Now He's ; Special Report: McCartney Milestone Paul Retreats to Peasmarsh for the Most Famous Birthday in Pop Stela's There Today. Ringo Too. Being Sunday Morning, He May Go for a Ride. but It's His Place in History That's on McCartney's Mind. by Anthony Barnes by Anthony Barnes

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The most eagerly and lengthily anticipated birthday of any celebrity is finally here. No longer a case of "when"' today, 18 June 2006, Paul McCartney can actually sing "Now I'm 64".

But, as his relatives and closest friends gather for a party on the singer's estate in Peas-marsh, East Sussex, the world's leading popular musician must be wishing that when he wrote his famous song about old age, he'd made it 65 and not 64. For instead of this being a day when the world weighs his considerable achievements, it is one haunted instead by the allegedly seamy past of his recently estranged wife Heather (see right), which he has told friends he fears will overshadow his musical legacy.

"He is, of course, deeply hurt because he feels he has been misled," one told The Independent on Sunday. "I think he is also genuinely shocked - as far as I know, he believed her when she had said the rumours that used to knock around about her past weren't true."

Yet Paul's children will rally round - after all, it is also Father's Day - and he will take it easy this morning after jetting in yesterday from a business trip in the US. After starting the day with a light breakfast of fruit, green tea and water, he will probably relax by saddling up one of his horses and patrolling the rolling fields around his farmhouse. In fact, that much of the song "When I'm Sixty Four" ("Sunday mornings, go for a ride") will be accurate. Paul will later prepare for a family barbecue. Vegetarian, of course, and probably including some of the meat-free burgers from his late wife Linda's food range which he will cook.

His "nearest and dearest" friends will be welcomed. They will include Olivia Harrison, widow of the former Beatles guitarist George, and drummer Ringo Starr's wife Barbara Bach, as well as Paul's brother Mike. The red wine will be flowing -French is his preference - and towards the end of the day he will indulge himself a tot of Johnnie Walker whisky.

Paul is not a man known for his overindulgence. His drug experimentation in The Beatles days was fairly short-lived, although he did acquire a lifelong devotion to his daily spliff. His love of marijuana led to his brief imprisonment in Japan in the late Seventies, but also exposed cracks in his marriage to Heather. Although his smokes had been fine during his years with first wife Linda, who died of breast cancer in 1998, they were a constant source of irritation to his new wife whom he married four years later. He reluctantly agreed to give up the weed on her insistence.

Whether Heather, 38, will put in an appearance at today's party with their two-year-old daughter Beatrice is unknown. She is said to be keen to visit on such a special day' his family is not so encouraging. One friend said: "It is a tragedy that of all the times this could have happened in his life it is before his 64th birthday. I think there had always been the perception that after such a prolific, productive career, making music in the public eye for 44 years, that this birthday would be a time for everyone to reflect on the fullness of his life. But instead of assessing his achievements, it is now a case of assessing the wreckage. I really don't think he knew about the soft porn past. …