Jayne Dowle: Peaches was still a person, not just another celebrity

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MY mother is not easily impressed by celebrity. Starlets come and starlets fade. She can’t remember their names, never mind what they do. Yet the death of former party girl Peaches Geldof at the age of 25 has shocked her.

“Isn’t it awful about that poor girl?” she said to me on the phone. “Her poor dad. Those poor babies. And her husband, poor lad.”

I know what she means. I’m not impressed by celebrity either, but what’s happened to Peaches Geldof which should touch us all. Those who have scoffed that it’s “been all over the news” are missing the point. Those who tut at the often banal and mawkish sentiments expressed on Twitter by members of the public who never even met her misunderstand.

In a world dominated by political events which often seem remote and ridiculous to ordinary people, this tragedy reminds us that we are human – and mortal. Their realms were far apart, but it’s tempting to make comparisons with the death of the late Princess Diana. What kind of heartless person wants to see two little boys left without their mother? If you can dismiss that as irrelevant and unimportant, you should be ashamed of yourself.

I’m old enough to remember Peaches being born, and old enough to be her mother myself. So I felt it as a parent, empathised with the visceral emotion of her father’s statement: “Peaches has died. We are beyond pain”. And as a mother, I feel for her sons and her husband left bereft.

I resent the cynicism that just because she was famous, we shouldn’t care, that just because she was rich and pretty and had a bit of a wild past, she somehow doesn’t deserve our sympathy. What kind of world do we live in if we can’t find an ounce of compassion for a family torn into shreds by loss? Whatever you think about Sir Bob Geldof, whatever you think about Peaches’ mother, the late TV presenter Paula Yates, who ran off with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, whatever you think of her rackety upbringing, you cannot deny that she was born into a family which against the odds, has been held together by love.

A child from a broken home, a parent who is bringing up their child alone, has got to feel some kind of connection with this girl who was lost until she found her own way again. And that she did it by rebelling into motherhood and domesticity deserves a bit of respect.

You see, the thing about Peaches Geldof is that she was a very modern celebrity. In fact, you could argue that she was born to the role. Younger readers, prepare to be shocked. When her birth was registered, even her name caused headlines. Who would call a baby Peaches? It might not raise an eyebrow these days, but in 1989 it was a brave move by her parents.

It’s easy to lose perspective in today’s world, populated by TV stars parading their babies at music festivals, dragging them through airport lounges dressed in outlandish outfits, but she was born into a family of proper pioneers. And this lot were there well before Jamie Oliver called his first-born Poppy Honey and assumed a hasty mantle of street cred.

And just like a modern celebrity, she lived her life in the public gaze. Indeed, her last post on Twitter was a picture of herself with her mother, who died from a heroin overdose when Peaches was 11. It was entitled, simply, “Me and my mum”.

What she did in that public gaze in recent years showed her potential to influence others for the good.

Like her father, she turned herself into something of a messiah. Her beliefs on bringing up children brought into the spotlight even more than her short-lived forays into journalism and her nights falling out of bars. Her devotion to “attachment parenting”, which involves building close bonds with your babies was often scoffed at, not least by Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins on ITV1’s This Morning. I seem to recall Hopkins calling it “New Age nonsense.” I also seem to recall Peaches retaliating with a fervour and eloquence she had clearly inherited from her father. She scored a victory and touched a chord with many with her simple faith in the belief that children need their mothers. And now she has gone.

In years to come, we won’t remember the first time she
had a tattoo, or that one-night stand she was reported to have had in LA. What we will remember is that when she died, it made us all think about our own mothers, and our own children, and what happens when those precious bonds are severed for ever.

A young woman dying at the age of 25 is tragedy enough. The real tragedy though is that now she will never be able to give her sons what she lacked; a secure and happy childhood. One of her last public comments stands as a fitting obituary: “I want to be a good wife, a good mother, a good person”. Who could vilify anyone for that?

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