The former Countdown personality takes over the Lorraine show for a week from tomorrow morning.
Carol was previously one of the regular presenters on Loose Women.
As Carol Vorderman steps in for Lorraine Kelly next week during half term, the presenter opens up about setting her sights on space travel and dating in her fifties. She also spoke candidly about how she stays fit and how she turned to TV when she couldn’t be a fighter pilot… Carol will be covering for Lorraine from Monday 22 to Friday 26 October. Lorraine Kelly returns on Monday 29th October.
You’ve known Lorraine a long time, when did you first meet?
I met Lorraine back in the 80s when we both wore shoulder pads and had VERY dubious hairstyles. We both cringe at those photos! For my first show on Countdown, I had curly dark hair and blue eyeshadow! I was so petrified when I went into makeup, I just let them do whatever they wanted, and I was given the local newsreader look of the day. I worked on the Wide Awake Club, the Saturday morning children’s show from TV-am. I met Lorraine and Steve [her husband] at TV-am. I knew Timmy Mallett very well too. So Timmy, Lorraine and I with our husbands/wives all lived out near Maidenhead through the 90s, and saw quite a bit of each other. Rosie [Lorraine’s daughter] and my daughter went to the same little primary school!
Are you looking forward to sitting in the hot seat?
It’s going to be an absolute joy. I’m going to have such a laugh. Lorraine is always smiling. You know as a viewer that the programme cares about you, it’s never nasty, but it’s entertaining and caring. I’m so looking forward to it. I will be the temporary caretaker for the deputy, who is Christine, for the boss – who is the one and only Lorraine Kelly!
Do you ever get nervous doing live TV?
I’m an old, old hand at this, so I don’t get nervous. I hosted Loose Women for a while and I’ve done live TV for decades really, plus I do a fair amount of radio now too. In fact, I enjoy live television. My friend Lorraine is so amazing and leads the field in daytime shows. There aren’t many of us who have been consistently around for such a long time. I’ve been on TV more or less every day since 1982, apart from the last couple of years. It’s nice because you see the ebb and flow and how the fashion in TV shows has changed over the years. I am having the time of my life.
Apart from covering for Lorraine and filming a three part series, My Single Life, on dating for the show recently, what else are you up?
You can’t make up some of the stuff I do! I’m living MY dream. This week I’ve been out in the USA with NASA astronauts, at airshows and filming with our RAF Air Cadets. I’m Honorary Group Captain and Ambassador for the Air Cadets. I’ve been in Texas and Washington DC. I’ve also got the Pride of Britain coming up. Life now that my two children are grown up is about working hard and volunteering. I volunteer for some amazing organisations. The rest of the time I give lots of parties. I party hard. I love my life. I get up to lots of mischief.
Early days on Countdown, produced by YTV in Leeds for Channel 4.
What reaction did you receive after My Single Life, on Lorraine last month
This really seemed to have struck a nerve. When the Editor asked me to do the mini series, I said ‘I won’t do it if it’s about “wear this dress and everything in your life will be perfect”, or in the spirit of ‘everyone is looking for someone’ because the truth is women in their 50s aren’t like that at all. Luckily, that’s not what the programme was looking for. I’ve had so many people coming up to me, in the hairdressers, walking in the street, on the train saying seeing the mini series honestly changed their attitudes and sometimes the way they now view their lives! The media pressure on you at our age [50s] to have a “bloke” in tow is immense. What we did in those three little films is to say, ‘it’s fine’ if you don’t want someone. It’s just as fine as if you do want someone. If you want to just have adventures, if you want three or four ‘friends’ at a time, it’s an option.
What did you take from it?
My 50s has been my best decade. A lot of single women in their 50s don’t want to settle down. We’ve brought up children and looked after elderly parents. The men we married in our 20s were largely men who wanted to be looked after, that’s specifically men from my generation, so the last thing we want is to be saddled with a bloke to look after! It’s like, ‘Hang on! I’ve done so much caring all my life, I just want a little bit of time to do what I want to do. A bit of me time’.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your jungle buddies?
I was at Sam Quek’s wedding – our Team GB hockey player. That was amazing. It was hilarious. It was one of the best, most beautiful weddings I’ve been to at my life. It was at Chester Racecourse. Her Nana who is about 95, she’s proper Scouse and Sam’s best friend, she came up to me and laughed loudly and said : ‘Oh, look at the arse on you!’ She’s 95! It was brilliant.
You’re also great friends with some of ITV’s other daytime stars aren’t you?
