House is full of yogis feature

What does it feel like, just when you are busy congratulating yourself on having been a perfect mother, your own beloved son writes an embarrassing family memoir that makes you sound a self-obsessed loony and turns you into a laughing stock?

My younger son Will's new book, The House is Full of Yogis, describes in hilarious and painful detail the time when, according to him, myself and his father went weird and as a result, turned his entire teenage years upside down.

Once upon a time, Will writes, we were a normal suburban family consisting of a father, a mother and two brothers. We lived in a normal suburban house and drove a normal suburban car. We sent the boys to a suburban prep school and went on family holidays to Greece.

So far, so ordinary. Not much memoir material there.

And then we went on a Three Men in a Boat trip down the Thames. This holiday, supposed to be so relaxing, leisurely and idyllic, was, says Will, the scene of some of the bloodiest episodes in the history of the Hodgkinson family. It set in motion a chain of events that culminated in near death, a nervous breakdown, divorce and a lifelong devotion to meditation.

The boat trip, he writes, 'started off well enough and at first Mum (me) seemed content to sit in a folding chair on the deck with a glass of wine and a copy of Patriarchal Attitudes by Eva Figes and make less than generous comments about the size of the bottoms of the women who hailed us from boats going in the other direction.'

Then, continues Will, getting into his stride, it began. His father, Nev, appointed himself Captain, thereby combining extreme arrogance with breathtaking incompetence. Carry On up the Thames wasn't in it and nobody laughed when he ran the boat aground for the twentieth time. 'Here, let me take over, ' I insisted – and things got worse. I steered the boat into a weir, fell overboard into the water, refused to do any cooking and (alleges Will) became a strident feminist, railing against all men and wondering how I came to be the sole female on a boat containing four useless boys – we had piled on the agony by inviting two of our sons' friends along – and a worse than useless adult male.

The only bright spot of the trip, according to Will, although I don't remember it, was when I was negotiating a lock and somebody asked: 'Is that Cher?'

When we got back, after searing rows on board, life got even worse. Nev contracted food poisoning after eating a contaminated chicken dish at a party and for months hovered between life and death. When he recovered, he began to review his life and he decided everything needed radical change.

He gave up his job as a leading Fleet Street journalist, turned the house into a meditation centre, rose at four in the morning, blessed the food before he ate it and abjured all sensory pleasures, becoming an extreme ascetic. Instead of drunken dinner parties, our house became filled with white-clad yogis strumming guitars to whale music. Not only were dinner parties out, drink was also out and mango lassis replaced claret and Bordeaux.

While all this was going on, Will was growing up and watching his parents become ever weirder. It all culminated in his mother (me) writing a book in praise of celibacy called Sex is not Compulsory. Against all the odds, it became an international bestseller and Will was forced to endure the spectacle of his parents going on prime-time television to extol the sexless marriage.

He watched in growing horror as his mother (me again) announced in loud and confident tones that marriage was a trap and that celibacy was the only way to reclaim yourself, just at the time when he was trying to lose his virginity.

Well, Will, you certainly had your revenge. You waited thirty years and then turned your family into cartoon characters. Since the book was published, it has not just been Will, but critics and reviewers who have taken potshots at us. I have been called a narcissistic mother and an uncaring career woman who packed her son off to boarding school to get him out of the way while she ruthlessly pursued her ambitions.

Who, moi?

Mind, Will does give the critics plenty of ammunition. Along with many snide comments about my lack of culinary skills and the revelation that all the family was given to eat was pizzas heated up in the microwave, he constantly refers to me as a 'high earning tabloid hack.' He intimates that I was completely shallow and that the height of my intellectual ability was writing articles along the lines of 'How to turn your tubby hubby into a slim Jim'. He constantly alludes to the fact that I am more interested in having my nails done than pondering the eternal verities and am always having wonderful kitchens installed, as a perfect shrine to somebody who has no interest whatever in cooking.

But it's not all bad. He makes me out to be far more effortlessly successful than I really am, and yes, I can live with that. Will also makes his brother Tom out to be far more of a genius-level brainbox and wit than he really is but again, Tom says he can live with that.

What Will could not do was to make his father, Nev, out to be weirder than he really was. In fact, he played it down if anything. After flirting with Indian spirituality for a bit, Nev eventually devoted his entire life to the Brahma Kumaris organization, living full time in one of their centres and giving them all his money, leaving nothing for his family.

That is probably the most contentious aspect of the story, and is no longer confined behind closed doors, but is out there for the world to judge.

Yes, eventually Will's strange parents divorced as they had to, and led separate lives. I wobbled back to some sort of normality. Now decades later, we are forced to meet the younger selves we would rather forget and it all makes excruciating, if amusing, reading.

Most often, parents and siblings react very badly indeed when an offspring lays bare their family life, especially if he (or she) uses real incidents to point up laughable eccentricities. When Hanif Kureishi published The Buddha of Suburbia, his sister Yasmin wrote to newspapers complaining that Hanif had ridiculed their private family life for his own gain, and Hanif's father was so enraged he did not speak to his son for at least a year.

On a darker note, when high-flying lawyer Constance Briscoe wrote her memoir, Ugly, about the abuse she claimed to have had suffered as a child, her mother sued her for libel – and won. How her mother gloated when Constance was sent to prison in May 2014, for perverting the course of justice.

And when TV producer Daisy Goodwin wrote a book about how her mother, Jocasta Innes, had abandoned her and her younger brother as children to live in a basement flat with her sexy working-class younger lover Joe Potts, Jocasta did not find it remotely amusing. She responded by cutting Daisy out of her will.

In our case, Will's book has had the exact opposite effect, in that far from splitting the family more than ever, it has brought us together again. For the first time since the disastrous boat trip of 1981, we have fixed up a family holiday along with our five grandchildren, and booked up a vast farmhouse on a remote Scottish Island. And no, we have not made the mistake of hiring a boat.

During the book's gestation, we endlessly discussed matters that had been brushed under the carpet for decades, and although there have been some tears, recriminations and upsets, reading Will's book has forced us to look back and see how ridiculously we handled our midlife crisis. We did not for a moment think we were doing anything strange or upsetting. Nor did we imagine we would be providing comedy material for our own son.

But it's not finished yet. A TV production company has just bought rights for a four-part drama series based on the book, so in a year or so we will have to cringe again as we are brought to lurid life on the small screen.

As Will goes round the summer festivals promoting the book and reading out extracts, he must be thinking: thank you so much for turning my childhood upside down, and giving me this wonderful material for my memoir.

Whether we will be as pleased with the way screenwriters and actors turn our second childhood upside down – that's mine and Nev's - remains to be seen.