Posts Tagged ‘Mary McCartney’
Mary McCartney has raised her own three children without fish or meat – but it’s a lot easier for her now than it was for her parents in the 1970s
Our house always revolved around the kitchen, because Mum cooked a lot and it was quite a social area. She never wanted to be stuck on her own if we were all in another room. So we’d go in there and have a snack, watch her cooking and generally hang out.
One day Mum and Dad said, “Look, we’ve decided to be vegetarian. We’re not going to have meat at home, but it’s your decision [whether you want to be vegetarian, too].” Mum was a good cook and I didn’t really notice the difference.
They’d been driving behind a lorry that had lots and lots of chickens crammed into it and obviously between the two of them they thought, “That’s not right.” I even think Mum took a picture of it – I have a vision of it because I’ve looked through her archive. They said, “Because of that we don’t want to eat chicken any more.” But they wouldn’t scaremonger and they’d discussed it between themselves. Dad was a traditional eater and didn’t want vegetarianism to mean missing out. So Mum made a real effort to fill that hole on the plate and make interesting food.
She traditionalised it, made it more like family food. It was the same cooking but without the meat. We’d have Sunday roast with all of the trimmings, but instead of the meat we’d have baked macaroni and cheese you could slice and put gravy on. It was the early days of vegetarianism so you couldn’t get a lot of the things you can now. That’s why she did the cookbooks because her and Dad’s aim was for people to come round for dinner expecting a really hippie veggie meal but leave being surprised at just how good veggie food could be. She drew people in that way, presented it as an attractive option.
I was six or seven at this point, still at primary school. Sometimes it felt a bit awkward – it was a bit embarrassing at school dinners. And social things, like going to McDonald’s for birthday parties. That’s when you’d feel a bit awkward because you’d just want to blend in with the other kids. It wasn’t like we weren’t allowed to go to McDonald’s – we’d go and just have fries and other things instead. We still laugh at my older sister Heather because she’d go into McDonald’s and ask for a burger without the meat, because we loved the pickles and condiments. She’d say, “Can I have the cheeseburger without meat?” and they thought she was a total nutcase.
There wasn’t any “I wish we could eat meat” with my brother and sisters. And I’m not a vegetarian who hates meat. I can sit with people eating a burger and think, “That actually looks tasty.” I’m not disgusted by it, I can understand why people would actually like it. I tried fish when I left home, and I liked the taste of it, and I’d sometimes have it for lunch but not that often. At that time it was more, “What decision am I going to make about this now that I’m feeding myself?”
Stella went through a similar thing, I think. But I’d connected to a different way of eating at such a young age. I’ve tried chicken and I know I like it and I understand why people eat it but I can’t justify it. I don’t want to eat it just because I like the taste. I don’t think I need it and I know how to eat healthily without it and I don’t want something to die for my plate.
The reason I’m vegetarian is because of the mass industry of it. I could see that if we lived in a little community and there was a local farmer and he had a pig… I don’t think that’s wrong, personally, although not everyone would agree with me. But I think that the industry is so out of control and I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t want to add to it. So my way of doing that is not to eat meat or fish at all.
I am totally aware that it’s all about individual choice. The work we’re doing with Meat Free Monday is all about helping people who want to eat less meat and fish rather than just none at all. Meat reduction means helping people make healthy vegetarian choices by sharing some great recipes that we’ve created and found along the way. Eating less mass-produced meat and fish will help the environment enormously so I’m all for it.
My own children are 11, 7 and 2 – all boys and I took a similar approach [to my parents] and said, “We’re vegetarian, this is what we cook, but if you don’t agree with that you don’t have to eat it, but I’m not going to cook meat at home and I’d rather you didn’t have it. But if you want to eat meat, I’m not saying you’re not allowed to.”
I’ve never shown them pictures of animals in slaughterhouses, I don’t try to scare them – I don’t even give them the environmental facts at this point. I don’t think it’s fair. I imagine as they get older they’ll be more curious about it, that’s only natural. But if they’re forced to do it, they won’t be doing it for the right reasons.
