Advice from mums: mother knows best

20 February 2017

Here’s some of the wisest, most touching and downright daft advice mothers have given to a mix of readers and well-known names.



Celia Imrie, 64
Actress

My mother Diana was wonderful at giving parties. Her inspired advice was ‘mix the ages and always serve something hot’. Young children often get on brilliantly well with the older generation. My siblings and I would rush from the oven to the guests, handing around platters of hot snacks and people loved that.

Celia’s novel Nice Work (If You Can Get It) is out now

Nick Knowles, 54
TV presenter

I was one of five kids and mum definitely didn’t want us under her feet. If we were ill and suggested staying home she’d say, ‘Stop moaning. You’ll feel better when you get started.’ Honestly, I could have had leprosy and she’d have wheeled me into school in my bed.

But I’ve taken her advice. When I’m about to do a live show in front of thousands of people and feel like I’m going to have a heart attack, I just remember that it’ll be all right – once I get started.

Nick’s cookbook Proper Healthy Food is out now

Tony Robinson, 70
Activist and TV presenter

‘Always wear a fresh vest and pants every day.’ I must have heard my mum, Phyllis, say that each morning of my childhood. It was a pride thing, as much as anything.

When I was a student, there were times I was tempted to be a bit slipshod, especially if nursing a hangover. But I’d hear her voice and start to feel very guilty. And while the vest is now long gone, the daily fresh underpants remain!

Tony’s autobiography No Cunning Plan is out now

Nicky Campbell, 55
Radio 5 Live presenter

I was adopted as a baby but my mother and I talked about it from an early age. ‘Get things out in the open,’ she would advise. As a journalist, it’s very handy to have this natural curiosity and desire to speak about things – and as a parent. There’s so much to be gained by a family simply… talking. Don’t hide from each other.

Even at 93, Mum still enjoys a glass of wine and a good conversation. My kids adore her because she talks to them… really talks to them.

Gyles Brandreth, 68
Writer and broadcaster

From the age of six, I travelled to school by underground – on my own. However, just before my mother died, aged 96, she revealed that she would follow me, getting into the next carriage.

She had been living by Kipling’s phrase ‘God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.’ But she’d taught me to feel independent – without letting me out of her sight.

Gyles’ book Jack the Ripper: Case Closed will be out soon

Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, 31
Olympic legend

On the days when I wanted to go out instead of training, Mum wouldn’t give me any speeches about working hard. She’d say, ‘Jess, you’re probably right. Don’t bother going to training. You might still make the championships next week. Should I ring your coach and tell him that you’re letting the rest of the team down? I’m sure he won’t be too upset.’

By the time she’d finished, I had my kit-bag packed and was already out the door!

Jess’s VitalityMove events are encouraging all ages to get active, vitalitymove.co.uk

Glen Matlock, 60
Former Sex Pistol

Our family was always a bit hand to mouth but Mum, who worked part-time at the gas board, was very good with money. ‘Stand on your own two feet,’ she’d say.

A nearby clothes shop ran a club where women saved for Christmas. But she got her savings well before then. Once my underpants needed replacing, so Mum batted her eyelids at the bloke serving her. She was good at it. I got the underpants and a string vest!

Glen’s EP, Sexy Beast, will be released next month

Romesh Ranganathan, 39
Comedian

The best advice that my mother ever gave me? ‘Hey, don’t eat those! They are poo mangoes!’ I was eight at the time and we were staying at a family home in Sri Lanka with a beautiful mango tree, loaded with fruit. I was about to tuck in, but it was a bit close to the outdoor toilet, which was more of a hole in the ground. Thanks, Mum!

Jeffrey Archer, 76
Novelist

My mother, Lola, had little formal education, but decided to put that right when she took her A levels in her 40s and got a degree at 53. She taught me ‘you must never stop learning’ - one of the reasons I’m still writing every day. After 24 bestsellers in a row I could pack it all in and have some fun but for me my work IS my fun.

This Was A Man is out now.

Claude Littner, 67
Executive and The Apprentice star

Mother would always say ‘be true unto yourself’. She encouraged me to be straight and honest. There was nothing we couldn’t talk about. We were a close-knit family, the Littner clan.

But though mother was calm, unfortunately, I’m irritable and not calm at all. Still, as she pointed out, you can only be yourself!

Single-Minded: My Life in Business is out now

Emma Freud, 55
Red Nose Day director

Soon after starting work I returned home wearing – with some pride – a wonderful new striped cardigan. My mother admired it, but when I told her how much it cost she exclaimed, ‘Oh, you could feed a family of four for a week with that’! Her words remain seared on to my heart.

She went through rationing, never wasted anything and I’m always aware what money can buy for those more in need. I’ve tried buying expensive clothes and jewellery but end up sending them back the next day!

Red Nose Day is on March 24 rednoseday.com

Sherrie Hewson, 66
Actor

My mother, Joy, was a top model, dancer – and party animal. ‘Regrets are futile,’ she’d say. ‘Live every single second and be proud of who you are.’

Each Saturday in the Sixties, our house was filled with people and, because my brother was a DJ, there’d be famous bands like The Searchers playing. Right up to the age of 88, mum was dancing, doing yoga and flirting.

Her philosophy made her formidable character, too, wanting me to focus on my theatrical career. I was on stage in sequins at four. But she made me a survivor.

Benidorm is on ITV1

Readers write...

Erica Wicks 49
Dinner lady, Spalding

‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’, my mum always said. She’d once lent a friend Lorna Doone, didn’t get it back and never quite got over it.

‘Did I ever tell you about that book I lent to so-and-so?’ she’d say. ‘Well, let me give you a bit of advice…’

‘Yes, you told me,’ I’d reply. ‘Many times!’

James Donald, 68
Academic, Liverpool

‘Don’t put it in writing’, ‘drip-dry everything’ and ‘always take your socks off before your trousers’. My mum’s sayings reflected her wariness of commitment, a dislike of ironing and maybe a traumatic aesthetic experience when first seeing a man’s legs in his woolly footwear!

Have they influenced me? Well, I like ironing. But I’m slow to commit and I am resolute in taking my socks off before my trousers.

Micky Higgins, 57
IT specialist, Wolverhampton

I could write a book about my mother’s tips… for anyone who’d want to read it. ‘Drop a fork, you’ll have a visitor; drop a knife, you’ll have a surprise.’ And she believed it! She’d drop a fork on Tuesday, her sister would come on Wednesday and she’d say, ‘Here’s my visitor’. Her sister always came on Wednesdays!

Pat Carney, 65
Billericay, Essex

My mother used to leave notes all over the place. ‘Keep the kitchen tidy’, ‘Always put your toys away’. I can laugh about it now, but I hated it then. It was only when I had children that I realised she was preparing us for life. Before Mum died, she lived with us and it was hard work, but I was always there for her, looking after her the way she’d looked after me.

Shirley Mundy, 63
Management consultant, Norwich, Norfolk

My mum met my dad in Germany after the war and gave up her medical studies to come to England. I think she still regrets not having a career. ‘Whatever it is, just do it! Follow your dreams,’ she’d tell me and my sister. That’s stayed with me my whole life. I’ve travelled, lived in the Middle East, worked in the Mediterranean - a wonderful, exciting life. And even at 63, I still feel there’s so much to do. Who wants to put their feet up when there’s all that world to explore!

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