My Ex-Lover Will Help Me Move Home.(And No, I Do Not Mean Chris Tarrant); Former Eastenders Actress Debbie Arnold Has More on Her Mind Than 'Absolute Rubbish' Claims of an Affair with the TV Host-Renovation of Her Surrey House
Byline: EVE MCGOWAN
Debbie Arnold's beautician is giving her a home pedicure and manicure at the kitchen table, surrounded by piles of newspapers detailing her supposed affair with Chris Tarrant. But the former East-Enders actress insists the claims she has been dating the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? TV host are 'absolute rubbish'.
What's really been at the forefront of her mind in recent weeks, she says, is doing up her four-bedroom house in Cobham, Surrey. And with her foot spa bubbling away, she is eager to set the record straight, shouting to be heard above the drills of the builders who are finishing the upstairs extension.
'I've known Chris for 25 years and I don't see him in a sexual way. He's like a golden retriever. There's more chance of me having an affair with Steve my builder.
'I'm immune to Chris's charms. He's a lovely guy but too old and wrinkly for me. I like younger men.' Instead, Debbie has been concentrating on transforming her detached Thirties home which she bought for [pounds sterling]420,000 in 2002. She has spent [pounds sterling]150,000 so far and hopes to make a hefty profit of at least [pounds sterling]400,000 when she puts it on the market in six weeks' time.
This is the first renovation project for the 50-yearold, who looks much younger, thanks to regular Botox sessions, a nose job and boob lift.
But she claims now to be a property expert after a three-year romance with local estate agent Neil Smith, 40. Neil is a director of upmarket estate agents Exclusively Surrey, which has offices in Cobham, Esher, Guildford and Leatherhead.
The pair met when Neil sold Debbie's house in Thames Ditton in the early Nineties. 'I learnt so much from Neil before we broke up in August,' she says.
'After he moved in with me, we used to go through property listings at weekends and he showed me round show homes. I started to realise the high spec you need to achieve the best asking price.' Despite a 'horrific break-up', when Debbie threw his belongings on to the drive, she doesn't bear a grudge and plans to trust Neil with the sale of her first project. 'I'll definitely be putting the house on with Neil when I come to sell - he's valued it between [pounds sterling]850,000 and [pounds sterling]900,000, but that may go up when he sees the finished job.
'Whatever his faults as a boyfriend, I trust him to get the best price for me. He's very good at his job.' At the moment, Debbie's builders are still entrenched - scaffolding covers the back of the house where they are finishing off a two-storey extension. This includes a light and airy open-plan kitchen/diner with uplighters and downlighters and built-in speakers, leading through full-height glass doors to the garden.
'I knew from looking at show homes that an open-plan kitchen is really important. It's a fantastic entertaining area and that's where families tend to live now. This room will be the wow factor,' says Debbie.
Upstairs, the master bedroom suite is taking shape. It will include a walkin wardrobe, en suite bathroom and enormous bedroom with chaise longue and huge gilt mirrors. 'It's going to be a girly paradise,' she says. The builders will also spruce up
the facade, pave the drive and install decking in the garden and a stateofthe-art TV in the living room.
'These are the best builders around here - they were recommended by a friend who lives in the area,' says Debbie. 'They've not left this street in the past three years because all the neighbours keep hiring them. …