They’ve never seemed to have a problem with it, but I try to check in with them and ask, “Look, do you find it a bit awkward or embarrassing? Do you have a hard time with other kids or at your friends’ parties? Are you OK with it, or do you want to be eating sausages?”
There are more options now, so I don’t think they have the same issues that I had. And often at a birthday party there’s a veggie choice. The other parents know by now and will often get veggie options. So they do eat well. They have friends who are vegetarian and I’m not the only veggie parent around. Most schools do a good vegetarian option, it’s just more of a given now. When I was at primary school I remember never looking forward to lunch, and at secondary school I felt like I lived on chips and beans.
I started out making the boys very simple food – mash and baked beans and veggie sausages, or omelettes. Now my eldest two boys are getting into cooking more too, they like to get involved in the kitchen, so they help me prepare things. One night I was a bit grumpy and tired after work, and my eldest said, “I’ll help cook.” We made a rice-noodle meal with lots of chopped vegetables and a nice flavoursome sauce. He chopped everything up – he cut the vegetables to the size he likes – and we really enjoyed cooking together.
I feel that if I give them a varied range of foods they will get a healthy well balanced diet, knowing that beans are good for protein, making sure they eat fruit and veg and blah blah blah. When I had my first child, some people were a bit, “How can you make a child vegetarian?” And I said, “Well you’re presuming that I think a meat diet is healthier than a vegetarian diet, which I personally don’t.” But the one thing I have done in the last few years is worked harder to get them omega oils, because they don’t eat fish. So I do things like make a smoothie and blend in omega oil. Otherwise I just cook normally and feel they’re getting everything they need.
Cooking Mum’s recipes is a great way of getting the kids to eat good stuff. Sometimes they’ll be like, “Aw, do I have to try that?” And I’ll be like, “Look, it’s grandma Linda’s recipe so just try it, but if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it all.” So at least then they’ll want to try it.
I cook in a similar style to her. All of us do – we all learnt to cook from watching her. When I got into my late teens, early 20s, I’d start asking her certain things like, “How do I make your quiche?” or get her tips on things, and now I’m really glad I did that.
Being vegetarian has made me think more about where my food comes from. It’s made us closer in that it gives us a connection as a family. Maybe it helped our communication, because we discussed it honestly and openly. There wasn’t anyone who seemed to feel, “I was made to do this”, so you’d get this sense of being a team. My husband, Simon, wasn’t vegetarian when we got together, and I didn’t say, “Look, you need to be vegetarian”. But he says that he knew it was important to me, and he likes my cooking anyway.
Paul McCartney, rock star, family man, northern lad, contender for most famous person on the planet, is leaning back on a squashy sofa. In just a short time, he will announce that he is not going to lunge forward and kill me. However, for now, he’s musing on his favourite-ever vegetarian ingredients.
“Could I have a few?” he asks eventually. You can have as many as you like, you’re Paul McCartney. “OK, so… olive oil, balsamic. There’s this great hummus you only seem to be able to get here, ‘Amvrosia’ – Ambrosia with a v, I use that a lot. Lemon juice, salt, spinach leaves, rocket leaves, plum tomatoes. You see, it’s getting good already.”
You’re a decent cook then?
“I’m not bad. I can turn a meal out.”
McCartney loves steamed vegetables. “If I go on tour and eat a lot of restaurant or hotel food, I come back, and it’s like, yeah, broccoli! So, if I’m cooking, I’ll be steaming vegetables, making some nice salad, that kind of stuff.”
Do you follow recipes?
“No, I just make it up, like Linda did.”
We meet at the wonderfully named Hog Hill Mill, McCartney’s private recording studio in Sussex. As so often happens with extraordinarily famous people, there is that initial disbelieving lurch when he’s there standing in front you – famously youthful face, slightly boppy “musical” movement to his walk, 20 years dropping away when he smiles.
The upstairs room where we talk is full of memorabilia from all points of his 50-odd year career. Just before our meeting, McCartney went to the White House to receive the Gershwin award for popular music, and sang “Michelle” for the Obamas, which he describes as a career high. “Obama leaned over and was singing it to her. Someone later said they were like a couple of teenagers.”
