I must have been about 28 when my mother told me. She was at the sink washing up at the time and I was drying the pots. It's hard to remember what's fact and what's fiction now, but I'll try.

"We had a bit of a thing," was how she described her affair with the Polish neighbour that lived in the two-roomed flat below her. I thought I was hearing things. One minute we were talking about me and my husband having a bit of a fall out and somehow the conversation turned to Mum telling me how she'd committed adultery with a Polish fairground worker.

Now you'd have to have known my mum to realise how shocking that was. She was the most ordinary woman, very mumsy, not a vain bone in her body. She wasn't one to show her emotions, she was strong but affectionate with me and my brothers. She wasn't a man's woman, she had three sisters and was, in her own way, a bit of a feminist - way ahead of her time.

My dad had a violent streak and she divorced him when I was three, refused to wear a wedding ring, wouldn't accept money off him and refused to take 'handouts' from the state, preferring to work full time as a tailoress instead. It sounds nothing now, but you've got to remember this was the 1950s, people didn't get divorced. You married and that was it - for better or worse. I remember the other kids off the council estate making fun of me and my brother, saying we didn't have a dad.

Anyway I digress.

"His name was Craze and I loved him with every breath in my body," she continued. She'd mentioned a man and the word love in the same breath - it was unheard of for her to say that; even her second marriage had not been successful.

But even more shocking than that, I realised that tears were falling from her eyes into the washing up bowl. I tried to reassure her.

"I'm happy for you Mum, I'm glad you found someone to love."

"He was murdered."

"What? In Leeds?"

"In a fairground brawl. I've never been able to tell anyone."

It was hard to take it all in and then I realised that not only had Mum never told anyone about this affair, she'd never been able to grieve properly for the man she'd loved and lost.

For the best part of thirty years she'd held onto this grief - it had been locked in. No wonder her marriages hadn't worked and she found it difficult to show emotion. She had no trouble showing emotion now - 30 years of tears cascaded into the washing up bowl as she continued with her story. At the end of it she was exhausted.

"You won't ever tell anyone will you?" She made me promise. And I didn't - for 10 years. Then it was my younger brother Philip's wedding and I could see this really pained her as she faced a life alone with my stepfather Alan.

He was a good man and the marriage should've worked. He was the same religion (my dad was a Catholic, Alan was Jewish) and he was political - a strong socialist, but they clashed.

The look in my mother's face reminded me of the day she told me about Craze. Somehow these two events - my mother's affair and her youngest son getting married - were linked.

A play was burning inside of me and I started to write it for the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I called it A Passionate Woman - because I realised that's what my mother was.

I set it on the day of her son's wedding. Betty climbs into the loft to escape from all the arrangements and chaos and drops the flap shut! Her dead lover Craze comes to her and she relives her time again with him. Her son and husband realise she's in the loft and try and coax her down to the wedding, but she's not going anywhere - except up!

The play went into rehearsal with the glorious Anne Reid playing the middle-aged Betty. Two days before press night, I thought I should take Mum to see the play. It was essentially Mum's story, but I'd changed loads of things and I was interested to see if she realised it was her story. She absolutely loved it, wanted to see it again.

The second time she saw it, she turned to me at the end and with tears and bewilderment in her eyes she said: "This is my story."

I reassured her. "Yes, but I'm not going to tell anyone and you're not, so who's going to know?"

Then came the opening night of the show. All the press were there. The play went well and as is customary with a new play, the cast, myself and the director David Liddiment all sat on the stage to answer questions. One particular journalist kept asking me where I got the idea for the play - "Did something or someone inspire it?"

I could see my mother sat in the middle of the audience - I had to protect her and keep my promise. I replied: "Yes, someone did inspire me to write it, but I'm not at liberty to say who it was."

And then from the middle of the auditorium came -

"It was me!"

I looked up. My mother was waving her hand in the air; her eyes were gleaming with pride. "It's MY story!"

And as the press turned to interview her, I watched the years of shame and secrecy drop away. My mother came out publicly - she'd had an affair, she'd known love, she had a sexual awakening, she was A Passionate Woman.

Two years later the play opened in the West End to rave reviews. The play ran for a year at the Comedy Theatre and has toured extensively all over the world. Film rights were fought for, but I held on to them tightly as I didn't want Cher playing my mum on a rooftop in Detroit.

It's still running in Poland I think.

Kay Mellor is the writer of A Passionate Woman. The first episode is available on BBC iPlayer until Sunday, 25 April. Part two will be broadcast on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday, 18 April

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  • Comment number 55. Posted by tricia

    on 7 May 2010 17:49

    i loved the 2 episodes of a passionet woman brilliant
    would watch this over and over again
    hoping this comes out o dvd would buy it watched it twice already
    on bbc i payer well played to all actors x

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  • Comment number 54. Posted by debadwolff

    on 1 May 2010 22:24

    This was beautifully portrayed and the two eras were magnificently shown. Enjoyed every minute of A Passionate Woman.

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  • Comment number 53. Posted by m hodson

    on 25 Apr 2010 15:15

    loved it it brought back so many memories i was born 1939 so it was my erai loved hearing jonny mathis singing a certain smile
    ,i was very young and it was the time when the hugarian refugees came to our country.i would love to own it on dvd it made me cry it was so near to home in those times very well written kay keep it up

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  • Comment number 52. Posted by Sue

    on 25 Apr 2010 00:24

    A bit late maybe...I confess to recordng a Passionate Woman..and have watched it tonight! Wow.! It blew me away! I was born in the 50s...I knew my mother was having affairs in the 60s..my father changed his job to move away from the affair (I didnt find this out until I was in my teens) but I feel this drama captured the period so well! I confess it brought me to tears for more than one reason! Very very very well portrayed!:)))

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  • Comment number 51. Posted by birt

    on 22 Apr 2010 15:56

    Hi we loved the both shows and we would love to get the sound track FAB music

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  • Comment number 50. Posted by Sue

    on 21 Apr 2010 11:51

    Is there going to be a DVD, we had a terrible signal so couldnt watch the first episode and then no electricity so couldnt watch or record the second. Looked very good what I did see, so would really like to watch the whole thing. Not able to view on iplayer

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  • Comment number 49. Posted by MAD_MAX

    on 21 Apr 2010 09:55

    We need more of this kind of thing on TV, as this is the best piece of television I have seen in a very very long time.
    All the actors were first class with Billy Piper and Sue Johnstone quite exceptional.
    Such a beautifully written story
    Thank you Kay Mellor for an excellent story

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  • Comment number 48. Posted by Coxy

    on 20 Apr 2010 22:54

    The 2nd episode was set during the 1984/85 miners strike. It became clear the 1st episode was set 30 years previous, so 1954/55. In the 1st episode I noticed a Cinema advertisement for the film Ben Hur, It came out in 1959.

    Thank you Kay Mellor for an excellent story superbly acted by all.

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  • Comment number 47. Posted by Will

    on 20 Apr 2010 21:13

    One of the best dramas I've seen in years.
    Sue Johnson is superb, surely one of our very best actresses.

    A totally moving story made me feel uplifted at the end.
    I can face work tomorrow now!

    Will

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  • Comment number 46. Posted by Claire Stone

    on 20 Apr 2010 17:51

    I agree with all previous comments about seeing more drama of such high quality. Even in these difficult financial times, we still deserve the best!

    This was a wonderful story; beautifully told and with a fantastic cast - and where has Theo James been hiding? He must have a huge legion of fans and is gorgeous!

    Thank you Kay Mellor and all those who were part of this project.

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