The street where I grew up: Mariella Frostrup, 59

The street where I grew up: Mariella Frostrup, 59, broadcaster, author and campaigner shares memories of The Stables, Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow

I was born in Norway, and moved to Ireland when I was six with my younger siblings Danielle and Aksel. My Norwegian dad Peter was a journalist working for The Irish Times, and my Scottish mother Joan was an artist. 

We lived briefly in Dublin, then moved to the only house we ever owned. 

In my mind it was my true home and I lived there for a huge chunk of my childhood, but actually it wasn’t much longer than three years. By the time I left there my parents had split up, my stepfather had appeared on the scene, and that’s when, in a way, my childhood ended, slightly prematurely, aged nine or ten. 

The house was a converted stable block on the edge of a ruined hotel surrounded by wonderful gardens, which we could access through a hole in a wall. The gardens became our paradise. 

Mariella Frostrup, 59, (pictured) broadcaster, author and campaigner shares memories of The Stables, Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow

There was a lake, giant rhododendron bushes and a huge tree that spread out like a house, which we’d play in as its leaves gave us shelter in all weathers. This was our secret world, and as soon as we got home from school we’d run wild. 

The stables themselves were on a corner that was famous for accidents. It had a very sharp bend and my mum spent at least one day every week dealing with horrific car crashes. 

I particularly remember one crash because a whole family in a Mini was killed by a juggernaut. 

You walked straight into the kitchen with its range cooker and flagstones, and the rest of that floor was taken up with my mother’s art studio. I think she painted landscapes, but I didn’t take much notice. 

My talent as a child was writing. Even before I discovered boys, when I’d write about being broken-hearted, I was writing poems about the joy of seagulls and calves. 

Mariella, aged seven, with her siblings Danielle and Aksel  by her house in Ireland. She lived there until the age of nine or ten 

There was an awful period after my mum and dad split up when we had no money at all. There was nothing to eat and the cupboard was bare. 

My brother tried to be helpful and pulled out an old packet of spaghetti and a tin of golden syrup and said, ‘This will be nice together.’ It really wasn’t. 

In 1971 internment without trial was introduced in Northern Ireland. By then my mother was involved with my stepfather, who was associated with the IRA and would sleep in his boots and combat clothes. 

He’d rigged up a rope ladder to make his escape. No one ever came to get him and we thought he was ridiculous. 

I do recall various men arriving at the house in the middle of the night though, on the run from an internment camp in the north. It was all a bit crazy. 

After my father had gone, I’d go into his study where everything was left as it was – his books, his ashtray, his wine. Everything smelled of him and I’d sit in his chair and imagine he was home. 

I didn’t get on with my stepfather and eventually went to live with my father in Dublin. He was an alcoholic and died aged 44 when I was 15. 

I left school before my 16th birthday, went to London, moved into a squat, worked as a waitress and then for the Rolling Stones’s mobile recording studio. Another life had begun. 

My parents were very loving in their own way, and I’m sure the only reason I didn’t totally fall apart when I went to London was that they’d given us a strong sense of our own worth. They made us feel, ‘Yes, I’m an OK person.’

  • Cracking The Menopause: While Keeping Yourself Together by Mariella Frostrup and Alice Smellie is out in paperback now (Bluebird, £9.99). 

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