Patsy Kensit looks lovely on screen. We've been admiring her since she was five, when she played Daisy's daughter in The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. There she was, brightening up the TV schedules as nurse Faye Byrne in Holby City, and recently we've followed her every glittering move on Strictly. But she's even more beautiful in real life. She's being made up for a photo shoot when we meet, and I think, why? Even before all that powder and mascara she looks fantastic - huge eyes, high cheekbones, clear skin.
But what's strange about all this loveliness is that she wears it very lightly. She doesn't make you feel, oh god, I've got a hole in my tights and I need a haircut. And when she talks about her sons James, 18, from her second marriage to Jim Kerr, and Lennon, 11, from her third marriage to Liam Gallagher (she has been married four times and broke up from DJ Jeremy Healy in March last year), you can imagine her standing in a freezing playground discussing, I don't know, ordinary things like whether to ration Playstation and who needs a lift to football.
Patsy's next project is playgrounds. Now that the live show of Strictly has finished touring, she's part of a new campaign called Parents for Playgrounds, set up by Robinsons Fruit Shoot and Play England. As she explains, 'We want parents - mums and dads - to put forward the play areas near them that they feel could do with some love and attention.' Five playgrounds will be given up to £15,000 each, which is particularly welcome in the face of all the Government cuts. 'I'm so passionate about it. We want to make the safest, most environmentally sound, wonderful renovations to these five playgrounds.'
It's important to her that parents have somewhere to go where their children can play. 'I was in my early twenties when I had James. [She's 42 now.] None of my girlfriends had children, and my mother had just died, so I relied heavily on going to the park and watching James play, and meeting other mums there.' She lived in Holland Park in west London, and then moved to St John's Wood further north, where the local park was called Abbey Gardens. 'James used to call it Happy Gardens because he loved going there so much.'
She thinks playgrounds are important for children's social development. 'I'm a working mother and obviously by the end of the week I'm like anyone, I'm exhausted, I could stay in my pyjamas all day and just potter around. It's easy to say, oh, go on the computer or play with your Playstation, because we're living in times where there's so much that can keep you indoors.' But it's better, she says, 'to get outside, to get fresh air, for your kids to be running around exercising, in contact with other children they're not necessarily at school with, growing socially.'
Her eldest, James, has now left school and is working for his stepdad Liam Gallagher in his clothing company Pretty Green. 'He's loving it. He's very focused, and professional, and out the door in the morning,' she says. She loves the fact he's still living at home. 'I hope forever. Oh, that sounds weird, doesn't it? I was very close to my mum, but I moved to Notting Hill when I was eighteen years old, and bought my first flat. But James is at home, and I don't want him to go anywhere.'
She's proud of the fact that James still plays football. 'He's signed up to a team, and plays two nights a week, and he runs and goes to the gym.' He's a typical teenager and likes going to the pub as well, she says, but she hopes the fact that she's always been into keeping fit herself has influenced him. Patsy has always run every day. 'We're renting a flat in north London at the moment. I've had a treadmill for years, and the lovely lady underneath me came up after a week and said, I feel like you're going to come through the ceiling. So now when I go to the park with Lennon, I do laps there.'
Exercise has always been an important part of Patsy's life. 'I used to see it as a means to lose weight. But I think if you're saying to yourself, I have to exercise so that I can eat this pudding, or whatever, it becomes such a chore, and you lose your enjoyment of food. So now I look at exercise as something that I do because it's good for me. It's not about weight loss, or the fact that I had banoffee pie last night, it's because I actually do feel better after I've done it.' She hopes to carry on dancing now that Strictly's over. 'Dancing as part of a fitness regime is incredible. It's great cardio, which is very important for our hearts and for our health, and it's not like the monotony of the treadmill, because it's music. There's something quite uplifting about it.'
Neither of the boys watched her in Strictly. They're boys, she says - they're not really into dancing. 'Although ballroom's not for the fainthearted. The ballroom world's full of athletes.' Neither James nor Lennon seem to be following their dads into music, either. 'James is more on the business thing, the retail side - he's passionate about it. Lennon says he wants to act, and does acting classes on Saturday morning. Whatever they choose to do, as long as they're happy and enjoy it, then I'm happy.'
Patsy also has a godson, Maximus, who's seven years old and the son of her best girlfriend Angela Dunne. (She isn't, despite what you read, godmother to Elizabeth Hurley's son Damian. It's the other way round - Elizabeth Hurley is godmother to Lennon.) 'It's such an honour to be asked to be a godparent. I take it very seriously. Maximus will come back for lunch with Lennon, and we'll all go to the park together. It's a good opportunity to see Ange. We've been best friends for 22 years.'
So what's the most important thing we can teach our children? She looks serious. 'I think choosing to be positive in the face of adversity. In life, you get knocks, and I think you have to pick yourself up and carry on. Life isn't perfect, but it's a great gift, and I think you have to appreciate every day, and be positive, and say thank you for the day. You learn from everything that happens in your life - that's what I try to teach my boys.' She thinks again. 'And to be honest, to be kind, and to love themselves. As a society, we can be very harsh on one another, and to have respect for yourself, and other people, is really important.'
I don't know - beautiful, kind and wise all at the same time. I wish she lived near my local park. I might even take up jogging just to talk to her.
Robinsons Fruit Shoot are launching 'Parents for Playgrounds' – a national mission that asks parents to nominate a local playground that is in need of repair, to give it the chance of winning up to a £15,000 renovation bursary. The campaign is supported by Play England and nominations can be made via www.readyforten.com, from the 15th February to the 16th March 2011.
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