Saturday, August 09, 2008

Toxic waste...

Closer to home, in today's Indy the following appears in Deborah Orr's column. Topic: Vanessa-Mae and her mother.

So much for motherly love

Even though she had studied child prodigies for 20 years, Ellen Winner was visibly gobsmacked. The violinist Vanessa-Mae had just announced that her mother, Pamela, had always made her feelings clear."You're special to me," she would regularly tell Vanessa, "only because you play the violin." After a few seconds of understandable indulgence in the flannel of conversational recovery, the psychologist replied: "That's a very hard thing for a child to hear."

The BBC television series The Making of Me has illustrated that whatever field of endeavour a person excels in, the chances are that they achieved their success only because they were utterly remarkable in a number of other respects as well. Vanessa-Mae is remarkable in that she has survived her childhood at all. When she sacked her controlling mother as her manager at the age of 21, Pamela broke off all contact. She has continued to ignore her daughter ever since.

Vanessa-Mae, with some wisdom, said in an interview that her own experience of childhood has left her wary of having babies herself. She fears she would not know when to "stop pushing". How touching and sad. You stop pushing, surely, when you feel those tiny shoulders shrug out, and start encouraging as much as you can from there on in.

When I was assistant editor of Classical Music Magazine, longer ago than I'd like to admit, we all got invited to a little press launch by a lady named Pamela, who was starting a record label to promote her 10-year-old fiddler daughter, Vanessa-Mae. This supposed 'child prodigy' played a bunch of Christmas carols nicely enough on the first release. The label didn't go too far, but it didn't need to: four or five years later, there was the under-16 VM wandering romantically (or not) out of the sea in a wet t-shirt, courtesy of EMI.

I went to a post-concert dinner in Paris sometime in the mid 1990s at which an EMI exec was present, and somehow the topic of VM rolled round. "C'est la mere, n'est-ce pas?" I suggested. "Taisez-vous," came the quiet response - that's "shut the f*** up" to you and me. Ah well, must have been spot-on.

A toxic waste indeed, because mother and daughter's relationship is ruined and a wonderfully talented young girl had her entire direction warped as a result. She's a brave woman to carry on carrying on.