My Secret Life: Helena Kennedy QC, barrister, 60


My parents were ... warm, loving, down-to-earth and principled. My father was what they called a "bundle strangler" – or a dispatch hand – with the 'Daily Record' in Glasgow; my mother was a housewife.

The house I grew up in ... I was one of four sisters living in a two-room and kitchen tenement in a working-class area in the south side of Glasgow.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... There was a short stint of wanting to be a nun, but that was very brief. Then I decided I wanted to be a teacher.

If I could change one thing about myself ... it would be my impatience. I can flare up into anger quite quickly but it never lasts. I've learnt to channel that for good purpose.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... Rollerblading. I was taught by Ruby Wax.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... My driving seems to be a subject of criticism. I only learnt when I was 40 years old.

At night I dream of ... swimming in Cape Cod in fresh-water ponds.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... I see a contented, funny woman.

My favourite item of clothing ... There are so many; I love clothes. At the moment it's a silk, muddy-pink, floaty coat which I bought in Santa Fe about five years ago.

I drive/ride ... I don't drive very much any more as I'm trying to be more ecological. In London I tend to get the bus; while on holiday I drive a hire car, to the dismay of my family.

My house is ... wonderful. I love our home: it's chaotic, full of food and books and paintings and people. I constantly have nieces and nephews and friends of the kids coming to stay. Life at our house is always exuberant and fun.

My favourite work of art ... is Picasso's 'Guernica'. Every time I look at it I see more; it speaks to me so powerfully about the horrors of war.

My favourite building ... is the Chrysler Building in New York. I'll always remember it from my first sighting of the skyline of Manhattan when I went there in my twenties; I felt so exhilarated.

A book that changed me ... was 'The Women's Room' by Marilyn French, which I read when I was 21. It was everything I had been learning about feminism – both the theoretical and what I saw happening around me – brought together in a novel.

Movie heaven ... would be to curl up on the sofa and watch all three parts of 'The Godfather' with the family and a huge quantity of Poppycock, which is popcorn with nuts attached to it – delicious.

The last album I bought ... was Verdi's 'Macbeth'. I wanted to listen to it once before I heard it live at Glyndebourne.

My secret crush ... is George Clooney.

My greatest regret ... is that my father died before my children could ever know him.

My real-life villain ... is Dick Cheney.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is my great friend [the comedian] Sandy Toksvig, whom I've known for 10 or 15 years.

The last time I cried ... was at the weekend when my niece got married. I have a very large family – my mother had 18 grandchildren.

My five-year plan ... I would really like to make the space to write some more; I've got plans in my mind for two books.

What's the point? Love. That's the point.

My life in six words ... family, affection, laughter, idealism, challenges, principle.

A life in brief

Baroness Helena Kennedy was born in Glasgow in May 1950. A highly regarded barrister and human rights and civil liberties campaigner, she has also been a TV presenter, an author and is a former chair of the Human Genetics Commission; she has founded her own charity, The Helena Kennedy Foundation, and supports the Art Academy, which is celebrating its 10th year. Kennedy lives in north London with her surgeon husband, Iain Hutchison, and three children

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