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

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“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!”

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