`To mum, I was just an inconvenience' says Burchill's son

Cole Moreton
Tuesday 06 October 2015 16:35

THE teenage son of columnist and author Julie Burchill has spoken out for the first time about what it was like to be abandoned by her as a child - and claimed that she has rejected him again.

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, 19-year-old Robert Parsons said his mother had always made him feel like an inconvenience.

Julie Burchill walked out on her son when he was five, leaving the boy to be brought up by his father, writer and broadcaster Tony Parsons. She did not see Robert again for more than 10 years, during which time her place in his life was replaced by his grandmother, Emma Parsons, who died from cancer earlier this year.

Robert said he was reunited with Julie Burchill by accident two years ago when he went to visit his step-brother Jack. "She got really tearful and it was a whole big melodramatic soap opera type thing," he said. A letter followed, inviting him to share her pounds 250,000 home in Hove, West Sussex - but it was not long before she told him he wasn't welcome at weekends.

"She said she couldn't afford to have me there," he said. "But a week or two after I left she moved her unemployed boyfriend in. So the logistics of that don't seem too reasonable."

Robert was flat-sitting for his father in London when a letter arrived asking him to move out permanently. "I was not welcome. I think the novelty of me wore off." He lives 10 minutes walk from her, but they have not met for a year. "I think she knows where I am, but I'd be surprised if she remembered, to be honest."

Robert agreed to talk in order to promote Tony Parsons' new novel, Man and Boy. His father urged him not to be drawn into their long-running public feud, but the teenager felt he wanted to tell his side of the story at last.

Julie Burchill first made a name for herself at 17, as a writer on NME, the rock weekly, in the heyday of punk, alongside Parsons, whom she married at 18. But after five years in Billericay and the birth of a son they called Bobby, Burchill decided she had to go, without warning.

"I felt weepy at the station," she told the Independent last year. "But then I thought, `This is a bit pathetic, like Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter. So you put on more lipstick and walk into the sunset."

Tony and Julie have fought in public ever since, even as their careers soared. He has been called Britain's foremost cultural commentator, with regular appearances on BBC2's Late Review and in the Mirror. Burchill left the NME for The Face, before big-money transfers to the Mail on Sunday, Sunday Times and Sunday Express.Her explicit first novel Ambition was a bestseller.

Husband number two was writer Cosmo Landesman. She lost custody of their son Jack when the couple split after 11 years. Burchill seldom mentions her children in print, and they hardly feature at all in her autobiography I Knew I Was Right. She was not available for comment at her home yesterday.

"All I am going to say is that the day I lost custody of Jack was the saddest day of my life," she told an interviewer in February, just before a BBC documentary on her life. "With Bobby I was half-formed, a child myself. I don't really know my first son. He came down and lived with me in Brighton for a year - his father didn't like that - and he still lives here."

Asked if she felt any guilt, she said: "It never occurred to me to ask them for forgiveness. I mean, when they grow up and they haven't made any mistakes then they can tell me what to do." She has described the fuss about her children as "a load of pompous cant, basically. Men do it all the time".


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