Mum and Me: What does Mother's Day mean to you?

Jonathan Owen and Lauren Pizzey reveal stories of love, laughter, and loss

Sunday 14 March 2010 01:00

Angela Hartnett, 41, chef, on Giuliana Hartnett, 76

"I've always loved my mum. She's never been one of those mothers who doesn't see faults in her children. When you're a child you probably think 'oh Christ', but actually she's great because she gives you a very honest perspective. She's not one to say 'well, of course it wasn't my child's fault'; she'll go 'well, that happened because...' And she's always been true to what she believes in. She stands by her principles and she's not afraid to make her point of view, which I like.

"I remember when I was opening up the Connaught and mum was being asked some questions in an interview and she said 'well, she was always good with her hands – Michael was the clever one', talking about my brother and me!

"I've a brother and a sister but I'm probably the most similar to my mum in nature. We're quite scatty sometimes, not necessarily in my work life but I can forget things and she can be the same.

"We laugh at the most ridiculous things. In awkward situations when you're not supposed to laugh we will laugh.

"She's extremely kind. She would do anything for anyone. She's the person who will stop in the street to give money to someone begging, and if she says she's going to do something she'll do it no matter if it means having to get a taxi to John O'Groats because she's said she's got to be there at four. I'd probably go 'oh sod it, I'm not going' and cancel. I'm very bad like that.

"My mum's from an Italian background, so cookery is a big part of it. She is one of these people who will always say 'oh, how have you done that?'. The other day I made a Dundee cake because I was using up stuff in the larder and she goes 'oh lovely Dundee cake, a bit dry though', and I knew it was a bit dry. I was well aware of it but she had to say that!"

Michael Bond, 83, author, on his mother Frances, who died in 1981, aged 70

"It was a very different world in those days, I was born in 1926 and my mother was of a generation when she got married a woman's place was in the home. She was somebody with very strong principles and she saw things in black and white terms. She was very impatient with red tape; if she didn't approve of some form that came in she would tear it up quite happily which upset my father, who was a born civil servant.

My mother was a great reader, I was brought up in a house where books were part of the furniture, where it was as natural to read a book as to turn the tap on.... I was never quite sure what she thought of my books because when I actually gave up work to write full time I think she was very worried about the whole thing. I never quite knew what she thought of them. As I'd written them she wouldn't have said if she didn't like them."

Nick Clegg, 43, politician, on Eulalie, mid-70s, a former special needs teacher

"My mother is not the world's greatest cook. She once managed to melt a saucepan the manufacturer claimed was built to withstand several hundred degrees centigrade. But that's exactly what my brothers, sister and I have always admired most about here – she's unfussy about the everyday details of life, but adamant about the big things that really count like the love and support that made our childhoods so wonderfully happy. She's an amazingly calm, loving, honest and caring influence, always available, always full of laughter. She's now in her mid-seventies but she still can laugh with the same carefree joy of her nine grandchildren.

Her own childhood was actually full of upheaval. She is Dutch, born in Indonesia, and spent several years as a child in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. I'm political because of her – she always insisted the way things are is not the way things have to be. But I think the thing I've always admired most of all about her is that she is always completely straight, completely true to herself. She is the most authentic person I know."

Simon Woodroffe, 55, entrepreneur, on Pippa, who died in 2004 aged 84

"My Mother was the youngest of five children bought up in a country house, where, before the war, they dressed for dinner - an altogether conventional world. The antics of my brother Patrick and myself, both at Marlborough College (leaving with zero and two 'O' levels respectively at age 16 at the end of the 60's when we did Peace signs and meant them) would have been a hard pill to swallow. To her credit, she supported us on what had by then become a small income.

She was a great emotional support. I was sent Valentine cards every year through boarding school (unsigned) and I bolstered my schoolboy image by not revealing the true source! She dreaded a drawn out death. When she died six years ago she went instantly from a haemorrhage. She was a worrier and full of love, perhaps taking on others' woes too much at times. My innate optimism came directly from my mother; she'd see the bright side at the darkest moment. I wish she could see me now."

Jean Christophe Novelli, 49, chef, on Monique, 82

"We lived in a very, very modest environment. My dad, most of time, was not there and she brought up four kids and she was paralysed. She couldn't do that much, she couldn't walk much, she couldn't ride a bike or use a car even, so what she did was mend buttons and zips and sew tiny little things on trousers and jackets to make a bit of cash. What she was extraordinary at was cooking. She's probably the most amazing cook I met in my whole life. She was just feeding the family and so on but she had an incredible sense of being superb about what she did.

My father could not cook to save his life. She's like me - I can't put a nail on the wall, I can't paint, I can't use a drill and she's the same. I actually learnt to cook so much when I was a kid, because of my mother. She was not trying to teach me, I think it was a way of passing on with love and passion the foundations of what made me what I am today."

Peter Tatchell, 57, human rights campaigner, on Mardi, 82

"My mother Mardi gave me much of the moral grounding for my life and human rights work. She always says I was a wonderful problem free baby and I guess that's the way I feel about her as a mother. She deserved the best but sadly had two miserable marriages; at 16 she was talent spotted for a Hollywood screen test but her parents wouldn't let her go. She ended up in a bank and was sacked as soon as she married.

