The presenter and West End performer reveals to Denise Marshall her love for the capital at Christmas, and why she’s recently given up country life
Where is home for you?
In September I moved back to Hampstead from Kent with my daughter, Betsy [seven], for the new school term. She loves it here. She has dyslexia so we found a specialist school that really caters for that extra support in class. I’d also started on Loose Women and work was dragging me back to the city, and I have to say, I’m loving being back.
What is it you particularly like about being back in London?
Having done all the teashops and farms, I just needed to get back to city life. It was nice to step away for a bit and then come and appreciate all the things I’d forgotten I loved about London. Hampstead is quite hilly so I’m walking more and getting fitter. I had a nanny in Kent who went above and beyond to help me out, but I’d often be sitting on a motorway wishing I could be putting Betsy to bed myself. Being here allows me to do that. You definitely have more access to kids’ things in London, too. They really need that, and I need it! I bumped into my friend Angela Griffin on Hampstead high street the other day and she said the same of country life – “I can’t do it!”
What are your favourite mother and daughter days out?
We recently went on the London Eye. Although Betsy’s been learning a lot about London, having grown up in the countryside, she wanted to see some of the landmarks herself. We also went to see Annie and School of Rock – both are great shows. Over the winter we’ll be going to Lapland UK, and we love walking along the Southbank.
Where do you head out to eat?
You can get a really good roast dinner at The Stag pub in Hampstead on Sundays. We always bump into people we know while we’re there, and they sometimes have a live band playing. As Betsy is only seven, she loves family friendly places like Carluccio’s and a Pizza Express – anywhere that offers colouring pens.
What are your plans for Christmas?
Betsy’s dad, Lee [Mead], and I do Christmas morning together with her. One year we even had lunch together, as we all get on. My mum might book a last-minute lunch somewhere. When I was in Kent, everyone came to me, but now I don’t really have the room! For New Year’s Eve my friend has an apartment in Marbella so although it won’t be really hot, we can all enjoy a long walk on the beach and a nice meal together.
What’s your favourite thing about the festive season?
Being a mum just makes Christmas. We love putting out all the mince pies and carrots, and milk and marshmallows for the elves. It’s always magic when they still believe!
How has motherhood changed you?
You definitely have to learn patience, and it makes you less selfish. It’s an unconditional love you can’t get from anyone else.
You’re one of the few celebrities to speak honestly about what a shock motherhood can be…
It is hard in the beginning – nothing can quite prepare you no matter how organised you feel. And then, obviously as they get older, it’s adapting to things like the chaos of the school run.
As an ambassador for Spabreaks.com, you’ve talked about the importance of maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Where do you like to go to switch off?
Betsy and I had our nails done together for the first time at the Portmarnock Hotel spa in Dublin over the summer, and I’d love to find somewhere in London to do that regularly. Right now I’m a judge on Ireland’s Got Talent so I’ll probably try to squeeze in a spa break just before Christmas – there’s an amazing hotel near Belfast called the Galgorm Resort, or there’s The K Club in Kildare. If you go with friends you can talk and talk like you can’t at home because life just takes over.
Do you feel like you get enough time to yourself?
Not really, but I’m getting better at it. It’s so important to take time out – even if that means just one day with family and no phones or emails. We live in a world that’s moving 100mph at the moment, especially with social media. It feels like when I started out in this business there were only four TV channels and no weekly magazines!