At just turned 68, McCartney seems like a bundle of energy himself. After our interview, he will return downstairs to the studio to play with a new computer programming system for music. He’s not anti-technology then? “Not really, but this is the only time I’d sit with my head in a computer for six hours.” Are you the type who gets bored when they don’t work? McCartney thinks for a moment. “Probably.”
We’re here to talk about Meat Free Monday – an idea McCartney first heard about in America, which he feels ties in with the UN’s 2006 Livestock’s Long Shadow report, which outlined how the livestock industry was responsible for more greenhouse gases than transport. “Though the UN, who are presumably carnivore, went further – they said, the best thing you can do for the planet is go vegetarian,” says McCartney.
He felt that one day a week was “do-able”. “If you ask people to go completely vegetarian, it may be too challenging. This wasn’t asking so much.”
What would he say to those who argue that one day a week isn’t enough? “I think any move in the right direction is enough. If you want my real point of view then, yeah, I would encourage people to go vegetarian, but that’s not what this campaign is about. And it’s not what the UN campaign was about.”
McCartney says he has a lot of friends who eat meat, and likens it to religion. “I wouldn’t want someone to be bossing me, saying, ‘You should be a Buddhist.’ I’d say, ‘Lay off, I’ll make my own mind up, thank you!’ Similarly, I don’t want to go laying it on people – ‘You really should be vegetarian.’ I like them to come to it themselves.”
What food did McCartney enjoy BV (Before Vegetarianism)?
“Just normal restaurant food really. I’d go to America and have the biggest steaks in the world. So big I’d have to give half of it away. Or I’d have chicken kiev with all the butter oozing out of it. That was great.”
Of his own conversion in the mid-70s, McCartney has often told the story of how he and his first wife, Linda, were having a roast dinner, looked out of the window, saw lambs gambolling, and realised they didn’t want to eat meat any more. “It was like, the penny dropped. The light bulb lit up. We thought, we might just give this up.”
It’s safe to conclude that Linda is the key to McCartney’s vegetarianism, indeed that of the whole McCartney clan. Before her death in 1998, she had huge success with her series of meat-free cookbooks, and eponymous food range. Meat Free Monday sounds very “Linda”. Is she still McCartney’s main inspiration?
“Yeah, I’d say so. She was the original inspiration and she had a way about her. There was just this… non-aggressive forcefulness, and many of our friends over the years became vegetarian because of that.”
As a vegetarian, I have a rather more prosaic admiration for Linda McCartney – she probably stopped people like me (lazy vegetarians) starving; definitely from having to learn to cook in any meaningful way. When her food range came out, it seemed to kick-start a revolution of choice in the food industry: suddenly there were a lot more vegetarian products available.
“I think you’re right,” says McCartney. “Back then, we dreamed that one day you would pull off a motorway and there would be vegetarian options. We’re there now and that’s great. With the range, we used to call it ‘the hole in the middle of the plate’. Where you’d have meat chops and vegetables, steak and chips, we only had the ‘and’, we didn’t have the centrepiece of the meal. So we had to think about how to do it.
“The really lovely thing about it was that people from Linda’s food company would say, ‘Oh, Quorn is coming out with a burger’, and she would say, ‘Great!’ Which was fabulous. She was not the typical businesswoman. Instead of [snarling corporate accent] ‘We’ve got to kill their burger! Ours must be the only one!’ she wasn’t like that. Her attitude was: the more the merrier.”
What about bringing up their family as vegetarian: didn’t any of the kids rebel – even a little bit?
“With vegetarianism?” says McCartney. “No, we were very lucky. There was one moment on holiday when the kids were quite young. And they said, ‘Can we have a chicken dinner?’ And we said, ‘You can, but you know it’s those things we have at home, the little chickens you love so much.’ And they said, ‘We still want to try it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, OK.’ So they did, and they didn’t like it.”
Of course McCartney isn’t just any old vegetarian – he has global influence. He tells me a story about finding out that the Dalai Lama wasn’t vegetarian, and writing to ask him about it.
“Dear Dalai Lama”?
