You ask the questions: Heather Mills

(such as: so, Heather Mills, will you still send Paul a valentine when he's 64?)
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The Independent Online

Heather Mills was born in Newcastle in 1968. She left home at 13 and lived rough for a time under the arches at Waterloo, London. After a number of menial jobs, she won the Daily Mirror's Dream Girl contest and went on to become a successful model. In 1993, she was involved in a road accident with a police motorcycle, which resulted in the loss of her left leg. Since then, she has worked to raise awareness about landmines and help amputees. As a result, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. Mills continues to work for a number of charities, including Adopt-a-Minefield, for which she is hosting a fundraising Night of 1,000 Dinners on 30 November. This year she became engaged to the former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney. She and Sir Paul witnessed the 11 September terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the air disaster in Queens last week.

Is fame attractive?

Kyle Barnum, London

No. It helps with charity work but nothing else. Seek success, as this changes your life for the better, but never ever fame in the long term.

I've been listening to 'Freedom' [McCartney's single in response to 11 September] and wondered what your input was?

Sharlene Misson, by e-mail

Witnessing the twin towers disaster from an aeroplane at JFK airport, I knew immediately it was terrorism. The next day, after being glued to the TV for 24 hours, I suggested a concert would be a good idea. Paul jumped at the idea. Then I thought a track called "Freedom" specially for the concert, as President Bush and [New York mayor Rudi] Giuliani talked of freedom, would be a good idea too, so Paul wrote it and I helped arrange it. Voilà.

Is bombing Afghanistan a necessary evil?

Saia Shauh, by e-mail

The situation in Afghanistan, and the question of terrorism in general, is far too complex for me to analyse and give my full opinion on in a little paragraph or two. What I can say is that, whatever the rights and wrongs of a particular conflict, I strongly feel that innocent civilians should never be the victims.

How do you stay positive?

K Burdett, by e-mail

My mother lost her leg at the same age as me and went on to become a psychologist at the Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital, which helped hundreds of people. If I hadn't lost my leg, I would never have had the public attention to help raise awareness about the disabled. This is enough to keep anyone positive.

Will you still send Paul a valentine when he's 64?

Elton Roebuck, by e-mail

I'll send Paul a valentine when he's 104 as he'll still be edible.

I heard you have adopted a minefield – what is that about?

Hugh Carter, London

Paul and I have adopted a minefield in Croatia for £25,000 through Adopt-A-Minefield, a charity that raises funds to clear landmines and help people who have been injured by mines. I have spent many years fitting more than 27,000 war victims (or survivors as I like to call them) with artificial limbs. Yet every time I fit one, another five would suffer landmine injuries. This is when I became more involved than I already was by joining Adopt-A-Minefield and bringing it to the UK. You can help by checking out our website, www.landmines.org.uk.

I'm a broke student. You went from cardboard city to living in a beautiful farmhouse. What's your advice?

Elaine Barbour, Salford

Don't be snobby about what work you'll do. Getting on the first rung of the ladder is of the utmost importance. Many great people were once roadsweepers and binmen.

If you had your time again, would you try to prevent your accident?

David Hasell, Thames Ditton

I wouldn't change my accident as the good has far outweighed the bad. It has without a doubt helped to slowly erase the stigma of disability. If that just means one person suffers for the gain of many, then so be it.

My little sister lost her leg in a road accident. Often when she wakes she says she can still feel it. What would your advice be?

Madeleine Keady, by e-mail

It is actually a good thing your little sister can still "feel" her amputated limb – when she puts her prosthesis on, the sensation of her limb still being there will give her the confidence to bear down all the weight on her artificial leg. People can't even tell which of my legs is artificial because I still have those sensations and a comfortable, life-like limb. I fought for years to get the NHS to provide cosmetic limbs, and now they are; make sure you push for your sister to get one, or contact www.dorset-ortho.co.uk for a brochure. Make sure you tell her that confidence is everything in life, and with it she'll get whatever she wants.

Since getting involved with Paul McCartney you have been forced to live your life in a very public arena. How do to cope?

Sheena McEllison, Newcastle

I lived in the public arena for eight years prior to meeting Paul, though now it's worldwide. I always advise others in the same situation not to read trashy papers; then they can never be hurt by idle gossip written by people who give nothing back in life and envy those who do.

I couldn't believe that you had witnessed both the events of 11 September and the Queens plane crash. What went through your head the second time?

T Pritchard, London

A feeling of immense sadness for the people on the plane and their families went through me, but I must say it was good news for the people of NY that it wasn't terrorism.

I witnessed the start of the war in Yugoslavia, then worked there while the war moved through the whole country. I visited India, which immediately had an earthquake that killed 100,000 people and created 8,000 amputees. Now I've helped all of those amputees to be fitted with a limb or limbs in some cases. I believe that it's fate and the reason I'm there is to help make a difference.

I was delighted to hear you have become vegetarian. Do you plan to promote vegetarianism?

Fiona Pereira, by e-mail

I became a vegetarian when I lost my leg. Years later I changed back for a time (having read Eat Right For Your Blood Type) but felt so sluggish that I changed again. I promote it gently to my friends, who don't understand how I stay so slim. I say it's because my colon is not full of meat slowing my metabolism down. This tends to work better than shouting about the rights of the animals.

What was the inspiration for Night of 1,000 Dinners? And how can I get involved?

M Brandon, Brighton

We wanted to do something that everyone could get involved in. Everybody eats, and most people cook. So on 30 November you can help by having dinner for your family and friends and charging them for the privilege. Or maybe, if you're a bad cook, charging them for not cooking and ordering pizza instead. Recipes and a video from Paul and myself are available for free from the website (or by calling 020-7265 4945), including lots of fun suggestions for a themed evening. All the money will be pooled together to clear many minefields and to help the survivors of landmine accidents.

What's your favourite Beatles track?

John Mills, Yorkshire

Having been brought up by a father who thought he was a reincarnation of Richard Wagner, my knowledge of the Beatles was very limited until recently. I suppose if I had to pick one, it would be "Here, There and Everywhere" because it has a beautiful melody, is well structured and I love the changes.

What are your memories of the accident with the motorcycle? Do you feel any bitterness?

Hortense Gilbert, by e-mail

I had no bitterness towards the policeman until he sued me, one year after my accident, for anxiety, stress and loss of overtime. I never planned to sue until then, but I counter-sued and won in the end. I still lost a lot of money but won a standard for similar cases in the future. The sad thing was that, when I won, reporters who had previously supported me now wanted to do me harm because of my relationship with Paul.

 

Is there anything that having a prosthetic limb stops you doing?

Edgar Jarvis, by e-mail

No, I can ski, rollerblade, swim, dance and run better than most.

To what extent does your image square with the internal reality? If there is a gap, what fills it?

Ben Fordham, London

Whatever reality, there's inevitably a gap because my private family and friends are the only people that truly know me, and they get extremely angry with some of the media, but it's only a small percentage. Most wish to make a difference too, and I believe in karma: what goes around, comes around.

For more information about Adopt-A-Minefield and the Night of 1,000 Dinners, or to donate, contact 020-7265 4945 or info@landmines.org.uk

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