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SOUL MATE; EXCLUSIVE Great news for women! Casanova Mick has found his..

Byline: By GAVIN MARTIN

HE'S the serial bed-hopper who always seemed to have his pick of the world's most beautiful women. But it turns out that the real love of Mick Hucknall's life is the one who got away.

Whenever the singer cavorted around town with A-list arm candy such as Ulrika Jonsson and Melanie Sykes, he always compared them to his old flame Gabrielle Wilke-Wesberry. And they all came up short.

But now, after 10 long, frustrating years, Mick has finally won Gabrielle back - no doubt, to the relief of women everywhere.

Even more startling, he has not only settled down but is also seriously considering starting a family.

It has been a tortuous path towards true love. It began in 1995, but they split when the star felt that his travelling lifestyle, with the accompanying temptations, made it impossible for him to make a firm commitment.

As Gabrielle went on to a short, failed marriage Hucknall deeply regretted their decision to part. So what brought him and his soulmate back together in the end?

"I think it's shared time and shared experiences that did it - we never lost a connection," says the singer, 46. "The relationship has been affecting my life for several years and it's taken twists and turns. But in the time we spent apart she got married.

"You can be the loneliest person on earth inside a marriage. A lot of people out there are in marriages they put up with, that they tolerate. But I think the thing with us two was we just couldn't find anybody else."

He is defensive when he's asked if fidelity has been a challenge for him, given his Casanova reputation. "I'm not like that at all," he insists. "I never have been - that's not what it's about with me. Mostly I stay on good terms with the people I have been involved with, but I don't think anyone has a 100 per cent record on relationships. I think fidelity is a challenge to everybody. I'm no different to anybody else.

"I won't answer a question about that when everybody else in the world has to face that issue. I don't feel that I should be dogged specifically about that."

HUCKNALL has dated some of the world's most gorgeous women. There were actresses Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tracy Shaw and Martine McCutcheon.

There were the models: Helena Christensen, Kathy Lloyd, Adriana Sklenarikova and Kristina Kumlin. Then there were the assorted trades represented by DJ Lisa I'Anson, socialite Deirdra Murrey, tennis star Steffi Graf and dancer Marilyn Couvallon.

After that who's who of stunners, does monogamy hold an attraction?

"I think it offers a lot to a relationship," he says. "I feel ambiguous on the whole issue because I'm just making a relationship work. Whatever it takes to make it work, that's what I want to do."

Most of his relationships have lasted little longer than it takes to open a bottle of Cristal champagne. But at 46 it is clear the Simply Red frontman, who has sold 60 million records, has reassessed his life.

Marriage does not look to be on the horizon. A family does, however.

"We haven't specifically discussed marriage," Mick says. "But then for all you know we might already be married. I love kids and I want a family. We both want a family and we are working on it. What can you do?" he grins. "Hopefully with fate and providence that will happen."

Hucknall is relaxing in a swanky West London hotel suite. He has homes in Paris and Sicily but has come to London from the country house he shares with Gabrielle in Surrey. He has been having fittings for stage clothes for Simply Red's UK tour starting next week and is looking noticeably trimmer than in recent years.

"I wanted to lose a few pounds and to reach my target weight," he explains. "I still have 3lbs to go. I just eat less and drink less and exercise a bit. I quite enjoy it, actually. You just have to get used to overriding one hunger pang in a day. You go past that and it's not really very difficult."

Weight gain was an unwanted side-effect of his alternative career as a wine producer on his 18th-century estate at St Alfio, on the slopes of Mount Etna.

"I put on a ton of weight," he admits. "If you've got a healthy appetite for boozing and go on a wine project you are just setting yourself up for trouble. That's why I'm pulling back. If you go over a certain point with weight gain it can be real hard to ever come back."

He has certainly come a long way from his roots in working-class Manchester. His mother left home when he was in his infancy and he was raised by his father Reg. He became a teenage tearaway - and had ASBOs existed then, the future pal of Tony Blair would have been a candidate for one.

"I might have if I had got caught doing something, yeah," he says. "We nicked lead off roofs.

IT was precarious sometimes - a roof fell in and we had to keep quiet as the police were walking around."

Six years ago he was falsely accused of rape, and a police raid on his home uncovered cannabis and cocaine. He admits trying heroin in his youth.

"I did it twice when I was a student, but generally any sort of abuse doesn't go down well with me - my body shuts down. When I hear what alcoholics can put back I'm astounded. My body just wouldn't allow it." As for the womanising, he believes being abandoned by his mother led to his wayward behaviour. When his career took off, the one-night stands were a way of compensating.

"I think it's a search for approval," he says. "I'm no longer seeking that all the time because I've worked it out in my head why I was doing that."

In recent years he has met his mother but, sensitive to his father's feelings, refused to develop a lasting relationship with her.

"It was just extremely tricky," he says. "There's a lot of political implications inside your family. What do you say to the people that were there for you when you suddenly bring this person back into your life from nowhere? I really don't feel I rejected my mother. It was about forgiving, but it didn't mean I was going to strike up a relationship." With his new-found happiness, the prospect of a family, a new album nearing completion and profitable businesses in the Italian wine trade and a salmon fishing concern in Ireland, Hucknall's future looks brighter than ever.

He hasn't even had to work too hard to make his dreams come true. "My girl was saying the other day: 'You don't do anything, do you?' he says. "And it's true.

"I think of myself as quite lazy. I don't know how I got away with it. I feel I should have worked much harder and done much more than I have actually done.

"I love just lazing around the house doing nothing. I think it was spending four years on the dole - I got a taste for learning how to do nothing."

I won't answer a question about fidelity. No one has a 100 per cent relationship record

features@mirror.co.uk

Simply Red start their UK tour on June 30 in Cardiff. For more information contact www.simplyred.com

CAPTION(S):

Perfect love.. Gabrielle has tamed Mick - and now he wants babies Picture: DOMINIC' O''NEILL REDDY: Mick on stage' HUCKNALL: THE EX FILE ANGEL: Martine McCutcheon' SMASH HITS: Steffi Graf' STARS: Catherine Zeta-Jones' YOUR EYES: Ulrika Jonsson' THRILL ME: Melanie Sykes' YOU'VE GOT IT: Helena
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 22, 2006
Words:1295
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