“Yeah, Dal to his friends,” he says laconically. “He wrote back very kindly, saying, my doctors tell me that I must eat meat. And I wrote back again, saying, you know, I don’t think that’s right. So we had a little correspondence.”
How did you leave it with him?
“I think now he’s vegetarian most of the time. I think he’s now being told, the more he meets doctors from the west, that he can get his protein somewhere else. It’s a little old-fashioned to think that he can only get it from meat.”
McCartney is happy to acknowledge that he wields the kind of clout that means he can embark on a personal correspondence with the Dalai Lama. “But even if I hadn’t been ‘Paul McCartney’, I’d have written that letter. It just doesn’t seem right – the Dalai Lama, on the one hand, saying, ‘Hey guys, don’t harm sentient beings… Oh, and by the way, I’m having a steak.'”
Despite the enlightened atmosphere of the 60s and 70s, McCartney thinks attitudes towards vegetarianism are generally better these days. “People have got over all sorts of old prejudices, haven’t they? Things have progressed. I like it, it’s more civilised.”
What about male vegetarians – doesn’t McCartney think they get a rough deal?
“What, you mean – [droll] ‘real men don’t eat quiche?'”
I tell McCartney my theory about him and male vegetarians – that they’re often ridiculed as unmanly, and he’s the only thing that makes their lives bearable. He’s a vegetarian guy they can point to, who is this world famous rock icon.
“Hmm, I don’t know,” says McCartney. “But you know, as a kid I would have thought of a vegetarian as a wimp. I would have automatically laughed at them, gays as well. Coming from Liverpool, we were a pretty prejudiced little bunch. Believe me, there was no one who escaped our scathing comments. But then as you grow up you think, well that’s pretty childish and daft. But of course it would be, you were young. What you’re going to do now is grow.
“So, while I feel perfectly manly [he stresses the word, with a slight roll of the eyes] eating vegetarian, and it doesn’t seem that way to me, I can understand the people who still feel that way. Because it’s how I felt when I was a young idiot. Maybe they’re still at that stage, you know?”
There still seems to be this lingering perception that vegetarianism is a “feminine” diet/mindset?
“It’s funny that, isn’t it?” muses McCartney. “The big bad guy thing. There’s also the inevitable backlash. So, everyone is thinking about vegetarianism but… [growly macho voice] not Marco Pierre White!”
Gordon Ramsay is the one who seems really anti-vegetarian.
“Yes, but I hear Gordon is advocating one meat-free day a week. And that the new Jamie Oliver book is going to be veggie, and he’s advocating two meat-free days a week. So it’s happening, it’s interesting.”
Oliver, Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall use meat in their recipes, but they’ve been prominent campaigners for better conditions for animals – what does McCartney think of that?
“I’m all for any movement in the right direction,” he says. “I’m not black and white. You know, ‘He’s a baddie if he eats meat’. I’m not all or nothing. With those guys, as you say, the good husbandry is a big side of it. I would go further and say, well then, don’t kill ’em, don’t eat ’em, perhaps? But the fact they are considering not eating them, one or two days a week, is a move in the right direction.”
Getting back to that poor “unmanly” vegetarian guy – what words of comfort could you give to him?
“Well, that super-macho, super-butch thing is all a bit silly and immature if you ask me,” he says. “It reminds me of a lot of things I did as a kid, when I was running around with my catapult. We were a savage little lot, Liverpool kids, not pacifist or vegetarian or anything. But I feel I’ve gone beyond that, and that it was immature to be so prejudiced and believe in all the stereotypes. And anyway, this thing of a man must be a great big guy with a hairy chest who eats a lot of meat. Well, actually, medically no, you’re going to be a very short-lived great big guy with a hairy chest who eats lots of meat – you might not live that long.”
McCartney explains that, for him, vegetarianism came as an “epiphany”.
“I just realised: I was taking animals’ lives. And some people will laugh at that. But, for me, it’s like when I gave up fishing, on a ranch in Nashville. We were working there and this guy had a lake. So I was fishing and enjoying it and I caught a fish and pulled him out and I could see the little thing struggling for his life. And whereas normally I would have said, ‘Yeah, you’re my dinner’, and put him in my tin, I just thought, ‘Oh, I’m really killing you, and I could do something about this.’ So I gently got the hook out and it was, ‘There you go mate.'”
