Here Comes The Sun
In her first interview since the start of her successful battle with
breast cancer, Linda McCartney talks about 30 wonderful years of marriage
to Paul, her hopes for their children, her love of animals, and her plans
for a bright future ...
|Marriages are notoriously short-lived affairs in the
fickle world of showbusiness - which is why Paul and Linda McCartney are
such an exceptional couple. After nearly 30 years of marriage and
Linda's successful two-year battle with breast cancer, their love is stronger
than ever, as our exclusive pictures show.
Linda, who's sitting barefoot in the attic room of their Sussex farmhouse home, is constantly surprised by the joy Paul brings to her life. 'I know we're coming up to our 30th wedding anniversary next year, but some days it feels like we've just got together. And I love that. I love it when there's a power cut, no light, no heat and I'm having to cook over an open fire while Paul serenades me on his guitar. I love that simple life.
'Now that the kids have flown the nest, it's meant that Paul and I have become like boyfriend and girlfriend again, doing those little things together that you do when you're first dating ... going to the theatre or just walking hand in hand through the fields. How many married couples of 30 years' standing do you know who wander about holding hands? In some ways, we haven't grown up. I guess it must be love!'
Linda says their relationship has always been like that. 'When Paul was knighted, he said it was great because it meant he got to make his girlfriend a lady. But nobody calls me Lady Linda or Lady McCartney. I'm still just Linda and he's Paul. Sure, it's a real honour for Paul and I'm proud of him, but it doesn't seem real that my boyfriend's a knight - although he's always been a hero.'
The depth of the couple's love became obvious last year with the release of Paul's album Flaming Pie. Although he has long written love songs inspired by Linda (My Love, No More Lonely Nights and Maybe I'm Amazed, to name but a few), the solo album contained two of the most heartfelt and moving ballads he'd ever written, Some Days and Calico Skies. Besides earning him some of the best reviews of his career, Flaming Pie also gave Paul the opportunity to record with his guitarist son James for the very first time.
Like all the McCartney children, 20-year-old James is keen to make his own way in the world. 'We're very proud of the way in which all our kids want to do their own thing,' says Linda. 'James is studying architecture now, but neither Paul nor I would be surprised if he moves into music, as he has such a passion for playing.'
'Stella [who's 26] is doing great as a designer, and I love her clothes. We went to her first Chloe show in Paris, and I was just so proud of her and the reaction she got.'
Heather, Linda's 34-year-old daughter from her first marriage to geophysicist Melvin See [the couple married when Linda was 18, right after her mother died in a plane crash], is a potter who's exhibited in New York and London, while Mary McCartney, 28, has inherited her mother's talent with a camera.
'I'm rather complimented that Mary has caught my passion for photography,' says Linda. 'She's been working for various magazines, and one of her photos has been hung in the National Portrait Gallery.'
As everybody knows, the McCartneys are an exceptionally close family. When the children were young, Paul and Linda took them on tour around the world, preferring to keep the family together. And now, even though they are all grown up, the young "Macs" still return to the family home as often as possible.&
'We're enjoying life a lot but then we always have,' says Linda. 'I've always said that life is to be lived. I know that a lot of people say that, but I mean it. And I have always meant it. So, yeah, we enjoy ourselves, but as for taking life easy ... no, I'm probably busier than I've ever been.'
And busy she is. In April, Linda's famous range of vegetarian foods will be launching a new product: soya-based, yoghurt-style frozen desserts - 'yogas'. 'I'm making food for all tastebuds, and my intention is to develop meat-free versions of every food we currently get from animals. Going veggie is no longer the preserve of the professional woman in her Saab who shops at Sainsbury's,' says Linda.
'When I started out, my aim was to try and convert the truck driver. Some people thought I was crazy, but I stuck at it. I even went up to a big truck stop near Liverpool and cooked veggie burgers for these guys.'
With spirited approaches like this, Linda McCartney has turned the British diet on its head during the past seven years, with her campaigning, her cookbooks and her ready-made meals. 'All my life I have cared for animals,' says Linda, the daughter of an American showbusiness lawyer.
'As a little girl I was forever filling the house with injured squirrels or birds that needed nursing. And sure, I got angry and upset over the way that we have abused animals, but I have always condemned those groups who have resorted to violence in the name of animal rights. I have never, and will never, support the use of violence in the name of the animals. That just brings our cause into disrepute.
'I know that some people believe I support such groups - there was even a rumour that I funded hunt saboteurs out of my own pocket. That rumour wasn't true and whatever people may suspect, I still believe in that hippy thing of wanting peace, not war. There is a food revolution going on, but it's a gentle revolution.&
'Soon after I launched my range, somebody tried to stitch me up by slipping a meat pie into a batch of my meat-free pies. That made front-page news everywhere, and people thought it was a cock-up on our part, that we hadn't got our act together. But it wasn't a cock-up. Somebody, who has since been fired, deliberately tried to sabotage my food in an attempt to create bad publicity. But it didn't work.'
