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The longest-serving member of BBC Breakfast’s presenting team, Carol Kirkwood has helped the nation decide whether it’s “cardigan weather” for 25 years, presenting alongside the likes of Louise Minchin, Naga Munchetty and the much-missed Bill Turnbull.
Part of the Wimbledon fabric and a 2015 Strictly alumnus, Carol launched her novel-writing career in 2020, and this week sees the publication of her third book, Secrets Of The Villa Amore. It follows an (initially) stop-start career that encompassed secretarial work for the BBC, recruitment and management consultancy before Carol trained with the Met Office and rejoined the BBC in 1998.
“Life is good,” says Carol, who announced her engagement to partner Steve Randall on screen last year. “As you get older, you really do appreciate it more – from what you have, to what you can do and what you can see around you. When I was younger, I used to love shopping but now I’m not interested – I’d far rather go for a walk and appreciate nature and the simpler things.”
To mark the release of Secrets Of The Villa Amore, we asked Carol about some of the exceptional things in her own life, in the first of our new, occasional series Exceptional Lives. Here’s what she told us:
“The exceptional thing about falling in love again is that I didn’t expect it – it just happened. There’s no pressure, there’s no rush and we just love being together. That doesn’t sound very exceptional – but that’s what it is. It’s liberating to have no pressure – we don’t have to think about having children or getting married. We can just sit back and enjoy it. The date for our wedding is still a work in progress. We both have such busy work schedules that it’s not likely to be this year. But we’re not going to stay engaged forever – we’re definitely going to get married.
“The ambience at the Wimbledon tennis championships is exceptional. I don’t get to watch the tennis but I’ve made good friends there over the years with women like Sue Barker and Judy Murray. I feel jealous of everyone with their strawberries and Pimm’s while I’m working, but it’s a real privilege. I get to go to lots of special places with work – from Buckingham Palace to Stonehenge – and I never take it for granted.
“I’m a very good listener. All my friends talk so much – I’m the listener of the group. I try not to butt in halfway through or assume that I know what they’re going to say.
“The best thing about being 61 is the way you look at life. I appreciate the simple things now – like going for a walk in the four seasons and appreciating the beauty that each season has to give. There’s an awareness that comes with age, and you worry less about what people think.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, so if someone doesn’t agree with you or you don’t agree with them, you realise that it really doesn’t matter. Especially with the advent of social media, where you can get some really nasty personal comments – as you get older, you just think: ‘That’s your opinion and I don’t agree with it, but you’re entitled to it.’”
It’s liberating to have no pressure – we don’t have to think about having children or getting married.
“An exceptional day would be a blank canvas, with no plans. My life is full of deadlines. It’s a collapsing timeframe, from the minute I get up until virtually the minute I go to bed. I’ve always got deadlines, be it getting into work on time, my broadcasts on television, the lengths of my broadcasts, deadlines for writing my book… And I will never miss a deadline either – even if I have to stay up all night. I’m very disciplined in that respect. So, to think I could wake up with a blank day ahead where I can do whatever I want? That’s special.
“I’m exceptionally bad when it comes to chocolate. But nothing fancy– pants – it’s Cadbury Dairy Milk for me, I love it. I think it’s because we rarely had chocolate when we were growing up – it was always an orange or an apple from the fruit bowl. The easiest thing for me is not to buy it so it isn’t in the house.
“People say I’m exceptional because I have a happy disposition. And it’s true that my default position is happy. I’m no saint, but I do see the positives rather than the negatives. That’s always been in my nature. I think it’s because I had a happy childhood. I come from a big family [in Inverness-shire] – I’ve got seven brothers and sisters – and we were just a happy gang with our parents, and our aunties and uncles.
“Being woken up by chirping birds is a perfect way to start the day. If they’re chirping away, you know it’s sunny outside and it’s going to be a good day. I wake up every morning at 2.45am. On Fridays, when I don’t work, I’ll maybe sleep until 3.30am, then on a Saturday until 5am and Sunday until 6am – then it’s back to the beginning, but I’m used to it! At the weekends, I’ll read and doze, but I rarely sleep past 6am.”
Written by Fiona Cowood
Fiona Cowood has 20 years’ experience working in senior editorial roles at leading national titles including Grazia, Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She has interviewed a diverse range of remarkable people – from victims of sex trafficking in Nepal through to former Foreign Secretaries and national treasures like Tom Jones. It’s a real privilege to have a career that allows her to represent different voices and explore so many issues – from violence against women and girls through to body image, parenting styles, influencer culture and later-life career pivots.
Fiona is passionate about sharing memorable stories that entertain, inform and inspire readers to think differently about their own lives. She has three young daughters, a rescue tortoise called Gary, a podcast addiction and aspirations to be more ‘present’. She enjoys making novelty food creations (but don’t mention last year’s Charcuterie Chalet) and is doing her best to live more sustainably. Her ringtone is the theme from Succession, and she’s not embarrassed about it.
If you have a genuinely remarkable personal story that you would like to share with Saga Exceptional’s readers, please get in touch: Fiona.firstname.lastname@example.org