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She’s best known as a punk poster girl, but Hazel O’Con­nor has proved just as adept at karate and DIY... al­though, as she tells ’M knack­ered,” de­clares Hazel O’Con­nor with a loud laugh, “I’ve just been putting up some fenc­ing. There’s a lot of work in­volved in fenc­ing, but my dogs are com­ing soon and I need to get the fenc­ing up to stop them run­ning away – there are a lot of snakes and things out there.”

She’s talk­ing about her home­from-home in the South of France, which she bought around 10 years ago.

“It’s iso­lated and there’s such free­dom,” Hazel ex­plains hap­pily. “My man­ager al­ways says I’m bet­ter when I come back from France... more re­laxed.” She adds with a quick laugh: “I spoke s**t French when I first came here, but I’m quite good at it now.”

In case, any­one thinks Hazel is liv­ing it up in a flashy French chateau, she is quick to set the record straight. “It’s not big, it’s a lit­tle match­box, but it’s a lit­tle hid­den gem.

“The work on the house is never fin­ished. It was not even a build­ing when I first came here. It was half a build­ing. It had a roof and four walls, but there was no stair­way and no elec­tric­ity.”

Hazel promptly set to work and learned how to tackle all the DIY jobs her­self needed to trans­form the prop­erty into a home. “Give me a screw gun and I’m happy,” she grins. “I quite en­joyed the chal­lenge of it. It might not be as good a fin­ish as a pro­fes­sional, but it’s the same end re­sult and I didn’t want to ask any­one for help.”

How­ever, she feared her DIY projects might have been the death of her last year when she was badly in­jured while try­ing to fin­ish work on a bal­cony be­fore a friend ar­rived with their chil­dren.

“I’d been us­ing a screw gun and should have made a hole first, but I was rush­ing to get it fin­ished so the kids would not fall from the bal­cony and I forced the screw gun and sud­denly some­thing went ping in my chest. I thought I’d busted my heart. My arms just went limp.

“I was look­ing after my neigh­bour’s dog, Nelly, at the time. I was just ly­ing there and Nelly came along and started lick­ing me. I couldn’t move.”

It turned out Hazel had bro­ken her ster­num, but she waited a week be­fore she went for an x-ray to find out what had hap­pened. “I didn’t think there was any­thing they could do about it and I’m like a wounded an­i­mal when I’m hurt – I go to my bed,” she points out.

“I re­mem­ber ly­ing on the sofa watch­ing a Quentin Tarantino DVD and I couldn’t get up when it was fin­ished. I couldn’t right my­self with­out a huge wave of pain go­ing my chest and body. It kept com­ing up on the screen ‘Play film and select scenes’ and I couldn’t switch it out.” She laughs: “I didn’t even like the film very much. I found ev­ery­thing dif­fi­cult and I’m nor­mally an ac­tive per­son.”

But no mat­ter what life throws at the punk favourite, the award­win­ning singer, writer and ac­tress al­ways comes back fight­ing. She be­came an overnight suc­cess after her Bafta-nom­i­nated por­trayal of Kate in the 1980s cult film Break­ing Glass and fol­lowed it up with the re­lease of three of her most suc­cess­ful al­bums – Break­ing Glass, Sons And Lovers and Cover Plus, which pro­duced hit sin­gles like Will You and Eighth Day.

She will be play­ing songs from these al­bums on her forth­com­ing tour, on which her brother Neil O’Con­nor will be join­ing her. It will be the first time they have per­formed to­gether since a two-week res­i­dency at Ron­nie Scott’s back in 1984. Neil played gui­tar on her al­bums Sons And Lovers and Cover Plus and has en­joyed his own suc­cess as the front­man of the punk band The Flys.

“It’s go­ing to be spe­cial,” says the strik­ing 62-year-old. “He lives in Canada now, so it’s go­ing to be great per­form­ing to­gether. It was be­cause of him that I started to write songs. He was in The Flys and I re­mem­ber go­ing to see them sup­port­ing The Buz­zcocks. I saw my brother play and thought ‘I want to do that.’ It was just the en­ergy of it all.

Hazel took up mar­tial arts when her mar­riage to artist Kurt Bip­pert ended in 2000, and she was hop­ing to gain her black belt in Sho­tokan karate be­fore her DIY in­jury. “If I didn’t do karate I would re­ally be screwed up,” she jokes. “I know tai chi is a lot bet­ter for the joints, but I love karate too much.

“My friend did her black belt this year, but I had just re­cov­ered from the bro­ken ster­num and I now have other prob­lems with my back. I have os­teo­poro­sis in my back and one good kick could break a ver­te­brae.”

But Hazel is aim­ing to fi­nally re­solve one long-stand­ing prob­lem after the UK tour.

“I was born with crooked feet and I used to hide them in the sand when we went to the beach when I was a child,” she ex­plains. “I walked like Sin­bad the Sailor. I was sup­posed to have an op­er­a­tion when I was a 16, but I went away to Hol­land in­stead.

“My feet have got very bad now. They are both at 40 de­gree an­gles so they are go­ing to have to break them and put them in splints.

“I’m hav­ing the op­er­a­tion in De­cem­ber and I’ll be on crutches for a few months, but I’ll be tour­ing again next year. It’s not go­ing to stop me.”

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