I was at a friend’s wedding with Piers [Morgan] recently. It was an incredible day, I was talking to his wife Celia [Walden] who went to Cambridge University, as I did. My daughter Katie is a Cambridge graduate and there now doing a PHD in nano technology. Piers came up to us and said, ‘What are you talking about?’ We said, ‘Cambridge, we all went there’. I’ve known Piers about 25 years so I nudged him and said: ‘What’s it like being the most stupid person in this group Piers?’ He had to laugh. Susanna is also a really good friend of mine. We are like broadcasting sisters. I love Susanna.
On-screen ‘husband’ the late Richard Whiteley with Carol on Countdown in the mid-1980s.
Did you always want to go into TV?
I wanted to be a fighter pilot but in the ’70s women weren’t allowed to fly in the RAF. I have two good friends who are coming onto Lorraine to be interviewed next week. One is Jo Salter, now she was the first Royal Air Force female fighter pilot She flew the Tornado and was the first woman to fly in combat in the world. I mean she is remarkable. She is coming with Kirsty Murphy – our only ever female Red Arrow. I always wanted to be them, and now it’s a joy to be able to call them friends.
Why did you not pursue that dream?
I was from a poor family in North Wales in Rhyl. I went to a comp, I was on free school meals. One of the things I had going for me was that I was bright, uber bright at maths. I was a year ahead. It was 1977, I applied for university. They said where do you want to go and I told them, ‘I want to be a fighter pilot so I want to do engineering and I have to go to the best place I can. So I’m applying to Cambridge.’ In those days you had to do the Oxbridge exam and you had to have special tuition to do this exam. They said ‘Don’t be ridiculous, nobody from the town or the area has ever been to Cambridge, and we can’t teach the exam. You won’t get in!’ But I applied and managed to get a conditional place, one of the very few they offered without the extra exam in those days. I went to Sidney Sussex College when I was 17 to study engineering but I found out when I was there that the RAF wouldn’t take women as pilots. That’s why having Jo Salter on the show this week is significant to me. She lived my younger dream. Now I just hang out at airshows and have so many friends who fly here and in the States, military and civilian. I love it. And I fly my own plane it’s a dream come true.
So how did you find yourself in television?
When I graduated in 1981, and my mum, then aged 53, left my step-father, again. Everything we owned was in the back of this grotty car. She lived in student lodgings for six months as neither of us had a penny. Then I suggested we buy a house in Leeds, my boyfriend lived there and I knew we would be able to afford somewhere together. I was 21, I found our house; organised a joint mortgage. She was a secretary, so she could always find work. The first time she had ever been to Yorkshire was when we moved in. Three weeks later she was reading the local newspaper that said, ‘ A new TV channel will start later this year called Channel 4, and Yorkshire Television (part of ITV) based in Leeds were going to make a new programme called Countdown, and they couldn’t find anyone who was good at maths to do the Numbers Game. So without telling me, my mum wrote a letter as if she was me, she forged my signature, popped my graduation photo and sent it off to the producer. It was only afterwards that she told me what she’d done. Then the producer rang to ask me to go in for a maths test, I’ll never forget that call when the phone was ringing on the “elephone table’ in the hall. My life changed forever.
Carol went flying with Channel 5.
What is still on your bucket list?
I really, really want to go into Space, into proper Space, low Earth orbit. It’s a matter of money, I don’t think my Co-op vouchers will cut it somehow! But I go to a fair few rocket launches and I’m learning more and more, and my astronaut buddies don’t mind when I plague them with questions, although then I normally have to buy the next round!
How do you keep fit?
Walking is a big thing for me. I try to walk five miles a day. When I am travelling it’s more difficult. In my house, I’m always running up and down the stairs too. I’ve always loved walking. I don’t have a dog, I don’t have the time for a dog and I’m not in the same place for long enough but I walk a lot and I walk fast. I find the gym dull. I love being outside so I do circuits outside when I can. I think I need my senses battling all the time, I can’t do the same thing time after time. I’ve got the lowest boredom threshold, which has its good and bad points, depending on who you ask!!
Lorraine made the NTA long list this week. Why should people vote for her?
Wonderful. Well done Lorraine! [People should vote because] She’s a legend of broadcasting, who remains top of her game. The funny thing is, we never won an award for Countdown. Richard [Whiteley] and I used to laugh about how we never won an award. We used to practise our ‘losers’ faces all the time, we got quite good at that.
Lorraine ITV, weekdays 8.30am – 9.25am. You can vote for the show in the Daytime category at this year’s National Television Awards at https://www.nationaltvawards.com