Who brings slippers and a hot water bottle on a month-long singles’ retreat to Naxos, Greece? Someone who suspects that, despite the best efforts of TV producers, she will not be finding a new boyfriend to curl up with.
Model, TV presenter, counsellor and actress Annabel Giles, who has died aged 64, was sharp, talented, funny and on the brink of a longed-for comeback when, tragically, she fell ill four months ago with glioblastoma, the brain cancer which took her life last week.
Anyone who saw her back in the Eighties would have said Giles was the last woman who would need the assistance of a television dating programme – in this case an ITV show in which a group of high-profile divorcees decamped to Greece to try to find love.
Exquisitely beautiful, with crystalline blue eyes and the sharpest of cheekbones, Giles became one of the faces of the decade. Resourceful, bubbly and with a keen wit – she was a regular on Radio 4’s Loose Ends and wrote several successful novels – she had all the attributes one associates with happiness.
But Giles’ enviable beauty and fierce intelligence did not prevent her life being shaded by repeated misfortune.
Annabel Giles’ turbulent love life was plagued with failed relationships, not to mention an astonishing legal fight with one former lover, celebrity agent Paul Duddridge
Emotional contentment was hard to come by, and the mercurial Giles had a litany of failed relationships, not to mention an astonishing legal fight with one former lover, celebrity agent Paul Duddridge, who was the father of her son.
In 1998, when their son Ted was just two and a half weeks old, she and Duddridge had an intensely traumatic break-up. He said she threw him out; she, that he left without explanation. A legal battle over money and access left her broke, and him threatening to sue her for defamation.
Duddridge told the Mail this week he knew she had been ill and he, too, mourned her end: ‘I cherish the happy memories I had of Annabel. The rest is just life and sometimes it’s messy.’
Giles, the daughter of a Fleet Air Arm pilot who was expelled from boarding school aged 16, would have been the first to admit that hers certainly was.
Although first drifting into secretarial jobs after leaving school, she forged a successful career as a model, becoming the face of Max Factor. This then propelled her into television, presenting shows such as ITV’s Posh Frocks And New Trousers – a gift of a gig for someone like her who had, as she put it, ‘a degree in showing off’.
But despite her career success, Giles admitted she was ‘probably a nightmare’ when it came to relationships.
One of her first boyfriends, she later reflected, was ‘aged 35 and I was 18, which was interesting. But because I’d been at boarding school and had spent a lot of time on my own, I didn’t know how a relationship would run.
‘My father was away a lot, and at school I had nothing but lady teachers, so I didn’t have anything to model my understanding of men on. I had a bizarre love life and I suspect I still do. It’s my weak subject. There were lots of one-night stands to be had and I was constantly falling in love with people who weren’t interested.’
In 1998, Annabel and Duddridge (pictured in 2016) had an traumatic break-up. A legal battle over money and access left her broke, and him threatening to sue her for defamation
Engaged aged 25, the model, who died last week aged 64 after battling a brain tumour, ditched her fiancé on the eve of their wedding, running away with pop star Midge Ure
She once ruefully admitted that as a model, ‘You would think I would have had them queueing round the block. No such luck. I never understood the difference between being in love and loving somebody, and I was convinced that a man would rescue me from the pressures of life which, sadly, has not been the case.’
Engaged aged 25, she ditched her fiancé on the eve of their wedding, running away with pop star Midge Ure. ‘That was bad; it upset everybody, me included,’ she once reflected.
For all the intensity of her romantic life through the decades, friends reveal Giles was single when she died. In her later years there were romances with women, as well as men.
Her friend, the presenter Lizzie Cundy, said: ‘Annabel never wanted to put a label or a limit on love. She would say to me – ‘I just fall in love with the person.’ She would then say: ‘My problem is that it’s always the wrong person.’
There were periods, however, when her romantic life ran smoothly. She enjoyed six gilded years with Midge Ure in a mansion in Chiswick, west London, with a second home in Montserrat in the Caribbean, where they married, two years into their relationship, in 1985.
