The real Sarah Harding: Book loving country girl who loved nothing more than a night in

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Back in the beginning, Sarah Harding was always glammed up to the nines on her way to an event or party.

But that was only one very small part of the Girl's Aloud star’s life.

In fact, back in 2017 she told OK! that when the band split she saw it as her chance to live a life that was a lot quieter and away from prying eyes.

"I’ve grown up now and moved forward," she said. "I’ve been very private since the band split. I sort of duck in and out of London.

"I love the country life and being with my animals. I just prefer peace and quiet. It’s all part of growing up."

She added: "At the end of the day, I love to entertain. I’m a performer. Of course I love being around people, but I prefer it when it’s on my terms.

"I like to duck in and out and when I’m in, then I might be the life and soul. But it’s nice to just go home again, be with my dogs [French bulldogs Claude and Corker], put the fire on and watch The Movie Channel.

"And I love cooking. I find it therapeutic. I did it on MasterChef – I called it ManicChef! I can throw things together and I have a penchant for knowing what goes with what.

"I still get portrayed as that girl from the band who was always hyped up to be something I wasn’t. In Girls Aloud, I played a character. I was the lairy one, the rock and roller. I played up to that because it was a caricature.”

The star added to this in her memoir, Hear Me Out, talking about how she got a bit lost along the way, but found herself again. "There is most definitely that fun, crazy party girl in me – there always was," she said.

"It was the other Sarah – the one who liked curling up at home with her dog and a good book; the one who enjoyed cooking a roast dinner for her friends; the one who liked spending nights alone, writing songs and making music – who got lost."

When Sarah was propelled into the limelight she came across as hugely independent and ambitious but, while seemingly outgoing and bubbly, she lacked confidence.

"One of the things I struggled with was the idea of 'fame'. I know it’s many people's dream to achieve fame, but once I'd achieved it, I realised it wasn’t really mine," she said.

And of her well-documented partying she added: "There were undoubtedly a few nights when I overdid it and ended up needing assistance to get out of a club and into the sanctuary of a waiting car.

"I do recall being helped down the staircase of one particular club, and on that occasion I was like Bambi on ice – not a good look, for sure!"

In 2008 she swapped London for the Buckinghamshire countryside. Around the same time her love life was on the up after she met DJ and producer Tom Crane.

Opening up about her life when they were together, she said: "I spend most of my nights at home in front of the TV with a log fire and my animals. Living in the country is great because I have a lot more privacy and my outdoorsy life. It’s when I go into London my guard goes up!"

And she once said, "I sound like an old granny, but I’ve really got into gardening and I’ve been growing my own veggies. I’ve bought these old barrels and I grow organic fruit and veg in them. Garlic, onions, lettuce, carrots, strawberries, raspberries – the lot."

Sarah was clearly a woman with a lot to give and after seeing bandmates Cheryl, Kimberley Walsh and Nadine Coyle become mothers, having her own children seemed like a natural next step.

Unfortunately, her cancer robbed her of the chance and she was keenly aware of that when she wrote: "It might seem odd to worry about not having children when I don’t even know how much of a life I have left, but it’s there. Even if my prognosis was better, it still wouldn’t be on the cards because of all the chemotherapy I’ve had. It’s making me cry just thinking about it."

But one thing’s for certain, Sarah was happy in her life – and it was her pets that really cemented the country living she so clearly adored.

"I’m a mum to five kids," she said at an event in 2015. "I’ve got two dogs, two cats and a vegetable patch."

However, never one to say no to a good knees-up, she did detail in her book how she would have loved one last big party.

"What I’d really like to do is to see everyone – all my friends, all together," she said. "One last time… as a way to say thank you and goodbye."

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