How does it feel that Dawn French described new book Shine as an ‘utter tonic”?
I was beside myself. I absolutely adore her. She’s one of the loveliest. most authentic people you could ever meet so that was incredible.
Dawn is Saga's Agony Aunt!
What’s the best advice you’ve had during your lifetime?
My very formidable grandmother, who’s no longer with us, always had this thing about not saving anything until best. At Christmas you tend to get really nice perfume or really nice underwear or really nice stuff for your bath. Use it. Don’t let it sit there. We’re all a wee bit guilty of saying ‘I’ll wear that dress or those shoes when I’ve got a special occasion”. Nah! She would wear her best clothes to walk into town or put the bins out. She’d seize the day and that’s really important. If you leave that perfume sitting there, it seems a bit silly. Try and squeeze every little drop of contentment.
Are you proficient in being present and appreciating the moment?
Kind of. It’s something you have to train yourself to do because all of us are very busy, particularly women, and we put ourselves at the bottom at a very long list. It’s about making time for yourself, even if it’s just a deep breath and taking five minutes to think about things. It’s about being a bit kinder, not just to everyone else but a bit kinder to yourself.
What’s the kindest thing someone has ever said about you?
That’s a really good question. A while ago, I was shopping on Oxford Street and this young man stopped me and said “I wish that you were my mum. I know that if I’d have come out to you, that you would have said, ‘I know anyway, let’s have a cup of tea and a cuddle’.” That was really very special. I must admit, I had a tear in my eye. He’d obviously had a difficult time coming out to his own mother.
Which female celebrity would you like to take out for a cup of tea, to offer a bit of moral support?
Meghan [Markle] because she’s having a really hard time and it’s really sad. Both of them had all of this love and affection when they first got married and they’ve made a few errors along the way. I don’t think they’ve meant to. Sometimes it’s how things are perceived and maybe they’ve been badly advised, but I think they are two really lovely people who are making such a difference. All of what they did in South Africa was fantastic. She’s got that same sort of rapport with people that Diana had. I want to say to [Meghan] ‘it’s okay, it’s alright’, because I didn’t like to see her looking distressed in that documentary. I thought ‘you’ve got a fantastic husband, you’ve got a little baby’ That’s a struggle, though. It’s not easy being a new mum, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got all the money in the world.
You came off Twitter earlier this year after some negative comments. What’s the rudest thing someone has said to you on social media?
They’ll have a pop at you for how you look or how you sound or they don’t like you. You’ve got to remember that absolutely no-one, not even The Queen, is going to please everyone. That’s a difficult thing to come to terms with sometimes. It’s fine. I’m a big girl, I’m nearly 60 but I do worry about younger people. When little Jesy [Nelson] from Little Mix did that documentary, my heart broke for her. That girl should have been having a ball. She’d won the X Factor, the girls had global success, it should have all been fantastic but she was distraught because people were so unbelievably mean. It baffles me that anyone would want to destroy a beautiful, lovely girl who’s just entertaining people. It’s absolutely outrageous.
How to tackle internet trolls
In your book you detail the merits of therapy. Did you have therapy to combat your anxiety?
No and that’s not to say I wouldn’t [in the future] but my anxiety was hormonal, it was all to do with the menopause. For me, it was the anxiety and feeling completely overwhelmed and also joyless. I was lucky that we have an amazing fella called Doctor Hillary [Jones] who’s a very good friend. I was able to talk to him and, right away, when I said to him, ‘I’m feeling anxious, I feel flat, I’ve lost sense of myself, I’m not sleeping’, he said, ‘it’s the menopause!’. He prescribed HRT and I swear by it. It’s changed my life.
Did your mental health troubles ever lead you to believe you couldn’t carry on?
Nowhere near as bad as that but what it did do was give me insight into how tough it must be to have a real problem. I had a problem but it was completely solvable and I could get on with my life but so many people, sadly, don’t have that. We’re getting a lot better at talking about [menatal health] and so we should. Why should anyone be ashamed about having a mental illness? It makes no sense to me.
You were bullied as a child. Did that experience manifest itself in later life by way of confidence issues?
I’m not a particularly confident person. It’s only recently I’ve become very comfortable in who I am. I’ve accepted it. I know that I’m always going to have a bit of a tummy, nobody’s perfect. It’s just about accepting your flaws.
How bad did the bullying get?
There was a bit of shoving but it was more intimidation. Sometimes feeling that something might happen, the threat of it, is worst than getting thumped. Waiting for the blow to come is actually worse than getting hit. It was mostly when I was aged between six and eight. It got sorted out but when that happened to me, I’d go home and nobody could get me. Now people can be bullied at home because they’re bullied on their phones. It’s absolutely horrible.
