Carol Kirkwood combines her TV career with writing novels
His wife, a keen observer of the rich and famous who have passed through its sun-faded doors, is the keeper of many powerful secrets. Among them are the see-saw chapters in the lives of acting royalty, Elizabeth and Robert Chappell (latterday shades of Burton and Taylor).
So, the scene is set for a saga of shady people in sunny places via Carol Kirkwood’s second novel, The Hotel On The Riviera, a follow-up to her best-selling debut Under A Greek Moon. Ariana was a key figure in that story, too.
Talking of sunny, no one radiates more warmth than BBC Breakfast TV’s favourite weather forecaster. Contentment comes off her in almost palpable waves. But then, as we shall see, everything in Carol’s garden is currently looking distinctly rosy.
We have met opposite Broadcasting House and, although her alarm clock went off as usual in the middle of the night, the words tumble out of her in merry profusion.
This new page-turner, like its predecessor, may not win the Booker Prize, but Carol, 60, is perfectly content, she says, if it proves to be a beach holiday bestseller.
“It’s not Tolstoy but I loved the whole process – absolute joy from start to finish.”
And now she has put the final fullstop on that “difficult second novel” – except, she says, she didn’t find it difficult at all.
Caroline says she did not find writing her second novel ‘difficult’
“When I was at school [in Fort William in the Scottish Highlands], I used to love writing essays – and my English teacher, Mr Cox, encouraged me. We might have to do an essay once a fortnight – I’d choose to write one every couple of days.
“But I never dreamt that one day I’d be writing novels.”
She is now well immersed in writing her third novel set on the Amalfi coast (“I love glamour”) as part of a four-book deal. She must hand in the third manuscript to her publishers in September.
Her daily timetable – from Monday to Thursday, that is – would shred the steeliest nerves.
She goes to bed at 8pm, setting the alarm for 2.45am. “But, by the time I’ve taken off my face, brushed my teeth and read a few pages of a book, the lights are rarely out before 9pm and, of course, I don’t always fall asleep immediately. On average, I get about five hours of sleep a night. But then I catch up at the weekend.”
The wonder is that she looks so freshfaced on it all. “Bless you. Put that down to artful make-up.” Factor in an hour’s drive from her home in Berkshire – a round trip of 50 miles when she’s forecasting the weather from central London – and her seemingly bottomless good cheer is all the more remarkable.
She arrives at work at 4.30am and is first seen on-screen at 6am. For the last two years or so, Covid has prevented anyone being available to do her hair and make-up. “So, I do the best I can but it’s a bit hit-and-miss.” She’s off-air by nine but then there are weather forecasts to record for the News Channel.
Carol has been bringing us the weather in one shape or another for 23 years now, almost all via BBC Breakfast. She takes no prompting whatever to say how much she loves her job. “But it’s a killer shift. It’s not natural to get up at quarter to three in the morning. You never really get used to it.”
So, the compensations must make it worth it. “Oh, they do. I’ve broadcast from Buckingham Palace, the royal enclosure at Ascot and, most recently, from Centre Court at Wimbledon. I’ve flown with the Red Arrows and sky-dived with the Red Devils.”
She was also thrilled to be part of the on-screen presentation team covering the Platinum Jubilee in June. “I was in Saltcoats, north Ayrshire. We had the most beautiful view over the Isle of Arran.”
“I had the pleasure of interviewing five locals, one of whom lit the beacon for the Jubilee celebrations. Such a privilege.”
Carol has been lucky enough, she says, to have met the Queen on a few occasions. “About 10 years ago I gave a talk to the Sandringham Women’s Institute of which Her Majesty is President. I met her when she came to open the new Broadcasting House in 2013 and then again at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, one of her favourite events.”
Carol is known for bringing us the weather for 23 years
Born in Inverness-shire, Carol is number six of eight children – two boys, six girls – to Nancy, who died earlier this year, and her late father, Callum, a hotelier.
Coming from such a large family, did she ever want children of her own? “Oh, very much. I’d wanted to be a mum since I was a child. But it just never happened and nor could anyone tell us why.”
For 25 years, Carol was married to Jimmy Kirkwood, not the Northern Irish hockey player as is so often mistakenly reported. “No, he’s a Scottish businessman.” She couldn’t have predicted the marriage would end in 2008. “Sadly, it just ran its course and we both moved on.”
But it’s not easy breaking up with your husband, she says, if you have a public profile. “I still had to be sunny Carol onscreen. I found it a real challenge. I’d come off-air – we broadcast from the Blue Peter garden in those days – go to the Ladies, have a good cry and then have to reapply my eye make-up before stepping in front of the cameras again.”
In time, the sun came out again. About five years ago, she met Steve at a function in London.” But, because of the nature of his job and the fact he’s signed the Official Secrets Act, she can neither reveal his surname nor what he does.
“What I can say is that he’s kind, intelligent, and he makes me laugh. Oh, and he’s very handsome.”
So, she’s happy? “Ecstatically. He’s a keeper, for sure.”
Indeed, they recently got engaged.
“We’d gone for a long walk in May which culminated in a picnic. All of a sudden, he went down on one knee. I thought he was kidding but then he produced a ring he’d chosen himself.”
She holds out her left hand. “It’s a diamond in the shape of a daisy on a platinum setting. He did a brilliant job. I’d have chosen it myself.” A contented smile.
“I’m tickled pink. I had no plans to marry again. This feels like the beginning of the second half of my life.”
Happy at home, happy at work. Could she be poached like Dan Walker? “No, I have my own little family on BBC Breakfast. I love my job.” Even when things go wrong? There was the time, for instance, when a dog relieved itself behind her on-air on a beach in Wittering.
And talking of dogs, Carol was in Greenwich Park not so long ago. “Everything I say on television is from memory.”
“So I was telling the editor what I planned to say that day: ‘It’s a beautiful day – I’ve been watching the joggers all morning and the dog walkers making an early start. And the forecast is’ “It all sounded fine until we went live and I found myself saying, ‘I’ve been watching the doggers all morning’.”
Carol says that everything she states on TV she does from memory
She continued: “I quickly corrected it and the editor knew it was an honest mistake. Even so, that clip went all round the world. I was getting tweets from America, Australia, all over.”
She also remembers the occasion when she was filmed holding two measuring jugs of water: “One contained the amount of rainfall we should have had; the other contained the amount we’d actually had.”
“Presenter Bill Turnbull then asked me, ‘Kirky – he always called me Kirky – are you going to repeat that experiment for us?’ To which I replied, ‘Yes, I’ll have my jugs out again in 15 minutes’.”
- The Hotel On The Riviera by Carol Kirkwood is published by HarperCollins on July 21
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