October, 2011

Oct 11

Carol Vorderman – fab at fifty!

Beautiful, clever, down to earth and a bundle of laughs; that’s how I’d describe the lady I had the pleasure of meeting on Monday.  Carol Vorderman has just recently joined the Loose Women team and I was delighted to pop over to the London Studios to catch up with her.

Now I won’t go into the dramas that occurred that morning en route to London.  I won’t tell you how a certain airline made me squash everything into one little case, thus reducing the lovely chocolates I’d bought into blobs of choco-mush.  I won’t tell you how the said airline made me walk to the plane in monsoon conditions, resulting in my make-up running down my face and my hair rising from its blow-dried sleekness into a ball of frizz. I won’t bother you with minor details of me jumping over a puddle and ripping the back of my dress in the process!

I won’t go into all that because the day turned out to be amazing.  Having watched Loose Women for years from my sofa, it was a dream to be able to watch from the sidelines.  I’d picked a fantastic day as one of the guests was the brilliant Patrick Duffy – yes ladies, Bobby Ewing is back! Besides Carol, three of my favourite ladies were hosting the show that day – Carol Mc Giffin, Jenny Eclair and Sally Lindsay.

I was greeted by Carol Vorderman after the show, looking stunning as usual in a Roksanda Ilincic blue and black top from Debenhams and a Coast black pencil skirt. We hit it off straight away and I knew our chat was going to be a lot of fun.

I began by asking Carol the question she’s probably been asked a million times.  Having co-hosted Countdown for 26 years, I wanted to know if she missed that part of her life and how she felt about losing her dear friend, Richard Whiteley.  “I miss Richard terribly,” she said.  “I absolutely adored him and so did lots of people.  He could be a pain in the neck at times but that was probably down to the fact that we were so close.  We had such a laugh together.  Countdown was huge in those days, having more than 5 million viewers a day so it was a privilege to be part of it and to share it with Richard was a dream.  I’ve remained very close to his wife, Cathy.  Along with another friend, Christa Ackroyd, Richard used to call the three of us ‘quality birds’ because we used to run his life between us and he never had to think about anything!”

Carol has settled very well into her new hosting job on Loose Women and I wanted to know if it was as much fun as it looks on the telly.  “Oh I absolutely adore it,” she enthused.  “It’s such an amazing show to be part of.  All of the girls on the panel are really bright and have a lot to say.  Everyone has different personalities and yet we all blend really well together.  They’re also putting in some heavier discussions this year and I think it’s working really brilliantly.  It’s good to have a mix of the light and heavy.  Today’s show was great with amazing guests but then we also had the serious discussion about sexy billboards and how they influence.  Sometimes at our morning meeting we discuss possible topics and if everyone agrees, which often happens, we might not use it on the show.  We want to include things that will get a bit of a rant going.  That’s what makes the show so interesting and special.”

Loose Women has been long-listed for a National Television Award.  It must be wonderful to be acknowledged in that way.  “It’s great but we’re in a tough category with the likes of Jonathon Ross, Graham Norton and Alan Carr.  In fact, we’re the only women in the category so that’s a great achievement in itself.”

You can vote HERE for Loose Women in the Talk Show category of the NTAs – come on girls, do it for the ladies!

I asked Carol about the other girls on the panel.  Did she know them beforehand or is there anyone she’s particularly close to?  “When you’ve been around the business as long as I have, you bump into each other now and again, but I never really knew any of them well.  But I get on with them all – they’re fantastic.  Jenny is really lovely and so is Sally.  They all are.  Denise is comedy gold.  When she’s in, we never stop laughing and sometimes I’m exhausted before we even start the show.  She’s a genius at being funny and so natural with it too.  She does all these voices and just cracks me up.  I honestly consider it a privilege to work on the show with these girls and hope I’ll be here for some time to come.”

Amongst her many roles, Carol has been hosting The Pride of Britain awards for the last ten years.  Having watched the show last week as I do every year, I wondered how she felt about the ceremony.  “It’s an amazing event,” she said.  “It’s a very special and emotional show and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.  I’m very actively involved with keeping the show going and getting it on air in the first place.  There’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t realise but it’s always worth it when the show goes out.  We had over six and a half million viewers this year which is amazing.”

Having worked my way through copious packets of tissues during the show last week, I asked Carol how she kept her emotions in check.  It must be so difficult to see all these brave, amazing people receive awards and not shed a tear on stage.  “Normally I’ve seen all of the films beforehand so I know what to expect, but this year was a little different.  There were a couple that came in late on the Monday so we only just got to see them a couple of hours before the ceremony was recorded.  So with the show just about to start, I was a complete emotional wreck!  Because I could feel myself getting emotional during the ceremony, what I did was take myself off stage while the films were being played and got myself together.  As soon as it was finished at eleven, I went to my very best friend, Mandy, who was there with her brave soldier husband.  I was so overwhelmed by the show – it really hit me and I felt low for about an hour.  They’re all such beautiful and brave people and so deserving of their awards.”

