Iask Her to Study - She Tells Me to Mind My Own Business

Article excerpt


CAROL BARNES, 52, presents ITN's Lunchtime News and the weekend bulletins.

She joined ITN as a reporter in 1975 from BBC Radio 4's World At One and later presented News At Ten. She is married to ITN cameraman Nigel Thompson, by whom she has a son, James, 15. Her daughter Clare, 17, is from her relationship with trade unionist Denis MacShane. Here, mother and daughter, who live in Brighton, talk to IAN WOODWARD.


I'VE PROBABLY not been tough enough with Clare, particularly in the last year or so. I let her get away with more than she should because she's a very pleasant person.

But I'm deeply conscious that I haven't done her any great favours by being so lenient. Even now she'll come downstairs in the morning and say: `Can you cook me some breakfast, Mum?' and I'll say: `Yes, OK,' when I know she's perfectly capable of doing it herself.

But any obvious teenage rebelliousness seems to have passed her by, or it's still to come, and I see her mostly as an adult now.

If there is any real difference between us, it's focused on this mother/teenager thing, where she has all the adulthood and maturity but none of the responsibility, so I have a go at her sometimes when she doesn't consider the knock-on effect of her actions.

In January she said she wasn't going to do her A-levels and dropped out of sixth-form college. So now I've got her doing an intensive course at a private tutorial college.

If we have rows, which usually stem from tiny niggles over nothing, they tend to be about the commitment I think she should be giving to her exams.

The more I go on about it, the less inclined she is to study. Our regular arguments are about untidiness. Maybe it stems from the fact that I was away working at ITN such a lot and other people looked after her and her brother when they were little.

When I go into her room I have to wade through it. Every single thing she touches will be dropped on the floor - towels, clothes, shoes, hairdryers, the lot.

I know parents always say this about teenage children, but I don't think I could ever have been as bad as Clare.

It really is a major cause of dissent between us - that, and her smoking.

In deference to me, she's agreed not to smoke in the house, but there are times when we're sitting in a restaurant when I just have to grit my teeth because of her liking for a cigarette after her meal.

I tell her: `If I smoked like that when I was pregnant, you could have been born damaged in some way.'

Her birth in the afternoon of July 14, 1979, at the Middlesex Hospital in Mortimer Street, just round the corner from ITN's old London headquarters, had its fair share of dramas, anyway.

I had a problem with placenta praevia, SPELLING?? which means the placenta was in an abnormally low position inside the uterus - they told me that because it was lying completely below the baby and over the mouth of the womb, birth couldn't take place without severe bleeding.

So in the end a Caesarean section was deemed to be the best and safest measure for both me and Clare and she was born weighing 7lb 12oz.

In the early years she had a lot of nanny supervision because of my job at ITN, but we were living near Regents Park Zoo and spent a lot of time together there.

I couldn't be the normal 24-hours-a-day mum but I did my best. Of course, she `tested' me when the nanny went home.

Once, when she was about five, she cut off her hair at the front. She decided that she wanted a fringe and she snipped it down to about half an inch. I was shocked when I saw her but all I could say was: `How could you?'

No doubt it was attention-seeking, saying: `Why don't you spend more time with me?' I do regret not being at home more and I regret that for a lot of her growing, formative years I just wasn't there. …