Unparliamentary Language: Tonia Antoniazzi
Marie Le Conte sits down with MPs and peers to find out more about the human side of politics. This week, Tonia Antoniazzi on rugby, being a troublemaker at school and ‘going for gold’
What were you like at school?
I was naughty but I liked to be the swot as well. I used to get other people into trouble, particularly in my chemistry class, because I never really liked chemistry. I used to get the universal indicator, the green stuff in little bottles, and stick it on everything and squirt it at people then I’d go “oh no, it wasn’t me!”. I used to be a bit wicked like that. Other people genuinely got into trouble and I got away with it because my father used to be the deputy head. I was sly.
What’s your earliest childhood memory?
Sitting in the back of a car with a copper pipe playing a tune, because my parents were redoing the house, and the copper pipe went down my throat. That’s probably why I’ve got such a deep voice.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I never knew what I wanted to do. I kind of fell into teaching because at the time I was playing rugby at university and I tried everything. I applied for the police, the prison service, everything, because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I ended up teaching because the postgraduate course meant that I could still play rugby on Wednesday afternoon.
What’s the best present you’ve ever given, and the worst?
I took my son to watch the rugby in Paris a couple of weeks ago and he turned to me at the end of it and he said “mum, that was the best Christmas present ever”. He’s 14 and he’s pretty grumpy and basically what 14-year-old boys are like, dragging their knuckles on the floor, so the fact that I’d had a win was pretty great. But I’ve given some pretty shit presents as well. Bathbombs is the shittest one I’ve given this year.
What’s something you’ve done once that you’ll never do again?
Eat oysters. Can’t stand them, and I’ll eat anything. But I couldn’t eat an oyster again.
What’s something people do that you find annoying?
Something I probably do as well, actually – noisy eating.
And what’s something you do that annoys others…?
I say sorry all the time. You know, it’s one of those things when you play tennis or another sport and every other second you say “sorry”, “oh sorry”, “sorry”.
If you could have one trip in a time machine, where and when would you go?
I’d go back to Italy when my grandparents were around, just to understand why they came over here, why they made that journey and how hard their lives must have been, particularly because since I’ve become an MP, I’ve had more people asking me about my roots. My father isn’t alive anymore and neither are his brothers and sisters, so I wish I could go back to understand what they were going through, because I feel like I’ve missed out on something.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Do it for yourself – if you’re going to do it, do it for yourself, don’t do anything for anybody else. As in, if you want to do it, make sure you do it because you know in your right mind that you’re doing the right thing. I apply that to everything...Oh god it sounds very selfish, it’s come out all wrong. Just...don’t do it to please others.
Have you ever been fired from a job?
No. I’ve probably been close to it, but no.
What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
Oh I don’t know – I used to play the rugby card, but everybody knows that now. I’ve got a tattoo but most people have seen it now. I’m too open, people know most things.
What’s your party trick?
I can put one hell of a lot of marshmallows in my mouth. I’ve always won at Chubby Bunnies.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?
Most embarrassing things? I’ve done tens of embarrassing things. One of the most embarrassing things that I do all the time is get people’s names wrong. That’s really embarrassing. But it’s kind of quite standard when you meet so many people – I always introduce myself and say “hi I’m Tonia”, because I’m an MP now, everybody knows what my name is, but it’s kind of key for ‘yes I’m introducing myself, that means I can’t remember what your name is’.
If you could meet one famous person, who would it be?
Oh, old school!
Yeah, and he’s probably not the nicest man, I don’t know – I don’t know anything about him! – but I know I’ve always always always had a bit of a thing about him and would love to meet him.
I’ll see if House magazine can do something about that.
You’d be picking me up off the bloody floor!
How would your friends describe you in three words?
Clean-off [Welsh slang for funny], thoughtful and generous.
Oh that’s what I think they’d say about me, you’d have to ask them…
Have you ever broken the law?
Potentially, yes. [laughs]
Hm. We’ll leave it at that. What’s on your bucket list?
I would really, really like to do something with an adrenaline rush, so like a bungee jump or jumping off a plane. I’d really like to do something like that, but I don’t think I’ll ever pluck up the courage.
Who would play you in a movie?
Oh, probably Kathy Burke.
If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
Just do it. Just get out there and do whatever you want to do, and don’t let anybody hold you back. My father used to say “go for gold” which is really corny and from a really awful TV show and they’d always say “go for gold!”. It’s really cheesy but I like it.