I have no idea how I have ended up doing what I do: none of it has been planned.
I became a restaurateur because I loved good food, and I loved good food because my impoverished, working class mother was preternaturally interested in eating and cooking. When my husband, David, suggested we bought Hintlesham Hall from Robert Carrier I thought he was mad. He told me that if we didn’t buy the Hall I was never to mention the idea of having a restaurant again. So we bought it. We then turned it from a restaurant to a hotel with 33 bedrooms – and an 18-hole golf course.
I became a food writer because I met Delia and her husband, Michael, at Hintlesham and they liked the newsletters I wrote. They asked me to be a contributing food editor on their (then) newly launched magazine for Sainsbury’s and I continued to write two or three columns a month for about six years. I was then food editor of the Daily Mail Weekend Magazine for two years. I have won two Glenfiddich awards for food writing and have written three cookery books, The Really Helpful Cookbook; Fat Girl Slim; and Something for the Weekend. A few years ago I was awarded a doctorate by University Campus Suffolk, which I wish sounded English. (UCS is a collaboration beween the University of Essex and the UEA which sponsor its formation and validate its degrees.) I am very grateful for the honour, though. I also belong to the Society of Authors and the ALCS, and carry a donor card. You’re welcome.
I became a televison presenter because Jill Laurie (who had had the original idea for what turned out to be The Hotel Inspector), contacted my then agent to ask if she knew of anyone well versed in hotels. Despite turning down many offers on many occasions, I have – to date – presented three series of Hotel Inspector for Five, one series of Hotel Rescue on C4 and three series of Country House Rescue.
I became fat because I eat/ate too much. It’s something else my skinny childhood, slender teens and svelte twenties did not prepare me for. This last year I have lost three stone, but I should lose more. On the upside I feel a lot nimbler and have far less achey joints. Frankly, the notion that fatness should be excused as a disability is scandalous. If I suffered from MS or rampant arthritis, I would feel incensed that people who can do something about their condition are to be regarded with the same sympathy and help as those who can’t.
The only thing I have ever actively planned was to learn to drive, something which still gives me enormous pleasure and too many speeding endorsements. Formula 1 is a must-see for me and I am delighted coverage has gone to C4 (at least for a while). I just wish McLaren would get their act together – they need to steal back Adrian Newey. But if F1 doesn’t make make some radical changes audiences are going to continue to drop.
As for interests, well the world and its wanderings and wonderers all interest me. Anything from politics and business to design and architecture, with pop music (indie, preferably), plants, history, restaurants and fashion on the way, will all get my attention.