Belfast Telegraph

Mum's the word!

Gail Walker

By Gail Walker

Tina Campbell (34), a UTV presenter, is married to Cool FM boss John Paul 'Jippo' Ballantine (52), and they have two daughters, Charlotte (5) and two-year-old Sophie. She says:

Tina Campbell (34), a presenter on UTV, is married to Cool FM boss John Paul 'Jippo' Ballantine (52), and they have two daughters, Charlotte (5) and two-year-old Sophie. She says:

My first clear memories of mum revolve around the two of us going out shopping together every Saturday. That started when I was about five and was something we continued to do right through my teens.

I know it's a cliché but mum and I really are more like sisters or best friends, as opposed to mother and daughter.

Part of that is probably due to the fact that mum was a young mother - she was only in her early 20s when I was born.

But her personality also plays a part. She's a great sounding-board to turn to, but she's also terrific fun.

So much so that, after I finished my English degree at Queen's University, Belfast, I actually moved back in with mum for a while, and we had a great time. We were living in Bangor and we used to socialise together, going to the local bars and nightspots. All my friends love mum to bits, and she was very much part of our gang.

Mum's always been so supportive and she insisted that myself and my brother Gavin were given every opportunity. Initially I attended a high school in Bangor but mum moved me to Strathearn grammar school in Belfast. Similarly Gavin went to Cabin Hill and then Campbell College.

She really wanted us to get the best start in life and that's the sort of thing that you look back upon now and really appreciate.

But mum has also been a huge moral support. Right from the outset she was happy about me going out with Jippo, even though he is bit older than me.

If she'd been annoyed about it, she would certainly have said so.

But she's a good judge of character and she took to Jippo straightaway.

Mum's main concern was whether he was good to me - and he is - and whether we loved each other - and we do. That's all that mattered to her.

Having my own children has also given me a new perspective on mum. Charlotte is now at an age where she is starting to do lots of different activities, like ballet, gymnastics and Girls' Brigade, and I do feel like I'm her taxi driver.

Suddenly it strikes you how much your own mum did for you. I mean, mum ferried me to ballet, gymnastics and GB - as well as choir and music lessons. On top of all that she also worked part-time, so she must have hardly ever had a minute for herself. She made a lot of sacrifices.

But I've decided to work part-time, too, while the girls are small. I do three days a week, and that's something mum has stressed to me - the need to get the balance right between family and work. I love my career but I also love being with the girls.

Nothing compares with that moment when you step through the door at the end of a busy day and they run towards you and smother your face in kisses.

I've always wanted to be a mum. When I was a child I was such a maternal little girl; I'd be the first to want to hold a new baby cousin. Jippo was very keen to have a family as well, and so, when we married six years ago, we were determined to have children which, thank God, we've been able to.

Jippo was at both births, though he didn't really do a lot, apart from get whiter and whiter. But the first moment you see your baby is unbelievable. Jippo was very moved, too. And, all at once, there is this little life dependent upon you.

Mum's what I'd term a 'modern granny'. When I was little neither of my grannies went to work and they were always around to look after us if we were sick and off school. But mum is still young, still working and has a life of her own. That's not to say that she doesn't dote on Charlotte and Sophie, and she helps out a lot, but I also recognise that she is her own person and has her own plans and I don't want to impose too much. Our childcare arrangements are split between my Aunt Janice and a private nursery.

Mum's very understanding, very caring and she's a great listener. I'll phone up, ranting and raving about something or other, and she'll let me finish, take a deep breath, say 'ok' and then give her opinion.

I know that she is proud of the fact I'm on TV, though she's not the sort of person who would brag about it.

And so much of what I've achieved is due to her.

Mum loves flowers so I'll give her a bouquet on Mother's Day. But I also like to include a more personal keepsake - perhaps a picture of the girls in a new photo-frame.

That's something she can keep on her desk in work or by her bedside, and I know she'll love that.

Myrtle McQuitty, a medical secretary at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, is in her 50s. Married to Derek, she has two children, Tina and Gavin. She says:

Of course I'm very proud of Tina but so much of what she has achieved is down to her own hard work and determination.

Even as a little girl she was rather serious and very focused on whatever she was doing at that time.

She has always given 100% to everything, and she still does. Her brother Gavin was always more humorous and the joker of the family.

Yes, I had my children when I was young, but I like to think my attitude was young, too - and that it still is. I'm not very judgmental when it comes to other people's lives.

My view is that life is short and if people are happy, then that's what is most important.

But, undoubtedly, being a younger mum contributed to Tina and me spending a lot of time with each other when she was growing up. We used to go to aerobics together and we were in a Northern Ireland Keep Fit Association team.

Happily, too, as Tina got older we discovered even more in common. We've both got a big interest in the arts, and enjoy going to musicals, plays, concerts and the cinema together.

And I've especially fond memories of the time that we lived together after Tina graduated from Queen's - that was just such fun.

But I wouldn't be afraid to make the occasional critical remark to Tina - well, that is, when I'm asked for my opinion.

For example, she's always announcing to me that she's off to get her hair cut short, even though she knows that I prefer it a little longer. I always watch her on TV, so afterwards she'll ring and say 'What do you think of the hair?' and I'll go 'Yeah ... well ... I can't do anything about it, can I?"

I'd also tell her if I didn't like something she was wearing. But that's the sort of relationship we have - very honest. And on the rare occasion we do have a cross word, one or other of us will ring to apologise within the hour.

I wasn't at all surprised when she started going out with Jippo. She'd mentioned his name a few times in conversation, and I knew that she was very much in love with him.

And it's great to see Tina as a mum with her own two little girls. I can see a lot of her personality coming through in them - particularly in Charlotte, who can be quite serious and always has her nose in a book.

Tina will ask my advice over matters to do with the girls and, when I'm asked for advice, I'll offer my opinion. But I never volunteer an opinion and I really make a point of not giving the impression that I'm sticking my nose in.

How Tina and Jippo bring up their daughters is entirely up to them.

When Charlotte was born Tina told me she was still going to carry on with her career but that she was going to work part-time. I thought that was a wise decision.

Obviously her work is important to her but no-one wants to miss their children growing up either.

Being a nanny - I don't like the word 'granny' - means you get to have a lot more of the fun times. When you're a mum there's so much day-to-day grind involved as well.

I do feel a bit guilty, though, that because I work full-time I'm not always available at the drop of a hat to help out if one of the girls is ill. But Tina is very understanding and never imposes.

And Tina and Jippo are also very thoughtful. In February they'd booked a family trip to EuroDisney for Charlotte's fifth birthday, but Jippo suggested that he drop out and I go along instead, so that I could savour some of those special moments. I really appreciated that, and we had a great time. Jippo plans to go along with them a little later when Sophie is old enough to really enjoy it, too. Probably what I'm most proud of is the fact both my children feel they can confide in me. There is a lot of trust between us and that's important.


From Belfast Telegraph