Regrets Emma Freud asks her friends what they wish they’d done differently

Cover Image - Regrets

Last autumn, the broadcaster and Comic Relief producer Emma Freud posted a tweet asking people what their biggest regrets were. Overwhelmed by the response, she later wrote about the stories she was told.

To mark International Women’s Day, WeTransfer and Comic Relief asked a group of famous women about their biggest regrets. The women are Davina McCall, Sue Perkins, Miranda Hart, Twiggy, Caitlin Moran and Mariella Frostrup. Their regrets range from the serious to the playful, from loved ones’ illnesses to poorly-timed airport jokes.

We then asked some brilliant illustrators to interpret these memories as original artworks. We wanted to take these bad moments and memories, and turn them into something beautiful, something hopeful and maybe something cathartic.

Biggest regrets from...

    Mariella Frostrup

    My greatest regret is not going to university. Not for the later job prospects, but the unfettered freedom to fill your head with knowledge and the self-confidence a good education can provide you.

    Illustration by Camilla Perkins.

    Sue Perkins

    I regret not thanking my dad for inventing my bedtime stories when I was little. His impromptu (and not entirely comprehensible) stories of Sammy the Squirrel and co. laid the ground upon which my own imagination could grow. Thanks dad X.

    Illustrations by Cécile Dormeau.

    I also regret my casual bants with Homeland Security at LAX airport. That's an intense pat-down I won't forget in a hurry.

    Davina McCall

    My biggest regret is not seeing how sick my sister was. If I had noticed, maybe I could have saved her. In retrospect the symptoms were so glaringly obvious. She was chuffed with the weight loss; clumsiness was the menopause; she’d had a smoker’s cough as long as I could remember; her back hurt we thought from a fall she had six months before. All of it had an explanation. All of it was cancer.

    Illustration by Hilda Palafox.

    Miranda Hart

    I wish I had deeply understood earlier in my life the loving truth that there is only one of me in this world so therefore I am uniquely beautiful. I have so much compassion for any woman, young or old, who is hurt by the lie they are not beautiful or loveable enough. We all are.

    Illustration by Michelle Mildenberg.


    My darling dad, who was a wonderful, self-taught pianist, wanted to teach me to play the piano. But like lots of kids, I didn’t want to take the time to learn, and he, being a rather gentle man, didn’t insist. I wish he had. I really, really regret it. How wonderful it must be to sit at a piano and play all one’s favourite music.

    Illustration by Sally Nixon.

    Caitlin Moran

    I don’t regret anything emotional, or sexual, or even hair-ial – I totally stand by that wonky fringe I cut with the bacon-scissors from the kitchen, which made my friend Martin laugh so much he actually wept. I think I learned from all these things, and became a stronger and wiser woman.

    No, the thing I regret is honkingly practical – I wish I’d got myself a pension. At 23, I thought, “But I know me! I’ll always want to work! I unilaterally declare that I will not get a pension! I’d rather spend the money on this vintage Happy Days pinball machine and a holiday to Japan. So that is what I will do. Case closed.”

    Now I’m 43 – too late for a pension. I think, rather peevishly, “Thanks, younger me. I know that you were headstrong, and really believed Future You would be as up for working as you were, and, by-and-large, I do still like working hard. But dude, it would have been nice if you’d given me the choice.”

    This one lapse on behalf of me has, I have to say, surprised me. I’ve usually taken very good care of me. I have literally no other regrets, so I’m surprised I screwed this one up.

    I’m having to apologise to me quite a lot right now. But I’m confident we’ll make it through this rough patch, eventually, and will, ultimately, stay together. Mainly so we can pull off the bank-heist that has now become necessary, if I ever want to retire...

    Illustration by Zsuzsanna Ilijin.