All His Loving

updated 02/14/2005 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/14/2005 01:00AM

Just how content is Paul McCartney these days? Even without consulting her astrological charts, British horoscope writer June Penn thinks she knows. From her house next door in Hove, a seaside town near Brighton, England, where McCartney and wife Heather have a $1.3 million home, Penn says she often sees the couple "sitting close to each other on the veranda in the morning, gazing at each other over their bowls of cornflakes. They look very happy." One day last summer, in fact, while Sir Paul was chatting with Penn on the beach, he gazed out to sea, spread his arms wide and, Penn recalls, exclaimed, "Oh God, this is all I want in life!"

At 62—closing in on the age that defined decrepitude in his 1967 classic "When I'm Sixty-Four"—the billionaire ex-Beatle certainly has plenty to celebrate. His 2002-03 world tour was a sellout; this week he's the main attraction at the Super Bowl XXXIX halftime show in Jacksonville, Fla. ("It's either him or Janet Jackson," quips his brother Mike McCartney.) Daughter Stella, 33, is due to give birth to his third grandchild this spring. And friends say Sir Paul and Heather, 37, whom he wed four years after losing first wife Linda to breast cancer in 1998, both delight in their 15-month-old daughter Beatrice. "It's fun to hear him speak of her—his whole face lights up," says pal Wendy Walker Whitworth, senior executive producer at Larry King Live. "She is absolutely captivating."

Less captivating, to be sure, is the continuing criticism of the second Mrs. McCartney in the British press. Since they began dating in 1999, she has been branded a gold digger and accused of alienating McCartney's grown children (see box). In addition, she is said to control everything from her husband's attire ("groovy granddad," as tabloids described his new suits and sneakers look) to his hair, now noticeably less gray. The bad press clearly stings: In a rare interview last month, Lady McCartney told Britain's Sunday Times she planned to avoid "being whipped and lashed anymore" by staying "completely behind the scenes" of Adopt-a-Minefield, the charity she has vigorously promoted but fears will suffer from the negative coverage.

Not surprisingly, some close to the couple say the sniping is unfair. "She has married one of Britain's most loved men—that's a huge pressure," says a source. "But in terms of wearing the trousers—well, John Lennon couldn't push him around, so she will have no chance." A friend of Heather's in Los Angeles, where she has been working to secure her own television talk show, says both she and Paul "are the people they appear—charming, real, focused. And they've got a great marriage."

If there is a source of discontent in McCartney's life, in fact, it maybe more professional than personal. "He would love to write a hit song, but he can't write like he did," says an intimate. Not that it's slowing him down. McCartney plans to tour again this fall and, as always, Heather will be at his side. "Because, you know, you love each other, you want to be with each other," Sir Paul told
PEOPLE. "We're lucky in that."

Neil Michael, Simon Perry and Liz Corcoran in London

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