental scents and what she has in common with Obama.
Archie, my 19-year-old son, is a very exuberant person. When he was one and a half and throwing a tantrum, someone said, ‘I think you’ve got an Italian footballer here.’ He painted this picture when he was five – it’s so evocative of who he is.
We were living in Cairo where my father [the late Sir Michael Weir] was posted in the British Embassy. My mother Alison was very bohemian, so was the last person to set up a shot like this. It’s poignant for me as it shows what she was trying to, but couldn’t, be.
My granny was the most wonderful, unconditionally loving Christian. She used to say, ‘When I go, you’ll have this.’ It was a huge ruby surrounded by diamonds. I couldn’t carry it off so I had it reset by the jeweller Daphne Krinos – now I wear it every day.
I bought this portrait of Obama from my friend Nicola Green [married to MP David Lammy]. In this shot, he’s just walking but his pose looks the same as John Wayne’s in the True Grit poster. Obama has a copy too, so he and I have the same picture.
This Mother’s Day box was made for me by my daughter Isabella  when she was seven – it sits in my office in pride of place. She is contemplative and hard-working. I’m delighted to say that she has not the smallest interest in becoming a performer like me.
My mother was an English teacher. One of her sweeping statements was that I was a moron because I never read. I rebelled by reading in secret, but I was so blown away by George Eliot’s Middlemarch that I couldn’t pretend I didn’t like reading any more.
The first time I got properly drunk I was staying with a friend at her elder sister’s house in Provence. I was 15 and lay about all day thinking I was dying as her sister’s husband brought me water in this duck jug. I kept it as a memento of my first hangover.
My best friend Helen [Scott Lidgett] died in 2012 before her grandson, Arthur, was born, so I said I’d be grandmother for him. His parents got this Le Labo Vetiver 46 to thank me for looking after him. I’m called ‘SG’ – ‘Surrogate Granny’.
Words: Emily Hill
Arabella is starring in The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson, premiering at London’s Park Theatre on 9 May. Visit parktheatre.co.uk for tickets