Friday 24 November 2017

How to be a modern granny

Janet Ellis, mother of 'Strictly' star Sophie, has written a guide for the new breed of gran who is more likely to jump out of a plane than knit, writes Celine Naughton

Sophie Ellis-Bextor with mother Janet Ellis
Sophie Ellis-Bextor with mother Janet Ellis

Celine Naughton

Known for chart hits such as 'Murder on the Dance Floor', Sophie Ellis-Bextor has produced such magic on the dance floor that she's become the bookies' favourite to win the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing and one fan is not in the least surprised – her mother, Janet Ellis.

But Janet reveals that Sophie's three boys, Sonny (9), Kit (4) and Ray (19 months), are not glued to the TV screen while their mum trips the light fantastic each Saturday with partner Brendan Cole, wowing the judges and viewers alike. "I hate to disappoint everyone, but they're really not that interested!" laughs Janet. "Me? I think she's the best. By miles."

No stranger to the small screen herself, actress and TV presenter Janet has written the foreword to a book called The New Granny's Survival Guide. Featuring the combined wit and wisdom of contributors to the website, the book celebrates today's thoroughly modern grandmothers, who blow the old stereotypes out of the water.

Today's gran is part of the baby-boomer generation, a child of the 1960s who is far more likely to be texting friends, reminiscing about the Rolling Stones or booking flights on her iPad than sitting in a rocking chair.

Janet was only 47 and still very much a working mother when she first became a grandmother. Her youngest, Martha, was 12 and Jackson 15 when Sonny arrived so, as she says, "we didn't have much time without small people around".

Nor did she have a role-model to draw upon, as both her own grandmothers had died before she was born, but Janet, who became the first British woman to achieve a 90-second free-fall parachute jump, was never likely to be a conventional granny anyway.

'Rather than inventing a character, I try to be a more relaxed and laid-back version of myself as a mother," she says. "When you're bringing up your own children, it's inevitable that things proceed at a fairly quick pace. Part of the joy of family life is that it's busy and full. This time round, I want to savour the moments, because I know now all too well how fleeting each one is.

"It's great, discovering the world all over again with them, watching silly films, dancing in the kitchen, splashing in puddles . . . And I love the way my relationship with Sophie has deepened, too."

As a former Blue Peter presenter, does she think grannies need to encourage kids to spend more time making things other than playing Xbox? "There's room for both!" she says. "And it won't surprise you to learn I'm also a big fan of kids' TV. But I think children are pretty good at making proper decisions, so long as they really have the choice."

The New Granny's Survival Guide is published by Vermilion, €18.75

Irish Independent

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