Anthea and Wendy Turner

Anthea and Wendy Turner

Anthea and Wendy Turner

On their latest children’s book, set at the Wimbledon tennis championships, working together and their lives in London

Hailing from Staffordshire, sisters Anthea and Wendy Turner were captivated by London on their visits as children – and it is with this perspective that they have created their Underneath the Underground book series for children.

Says Anthea: “London was so magical and exciting to visit. We’d see the queen – albeit in Madame Tussauds, we’d go past the Houses of Parliament, and we’d have tea at Harrods. These landmarks were not the norm for us.” Adds Wendy: “When I was visiting as a child, I was desperate to move to London, and when I did move here that excitement never left me.”

They have both lived in and around the capital now for many years. Wendy, who is married to the actor Gary Webster, is in Isleworth and Anthea is in Chelsea. Wendy used to live in North Kingston. “I have very fond memories of taking my sons sledging in Richmond Park,” she recalls.

For Anthea, her love of London centres on the Thames. “Since I moved here, I’ve always lived by the river. I love it, and I love the bridges, especially when they are lit up at night.”

Their series started life back in the 90s but they thought that it was the right time to bring them back, given how much London has changed. They also wanted to update the cultural references. The latest adventure, Raining Strawberries at Wimbledon, is set around the tennis championships. Says Wendy: “I love the tennis. Wimbledon Fortnight is just amazing. I have been several times. I also used to play tennis for the school when I was young. When you are passionate about something, it makes it so much easier to get a good story going.”

Their last book, The King’s Coronation and the Kohinoor Diamond, featured King Charles and Queen Camilla, and they will be appearing in this story too, alongside William and Catherine. They’ve sent their work over to the palace but haven’t had any feedback as yet. Laughs Wendy: “We haven’t been summoned to explain ourselves! We were once at an event with Charles and Camilla and it seemed that they have a very good sense of humour so in the book, we made them charmingly daft and eccentric but in a really nice way.”

With the news of Charles’ and Catherine’s cancer diagnoses, did that impact the book at all? Anthea and Wendy think it was important not to change anything. “Cancer should not define you. My best friend died from cancer and she always said that it wouldn’t define who she was.”

Adds Anthea: “Also, people survive cancer and thrive after it, and we feel very positive for Charles and Catherine.” The book will be dedicated to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The tales feature a community of mice, beautifully illustrated by R Thomas. Anthea and Wendy wanted to get across the idea that when the mice work together and help each other out, they can achieve anything.

The sisters, who are seven years apart, had a big fallout several years ago, but have made up, and are clearly enjoying the process of writing together. During our interview, they tease each other over differences in opinion in a way that only siblings can get away with – for instance, Wendy is a strict vegan, Anthea is not, and while she doesn’t eat a lot of meat, she certainly avoids it in front of Wendy and their father who has been a vegetarian for a while. “He has now announced on Instagram that he has become vegan, aged 91,” says Wendy.

Anthea, 63, has written several books before, but in an entirely different genre. One is ‘How to Survive Divorce’. She was previously married to Grant Bovey for 13 years, her first marriage was to her manager, former DJ Peter Powell. She is now happily engaged to Mark Armstrong. Her other book is ‘How To Age Well: The secrets’. She looks incredible, as does her sister. So, what does Anthea recommend? She says that while genes will always be the factor you can’t change, you can make a difference with your lifestyle.

“The worst thing for your skin is smoking, which is a huge hazard for your health, but you will particularly see it in your skin as it robs it of Vitamin C. And then the sun – I love a free Vitamin D bath but it’s about not overdoing it.”

In terms of ageing well, she says it is all about strength. “You don’t want to be a weak older person. Strength gives you stability. I was diagnosed some time ago with osteopenia, the warning sign for osteoporosis. I’ve put a lot of effort into regaining strength and had quite a turnaround. If I do a lot of osteogenic loading I will get back the bone strength I had in my 40s.”

She says it doesn’t have to be time-consuming if you build it in to your daily life. Anthea keeps dumb-bells to hand in the house, as well as using a weight jacket, which she wears while out walking her dog.

For Wendy, 56, it is more difficult. “I suffer from Long Covid, three years after I was hospitalised, and exercise is virtually impossible because of the chronic fatigue it triggers and the pain in my muscles and joints. Long Covid is in danger of being forgotten and for many it is debilitating.”

She is starting out gently with some Tai Chi. “I know that will wipe me out for the day. But psychologically I like doing it.”

The two of them get together for mudlarking on the riverbanks, with a professional as you need a license. They talk enthusiastically about the treasures they have found including clay pipes and old bones. It sounds like it could be the subject for another kids’ book… in the meantime, they are excited to be seeing their Wimbledon tale come to life. Says Anthea: “We always bring into our books places we have an association with or vivid memory of.”

Image by Ken Murphy

READ MORE: Your guide to Wimbledon