CLARE BALDING INTERVIEW!
BROADCASTER, journalist, presenter and author Clare Balding talks to First News about her new children’s book, life as a schoolgirl (and a “dog”), London 2012 and the one thing she really sucks at (let’s just say you won’t be seeing her on The X Factor an
“This one’s a bit of a thriller”
Hi Clare, tell us about your new book, The Racehorse Who Disappeared.
The book explores themes that I’m really interested in: our connection with animals – how we communicate with them, how we bring out the best in them, how we calm them if they’re nervous – and how we work with other people as part of a team. Charlie, who’s my heroine, she’s got two older brothers who really annoy her, but she needs their help. She needs them on her side, so how do you make that work? This one’s a bit of a thriller, actually.
What do you love about writing children’s books?
I enjoy children as an audience. I get a lot of letters written to me and most of them are from children. They’ll often have suggestions of what I should do next with characters. They’ll also tell me stories that they’re writing and I love that; the idea that once they’ve finished reading a book, they’ll want to write their own story. They’re really critical [giggles]. It’s a real challenge to keep them onside!
Is it true you thought you were a dog when you were younger?!
Yes. When I was younger, in my household the dogs were much higher up the pecking order than children. So when you’re a child and you see that the dogs get love and attention, your logical conclusion would be that life would be better if I was a dog!
Where did your love of animals come from?
I grew up surrounded by animals and I just think it’s in me – it makes perfect sense to me. If people don’t like animals at all, I’m a bit suspicious of them. Can I say that? I think it’s important, as human beings, for us to live and work with animals. They’re very important to us and we have a duty to treat them well.
What were you like at school?
I was a bit of a misfit. I was very worried about trying to fit in and tried too hard to fit in. That’s one of the messages I try to get across – don’t be afraid to be different. It really is okay. I loved reading and I was quite sporty, although I wasn’t brilliant at sport. I was the one always putting their hand up and wanting to be selected, but I used to get picked quite late on, if at all. I was very short and I was the youngest in my year and I had a pudding-bowl haircut!
You’ve worked at six Olympic Games as well as the Winter Olympics, Paralympics, Commonwealth Games, the Grand National, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and the Ryder Cup – is it basically impossible to pick a career highlight at this point?
No, I can pick it really easily: London 2012, the Olympics and Paralympics. Nothing will ever top that. I loved it. I wasn’t one of the main presenters, but I did have a great role; I did the swimming and then went off to Greenwich to do the dressage and the show jumping. I just threw myself into it and I adored it. I love how everyone was talking about it, how everyone was positive and I think it did a lot for us as a nation. I think it helped restore our confidence in ourselves to organise such a massive event and do it well.
Is there anything you’re really bad at?
I’m bad at singing. Terrible singer. Terrible.
Clare’s new book, The Racehorse Who Disappeared, is out on Thursday 21 September
“Don’t be afraid to be different”
“London 2012 – nothing will ever top that!”