You were born and raised in a tough part of Glasgow. Has that background helped tether your feet to the ground today?
For sure, absolutely, and it gives you that sense of ‘I can talk to anyone’. It was a good thing. I was very lucky that my mum and dad were very well-educated. They taught me to read and write before I went to school and the house was always full of books. One of the best things they gave me was a love of reading. I’ve never had any diva-ish tendencies. I mean, that would be ridiculous. I’d be the first person to laugh at myself.
Have you ever refused to interview someone?
I’ve never refused to interview someone but I wouldn’t have Katie Hopkins on the show because what would be the point? People like that, you’re never going to get anywhere with and why would you give them the oxygen of publicity? I wouldn’t have her on because she’s not relevant.
Which celebrity would you like to spend 24 hours with to fully understand?
The Queen. She’s amazing. Never complain, never explain. We project our feelings onto her because we don’t really know what she thinks because she’s never actually said anything.
When did you last cry?
When I said ‘cheerio’ to [my daughter] Rosie, the last time I saw her in Singapore, that’s always really emotional [Rosie, 24 moved to Singapore a few years ago to work for a charity]. We talk to each other all the time on WhatsApp. I would never decry the internet and technology because whilst, yes, there’s a dark side to it, there’s an amazing side. You can find everything out on Google and I can see my daughter on FaceTime. She’s having a great time, she’s got a great career and is having a ball out there. She’s an independent girl and that’s what I brought her up to be.
Being a long-distance grandparent
Is there an object you’ve kept from childhood?
I’ve got Christmas decorations from when I was a kid. I don’t understand this thing where people go ‘this year, I’m doing my tree in tartan’. This year? I’ve been bringing the same old stuff out every single year because it means so much to me. It’s so sentimental. I’ve got two little plump fairies that my mum gave me. She also gave two to my brother, Graham. On top of my tree is a snowman that Rosie made when she was two. It’s falling apart and a bit wonky but I don’t care. It’s just adorable.
Were you a school prefect or school terror?
I wasn’t that naughty. I was quite a good girl. I don’t think I ever played truant, I was a wee swot. I actually liked school.
When was the moment you finally felt you were an adult?
[laughs} I don’t think I am yet! I guess it was when I became a mum, that overwhelming feeling of complete love. Actually, even then I felt quite inadequate and overwhelmed by it but, at the same time, it was wonderful. I still don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up!
What was the career plan when you were younger?
I was going to go to University to do Russian and English. I don’t know what I’d have ended up doing, maybe teaching, but I got a job with the local newspaper so I did that. Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut. In my job, I did get to talk to Buzz Aldrin and Tim Peake and do a little bit of astronaut training so it’s fine. I got a little bit of it!
What’s your favourite tipple?
My favourite drink is a freezing glass of Prosecco. I can’t remember the last time I had a hangover. I can’t do it any more! What tends to happen is I have one glass of Prosecco and I fall asleep. I don’t tend to overindulge any more. I am so boring!
A guide to Prosecco
Which two people from the past would you like to sit next to at dinner?
Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. A couple of years ago I went to Antarctica and visited Ernie’s graveside in South Georgia and when you go there, you have to pour yourself a giant glass of whiskey and toast The Boss. I’d also invite Bette Davis. She’d be full of good stories.
Have you ever broken the law?
Not knowingly! I don’t think so!
What was the last thing you told a close friend but neglected to tell your husband Steve [Smith, 59]?
About something I bought. You know how you buy stuff and your husband says ‘is that new?’ and you go, ‘no, I’ve had it for years!’ Not that he’s going to care!
You’re a hard-nosed journalist at heart. What’s the toughest question you’ve ever had to ask in an interview?
It’s always hard talking to people who have gone through really tough times. I do remember very early on when Madeleine McCann went missing, talking to her mum and dad and saying, ‘you need closure, we don’t want to be ten years down the line and you still don’t know’. But, here we are, and it’s more than ten years. It’s heartbreaking. They wanted to talk to me because they want to keep Madeleine in the public eye but how difficult that was. The abuse that couple have got online is scandalous. The things they’ve been accused of and all these conspiracy theories, I find it baffling and so heartless. Those interviews are always hard. You have to have empathy [but] ask the difficult questions. Piers Morgan always says about me that I’m an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’, which is a lovely way to describe me!
What’s your hope for the future?
That, especially in this country, the wounds heal because it has become very fractured and very toxic. I hope we can find a way forward where can all meet in some middle ground and respect each other’s points of view. I’d like a healing process. I think we’re overdue it. There has to be some sort of evolution. Let’s just be a bit kinder to one another.
Shine by Lorraine Kelly is published by Century and is available for a discount on the Saga Bookshop.