The birthday fun continues. The firstborn is thirty-one today, impossibly. I have just been recounting the brutal birth to the assembled troops, and the girls are horrified. That's how it was in those days. Gas and air if you were lucky, a perineum torn from ear to ear (figuratively - they had me in stitches, literally), and a post partum haemorrhage to bring up the rear. As you were, people.
I'd like to write that I was a child bride. There was in fact no such luxury. Her father decided that he didn't want kids after all, and legged it to California. I had choices, and decided to go it alone. With a full-time job on Fleet Street, travelling transatlantically by the week, it wasn't the easiest. Nick Gordon saved my life when he poached me from the Mail to YOU Magazine, in those days a seriously credible rival to the Sunday Times Magazine. Nick was Editor of the Year three times in succession. How I wish he were still alive.
My dream job there took me from the wings of West Coast stages to Iraqi war zones; from remote South Dakotan farms to Barry White's barbecue in Encino. I interviewed the world, it felt like, at times. Not even Frank Sinatra, who famously never gave interviews, escaped me. And all of it, for the first five years until she had to go to school, with my roving reporter Mia Clementine Jones under one arm. By this time, we were based in LA. The acclaimed movie producer Julia Phillips, who was the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Picture ('The Sting', 1973) and who also won accolades for Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver' and Spielberg's 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', once offered me $3,000 in exchange for my daughter. True story. Charlton Heston took her to church, Grace Jones had her for lunch (not quite literally), and Billy Idol had her over to play with his little boy Willem. When Mia was offered the role of Macaulay Culkin's little English cousin in 'Home Alone 3', I knew it was time to return to Blighty. Reality check. A normal life beckoned.
We had eight years as a dynamic duo until marriage got the better of me. It was doomed, ultimately. But Mia got out of it the brother and sister she had craved. It has never been boring, not a minute of it, despite everything that went wrong. Eric Clapton once pointed out, a year or so after his little son Connor died so tragically, that there are things you don't get over. You have to find a comfortable place to put them. But they're always there. Despite all the angst and heartache and stress and backbreak of single motherhood - any motherhood - I would do it all again in a beat.
Happy birthday, beautiful firstborn. Keep in mind that life always offers second chances. It's called tomorrow. More than anything, be self-deprecating. You have no choice. When the hecklers get the better of you, get better. I love you, Mia. Love, Mamma.