Anthea Turner: I always have a great time when I visit Belfast... though I often end up in the pub
Anthea Turner will cut the tape on the Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show this Friday. She tells Stephanie Bell about her television career, her favourite travel destinations and her friendship with the late Caron Keating’s two sons.
TV personality Anthea Turner will spend a few days relaxing with friends in Belfast and mingling with the public when she launches this year's Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show in the Titanic Exhibition Centre this week.
The TV personality has been a regular visitor to Northern Ireland throughout her TV career, first with Blue Peter, then GMTV and also during her time presenting the travel show Wish You Were Here...?
She has friends in Belfast who also lure her back from time to time and she has been a frequent celebrity guest on the sofas of local TV and radio chat shows.
Anthea has also worked with Eamonn Holmes and knows Gloria Hunniford well, so coming here, she says, is almost second nature to her.
Speaking from her Surrey home ahead of her visit, she is genuinely enthusiastic about her latest trip. "You can't really not have a nice time when you come to Belfast and I have never not had a great time there," she says.
"I have visited a lot over the years and I am really looking forward to coming over for the show and meeting up with everyone and catching up with some friends as well.
"I always get taken places when I am there and usually end up in a good pub drinking."
While her favourite tipple is a gin and tonic, as with most things in her life these days, she says she only drinks in moderation.
In a wide-ranging interview she talks about her beauty secrets, her own favourite holiday destinations and how this year she will be focused on building up her new business - The At Home Box Company.
Anthea is best-known as a presenter of the legendary Blue Peter before appearing on Top of The Pops, National Lottery Live and anchoring GMTV with Eamonn Holmes.
Stepping up with enthusiasm to the new challenges of reality TV, she appeared on the first ever Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing on Ice, The Jump, and the UK version of Hell's Kitchen. She's a bestselling author with books on fitness, entertaining and being the model housekeeper.
She also wrote a book entitled How to Survive Divorce after the pain of her own much-publicised break-up with Grant Bovey, whom she wed after splitting with first husband Peter Powell.
That subject is off limits, however, as instead she talks openly about her healthy lifestyle, her favourite holiday destinations and the secrets of looking so fabulous at 57 - Anthea has flawless skin, a trim figure and boundless energy.
Looking good is something which she happily confesses to working hard at. "I think we are always editing and tweaking our lives and I think that is actually good for us, to always be alert to how we can improve ourselves," she says.
"As women we are vain and I am quite happy to own that one. I do look after myself.
"There is 75% of us genetic which we can do nothing about and 25% we can do something about, and I definitely work on my 25%.
"My mum has really nice skin which I inherited from her and I get my smaller figure from my dad. I can't do anything about my knobbly knees, which I also get from my dad. You have to make the best of what you've got.
"I don't understand people who are healthy and who don't look after what God has given them - people who smoke 20 cigarettes a day or take drugs or too much alcohol or abuse their health by eating too much rubbish. I don't understand them abusing their bodies.
"We talk about our great health service and how it is falling apart and why is that? It's because people are eating too much and drinking too much.
"For me it is about everything in moderation. I am the same size I've always been and if I do find myself putting on a few pounds I will go for a run or to the gym. I love chocolate but it's a treat and I won't eat it every day.
"My favourite meal is chips and Heinz beans which I will have every six weeks or so. I think it is simple. If people clean their act up they will look a lot better as well as improve the quality of their lives.
"I don't smoke and I love a glass of wine and my favourite tipple is a G&T, but I don't abuse that."
While she is blessed with naturally fair skin and has travelled widely in her life, she believes that the number one beauty tip for women is to wear sun protection.
"I believe the worst thing women can do to their skin - and especially if they have fair skin - is kill it in the sunshine," she says.
"Especially when you look at some women in their 50s who have had wonderful tans all their lives, you can tell they have spent their lives on the beach by their complexion.
"I remember a friend who is a dermatologist saying to me that he hates to see a woman on a sun lounger smoking. He said that she is burning herself from the inside out, which I thought was a very powerful statement.
"My advice would be - get the right factor on. Use factor 30 at least."
Now older and wiser, she says she has learnt what makes her happy and what doesn't and never stops looking at ways of improving herself. Her age now also influences her choice of travel destinations.
Having been fortunate to travel much of the world with her job and presenting three series of Wish You Were Here...?, she now opts to holiday close to home in the UK and Ireland.
She says: "If you are not looking for the weather we have everything right here in the UK.
"The Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show has a special focus this year on trips for the over-50s, which doesn't surprise me at all.
"I think the over-50s have the freedom to travel. They are not tied to school holidays and many will no longer have any children in tow so they can suit themselves.
"I do love the sunshine, but I don't want to sit on a lounger all day anymore. I've done that for years and I now want a more adventurous holiday," she adds.