She encouraged me to be a Good Samaritan to others and to follow my conscience to do what I believe to be right regardless of what others think or say. I've got a lot of her fighting spirit. We agree to disagree on religion. While believing that homosexuality is wrong, she also believes homophobic discrimination is wrong too. I wish some of our religious leaders would make the same distinction, bless her."

Chesney Hawkes, 37, musician, on Carol, 61

"My mum was an actress and game show hostess, most memorably as one of Bob Monkhouse's glamorous assistants on the hit sixties & seventies TV show 'The Golden Shot'. I can't tell you how many times I've been approached by men of a certain age to let me know, in no uncertain terms, how much they fancied Carol Dilworth. Forever lost for words at moments like this, I always fall back on my stock answer which is 'Thanks, I'll let her know'. Having said that I have to admit she was definitely what they used to describe then as a 'Dolly Bird'. She hasn't changed much; growing old disgracefully, in her own words. Mini-skirts and low cut dresses are still very much a staple of her wardrobe and she continues to turn heads wherever she goes. Whether it's a boozy lunch with the girls or picking up her beloved grand kids from school, my mum somehow manages to walk the line between rock n' roll goddess and mother hen. She'll drink you under the table, be the last one standing in the early hours, and then the next day make the perfect Sunday lunch to counteract the hangover."

Mica Paris, singer, 41, on Yvonne, 63

"I call her a Hollywood mum and she always has her nails and hair done, she's always tried to look glamorous and I just remember when I was a kid I used to wear her clothes...she always had these feather boas. She was really high glam, she was hardcore. I guess I get that glamour thing from her. She was stunning - one of those kinds of mums that when she walked into the room everyone would go 'my God'

She was very liberal and open-minded, very fair. She can be a bit of a 'pink fluffy clouds' type, she just wants everything to be nice. She don't wasn't to be the bearer of bad news, she's got to put sugar on it.

I'm very close to both my mothers - my grandmother and my mother, very close. My mum taught me to look after myself and I'm really big on looking after myself eating good food, looking after my body and my mum is the one that got me into spas and detoxing, vitamins and things like that.

Our relationship is really good and she helps look after my kids and stuff like that... my mum's really involved in my life big time."

Emma Forbes, presenter, 44, on actress mother Nanette Newman, 75

"I'm very lucky really because I've always a had a very good and close relationship with my mother, but it's one that has evolved; she's never been one of those mothers that in my teens wanted to go out with me and my friends and be my best mate. She's always been really good at being my mother really and I feel really lucky because so many of my contemporaries didn't get on with their parents and had very acrimonious times with their mother.

Ours is very much based on a huge similarity in many ways but very different in other ways so the combination sort of worked.

I'm sure I was a horrendous teenager but I had a mother that really nurtured me through it. She's had a huge influence on my life because she's always had this incredible work ethic, she's never stopped working and never intends to. And she gave me great enthusiasm and a great work ethic in life.

When I had my own children I thought 'am I going to become my mother?' and I think I have in many ways.

My mother was a great worrier and I think I'm not as much of a worrier as she is. I think the good thing about having a mother that's really, really worried is that you become more relaxed in your attitude.

She's a really kind person, there's not a bad bone in my mother's body; she's not unkind, she's not cynical, she's a really good person and what you see with my mother is very much what you get."

Max Hastings, 65, writer, on Anne Scott-James, who died in 2009 aged 96

"I was awed by my mother. She was dauntingly tall, near enough 6ft. Though she liked to perceive herself as a shy, fawnlike slip of a girl, in truth she possessed the habit of command and an absolute intolerance of fools. She seemed a pattern of glamour and fluency, never less than flawlessly turned out. She inspired respect and fear, but uncertain affection. I scarcely remember physically embracing either of my parents, far less seeing them indulge such a gesture towards each other. Her outbursts of anger were alarming, often provoked by displays of incompetence. She seldom smacked me and Father never did. Neither used any swearword stronger than 'bloody' or 'damn'. But I trembled before her wrath. Until the day of her death, she perceived herself as a mild, gentle, much-put-upon little creature of the forest. I, by contrast, saw her as possessing many of the characteristics of a Sherman tank."

Patsy Kensit, actress, 42, on Margaret, who died in 1993 aged 46

"I lost my mother when I was 23. But I have to say that in those 23 years that I had her in my life she was my best friend. It was like having a vital organ removed when she died. She was diagnosed as being terminally ill when I was four. I couldn't have been given a better example of somebody who against all the odds put a brave face on things. My father was in and out of prison all my life, so my mother was both parents to me and my older brother Jamie and I've never known or experienced such selflessness. She sacrificed everything, she had to hold down a job, keeping me and my brother out of trouble and just setting a great example.

I often beat myself up because I've got two beautiful boys and I don't ever think I could be the mother my mum was. What I'm sad about is that my children didn't get to have her as a grandmother because she would have just been the most incredible woman for my kids to have had in their lives. Mother's day is always bitter sweet for me. My boys want to make a fuss of me but deep down there's a melancholy that will always be there."

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