My father was having an affair with a 16-year-old when Mum was pregnant with me. She found out when I was three weeks old and left, not surprisingly. She had three children; my sister, who is 10 years older than me, and my brother, who is eight years older. We went to live in North Wales, which is where Mum grew up. Her uncle allowed us to rent a house and we lived in the ground floor, two-bedroom flat and rented out the top-floor flat.
We grew up on egg and chips. One day Mum saved up for this exciting new thing – a frozen chicken. She cooked it on the Sunday and we all sat around waiting for it, but there was a terrible smell from the kitchen. She didn’t realise that the giblets were in a plastic bag inside it. We just ate vegetables and she cried and cried.
It really was hand-to-mouth and you can say, “Poor little me, how dreadful, what a deprived childhood”, but I didn’t feel that way at all. It’s all about the attitude at home. I think it’s harder for the parents than for the child because how many children really remember being three?
I’ve never once heard my mum shout and she’s 83 now. She’s incredible. She’s very, very happy, slightly eccentric but loves laughing, which I do too. We moved in with my stepfather when I was 10 and he was a big belly-laugher, too.
I was away a lot on Countdown when the children were young and I couldn’t have done it without Mum’s help. Because she was at home running all of that, I never had to worry about them. The way they grew up is just the way it always used to happen – when mothers had to go out to work, the grandmothers stepped in. Asian families do it, Italian families do it. That’s the norm. The English way is not the norm. And if Katie chooses to have children, I’ll do the same.
I’m very pleased how my children have turned out. Katie is 19 and adored by everybody. She’s very, very clever and wants to be a particle physicist. Equally, she goes to music festivals and all that sort of stuff but she can whoop about something she is reading on anti-matter like any other teenager would whoop about music. Cameron, who’s 14, wants to be a comedian or a comedy actor or director. I’ll encourage them both to do whatever they want to do, but either way they’re workers. They appreciate everything and expect nothing.