You objected to the cruelty?
“Yeah, just the idea of it,” McCartney glances over pointedly. “I wouldn’t jump across the couch and take your life.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to make you nervous!” he laughs. “But you know what I mean? In our society, to take another person’s life you have to be a bad person. I started to see that that logic extends into all of the animal world. That’s how it feels for me anyway.”
Some time later, I find myself backstage at McCartney’s Hyde Park show. The idea is to see how the world of rock’n’roll takes to vegetarianism. Anyone who’s ever seen what roadies normally eat (a kind of Desperate Dan cow pie cuisine), would realise that Macca’s meat-free environment is quite an achievement. The fact that the food looks top-end and delicious is all credit to Eat Your Heart Out, McCartney’s on-tour caterer.
I talk to the New Zealander chef, Neil Smith, who is busy chopping up a melon. He has cooked for Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and Britney Spears. What does he feel are the special challenges of vegetarian food? “Just getting the nutritional balance right – protein, the right amount of fat and carbs.” What does McCartney like? “Plain simple things – quiche, pasta, bean burgers, vegetarian cottage pie – he likes normal food done in a vegetarian way.” That makes sense, I think, recalling McCartney’s “hole in the middle of the plate”.
Would veganism be tougher? “Oh yeah, no cheese to fall back on.” Smith runs through some tour dishes – savoury crepes, salads, pastas, anything involving tomatoes, fennel, broad beans, potatoes, tofu, tempeh. Is there any grumbling about the enforced vegetarianism? “No. Most people have been working for Paul for a long time, they know that’s how it is.”
One of these long-time crew members, Kevin Smith, agrees. “There are usually some people at the beginning of a tour who’ll say, ‘I’m not eating that shit, I want real food.’ But Paul said, from day one, ‘Go buy your own burger, just don’t bring it back here and eat it, have respect for what we do.'”
Smith became fully vegetarian after a year working with McCartney – previously he’d been “borderline”, and then Linda spoke to him. “She was quite persuasive, bless her.” He thinks, if anything, that backstage food is even more important to the crew than the band: “Band members live fairly mollycoddled existences. They’re at a hotel, they have lunch whenever they like. Crew are here all day – food becomes incredibly important to you.”
Earlier, I had asked McCartney, what does food do – nourish people, bond them?
“Well, it keeps them alive,” he replied. “But no, seriously, food is really important for all that. Family meals are great. Linda and I always liked the idea of an Italian family [he launches into an Italian accent], Mamma mia! You know, with Italian momma cooking the meal, and Italian father getting the wine, I think all that is great.”
One final question: does he think that he’d have been vegetarian if it hadn’t been for Linda – that he’d have gone that route anyway?
“That’s an interesting question,” muses McCartney. “I don’t know. What I do know is that the two of us together were more than the sum of our parts. We had a lot in common – which you’d hope if you’re going to get married.” He gives a slightly bashful laugh. “But yeah, when we got together that was one of the things we had in common – this huge love of animals. And, like Linda, I loved animals as a kid. Because even though I talk a lot about the savage youth, the youthful days in Liverpool – and there was all that – I also used to go out with my bird book, and I loved all that, too.”
What would that young boy think of you now?
“Nutter!” says McCartney instantly. “He’d get his catapult out and aim it at me.” He grins at the thought. “But you know, I would have to understand – charming little boy!”
for more on Linda McCartney Foods: lindamccartneyfoods.co.uk
My dad the Beatle, my mum the punk
Showing her work for the first time in Ireland, Mary McCartney shares the pain of losing her mother Linda and reveals her love for family banter and Van Gogh — but tells Barry Egan that Chuck Berry is such a disppointment
By Barry Egan
Sunday June 06 2010
THE first child of Linda and Paul McCartney is sitting with legs tucked regally underneath her on a sofa in Ely Place. The picture of elegance, Mary is wearing smart, skinny-cut red trousers that make her look vaguely like a Beatle-y model from the Swinging Sixties.