Besides Pride of Britain, Carol is busy with a number of other charities she supports.  I asked her to tell me a bit about them.  “I’m an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and also Prostate Appeal.  There’s a small charity called CLAPA (The Cleft Lip and Pallet Association) I also support.  My brother, who is now in his fifties, has had 24 operations during the course of his life for his cleft lip and pallet so I grew up with all that.  I also support various military charities such as the Royal British Legion.  My friend, Mandy, has written this beautiful novel called Poppy Day and she’s donating all the proceeds to the charity.  The book is about a girl called Poppy Day who gets married and her husband goes to Afghanistan and gets captured.  It’s beautifully written – Mandy is an amazing writer.”

With all the royal wedding buzz this year, there was nothing more talked about than Pippa Middleton’s bum!  But that still wasn’t enough to snatch the title of ‘Rear of the Year’ which was won by our own Ms Vorderman!  “Oh it was just hilarious,” laughed Carol.  “It was the best year to get it because the story went around the world twice – not because of me but because of Pippa!  Anton du Beke won the male one so we had an outrageously camp day to celebrate.  You know what?  You just take the laughs when you can get them!”

Being a bit of a twitter addict, I was delighted to see Carol joining last year.  She took to it brilliantly, gaining thousands of followers in days and quickly learning all the twitter lingo.  I asked her if she enjoyed it or felt it was something she had to do because she was in the public eye.  “It’s not something I felt I had to do,” she said.  “I just wanted to check out this thing that everyone seemed to be raving about.  It’s a great way to have direct contact with people.  I don’t tend to tweet much to other celebrities, preferring to answer people who take the time to tweet to me.  I love following the tweets during Downton Abbey and seeing tweets about sightings of the International Space Station.  Sometimes I’m just so busy that I don’t get a chance to tweet but I really enjoy it when I do.”

We were first introduced to Carol as the numbers girl on Countdown but since then, she’s gone on to be hugely influential on maths matters in UK schools and has set up a website called Maths Factor.  In August of this year, she produced The Vorderman Report for the Secretary of State so I asked her about it.  “The response to it from unions, employers, teachers, etc, has been terrific.  We’re fundamentally saying; let’s stop this ridiculous curriculum, which is really a trickled down version of what the top 15% need and let’s deal with it properly.  Maths is critically important.  So from age 14 we’ll have two GCSEs in maths like they do in English but one will be very practical.  It’s ridiculous to force trigonometry and algebra down their throats when they haven’t a hope in hell of understanding it.  It just turns them off altogether.  So instead, we’ll have two exams – one will be mainly arithmetic, financial maths, bit of statistics and so on which will be practical for them and the other one will be more trigonometry and algebra.  Then there will be some form of compulsory maths up to the age of 18 for everybody – as there is in every other industrialised nation in the world, except ours.”

Carol’s passion shines through when she’s speaking about the youth and the importance of education.  It’s clear she’s very passionate about it.  “It’s nice to have that variety,” she says.  “I’m only so interested in fashion and all of that celeb stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love it, but it’s nice to mix it with other things too.”

Although she’s constantly busy with work commitments, Carol is first and foremost a mum.  She couldn’t be prouder of her two children, Katie 19 and Cameron 14, and her eyes light up when I mention them.  “Cameron is still in school and he’s a really good lad.  Katie has blossomed into a beautiful young woman and has just gone off to Cambridge. I like to think I’ve been a good mother because they’re both happy and positive.  They’ve got ambition but not stupidly so.  They’re lovely kids and not selfish or materialistic.  If you can give a child that, I think it’s the most you can ever do.

Carol’s joie de vivre is infectious and I asked her if she was always so positive and upbeat.  “I wake up with a huge smile on my face every morning and count my blessings.  Something will always come along in life which will upset you or bother you so why bring it in yourself.  I’d rather just keep going. If something bad happens, I’ll deal with it then. But life really is too short, particularly when you get a bit older.  And the years when you can be very active and do all of those things, get shorter.  So I’m just making the most of every minute.  I adore my life.

So what’s next for Carol Vorderman?  “I’d definitely love to do some travelling over the coming years but, to be honest, I’m really happy doing Loose Women.  I’m having a ball.  I stay in London three nights a week and I’m home in Bristol the rest of the time.  Now that I’ve turned fifty, I’m starting to realise that age is all in our heads and shouldn’t stop us from doing anything.  Take Sharon Gless, who was on the show today, for example.  She’s almost twenty years older than me but I wouldn’t think twice if she said ‘come on girls, let’s go out.’  And women in their thirties wouldn’t think twice about it either.  She’s alive, she’s got a particular view on things, she’s engaged in life and I think it’s all about what’s in your head rather than anything.”

Sadly our time had come to an end and we had to say goodbye.  Carol was an absolute pleasure to interview and is just as beautiful inside as she is on the outside.

Please don’t forget to vote for Loose Women in the talk show category of the National Television Awards HERE and keep watching them Monday to Friday 12.30 – 1.30.

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