Carol Kirkwood talks to Hannah Stephenson about finding love and success as a romance novelist later in life
The outlook is looking decidedly sunny for BBC weather presenter Carol Kirkwood following her engagement in May – although the happy couple haven’t got around to planning the big day yet.
“It was a complete surprise,” she says of fiancé Steve (she won’t reveal his surname) popping the question. “It was a lovely sunny day and we’d gone for a picnic. We were sitting by the river watching the boats going by and he was getting a bit fidgety. I thought, what’s wrong? The next thing I knew, he was down on one knee. I thought he was mucking around. He said, ‘No! I’ve got a ring! Will you marry me?’”
The bubbly Scottish presenter, who lives in Maidenhead, recently turned 60 and says marriage second time around will be different. She split from first husband Jimmy Kirkwood in 2008 after 18 years, and confesses she’d never really considered getting married again.
“It wasn’t high on my list of priorities, any more than it was low on my list of priorities. I wasn’t looking for somebody and I certainly wasn’t looking for somebody to marry,” she shares. “It just kind of happened, but that’s always the way.”
She says they don’t know yet when the big day will be, because they’ve been so busy with work.
“It’s nice because the first time I got married, I was young, so you get engaged and then you’re involved in the wedding almost from the time you get engaged. It’s all geared towards the wedding day, with the church, the photographer and inviting friends and family.
“This time, it’s nice because there’s no pressure – it’s not like we’re going to rush off and have children or anything. It’s nice to enjoy it and do it at our own pace. In that sense, it’s quite exciting as well. It’s all to come at some stage in the future. We’re not galloping towards it.”
She’s not sure if it’s going to be a huge bash or a small, intimate gathering, but she’s veering towards the latter – adding light-heartedly that she’ll need to chat to Steve about this.
The prospect of marriage hasn’t made her feel differently about the future, she discloses: “I was always quite confident in our relationship. We are no spring chickens. We are just comfortable with each other and enjoy each other’s company.
“He’s funny, he makes me laugh, he’s very kind and caring and he’s romantic. I get up at 2.45am and he’ll get up then and make me tea and put my cereal in a bowl for me to take to work. These small gestures are more important to me than anything grand and they happen on a daily basis. Mind you, the ring is beautiful and he’s not getting it back,” she adds, laughing.
Being a mature bride isn’t a concern for her, either.
“I don’t feel any different now to how I felt when I was 30,” says Kirkwood, who took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2015. “Getting engaged at this age, it’s just a number. I’m not worried about growing old. Age doesn’t interfere with anything I do.”
Her fiancé, she stresses, wants to remain out of the spotlight. “I want to shout his name from the rooftops but he doesn’t – and I respect that.”
Romance, however, is also seeping into her career. Kirkwood has just written her second romantic novel – The Hotel On The Riviera – an escapist beach read featuring an heiress who inherits a hotel on the French Riviera, hoping it’s a chance to start again. The book also brings back several characters from her bestselling first novel, Under A Greek Moon.
The weather presenter, who admits loving premieres and award ceremonies, also introduces glamour and drama in the form of a Hollywood fiery English golden couple, inspired by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Although she’s met many rich and famous names during her broadcasting career, she admits to having been starstruck on occasions – most notably when she met Canadian singer Bryan Adams.
“I just love his music and he’s so talented and yet such a humble person,” she says (they got to dance briefly behind the scenes during her stint on Strictly). “Oh, and if Ryan Reynolds were to walk into the room, I’d think, ‘Oh my goodness!’”
Her romantic novel is not in the Jackie Collins or Jilly Cooper mould, and avoids explicit sex scenes: “It’s not a bodice-ripper,” she says, giggling. “I grew up in an era when the curtains blew in the wind. But it is romantic.”
She writes in spurts, dictating ideas on to her phone in the morning or during her regular walks with Steve. The writing has to be squeezed into a tight schedule of BBC commitments – she recently presented the weather from Wimbledon during the tennis fortnight and occasionally joins the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on Radio 2 for weather reports, as well as presenting the weather on BBC Breakfast.
“My mum used to say, ‘If you want a job done, give it to a busy person’. When you’re busy, you just get on with it, rather than procrastinating. That’s what I do. Although my job can be stressful, I still love it and I pinch myself that I’m doing something I love,” she enthuses. “This runs in parallel with writing. Who would have thought that at this age, I’d have this new career?”
Kirkwood loves working at the Beeb but has seen several close colleagues leave the corporation in recent months including Dan Walker and Mark Murphy, who she mentioned on Twitter. Does Kirkwood see herself moving on?
“Not yet. One day, yes. I don’t want to be using a stairlift to get to the studio in the morning. But I love my job. I’ve been working there for so long and in the weather centre my work colleagues are really good friends. It’s the same on BBC Breakfast – Sally (Nugent) is a really good friend, as is Jon Kay, Naga (Munchetty) and Charlie (Stayt). I’m so lucky to be in that position.”
Some colleagues have felt uncomfortable about the BBC disclosing their earnings, but Kirkwood retorts that she’s not in that pay grade.
“I never talk about my salary to anyone so to have it published would be very strange for me. I’m not I that bracket, nor am I likely to be, so it’s not going to happen.”
Shake-ups at the BBC – it was recently announced that veteran Radio 2 broadcaster Steve Wright would be stepping down from his afternoon show – don’t raise alarm bells for Kirkwood, who admits she is an eternal optimist.
“I try not to worry about things that I can’t change. I don’t want to go but one day it’s going to happen. Hopefully it will be naturally but I also have to acknowledge that I’m 60 and am unlikely to be at the BBC when I’m 70, I would have thought. It’s the natural course of events.”
For now, she’s happy to continue with her weather presenting and pursue her newfound career as a novelist, a throwback to her schooldays when she loved writing essays, inspired by a brilliant English teacher. She’s already writing her third romantic yarn.
“I’ve found a passion for writing again,” says Kirkwood. “To come back to doing something I loved doing as a child, I feel so lucky.”
The Hotel On The Riviera by Carol Kirkwood, HarperCollins, £14.99, is out now