Carol Vorderman: Many women dread turning 50 ... but I’m having a blast
Loose Women presenter Carol Vorderman talks to Gabrielle Fagan about being happy to be single again and reveals some high-flying plans
Carol Vorderman is a bit embarrassed to admit it, but she often catches herself laughing aloud when she's out walking on her own.
“It might sound a bit weird but actually it's just because I'm so happy with my life now. I often find myself literally skipping down the street and having a silly grin on my face. It's a lovely feeling,” she says.
While most women might struggle with turning 50 as well as the break-up of a long-term relationship, the former co-presenter of Channel 4's Countdown states that both events over the last 12 months have contributed to allowing a new ‘carefree Carol' to emerge.
Since her humble beginnings as the child of a single mother, she has launched a successful television career. She studied engineering at Cambridge, is an acknowledged maths expert advising the Government on education, a Mensa member, and most recently joined the panel of ITV1's Loose Women.
As a single mother of two children, now teenagers, she's also had to juggle her family commitments with her career.
“I've always been a striver and it's been drive, drive, drive to satisfy my deep inner need for security,” she explains. “My mother brought me up single-handedly and I never saw my father who left when I was three-weeks-old. That rejection left its mark.
“Money was always pretty short, so I've been obsessed about the need to ensure that whatever happened I could provide for myself, and then, when I became a single parent, for my children.
“But now I've reached a time in my life where I feel I've finally achieved financial security and can afford not to work flat out any more.”
After breaking up with her partner of five years, sports journalist Des Kelly, earlier this year, the presenter, who has been married twice, is single for the first time since she was 15.
“I love being single. I absolutely love not having to ask anyone about what I do or fit in with someone else all the time. I'm certainly not looking for love at the moment. For now I'm enjoying spreading my wings,” she says.
“I'm naturally a very spontaneous person and suddenly I'm free, especially as the children are teenagers, to let my life unfold and follow my nose. I've never had that before, apart from when I was a student.
“Although it sounds like a cliche, I'm truly enjoying the moment. I don't project forward any more and try to second guess and stress about what will happen in the future. It's like something has been unlocked in my brain somehow,” says Vorderman.
She and her children, Katie (19) and Cameron (14), share their Bristol home with Vorderman's friend Mandy's family including her two 14-year-old sons.
“It's a commune, really,” Vorderman jokes. “There's always lots of comings and goings, noise and laughter, especially with three teenage lads around.
“Mandy is my best friend and my soul mate, and we often laugh until we cry. Her husband is in the Army and serves in Afghanistan, so she enjoys having my support while he's away. For me it's great being able to work in London and know she's there and everything is fine at home.”
She also says her period of mourning for Richard Whiteley, her colleague on Countdown, is finally over.
Vorderman was devastated when the Yorkshireman died in 2005, and says: “I missed Richard terribly for a long
time, and also my regular trips to see him in Leeds for my fix of wonderful northern soul. But on Loose Women I'm working with lots of northerners like Denise Welch, which is great.”
She certainly looks content and this year she even beat Pippa Middleton to win Rear Of The Year.
“What an absolute hoot,” she says. “I couldn't believe it. My bum is rather large, which is hereditary, so I've endured the jokes about it, but now I'm appreciating the unexpected glory.
“I don't have work done or fillers either, although it's often reported that I do. My cheeks have just got fatter as I've aged and when I put on weight, it goes there and on my bum, not on my tum or my legs. Becoming 50, which I know many women dread, has been a revelation, as I've never felt better,” she says.
Although she limits exercise to regular walking, she's diet conscious, has an annual new year detox and is a firm believer in health supplements, such as Sambucol Immuno Forte Effervescent Tablets and Bioglan Super Fish Oil.
“I spend most days in Bristol, not wearing make-up, dressed in jeans, running around after the kids, shopping, and looking after my business ventures,” she says.
“Luckily, this year has been such a blast that I'll be sorry to say goodbye to it on Christmas Eve when I become 51.”
She's extremely proud of her children — her son has ambitions to be a comedy writer and her daughter is studying maths and chemistry at Cambridge.
“In the summer, the night before her results, she couldn't sleep, so I said, ‘Right, let's not bother sleeping, we'll party instead'. We were in a bar until five in the morning, something I'd have been much too sensible to suggest or do years ago,” she recalls.
“It's been quite a responsibility being a single parent but they've grown up into great young people and it gives me a real kick to tell myself occasionally, ‘You know old girl, you've not done a bad job at all'.”
Vorderman is not only allowing herself to regularly kick caution into touch, she's also literally spreading her wings.
“I'm learning to fly next summer, on an intensive course in Arizona, which has been a lifelong ambition.
“At the end of the day, we all have a limited time on this earth and I'm aiming to make the most of every minute.”
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The formula for a stellar career
- Vorderman had a tough upbringing and there was little money. “We grew up on egg and chips,” she says
- She studied engineering at Cambridge and got a third class degree
- While on Countdown she became one of the highest paid women on British TV, reportedly earning £1m a year
- Vorderman is well-known to schoolchildren, with many text books produced under her name, such as Maths Made Easy