Can you handle hilary's baggage?

'I HAVE developed a fantastic ability to fall asleep, upright, at my laptop. There is always this voice in my head though, telling me, 'This is really pathetic'."

Actress Hilary Lyon laughs, describing the painful process of putting pen to paper for her latest offering as a writer, the fourth series of Baggage, the hugely popular BBC Radio 4 comedy set in Edinburgh, beginning again on Wednesday.

Following the lives of a group of 40-something women, the show has been immensely successful with listeners tuning in to share in the ups and downs.

There are plans for a book based on the play and even talk of bringing it to the screen – hence the pressure on Lyon to come up with yet another series.

Most Popular

    "I've always hoped Baggage resonates with people," she explains from her home in London which she shares with her husband Matt, a man with a "proper job" as an IT consultant, and their two young sons. "But I was taken by surprise once, when a lorry driver phoned the station to say he had been listening on the road, but had been forced to pull over because he was crying.

    "It's never been an ambition to make a lorry driver cry, but it did mean so much to me."

    As a self-confessed "40-something-year-old" herself, much of what Lyon chooses to write about comes from her own experiences, from divorce to adoption, to the loss of friends and devastating illness.

    She insists most of life's hilarious and heartbreaking moments have now been witnessed by either herself or her friends, either when growing up on the east coast, in Edinburgh in her 20s, or in London in recent years.

    But when it comes to conveying what Lyon wants to say in her dramas, it is not easy, even though this series won't fail to disappoint, with some twists and turns which are bound to shock even the sharpest of fans.

    "I don't actually find the writing painful," she explains. "It's just the getting started. I'm not a morning person and I'm very much last-minute, working better under pressure, but somehow it comes together.

    "You can always tell when I am meant to be writing, because my house is immaculate. I always find time to thoroughly clean my cooker, for instance."

    Aside from creating and writing Baggage, and playing the lead as Caroline, Lyon is best known career-wise as an established actress, with a 20-year career in stage and screen.

    But her personal life has undoubtedly attracted the most attention, having famously divorced from her childhood sweetheart, Aberfeldy-born actor Alan Cumming, who later announced he was bisexual.

    How does she feel being asked about Cumming, a successful Hollywood actor whose flamboyancy is well-known?

    "We are good friends now," she sighs fondly. "It's taken a long time to get to this point, though."

    It's not a topic she's keen on discussing. "It's not that I get tired of talking about him, it's just tiring being seen in somebody else's context. That's inevitable though."

    Lyon and her husband Matt have met with Cumming in recent years, a situation she describes as "post-modern", with a laugh.

    But it's very clear where her love lies nowadays – firmly with 50-year-old Matt and their two adopted sons, aged six and eight.

    She grows excited describing taking the youngest to his various sporting clubs, the eldest to drama classes, and picking them up from school, in between her hectic writing schedule.

    "My children couldn't be less interested in what I do," she laughs. "They say, 'Oh, mum's on the radio' before saying 'Where's my Lego?'"

    In a quirk worthy of the script of Baggage, when Lyon met her then future husband – originally from Stratford-upon-Avon – in London, they discovered they had photographs of each other in their living rooms.

    "He had been at my sister's wedding in Glasgow the year before," she laughs. "It was all very bizarre. Matt is just wonderful. He's a man in a suit with a proper job. I don't know how he puts up with me."

    Lyon wrote the first series of Baggage when living in Edinburgh, performing at the Traverse. From a boxroom in a Marchmont flat, she made reality an idea she had been toying with for years.

    Introducing life-long friends Caroline and Ruth, listeners shared their highs and lows, with the last series ending with the tragic death of their good friend Fiona.

    "I don't feel any differently about writing about Edinburgh away from Edinburgh," she explains. "I was certainly less distracted back in those days in Marchmont, though – I didn't even have a window."

    Having fallen in love with the Capital as a child, Lyon moved to the city as a student, in between her time at Glasgow University and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, working in the Cafe Royal bar.

    But will she ever return? "There were plans to move up," she explains. "But other things just overtook them.

    "I suppose we need to see what happens, but I think we will move eventually. The boys love Scotland. We come up every six months or so – I need that fix."

    The new series of Baggage begins on Radio 4 on Wednesday at 11:30am.