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How Mel C fell for the farming lifeHelen Tither
WHEN the Spice Girls' bus rolls in to New York, Madrid or Beijing on
their recently announced worldwide reunion tour, at least they will be
able to tuck in to a hearty meal. Rustled up by reformed rock chick
turned country-lover Melanie Chisholm, no less.
"I can cook a mean mushroom risotto," she confides as she takes a break to catch up with Style. "Recently I tried a fish pie, I love cooking all the British classics. And I really love baking cakes - it's like magic. My boyfriend is the gardener and I'm the cook."
If it sounds like something straight out of 1970s TV classic The Good Life, then that's what life for "Sporty Spice" has been like prior to her old band's recent reunion.
After years in the celebrity spotlight, the Liverpool-born singer fled the pressures of fame and headed for the hills of Wales.
Setting up home with builder boyfriend Tom Starr in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, she stopped worrying about celebrity parties to concentrate on more important things - like her vegetable patch.
"I've got my little sanctuary in south Wales, life's a lot calmer there," she reveals, in her soft, lilting tones. "We grew spuds last year, that was our first endeavour. We would love to be self-sufficient but I don't think we are there just yet.
"I've been doing my best to balance work and home life - it's more balanced than it was."
Hmm, yes, until Britain's most successful female group decided to stoke up the publicity fires once more by getting back together at the end of last month. Looks like our Mel can wave goodbye to her Welsh sanctuary for a while.
Her decision, in particular, to rejoin the Girl Power gang came as something of a shock. Not only has she had the most solo success since the band split, with a series of hits and her own record label.
But she has consistently said that donning those old platform trainers and zig-ah-zig-ahing was not her cup of tea.
"There is no reunion," she is reported as saying, only a couple of months ago. "We have been much criticised over the years, so why get back together and face it all again?"
Change of heart
Obviously, something has changed her tune (maybe the estimated £10m each girl is rumoured to be expecting).
"We wanted to be able to say a proper goodbye and thank you to our fans globally," she said at the reunion launch. "We experienced something so unique together that we will always have a bond.
"Sometimes we might fall out, but as you can see we are back together. We used to have our spats but we were kids then. We have grown up a lot."
Whatever the reason for her about-turn, it's certainly going to be a dramatic change of lifestyle, with the full glare of the media on all five women for the next few months.
Which seems to be just the kind of thing that the former Sporty hasn't been looking for.
After all, her last brush with such colossal fame in the 1990s led to well-chronicled weight problems, as pounds fell off her.
"You have so much more freedom in the music you choose when you are solo," she ponders.
"It's been good for me to go in a different direction."
Ditching those sporty tracksuits, she had hits with the likes of Goin' Down, the Bryan Adams duet When You're Gone and a string of number ones.
She says: "You can write about what's special to you and what you want to get off your chest. The whole celebrity side I didn't enjoy that much."
So, if there is one woman who can keep the Spice Girls' tour bus firmly on the ground, it could be Mel.
At least she's realistic enough to hedge her bets when asked if she thinks a reunion would be as successful as Manchester's Take That.
think the Spice Girls are really different. We were such a
youth-orientated band and now four of the girls are going to be or are
mothers. We almost became like caricatures," she says. "We are all
Let's hope that means wiser too - and that Girl Power defies it's critics to grow up into Woman Power...
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