Forget the weather, from her debut novel to THAT engagement ring, Carol Kirkwood has been a pretty busy lady in recent months...
Carol Kirkwood's book
Everybody's favourite BBC weather forecaster has written her first novel. Under a Greek Moon is a sweeping saga set on a Greek island and amid the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown. We meet flame-haired Irish heroine Shauna who finds love, loses it, finds it again, has it snatched from her and ultimately retraces her teenage dream.
“It’s not Tolstoy,” she says, “but I loved the whole process. I’d work each afternoon on the book when I got home from the BBC, revising the previous day’s input before moving on with the story.” Her daily timetable – from Monday to Thursday, that is – would shred the steeliest of 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. On average, I get about five hours’ sleep a night.”
Carol Kirkwood as a weather forecaster
The wonder is that she looks so fresh-faced on it all. “Bless you. Put that down to artful make-up,” she laughs. Factor in an hour’s drive from her home in Berkshire – a round trip of 50 miles when she’s forecasting the weather from Broadcasting House in central London – and her seemingly bottomless good cheer is all the more remarkable.
Spend any time in her company and Carol’s natural sunniness is infectious. So is there a secret to her cheerfulness? There’s a definite family link!
Carol's early life
“When I was young, we were like the von Trapps. My mother played the organ in church; my dad sang in the choir. At Christmas, Mum would hire a Hammond organ, my sisters and I would play on our guitars and we’d all sing. With a blueprint like that, I couldn’t go far wrong in life, could I?” she says.
Born in Inverness-shire, Carol (59) is number six of eight children – two boys, six girls. Her mum Nancy is still around in her 90s, and her late father, Callum, was a hotelier in Morar, Scotland.
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 and we tried everything, but it just never happened and nor could anyone tell us why. But I’ve got lots of nieces and nephews who I adore.”
Carol's love life
For 25 years Carol was married to Scottish businessman Jimmy Kirkwood (not the Northern Irish hockey player as is so often mistakenly reported). She couldn’t have predicted the marriage to Jimmy would end in 2008.
“Sadly, it just ran its course and we both moved on.”
But four years ago, she met someone new. “He’s kind, intelligent, he makes me laugh – and he’s very handsome,” she reveals. So she’s happy? “Ecstatically. He’s a keeper, for sure.”
And she was certainly right as Carol recently revealed she's engaged! The news was announced on BBC Breakfast when presenter Sally Nugent spotted a sparkling rock on Carol's finger.
“I’m a bit concerned about how you’re standing up with a giant rock on that left hand.” Said Sally.
“Thank you Sal! It is rather nice. I got engaged!” Carol confirmed, smiling.
“It’s the happiest news! We are so, so delighted. Congratulations. Can we confirm to the nation what has happened?” Sally asked.
“Oh thank you! I think you just have Sally. We got engaged when we were on holiday. So it’s lovely news and we’re both thrilled. Thank you!”
Now, the identity of the mystery man is, well, very much still a mystery. We're hoping that Carol might soon share some more about her relationship so we're keeping our eyes peeled.
Carol on friendships
She also has a cherished circle of friends. “Philippa and Chris Howell are particularly good mates. They’re always there for me in a crisis.”
For example? “Last year I was knocked off my bike at a roundabout and Chris was the first person I called. There was blood everywhere. I was taken to Wexham Park hospital but, luckily, I wasn’t kept in. The doctor – he was called Peter – put me back together again. He was brilliant,” she says.
We were huge fans of Carol when she was on Strictly back in 2015!
The other sadness of lockdown is that her beloved cat, Donald, died just four weeks short of his 21st birthday. “He was a moggie I got from Cats Protection when he was eight weeks old. He was the cuddliest cat in the world. I adored Donald and I always will.”
I mention the Yours initiative, FitMind50, on taking up new challenges and her face lights up. “I took up running three years ago as part of a BBC campaign called Couch To 5K spread over nine weeks. I loved it. I felt fitter; it made me lose weight; and I became more conscious of what I was eating. In fact, I’ve carried on doing it. And my mind is kept active by my job because I have to memorise everything I say in a weather forecast. There’s no autocue.”
So back to the day job. Unbelievably, Carol has been bringing us the weather in one shape or form for some 22 years now.
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,” she says.
So the job’s compensations must make it worth it? “Oh, they do. I’ve broadcast from the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, from Centre Court at Wimbledon. I’ve flown with the Red Arrows, sky- dived with the Red Devils. And, about six years ago, I hang-glided for The One Show – one of the most terrifying experiences of my life,” she says.
Understandably, it’s not something, she says, she’ll ever do again. But then there are Earth-bound incidents she hopes never to repeat, too. “I’ve had a dog choosing to relieve itself behind me on-air on a beach,” she recalls.
Then there was the occasion she was to be filmed holding two measuring jugs of water. “One contained the amount of rainfall we should have had; theother contained the amount we’d actually had. Bill Turnbull introduced the item by asking: ‘Kirky – he always calls me Kirky – are you going to repeat your experiment for us?’ To which I replied, ‘Yes, I’ll have my jugs out again in 15 minutes.’ Bill was unable to speak after that; Mishal Husain had to rescue him.”
Under a Greek Moon is out now and published by HarperCollins
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