Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sophie in The Sunday Times, 13/02/2011

Time and place: Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Blue Peter and the Beatles gave the singer a taste for performance while being
raised by divorced parents in west London

Interview by Sarah Ewing
Published: 13 February 2011

I was four years old and an only child when my mum, the TV presenter Janet Ellis, and dad, the director Robin Bextor, divorced in 1983. We’d been living in Hampton, Middlesex, in a house they’d bought when I was born. Mum soon remarried a lovely man, John. My stepbrother, Jackson, came along in 1987, followed by Martha in 1991.

Mum’s post-divorce home was in Ravenscourt Park, west London. It’s a big old Victorian house, where we each had our own rooms. I plastered the walls of my wardrobe with black-and-white shots of Hollywood hunks like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix.

I was just starting my second year at school when we moved in; Jackson, who’s now 23, has graduated to my big room, the lucky bloke. The house was perfectly situated beside the park, Jackson’s nursery and the local primary. We walked through the park to get to school; adjacent are the arches where I’d hang out as a teenager, and under which I remember opening my A-level results.

Over the years, Mum and John have commissioned some unique pieces of art, which are dotted aroundthe house. Two years ago, Mum appeared on Cash in the Attic, and blanched when she was told what some of them were now worth.

The house was always teeming with people because of Mum’s open-door policy. I loved that it was full of life and laughter, as I hope my new home nearby will be. The kitchen was the hub: I once came home from school and found Mum and Nerys Hughes filming a cookery segment for Blue Peter. I just barged in and said, “Excuse me, Nerys, I’m trying to get to the tuna.” As special time for just the two of us, Mum used to take me to a local cafe for hot chocolate and cake.

I now live 10 minutes away, in a five-bedroom detached house in Chiswick, with my husband, Richard Jones, guitarist in the Feeling, and our two boys, Sonny, 6, and Kit, 18 months. Sonny has just started at the primary school nearby, where Jackson and Martha went, and I take Kit to the park where I played as a child. It’s as if I’d never left home.

Dad moved around a fair bit after the divorce, mostly in west London, but he eventually settled in a beautiful 16th-century thatched cottage in a Sussex village. When I was growing up, he always had music playing in his house, like the Beatles and the Doors, and his love was a great influence on my career choice. His passion was infectious — even though he was tone deaf. We’d get really excited when new albums came out, and listened to them while playing Sorry or Cluedo.

He’s been in his latest cottage for five years with his new wife, the TV producer Polly Mockford, and their children, Dulce, 13, and the twins, Maisie and Bertie, 12. It’s been a fresh start, precipitated by his purchase of a restaurant, Moonrakers, in Alfriston. My best friend is from there, so I felt like I knew it before Dad moved in.

Because I travel so much, doing gigs and DJing, my free time is erratic. I try to visit Dad with the boys once every two months. His cottage is wonderful: you can get there easily from London, but it feels like proper countryside. I love all the green space on our visits, and the sea is nearby in Brighton.

Divorce is never easy on a child, but my parents made me feel loved and welcome no matter where they were.

Sophie supports the baby charity Tommy’s; www.tommys.org. Thanks to an Asda Foundation grant, midwives give free advice on the Pregnancy Line; 0800 014 7800

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