Ultravox singer Ure, best known for organising Live Aid, was at the peak of his fame. Giles recalled that, at one point, she had 17 cars, including three Porsches, before even passing her driving test.
Together, they had daughter Molly, now aged 36, but agreed to split after four years of marriage in 1989. Giles declined to take a large financial settlement from him, saying she wanted them to remain friends.
She told an interviewer: ‘I had no idea what you did in a marriage, I didn’t know how to be. I think I was in love but he was away a lot, so I carved out my own life and, in the end, I preferred doing my own thing to having to drop everything when he returned… I didn’t take him to the cleaners, I moved into a much smaller house.’
Together, they had daughter Molly, now aged 36, but agreed to split after four years of marriage in 1989
Exquisitely beautiful, with crystalline blue eyes and the sharpest of cheekbones, Giles became one of the faces of the Eighties
A long period as a single parent to Molly followed, before she met comedian’s agent Duddridge in 1996 and they had what she called ‘a strange and disastrous’ romance.
Duddridge, for his part, admitted in a 2014 interview to being ‘instantly smitten’ after meeting Giles when she turned to him for career advice. Raised on a Cardiff council estate, he had become a high-profile comedy agent representing stars such as Michael McIntyre, Alistair McGowan and Rob Brydon.
‘She was strikingly beautiful but more than that she was intelligent, bright and very funny. I became her agent, but also her lover.’
He continued: ‘Annabel was always highly strung. She was erratic and had massive violent mood swings. We were both partying, probably too much. She would physically attack me. She threatened me with a knife during one row.
‘At the start of our relationship, she was convinced Midge Ure had private eyes tailing us. People kept warning me not to get involved with her because she was bonkers, but I was trying to be a white knight. I thought I could ‘fix’ her.’
There were endless fights, he said: ‘We broke up but then she turned up on my doorstep, in floods of tears, and said, ‘I want a baby.’ I always dreamed of having a family. She got pregnant straight away. I was ecstatic.’
A scan showed their unborn son had a chromosome abnormality called ’47,XYY syndrome’ which meant he had an extra ‘y’ chromosome. Sufferers are emotionally immature and can have learning difficulties.
Giles said she always feared their relationship was doomed: ‘During the pregnancy, I would have nightmares about the father abandoning me and our baby. He used to reassure me that he would never do such a thing.
‘But when the baby was only two-and-a-half weeks old, for reasons he’s always kept to himself, he did exactly that.
‘Being a single parent is the hardest job I’ve ever done. It’s lonely, heartbreaking for the child andex-hausting.’ But, Giles quickly added: ‘it has also been the making of me.’
A long period as a single parent to Molly followed, before she met comedian’s agent Duddridge in 1996 and they had what she called ‘a strange and disastrous’ romance
Determined to do the best for her son, she found a specialist boarding school. However, this led to a tricky financial situation.
According to Giles: ‘After much litigation, I carved out some sort of working relationship with Ted’s father, who was ordered to pay Ted’s fees for an excellent boarding school where he has thrived.’
Indeed, in 2006, it was agreed in the family courts that Duddridge would pay £1,000 a month, plus school fees of £15,000 a year, in exchange for the chance to spend every other weekend with Ted.
This, said Giles, didn’t last: ‘Without warning, Ted’s father relocated to Los Angeles and he hasn’t spoken to Ted since his ninth birthday.
He soon stopped sending the payments, and a couple of years ago he announced that he wouldn’t be paying the school fees either.’
Duddridge stayed silent until 2014 when he presented an account at sharp variance with hers.
Giles, he insisted, had kicked him out: ‘We’d had a row earlier that night but I thought it had been resolved when we went to bed. I woke up at 4am to find her kicking me. She was threatening to call the police. I was scared.
‘I had several high-profile clients and I knew being led off in handcuffs for a domestic dispute would be highly embarrassing and damaging. So I left.’
