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2001-Mar-27: The Kew Project

A collection of scarves inspired by photographs taken by Linda McCartney during her last photo shoot is being launched today by Sir Paul to benefit the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank.  In February 1998, Linda and textile designer Sue Timney decided to join forces to produce designs for scarves which could be sold to raise funds to support the Seed Bank (which preserves hundreds of millions of seeds from the world's most endangered species of plants.) A few months later, Linda was gone, but Sir Paul was determined to complete the project.  He worked with Sue Timney helping her to select the bright colors which Linda adored and then named the scarves  - Loving Memory, Daisy Chain, and Flower Garden.

Linda became friends with Sue Timney 10 years ago when she designed the silk shirts worn by the band during the McCartney world tour. "Linda and I instantly gelled," she remembers. "Both of us had four children and, within an hour, Linda grabbed me and said we must work together."  Sue accompanied Linda on that last Kew photo shoot.  "It was wonderful to have a good cause - the seed bank - that was also something we loved doing. We didn't announce we were going. We just walked around, taking photos."

Sir Paul, recently discussed the project in his Soho Square office, with Independent on Sunday (London) reporter Hester Lacey.  He explained how over the years Linda and Sue had made a few scarves as gifts for friends. Caressing the turquoise scarf on his knee, he explained:

The few people who got these, they love and treasure them.  It's like they've got a little bit of Linda.  Now we're going to use them to help out at Kew.  Unfortunately Lin died before they managed to finish.  I know Linda would have liked to finish what she started, so we're going to do this in her name.

Sir Paul recalled that Linda once said that she saw better through the camera.  Who influenced her?

"Cartier Bresson she loved. Georgia O'Keeffe was a strong influence. I think she would have liked to have grown that old and become that rugged. You know some women don't like wrinkles?  She was looking forward to getting them, so she'd look like an old Red Indian. She loved that look."

What was one of the first things that impressed him when he meet Linda?

"The way she held a camera. We got photographed so much as the Beatles that you could really tell an artist when you met them. Some guys were just 'All right, over here', bang bang bang, but she had these beautiful long fingers, very slim hands, very elegant, she looks like she knows what she's doing just by the way she's holding the camera." (Ms. Lacey noted that he often speaks of her in the present tense.)

Sir Paul added that, wherever possible, Linda preferred to take natural shots:

"She did occasionally do some studio set-ups, but didn't really like them, wasn't comfortable, and she didn't often use a light meter.  She just had a very keen eye. She was an amazing observer. She loved life and she was enthusiastic about a million things, so she'd see some far out reflections in a skyscraper in Chicago or a glass teapot that was in our kitchen. It was something to with looking through the lens, she could see things I couldn't."

Which of her photos does Sir Paul like best?  He cannot say:

"It's like asking me which songs I like of mine - it's too much. I can pick out some images that I love. I love her Jimi Hendrix portraits; I love one she did of our son James, called Boy Shape, which everyone thought was an embryo, but it was him jumping on a trampoline I was holding."

In spite of the fact that her work was widely exhibited and published, Linda was best known as Mrs. Paul McCartney:

"She was a little bit overshadowed by me. But it didn't really matter, because her work was so strong.  I always feel a bit sorry for people my fame casts a shadow on, because it's not really necessary."

Sir Paul recalls how their love of nature drew them together:

"I hadn't had pets as a kid. My mum and dad both worked; mum was a midwife and dad was a carpet salesman. Me and my brother always wanted a dog but they always said we couldn't have one, even when there were free puppies being given away a street away. But I always carried round the Observer Book of Birds, and I used to love to read about what bees do in their hives and all kinds of things like that.  Linda and I got together, and I realized that even though she was into rock'n'roll and the music scene, she was an animal lover. I remember once we were in a garden on holiday somewhere tropical, and there were these frogs, and all the ladies were saying, 'Euch, frogs.' Linda was saying, 'No, they're great'; she's picking them up and I've got shots of her kissing them as though they'd turn into a prince.

"All of her photography is nature, because it's either people or animals or landscape - that's all nature ..."

Sir Paul introduced Kew to Linda shortly after they met:

"She loved the place. Kew is very much in line with her philosophy of
preserving nature, which is really what vegetarianism's about if you think
about it."

He also recalled her passion for the causes she supported.

"She pulled no punches. We'd be at a dinner party and there'd be non-veggies there and she'd start right up, and I'd go 'Oh my God...' - I just wasn't as daring. She was just the killer. She felt, 'If the animals can't speak I must, at all costs', and it sometimes was at all costs; it didn't always make her the most popular dinner guest. Some people are rabid meat-eaters, and you could see them going off her in a big way. She would go up to someone in a fur coat and go 'You know that's dead animals?' I'm not quite so confrontational."

Actor Liam Neeson may not agree. While on holiday after Linda's death, Sir Paul describes an event which took place during a dinner with a group of friends:

"We were having a lovely evening. But then I started talking veggie and Liam started disagreeing. I got into a bit of a row. Two things not to talk about at dinner are politics and religion: well, there's a third, vegetarianism. And you shouldn't do it. But I just thought, 'Sod it', and I suddenly felt Linda's spirit come into me, and I was saying to Liam: 'You know what it's like for me, Liam? It's like Hitler, killing the f*** Jews!' His hackles are rising, he does not want to hear anything to do with Hitler, and we're almost standing up, very heated, people saying 'Come on you two, calm down.'

"You're bloody lucky my wife isn't here, mate, she'd wipe the floor with you!

"I felt I had to do it because I knew she would.  Luckily, the next day we made up."

Linda still remains a strong presence in his life:

"I'd rather have her with me, obviously that's the bottom line, but since she isn't, then I like to be reminded of her. Our kids do too. With my girlfriend at the moment, it's a given that we've got to be able to talk about Linda. I do feel a little sorry for her; it might be easier if that didn't exist. But it does exist, it is a fact. It's like John Lennon; he and Linda were such huge people in my life - Linda particularly so, we were so intimate."

He still stays in contact with Linda's friends:

"I felt sorry for her close lady friends, because Linda was a great girlfriend - they'd talk for hours on the phone. There's a huge gap in their lives. So I
started phoning them, saying 'Look, I'm a guy, so it won't be as good, but
let's chat, so you don't miss Lin so much.' It helped all of us over our
loss."

[Linda was] "an endlessly fascinating woman, and everyone who knew her says that. One or two people who didn't know her would bitch about her, but all of the people who knew her said they felt they met their best friend for life when they met her. She was so intimate, no barriers."

He is still coping with her loss:

 "You could cry every time you talk about her, but you don't. So you turn it into something else, something joyful. People ask me: 'Are you sad you lost Linda?' And I say: 'I really am, but I'm blessed that I had those 30 years with her.' I will always turn it round like that, because that's how she was and that's how I
am, and I think it's the best way."

The Linda McCartney Kew scarves (priced from pounds 49 to pounds 89) are now available at the Kew Gardens shop, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB (tel: 020 8332 5654 for mail order).  One can claim 10% off the price by quoting ref. Kewlm02.

An exhibition of Linda's photographs of the Kew Gardens will run from March 26 to Monday 16 April in the Kew Gardens Gallery, Cambridge Cottage, Kew Gardens.

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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