By Geraldine McKelvie
Single mum Claire Sweeney has not dated in two years – but says she is happy to wait it out because her gran found love at nearly twice her age.
And the former Brookside star Claire, 45, says she is at her happiest ever since giving birth to son Jaxon.
As she prepares to embark on the UK tour of musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the only thing missing in her life is a man.
But Claire insists her standards are far higher now she is a mum.
She told the Sunday Mirror : “The high I have with my son is unbelievable. It’s like a void has been filled and I’ve found inner peace.
“I’d like to meet someone but it’s all about Jaxon now – I’d rather be on my own than compromise and be with the wrong person.
“My grandma was 86 when she met the love of her life in a hotel in Bournemouth. He was her toyboy – at 74.
“They got married and she lived to 101. She said he’d kept her alive with love and laughter. So there’s no rush.”
Claire went through two miscarriages before discovering she was pregnant with Jaxon in early 2014 – two weeks after splitting up with fiance Dan Reilly, 31.
Their baby was born in the September of that year and, although an attempt to rekindle their relationship failed, she and Dan have remained close.
Claire said: “While it didn’t work out with Dan, we’re great friends. I want Jaxon to have the best relationship with his dad.
“Whenever Jaxon does something new, I FaceTime his dad and say, ‘Look at this!’
“If Dan meets someone that’s great – I’d like it if someone nice came into Jaxon’s life.”
On her own efforts at finding love she admitted: “All my mates have done Tinder but it would scare me. I’d rather ring my mate and say, ‘Check him out for me – there’s no one else is there? Is he nice?’
“You can pretend to be anyone on the internet. I have to be so careful about who I bring into Jaxon’s life.”
Actress and singer Claire became a household name when she was cast as Lindsey Corkhill in Channel 4 soap Brookside in 1991.
She went on to appear on shows including Strictly Come Dancing, Loose Women and Celebrity Big Brother.
But she has focused more on her theatre career and has just finished playing scheming ex-beauty queen Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray.
And she says while she would not rule out a facelift in her 50s, she has learned to be happier in her own skin.
Claire said: “A few months ago I was saying to a friend I wished I was earning more and was a stone lighter – at work I’m surrounded by stunning, skinny dancers.
“Then I had a revelation. Ten years ago I was earning loads of money and was at my peak physically. I was a stone and a half lighter than I am now. Yet I’m happier now.
“I was searching for something – and now I feel so blessed to have my son. I’m a bit more accepting of my lumps and bumps. I’m now not frightened to go to a pool bar without my sarong on.
“I’ve become less materialistic and less vain, and I’m more comfortable in my own skin. Though I’d never say never when it comes to surgery – I’d get a little tuck as long as it was decent and looked good. Why not if it makes you feel good?”
The last two years have not been without heartache for Claire as she watched dad Ken battle cancer.
He died on Christmas Day, surrounded by family, in Liverpool.
His ashes are buried in the garden of the star’s villa in Majorca where he spent many holidays with Claire and her mum Kathleen.
Claire said: “When you have a baby you appreciate your parents more and look at them with a renewed respect. It’s really important for me to be with mum this Christmas.
“Jaxon and I went to see my dad just at the end, as he’d come home. Jaxon was at the end of the bed and my dad just gave him a little kiss and a thumbs up.
“When we were in Majorca, Jaxon would walk up to the pear tree where his ashes are and say, ‘There’s granddad’. He’d take a bit of fruit and put it down to give it to him. I’m glad he got to spend the first year of his life with my dad.”
Another death that hit Claire hard was that of close friend Patrick Swayze who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2009.
The pair starred together in Guys and Dolls in the West End in 2006 with Claire playing nightclub singer Miss Adelaide and Swayze her gambling boyfriend Nathan Detroit.
She joked: “It was my favourite part, simply because I got to kiss Patrick Swayze every night and he was so gorgeous.
“He was the kindest, most gentle soul and so giving on stage. He never gave me advice, we just used to laugh a lot.
“I was devastated when he died. I spoke to him not long before – but he would never speak about his illness.
“He’d just finished filming a drama in the US and he said he was loving it and it was one of the best roles he’d ever had. Just before he died, I was asked to film an obituary in advance – but I just couldn’t do it.”
Claire toured with Guys and Dolls after its run in the West End. But she says the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tour may be her last as Jaxon grows up.
She said: “I won’t be able to tour when Jaxon’s at nursery, I’ll have to be in London. I’m praying Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will come to the West End – I’ll have to conjure a spell up.
“I’ll only be able to accept work that doesn’t take me out of London. Sometimes I welcome a break as it’s good to have a work life balance – but time out is only great when you have another job to go to.
“I’ve been lucky so far and there are other girls in my position too. But what will be will be.”
Once a regular on the London party scene, Claire also admits she now prefers to sit in with a takeaway – and limits herself to four drinks when she has a night out.
She said: “Years ago, I’d party everyone under the table. I’d be the last one standing, having a ball.
“Now, I don’t want to be drunk in case Jaxon needs me – it’s like I have a stop button. I can still have a great time, sip a few vodka lime and sodas and still feel great in the morning.
“On tour now, I don’t have many nights out. I’ve been to the biggest and flashiest parties in London but now I’d rather stay in with a curry and a glass of wine.
“Last New Year’s Eve, I’d just lost my dad and Jaxon and I stayed in with my mum, auntie and uncle and had a Chinese takeaway.
“It was one of the best nights I’ve had. I think Jaxon has made me change.”
Claire Sweeney stars in the UK Tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from August 3 (chittythemusical.co.uk) and in the West End Proms at The Lytham Festival on Sunday August 7 (lythamfestival.com)
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