It’s Mother’s Day in the UK today and I was struggling to remember a Mother's Day with my Mum. Did I get her card and make her breakfast? I just can’t remember.
I do remember the first cup of tea I ever made her. I was probably about six years old and had seen tea made a hundred times. I felt very grown up when she said yes and I went off to the kitchen. We used a tea strainer to make tea, it was the 1970s - add a teaspoon of tea leaves in the strainer and pour the boiling water over into the cup then add the milk and two sugars. That was how she took her tea. As it was the first cup of tea I had ever made, I wanted to make it special, so I added a pinch of salt for extra flavour.
She took a few sips and asked, “What is that strange taste?” I told her how I had added a pinch of salt for extra flavour and she just started to laugh. “Oh god! That’s why it tastes awful!” and she was laughing so hard, tears were rolling down her face.
It’s not a Mother’s Day story, it is a tea story and there was a lot of tea in the 1970s. At about the same time my mother had some toilet water, and after going to the loo I would go and find that bottle of toilet water and then pour some into the basin before flushing.
My mother asked me, “Why do I keep finding my perfume in the toilet?”
“That’s your perfume? I thought it was for the toilet”
“You’ve been putting my perfume down the toilet?”
She was laughing again and I learned that Eau de Toilette is another name for perfume and not, in fact, toilet water.
The perfume wasn't a Mother’s Day gift from me. In fact I don’t remember ever buying a Mother’s Day gift.
A few years later, when I was about 17, just after the film “Scandal” hit the screens, my mother was taken to a fancy restaurant, for an interview. When she got back it was late and she was a little bit tipsy but always thinking of her son, she had brought me back a “doggy bag”, some of the food wrapped up in a napkin.
“It was delicious, Seems, I had to save you a bit.” At 17 I was always hungry so I was delighted - that is until she opened the napkin. “It was some of my starter, a beautiful steak tartare.”
If you don’t know, steak tartare is raw steak with chopped onions, all covered in a raw egg, one of the worst meals you could put to one side and save for later. After several hours in her handbag, it looked and smelled like dog food.
“Go on, have some, it is delicious.”
The look and smell of the steak tartare made me never want to eat food again, but because Chris was a little tipsy, not wanting to eat this ‘dog food’ wrapped in a napkin was insulting to her. She had gone to all the trouble to bring me back a little doggy bag. She told me, “I had to get the journalist to distract the waiter while I put the napkin in my bag.”
She told me I was ungrateful for not eating the food - “If you’re not going to eat it, then I will!” and off she went to get a fork. After one bite, she said, “Don’t eat that, it’s gone off, yuk!” and she ran off to spit it out. We laughed so hard she started coughing, that deep smoker’s cough.
The fancy restaurant meal that night wasn't a Mother’s Day treat from me.
It seems every day more people are stepping forward and offering to help with the campaign, which is wonderful, and any help is gratefully accepted. I am finding myself getting a little nervous now and thinking what would happen if her pardon is rejected or why it would be rejected. I guess these are all understandable fears, but I also realised it’s because the story of getting my mother a pardon is not just my story. In fact it hasn’t been for a while, as more and more people get involved, more people become invested.
I sometimes sense the same nervousness in the people around me, the people who are working on this so hard to get her pardoned. I’m sure that is a good thing because sometimes being nervous reminds us when things are important.
Today is Mother’s Day, so we do something in recognition of the women who brought us into the world, and this week I wanted to tell you stories about my mother that could equally have been stories about any mother, stories that show a mother’s love.
If you are lucky enough to be with your mother today, why don't you tell her that you love her and maybe make her a cup of tea? But don't put any salt in the tea, it makes it taste yuk.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum.
Today is International Women’s Day, 8th March 2021, a day where we can: “Celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality.”
Of course there may be some men reading this who are feeling a little left out - they can put International Men’s Day in the diary, it is 19th November each year.
This year International Women’s Day (IWD) is asking people to choose to challenge #ChooseToChallenge. I think this means that we need to do more than just think about bias and equality, we need to challenge it when we see it, and I think we see it everywhere.
By December 1963 Christine was tired and beaten so she pleaded guilty to perjury and was given a nine month sentence. As it is International Women’s Day I wanted to talk about one of the reasons Christine was so beaten down and why she felt fighting was hopeless. To help illustrate some of the hate being thrown at Christine at the time, some of the ‘bias’ she suffered, I wanted to share how she was being talked about by MPs in the House of Commons.
21 March 1963
Mrs Barbara Castle:
Mr R T Paget:
17 June 1963
Mr Harold Wilson:
Mr Nigel Birch:
Mr George Wigg:
Mr Charles Loughlin:
Mr B T Parkin:
Sir Richard Glyn:
There was some strong language used in Parliament, and I think it helps illustrate her worth in their eyes and helps give a flavour of why Christine would chose to plead guilty, if only just to get away from it all.
Christine, who had never been arrested or even in trouble with the police, is assassinated in Parliament. Is it any wonder that a few weeks later Stephen Ward was found guilty of living off the immoral earnings of both Christine and Mandy.
In the spirit of International Women's Day, I call out Parliament for their discriminating treatment of Christine Keeler in 1963.
My wife/partner, Lorraine, was talking about one of her memories of Christine, it was soon after they met, so around 2001 for a short time we all lived together. Lorraine remembered how one night Christine was talking to her about her story and she just said a little mournfully “You know, Loz” - Christine called her Loz - “I should never have gone to prison”.
And she shouldn’t have.
As it is International Women’s Day I should quite rightly take this opportunity to thank the women who are helping in our campaign to pardon Christine Keeler.
Thank you to:
Mum, Chris - for her love, for being my mother, for raising me, for keeping me safe, and for the confidence she gave me through her love.
Felicity Gerry QC - Our barrister for Christine’s pardon
Hannah Marsh - Just started on the campaign, marketing and communications consultant
Julie Otter - A friend who has always been there for support and inspiration.
Fionn Wilson - A passionate supporter of Christine, who wanted to reframe our understanding of her and would go on to curate the ‘Dear Christine’ exhibition
Kate Trigg - Producer of “The Trials of Christine Keeler,” the drama that gave oxygen to this campaign.
Amanda Coe - The writer of “The Trials of Christine Keeler,” for the sympathetic telling of her story.
Tanya Gold and Tara Hanks - who have both championed Christine.
Kacey Ainsworth - for her support and kind words.
My Partner - Lorraine, who has supported and pushed me all the way on this campaign and helps me understand the bias and discrimination in Christine’s story.
My Daughter , Daisy, who is on her own journey to change the world and who is so proud of her grandma Chris.