The time: October 1976

The place: Notting Hill, London

The woman: Tanya Sarne - designer and creator of Ghost.

I ARRIVED back in London from Brazil with two small children; we were malnourished and had worms. I had no money, but I had my mummy. I'd gone to Brazil to find my husband and discover whether I still had a marriage. It took me a while to track him down, but Michael convinced me that he was soon going to make his film. He was planning to come back every week to a village in the middle of nowhere and give me money to live. But he didn't! It was soon pretty conclusive that my marriage was over, and I realised I was going to have support the children. However, I had terrible trouble returning to England because I'd had hepatitis and during my illness allowed myself to fall into a mass of red tape.

Arriving back, I was at rock bottom, on social security because I was too embarrassed to tell my parents how poor we were. However, my mother was a great supporter and giver of strength. Being an only child we were so close that our relationship felt like sisters, I suppose I thought she was immortal. Most importantly, she looked after my three and six- year-old children, so I was able to work.

I was late that day picking up the children and my mother was cross because she was tired and didn't feel well. But it was still a complete surprise when at four the next morning I had a phone call from the police asking me to come to my parent's house. Something had happened to my mother. My heart went into my mouth, but they wouldn't tell me anything more over the phone. I couldn't breathe or function, I was a lump of quivering, petrified flesh. When I arrived my father was in a terrible state and I learnt that my mother had died of bronchial pneumonia. The memory is so painful, it is really difficult to remember the exact events. The police were still there, so I went upstairs and lay alone on the bed with my mother for a long time - maybe even 24 hours. I actually believe I saw my mother's soul leave her body, an energy, something seemed to move.

The only way I could relieve the pain was to drive my car, for days on end, as fast as I could and scream as loud as I could. My daughter never got it out of her, she refused to come to the funeral.

Shortly after my mother's death, I had a little dog with me and somehow I felt that this animal, Woofy, had been sent by my mother to keep an eye on me. It took me a year to function, beyond cooking or washing up and putting the children to bed. When finally I could think straight I was cold-blooded. I knew I was unemployable and needed to start a business so I threw my energy into that.

Trying to find the positive side of losing her so young, at just 56, my mother's death crystallised my personality much quicker than if it had not happened. Before, I didn't think of myself as somebody who was ambitious. I'd been chugging along, but this huge shot of electricity moved me that much quicker.

I had been very vulnerable and shy, contrary to what everybody thinks about me. I did things which even now shock me. I had some customers who refused to pay up, so I went into their offices and I took their equipment to the value of what they owed. I worked round the clock, staying up all night sewing damaged garments to deliver the next day. I think the manic working was my way of coping with the shock.

I frequently ask myself would I be able to do this business if my mother had not died? Before I might have started, but given up too easily, asking: "Mummy,what should I do" and she would have replied: "Darling you mustn't work so hard." When she was alive there had always been somebody to pick up the pieces. So in a sense I did not have to try that hard, but without her there was nobody to look after me - but myself! Yes there was my dad, but there was not much sympathy between us.

My huge regret is that my mother is not alive to see my success, while my father has never been able to say well done. My mother would have definitely been a Ghost addict, she loved clothes and had great style, indeed many of my ideas are a tribute to her. One of the reasons I use the fabric viscose is because it is very weight friendly; I was very aware of this problem because my mother had a constant battle. She also had a huge feeling for colour, everything was painted in different colours in the apartment, and now there is an awful lot of colour in the collection I'm dyeing at the moment. Yet I was thrown out of art class, and sewing come to that, because I'd no sense of colour. She certainly bequeathed me other talents too, like the ability to organise. I needed it to start Ghost and bring up children too. I've developed lots of talents I never knew I had.

I go and see her fairly regularly at Kensington Cemetery, sometimes to make her pretty, but other times because I'm downright confused and depressed and need to talk. I hope she knows what I am up to and that it makes her proud.