She doesn’t look her 40 years. She possesses the most striking eyes that sparkle like diamonds in the Dublin afternoon sun. Mary also has an immediately relaxing aura about her which she obviously inherited from her mother. (I was half-expecting her to be a pampered, spoiled brat/rich-kid shrew.)
She says that Linda, also a photographer, was known for relaxing her subjects: she got Jimi Hendrix to yawn for her. She grows wistful when I ask about her mother who died from breast cancer in 1998. She took beautiful, poignant pictures of Linda at the family’s East Sussex home three weeks before her death.
Mary — who was named after her paternal grandmother, a nurse and midwife who died of cancer when Paul was just 14 — says her mother’s death was “very unexpected and devastating, because we were very close. Because I have so many friends who have been affected by cancer.
“Obviously, I am quite angry and upset about it. But I try to look at the positive and think that we were lucky because she got to have kids and we all got to grow with her and I knew her really well and we spent a lot of time with her.
“We had a great relationship,” she adds. “So I tried to hold on to that. It is never easy. It is horrible and sad and depressing, just awful, but what do you do? Do you just sort of get lost in it — which you can — or do you just try to be more positive? And generally I try to be more positive.”
Your mother wouldn’t have wanted you to waste any of your life being sad about her death, I say.
“I like to moan and grumble and complain but at some point you have to stop and realise you were really lucky to have had her. She was a really lively and quite unique person. She would try to look on the bright side.
“She had a really full life. It is going to happen to all of us at some point.”
She once said that when she looks in the mirror she sees more and more of her mother: the mannerisms and expressions in particular. “It’s also in my nose, jawline and shape of my face.”
In her time, Linda McCartney was accused of contributing to the break-up of The Beatles. When she played with her husband’s new band Wings in 1971, the criticisms of her were often misogynist and poisonous but at Paul’s insistence she continued recording and touring with Wings. In 1976, Linda gave an interview to Rolling Stone. She was asked about her detractors, those who constantly found fault with her. “My answer,” Linda replied, “is always the same: ‘F*** off.'”
“She was quite punky,” smiles Mary now. “She was ahead of her time — but naturally so. It wasn’t an act; that was just what she was like. She was strong but kind.”
Do you think your late mother, who got such a hard time from the press herself, would have thought your father’s ex-wife Heather Mills gets too much of a hard time from the press and should be left alone?
“I kind of keep out of that whole area of things,” she says. “I don’t really read a lot of that kind of media. So I’m not that up on it, to be honest.”
Did you get to know Heather? “I knew her because they were married. But that’s not really my relationship so I try to keep away from that in interviews and things. It is not my relationship. I knew her. You know, they were married and they have a lovely… I have a lovely little sister,” she says, referring to Beatrice Milly McCartney.
Mary is here to promote an exhibition of her photographs, Collective Works, that opened recently at Kildare Village and will be on show until July 31 (admission is free). She’ll be back again for the Irish Derby on June 27. Her exhbition includes artist Tracey Emin dressed as uber-artist Frida Kahlo and the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Lily Cole, Kate Moss and Helen Mirren revealed anew through Mary’s lense. There is also a striking portrait of her friend, the actress Tilda Swinton.
“She is really graceful,” Mary says. “There is something intriguing going on in her mind. Sometimes you meet people and they are kind of quite disappointing. Tilda wasn’t disappointing.”
I ask Mary who has disappointed her. “Chuck Berry,” she replies. “I love him — but then I met him. I had just read an article about him alleging he had set up a secret camera in the women’s loo in his club: That isn’t right. It changes your view of him. Maybe it might have been a bit too much information.”
Mary rarely does interviews so information about her is hard to find. The first time the world saw her face was on the back cover of her dad’s first solo album in 1970. In a photograph taken by her mother, baby Mary was peeping out of her father’s jacket.
“It was taken in Scotland. Mum and Dad used to go horse-riding a lot so he zipped me up in his jacket,” she says, “then he’d get on the horse and go for a ride with me in his jacket to keep me nice and snug.”