"I like to get on my bike or I like walking and I know that sounds very boring but it is a great way of seeing things. I am fanatical about horse riding and the first thing I do when I go on holiday is find out where the nearest stables are.
"You can get to things on horseback which you can't reach on foot. It is just lovely to go off piste and do what I want.
"I love the UK and Ireland - I think that Wales, Cornwall, Northern Ireland and Donegal have some of the best places in the world to explore," she says.
Anthea has numerous Northern Ireland connections through her work on TV.
She and Eamonn Holmes are good friends today despite a famous falling out when they presented GMTV together from 1994 until 1996.
At the time their relationship was known to be strained and Eamonn notoriously labelled her 'Princess Tippy Toes'.
In 2009 the pair put it all behind them when Eamonn invited Anthea to be a guest on The Friday Night Show. Anthea commented at the time: "Being back on the sofa with Eamonn seems like the easiest thing in the entire world.'
Since then Anthea has appeared with Ruth and Eamonn as a guest on This Morning and she says: "I speak with Eamonn a lot and what about his OBE? That is pretty great and well deserved."
She also knows Northern Ireland-born presenter Gloria Hunniford well and joined Blue Peter just after Gloria's daughter, the late Caron Keating, worked on the show.
Caron passed away in 2004 after a battle with breast cancer at the young age of only 41.
Anthea remains close to Caron's husband Russ and their two boys Charlie and Gabriel.
She has known Caron's husband Russ for a long time and often socialises with him and his sons.
"I would have lots to do with Caron's children and we are all having a little party for Gabriel's 21st soon," Anthea says.
"It was heartbreaking when Caron passed away and a terrible time for everybody, but especially the family.
"Russ did really great in the way he shielded the boys. He is now married to my best friend Sally Meen and I am godmother to their little girl Tilly.
"I didn't do Blue Peter with Caron but our husbands (her first husband Peter Powell) were best friends and I knew Gloria and I also know Caron's brothers, Michael and Paul."
This year Anthea says she will be concentrating on building up her new business, The At Home Box Company, which she launched last year with one of her best friends, holistic lifestyle expert Sarah Jones.
Every month, subscribers are treated to four exclusive gifts in a presentation box. Handpicked by Anthea and Sarah, gifts range from beautiful home accessories to lifestyle and well-being products.
Their website - www.theathomebox company.com - describes it as "just like getting a cool present every month".
Anthea, who along with Sarah, is joint founder and managing director of the company, says: "Following my BBC series The Perfect Housewife, I wanted to use my knowledge and passion for the home in a new way.
"Sarah's a close friend and we spotted a gap in the market to offer both home and lifestyle gifts, working with small and medium businesses to source the box content.
"We handpick the gifts, which range from candles, beautiful crockery, crystal espresso cups and exclusive home scents to lifestyle products like Chuckling Goat. I expect that the company will take up most of my time this year."
On Sunday night she joined the audience of ITV's Dancing on Ice. A former contestant of the show she appeared in the eighth series in 2013 where she finished ninth out of 12 celebrities.
"I really loved doing it," she admits. "It was great fun. Jason Gardiner (one of the show's judges) is a great friend and I am so glad to see it back on our TV screens."
Broaden your horizons at the Holiday World Show
Anthea will cut the ribbon to declare this year's Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show open on Friday.
Over 20,000 people are expected to pour into the Titanic Exhibition Centre during the three-day show.
Now in its 26th successful year, the exhibition will transform Belfast's Titanic Exhibition Centre into a lively celebration of all things travel-related.
Visitors will have a chance to discover what's new, chat with the industry professionals, gather expert information, check out destinations and compare prices.
The show's growing focus on the 50-plus age group reflects the growth and buying power of that market sector, with plenty of 'silver saver' deals on offer.
Show sales director Maureen Ledwith says: "Variety really is the name of the game, with many Northern Ireland show-goers prepared to purchase not just one, but several, travel options in a single year.
"For most, the annual family holiday continues to be a highpoint of the year but, increasingly, people are also purchasing a second, possibly shorter, holiday abroad, plus - if the price is right - they are in the market for citybreaks, mini escapes, hotel stays and trips for concerts, sports fixtures, shopping and fun activities.
"We have huge local interest, too, in owning caravans, motor homes and mobile homes ... throw a few family get-togethers into the mix and you will see why so many major companies and destinations are in Belfast this January to answer Northern Ireland's apparently insatiable demand to travel."
Belfast Telegraph Holiday World 2018 will be staged at Titanic Exhibition Centre at Queen's Road in Titanic Quarter, close to Titanic Belfast, and just opposite the Titanic Studios.
The show will be open this Friday, January 19, from 1pm-6pm, with Anthea cutting the ribbon at 1.30pm, and on Saturday and Sunday, from 11am-5.30pm.
Tickets are £5 for adults; £4 for senior citizens and £3 for students. A £10 family ticket admits two adults and up to four children. For details, visit www.holidayworldshow.com