Article excerpt

No wonder Patsy Palmer's grinning. Could there possibly be a better time in her life? Spring is here, there's a new home for her and four- year-old son Charley, above, to move into and a new man in her life. What's more, there's a new garden to be enjoyed. As if all this were not enough, the back- breaking task of renovating the latter has been taken over by various experts, earth-movers, trellis-erectors and furniture-assemblers from the Sunday Mirror Magazine. What more could young Patsy want for?

Unlike her fiery TV counterpart Bianca, whose life with Ricky is in ruins thanks to the mechanic canoodling with his bitchy estranged wife Sam, Patsy is busy building a new relationship at the same time as establishing a new house and garden.

Talking about Nick Love, the 23-year-old soap star reveals that they met in a caff. Not, you understand, an East End greasy spoon but a trendy brasserie, the Dome, in London's King's Road. "Yes, I'm in love! I wasn't expecting to meet anyone and neither was he, and I think that's when it nearly always happens. He knew someone that I knew and started chatting and that was it."

You quickly learn that the subject of Charley's father, Alfie Rothwell, the East End ex-boxer, is off limits. Beyond saying, "He's nothing to do with us now," the subject is taboo. Patsy even refuses to say whether Charley still sees his father. But mention the man she has been seeing for the past seven months and her features immediately soften, her explanations come more readily.

"It's difficult to find someone when you are a single mother because you come as a package. And you feel that, if he can't accept that, it's never going to work out because there will be so much resentment.

"But Nick is so lovely and kind with Charley. It's important for Charley that I'm settled. It would be different if I didn't have him. I could be out and about meeting loads of different people every week, which is all right at my age. Instead, I still go out and have fun and do all the things I would do with my friends, but Nick and me do them together."

Besotted she may be by Nick, 26, who works in the film business, but they won't be living together in the immediate future. First there is the small matter of sorting out her new home. Until recently she has been flitting between a small rented flat in Bethnal Green, East London, and her mother's house nearby.

But soon the great day will come when she takes possession of her own home - a two-bedroom Victorian terraced house, still in Bethnal Green and close to her mother. Fifty one-year-old Pat hovers around in the background as we chat, making sure that Charley wants for nothing.

A single mother herself with three children after she divorced Patsy's father, Pat has since re-married Ted who has moved into the family home. She has always been there for Patsy. She was even present at Charley's birth, and Patsy is reluctant to answer questions without checking with her mother first. "It's the same all over the East End, mothers and daughters are always close."

Looking back would she have done things differently?

"No. I don't have any regrets about having Charley when I did. Because I'm still young it means I can get on with my career. I will eventually have some more children. Life was hard with Charley when he was a baby. But I didn't really miss out on anything because my mum was always there to look after him. If I wanted to, I'd put him to bed and then go out for the evening."

Patsy's real name is Julie Harris and that is what everyone calls her, including the builders who are renovating her house. …