Duddridge said he paid Giles thousands of pounds in child support, and thousands more on legal fees fighting to be part of Ted’s life. He said he’d ‘begged’ to see his son, but was thwarted by her. A contact order allowed him limited contact once a fortnight when Ted was young.
‘I had to go to this hall and sit with other dads and social workers,’ he recalled. ‘It took away any chance for me to bond properly with Ted. I wanted to parent my son, but the years dragged on and the contact was minimal and he grew further away from me.’
A year after their court settlement, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he still lives, saying his business had been affected by Giles blackening his name.
When he spoke to the Mail this week, Dudderidge said that his contact with his son is ‘minimal’ and that he didn’t want to relive the conflict between him and Annabel.
Now a director and acting coach, and re-married with two daughters, Duddridge added: ‘It’s terribly sad. A family member called me about a week ago to tell me about Annabel’s condition. The first thing I asked was if there was any chance at all of recovery. I was told that there wasn’t and that she was in hospice care.
‘I started reading up on glioblastoma, and it’s a particularly cruel thing to have. She was such a vivacious woman and full of energy and life.’
Duddridge said he then learned about Giles’s death in the newspapers. ‘Even though I knew she was seriously ill, it was still a shock to hear she had died.’
He added: ‘It’s been good to see the positive messages and outpouring of sympathy following Annabel’s death and I also send my love and condolences.’
Whatever the truth of the break up, it left Giles broke.
Novels followed, which were successful, but didn’t make enough to support her family. There was even a job in a chocolate shop in Brighton, before she resorted to claiming benefits.
‘Thanks to some careful accounting from me and the generosity of others, we’re surviving,’ she said then. ‘I’ve been so touched. There’s still a lot of human kindness out there in these hard times and I’ve been fortunate. The school has awarded us a bursary, for example.
‘The workings of the benefits system are confusing at the best of times, but suffice to say I don’t have a penny to spare by the end of the week… We walk almost everywhere… I never turn the heating on during the day.’
Understandably, then, in 2013 when a new reality show called I’m A Celebrity asked if she wanted to take part, she jumped at the chance to earn some money.
Romantically, things had settled, too: a new female partner, a carpenter, who lived near her in Hove brought some contentment. Her children – Molly, then 26, and Ted, then 15 – met and liked her new flame.
Friends said at the time: ‘She was by no means looking for a lesbian relationship, but living in Brighton she got to know loads of gay people… They are really happy together. Annabel’s in the best place she’s been for years.’
After a diploma in counselling, Giles then set up a practice, explaining in her entry in the professional Counselling Directory by stating she wanted to help ‘people with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence; those who are having difficulties with friendships and relationships…’ She added: ‘I have had a lot of life experience myself.’
Annabel joined the I’m A Celebrity lineup in 2013, and at the time was happily in a relationship with a woman
For all the intensity of her romantic life through the decades, friends reveal Giles was single when she died. In her later years there were romances with women, as well as men
Sadly, her relationship with the unnamed carpenter didn’t last.
Then, in 2018, she took the plunge and went on the show My Shirley Valentine Summer, alongside other high-profile divorcees, including Nancy Dell’Olio, Melinda Messenger, Sian Lloyd, Ingrid Tarrant and Lizzie Cundy.
Cundy said this week: ‘We got on very well because we had a shared sense of humour. She was very funny, so sharp. We got very close right away. She said to me: ‘Right, you are my kind of person.’
She added: ‘She was a really good listener and counselled me when I was upset and talked to me about the end of my marriage.’
They stayed friends and would keep in touch with video calls and texts during the pandemic.
‘Neither of us found love on the show which was a shame,’ said Cundy. ‘We did find each other, but no romance.’
However, shortly before her death, there were signs of a career revival. In September 2022, Giles appeared in a musical, Rehab, which she loved.
‘She was very interested in returning to the limelight,’ says Cundy. ‘She was really interested in carving out a new career as an actress. She was so talented but never completely believed in herself. She was quite vulnerable.
‘I thought she was wonderful and thought the world of her. She will be very badly missed.’