Linda began predicting the current food revolution back in 1989 when Home Cooking, the first collection of her recipes, became the world's best-selling vegetarian cookery book. Now, with an estimated 5,000 Brits going vegetarian each week, her revolution shows no sign of slowing down.
There have been setbacks of course - the biggest being Linda's long battle against breast cancer, which took her out of action for 18 months as she recuperated. But even then, she didn't stay idle and set about planning the next stage of her plan to change the way we eat. Having persuaded Britain to eat meat-free, she decided the next move was for 'going veggie to go global'.
With her 38 million pound-a-year food business now established here, Linda is upping the stakes, expanding her UK range from six to 40 products and moving into six more countries by the end of the year. She's also writing her fifth cookbook, which is due to be published in September.
By developing her food line in Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, Linda is set to treble or even quadruple her annual turnover, to between 110 and 150 million pounds. And, if she takes up offers to create meat-free meals for Japan, Australia and the USA, Linda could even wind up being a bigger money-spinner than The Beatles' albums sales!
Whatever money she has already made from her booming business, Linda spends both wisely and generously. Wisely, she has reinvested profits in her business. 'What I've quietly done over the past couple of years is to take the profit from the food and put it back into the development of new dishes,' she explains.
As for her generosity, Linda has more than once gone all out to save animal lives. In 1995, she paid 3,000 pounds at a pre-Christmas auction to save a champion 28lb turkey from being slaughtered, stuffed and roasted. A few weeks later, nine-year-old Christian Pierce from Lincolnshire was inspired to spend 6 pounds of his pocket money to follow suit and save two turkeys from the Christmas dinner table. Linda said: 'Now that's what matters to me. It warms my heart to think I've influenced a nine-year-old boy to do that.'&
Just last year, she paid 15,000 pounds to rescue 60 beagles destined for cosmetic industry experiments in Spain. 'You do what you can and I'm lucky that I can,' she says humbly.
'But saving animals is nothing new to me or to Paul. We've got a couple of cows on our farm that we rescued as calves - they were born while their mother was en route to the slaughterhouse. If we hadn't stepped in, they would have gone from birth to death with literally no life in between.
'We've also got a fine young bull, Ferdinand, who did a runner from a farmer who was taking him to market. The bull broke free and, lucky for him, he just happened to run into Paul, who was driving to his recording studio. Talk about lucky escapes!'
Linda was much in the minds of Fleet Street editors recently with the widely-publicised escape of 'The Tamworth Two'. The pair of runaway pigs from Wiltshire dominated the headlines for a week as newspapers scrambled to raise the money to buy them after the farmer who owned them put a price on their heads of 15,000 pounds. Several papers called Linda to ask if she'd stump up the money, but she was persuaded by her team not to become embroiled in a newspaper circulation war.
'Actually, I'm aiming to save the bacon of a lot of pigs right now,' says Linda. 'One of the secret projects we've been working on is to develop a meat-free bacon that cooks and tastes just like the real thing.
'And that will be a real treat for Paul, because for the first time in more than 20 years, since we stopped eating meat, he'll be able to enjoy a bacon buttie again. He's always said that's one of the things you miss most when you give up meat - a bacon buttie.'
Suddenly, the conversation stops. A robin has settled on the windowsill outside. In one movement, Linda has grabbed her Nikon, focused and snapped it. 'I'm still a photographer,' explains the woman who started as a photojournalist almost 30 years ago by snapping her husband's then-rivals The Rolling Stones for Town and Country.
'In the years since I first met Paul, I've had all sorts of labels stuck on me. Now the new label is "businesswoman". Sure, I have this business. But what I am, what I am in myself, is a photographer.'
Thoughout her long but ultimately triumphant recovery from breast cancer, Linda continued taking photographs, and her pictures provided all the artwork, publicity and promotional shots for Paul's last two albums, Flaming Pie and Standing Stone. In addition, she mounted two large exhibitions of her work at the prestigious ICP in New York and the National Museum of Photography in Bradford, Yorkshire.
Linda also took off to a 13th-century Cistercian Abbey at Romont, Switzerland, where she and her friend, the stained-glass window artist Brian Clarke, mounted a dual exhibition of Linda's photographs, stunningly transformed into beautiful stained-glass windows. 'This is my new passion,' she says, pointing to Clarke's unique windows containing her stunning portraits of artists Willem de Kooning and the controversial Gilbert and George. 'All photography is essentially about light and I love the way light works through this form.'
An exhibition of Linda's work in stained glass is heading for London, with the dates to be fixed for just as soon as she has completed two other urgent projects - her latest, internationally-themed vegetarian cookbook, and Wide Prairie, a surreal short animated film that she has made with the animator Oscar Grillo, and which is set to a song that she wrote and recorded herself.
'Yeah,' says Linda McCartney, smiling broadly. 'I'm back.'