GOOD READS says GH cover star Kirsty Wark

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Contents -

AsNews­night’s long­est-run­ning an­chor, Kirsty Wark can ap­pear some­what stern. But in real life? She’s chatty and funny and re­fuses to take her­self too se­ri­ously. The BBC jour­nal­ist and pre­sen­ter adores fash­ion and loves shop­ping with her daugh­ter, Caitlin, 27, and catch­ing up with her son, James, 26, who lives in New York. Mar­ried to TV ex­ec­u­tive Alan Cle­ments for 29 years, home and fam­ily are hugely im­por­tant to Kirsty, who has cho­sen to stay based in Scot­land through­out her al­most 25 years on News­night. At 63, she has no in­ten­tion of slow­ing down, jug­gling TV work with writ­ing her se­cond novel, and keep­ing alive her pas­sion for cook­ing. She spoke to us about the joy of be­ing a mum, the im­por­tance of talk­ing about the menopause and churn­ing her own but­ter...

How do you feel at this stage in your life?

I feel good, I do more ex­er­cise now than I did 10 years ago. I play ten­nis, I have a per­sonal trainer, I go to the odd Pi­lates class and I try to walk quite a lot. How­ever, it is never enough. I know I should be health­ier. I prob­a­bly drink my [al­co­hol] units ev­ery week. I had a bone den­sity scan that showed I had os­teope­nia in my hip: it means you don’t have os­teo­poro­sis but you are on the cusp. That means more load-bear­ing ex­er­cise, which I try to do, but also watch your al­co­hol in­take. I try, but I’m no saint!

How do you de­cide what to wear on screen?

On News­night what you are try­ing to do is feel mod­ern. Gone are the days when you used to wear Ar­mani shoul­ders. It was like a kind of shield of ar­mour, but I don’t have to do that any more. It’s partly be­cause life is no longer like that and also be­cause I think women are more com­fort­able and I am more com­fort­able. It is al­ways dif­fi­cult when you are start­ing out and find­ing out where you are and what you are. If I am not slightly aware of who I am now, it’s a bit late!

In last year’s doc­u­men­tary The Menopause And

Me you were hon­est about your own ex­pe­ri­ence… It can be easy, it can be hard, it can be hellish. I had an abrupt one but what I found so dis­tress­ing was how many women are fobbed off by their GPS with an­tide­pres­sants or, ‘You’ll get through it,’ when there is all man­ner of help. Also, women weren’t talk­ing to each other about it, or to their moth­ers or daugh­ters.

How do you think we should be talk­ing about it?

Women should be taught it’s a nat­u­ral part of your life, it takes you into an­other age. The truth of the mat­ter is that the menopause is more of­ten than not at the height of women’s pow­ers and po­ten­tial nowa­days be­cause it is 45 to 55, so it is not as if you are re­treat­ing into some kind of de­bil­i­tated cir­cum­stance, ei­ther men­tally or phys­i­cally.

Why has it been im­por­tant to you to stay based in Scot­land?

My fam­ily is in Scot­land and a lot of my friends are in Scot­land. Why would I not stay in Scot­land? I’m very glad I did.

How did you man­age when your chil­dren were grow­ing up?

No­body gets it right en­tirely, but my chil­dren re­mind me I was home so much of the time. When they were young, I was on News­night three nights, so I would be at home for two days a week to pick them up from school. A lot of stuff I wasn’t there for, but their dad was. It is al­ways a bar­gain and I think this idea of su­per­woman has long gone, we all do the best we can.

What are your chil­dren do­ing now?

Caitlin is back at home, as her first job is in Glas­gow. She left home at 17, so it is great to have her back. We all get on very well. James lives and works in New York. I speak to him ev­ery day on Facetime. It’s just to catch up for a few sec­onds in the day, to find out what he’s up to and keep in touch with his life. We all go on hol­i­days to­gether ev­ery year.

Be­ing a mother is ob­vi­ously very im­por­tant to you. It is the most im­por­tant thing, it just ab­so­lutely is! I was 36 when I had Caitlin and 38 when I had James, so I was late hav­ing kids, but I al­ways knew I wanted chil­dren. My hus­band jokes that I have the long­est um­bil­i­cal cord in the world! There is a say­ing: ‘You are only as happy as your un­hap­pi­est child,’ which is true. If any­thing hap­pens to them I’m on the phone or I am happy to see them, wher­ever they are.

You al­ways seem quite se­ri­ous on TV, but what are you like off screen?

You are blessed if you have a good job and fam­ily and friends. There are al­ways tri­als and tribu­la­tions – my mum died 10 years ago and my fa­ther has been dead a lot longer. I miss them ter­ri­bly. An­niver­saries mean noth­ing, it is ev­ery day you miss them. I miss the con­ver­sa­tions, I miss their knowl­edge.

How do you keep your mar­riage vi­brant?

We have a diary, for a start, or we would never see one

an­other. We of­ten see each other two nights a week, which is good be­cause I think, ‘Oh, I’m going to see Alan tonight.’ You have to keep going out and do­ing things to­gether.

Well I say that, but I would have to be wanted to be on TV into my 70s. I’m com­ing up to 25 years on News­night, so I will be the long­est-run­ning pre­sen­ter.

What are your am­bi­tions, can you imag­ine your­self chair­ing Ques­tion Time? I think there will be many peo­ple when David Dim­bleby de­cides he doesn’t want to do it any longer. I think I will be one of them, but I’m sure lots of peo­ple will throw their hats in the ring for that.

We’re look­ing for­ward to your se­cond novel, what can you tell us about it?

I’m fin­ish­ing it off now, as it’s due out next spring. It’s an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional fam­ily story set in south­west Scot­land. Early on there is a tragedy, which un­rav­els as the book goes on. Writ­ing is a real pas­sion for me. I am used to work­ing in teams, but when I’m work­ing on the book, it’s like going into an­other space and I don’t want to come out of it. I en­joy that soli­tude.

Has your life­style changed as you have got older?

What I do more now is lie on the sofa and read. I think so much of life is lived fast and you for­get about what you have just done. You want to savour things, and re­mem­ber them. I’ve tried adult bal­let, which I want to take up when I have more time. What I love about it is you come out and walk dif­fer­ently, hold your­self dif­fer­ently – it is about core strength.

So it’s about get­ting the right work-life bal­ance?

I’m do­ing a TED talk in June about how we should change our work­ing lives. I think we are in a sit­u­a­tion where we should not be think­ing of a five-day work­ing week as the norm, but a four-day week or less. You can be just as pro­duc­tive and also that ex­tra day is about keep­ing your­self fit and healthy, do­ing what­ever you want to do.

You showed off your cook­ing skills on Celebrity


I was a kitchen cook be­fore I went on Masterchef and then I be­came a bit more re­fined and now I’m back to be­ing a kitchen cook. I love cook­ing. It’s how I re­lax – cook­ing and read­ing and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic.

With a glass of wine?

Yes, when I am cook­ing! My mother loved a gin and tonic and now Caitlin and I are en­joy­ing our gins, too.

Is it true that you churn your own but­ter?

Yes, al­though it is mostly just for din­ner par­ties. It is very easy to do and it tastes de­li­cious!

Kirsty: ‘My hus­band jokes I have the long­est um­bil­i­cal cord in the world!’

Kirsty with her daugh­ter, Caitlin

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