When I met Paul the previous week he told me to ask her: “Do you love your dad?” So I do. “Of course I love my dad!” she laughs. “We have this funny thing as a family, where we’ll go: ‘Oh, almost wonderful father’ and then he’ll say ‘who we really revere!’ and then we’ll say ‘who we fear!’ We all do that in families. I like that kind of friendly, family banter. To me, he’s my dad. So I don’t look on him as the iconic Beatle Paul McCartney. Unless I’m seeing him perform and then I look on him as a great performer and I’m really proud of him — but generally he is just Dad.”
She adds that she might come over to her dad’s show at the RDS next Saturday.
Hers was an unstarry upbringing, growing up on the McCartneys’ farm near Rye, East Sussex. Mary and her siblings (James, Stella, and step-sister Heather, Linda’s daughter from a previous marriage) were raised as vegetarians with a natural love of animal rights surrounded by cows, chickens, lambs, pigs, ducks, deer and wild boar. As a child, Mary used to “love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from watching Sesame Street.”
I tell her I used to have a similar fetish for sausage and jam sandwiches that I saw made on Jim’ll Fix It. “I think I wrote to him once,” she says.
She is grateful that, unlike the dysfunctional children of famous rockstar dads, Mary and her siblings didn’t have to contact his manager to get a meeting with their ex-Beatle da. “They were always there for us.” She says it was good that “both of my parents were creative and they let us go in the directions we wanted to go in and they encouraged us.”
Born in London on August 28, 1969, she grew up “around photography and my mother’s stuff. And when I left school I used to go into her archive and look through her contact sheets and I would help her edit things.
“I really got inspired looking through the contact sheets because there were so many different subjects. It made me want to pick up a camera.”
Magazines like Rolling Stone, Harpers Bazaar and Vogue are surely glad that she picked up a camera. We discuss the obsession with youth in the media in general.
“That obsession with youth has always been there. It makes sense really, because the youngest, in a way, is the most beautiful,” she says. Actress Anouk Aimee said that “you can only perceive real beauty in a person as they get older”. Mary appears to agree.
“It’s not that older people are more interesting than younger people, per se, but I do really love looking at older faces. You can see stories. I love it when you meet men and women who are just gracefully older. If you have the right bone structure you can carry it off. You might lose character if you…” she says, trailing off. “Working in fashion photography you do deal with retouching and it is that thing of ‘How far do you go in perfection?’ I think imperfections are interesting.”
On her website, Mary has a gloriously bucolic image she took of Liam Neeson. “I love that image. His suit merges in with the woods.” It is quite a painterly portrait of the Northern Ireland actor. Mary’s favourite work of art is Van Gogh’s Starry Night. She believes you can physically feel him in his paintings: the bold brushstrokes, the intensity, the passion.
She raves about US Vogue’s ginger goddess Grace Coddington in the movie, The September Edition. She quotes Grace saying, “always look out the window when you’re travelling”.
“I looked out the window when I came here. I looked at the Harp building over the bridge,” she says. “I haven’t been in Ireland in 12 years.”
She told the London Times in 2004 that her most treasured possession was a primrose-yellow Dior top that belonged to her mum. In the same interview, they also asked her what she wears to bed and she cheekily replied: “My husband.”
She is no longer with him, TV producer Alistair Donald. They have two sons, Arthur and Elliot. Mary has a third child, Sam, with her partner, the film-maker Simon Aboud.
When Sam was born in August 2008, Paul cut short his Route 66 road trip in the US after becoming a grandad for the sixth time and jumped on a plane back to London with his girlfriend Nancy.
She tells me that she and her dad and sister recently got involved in the Meat Free Monday campaign “to safeguard Linda’s legacy”. She laughs out loud when I tell her I will join the Meat Free Monday campaign if she has a Vegetable Free Friday. Her children are vegetarians “but they don’t have to be,” she says. “It would be their choice. I don’t like to force it on people. I don’t like to be told what to do, so I don’t like to tell them what to do.”
Then she’s off to catch her plane home. Mary In The Sky With Eyes That Sparkle Like Diamonds.