Interview: Gloria Hunniford's secret of happiness
Her TV and radio career has spanned many decades and won her many accolades, but Gloria Hunniford, 77, is never happier than when she’s with her grandchildren
As a child, Gloria Hunniford vividly recalls her father imparting some wise advice. ‘I used to say, “I can’t wait for Christmas” and my dad said: “Enjoy your life one day at a time and fill that day with all the enjoyment that you can.”’
It’s a philosophy Gloria has tried to live by ever since, and one which, judging by her continued zest for life, has served her very well. At an age when many of her peers are putting their feet up, Gloria has absolutely no desire to stop doing what she really loves.
The veteran broadcaster – she was the first woman to have her own daily radio show on BBC Radio 2 – remains a regular face on TV, presenting shows such as Rip Off Britain, and Loose Women, and considers herself fortunate to still have such an interesting career. ‘I am lucky to work in an industry I really enjoy,’ she says. ‘Every day I see different things and meet a huge variety of people. I’m stimulated by it. I learn something new every day.’
Above: Gloria with daughter Caron
Gloria credits her childhood in Northern Ireland for giving her such a strong work ethic. ‘Growing up, we were taught to work. I’ve worked since I was eight years old,’ she says, referring to her first career as a singer. And it was her parents who also taught Gloria the importance of family. ‘I feel lucky to have come from a grounded and loving family,’ she says. ‘The sense of love and security experienced during my upbringing is something I tried to pass on.’
Gloria is mother to two sons, Michael and Paul, but the sorrow of losing her beloved daughter Caron to cancer in 2004 is something that is never far from her mind. ‘I’ll never get over losing Caron, but you live around the big black hole and learn to cope.’
Gloria takes some solace from the fact she and Caron had such a strong and close relationship. ‘I always wanted my family to know how much they’re loved, appreciated and admired,’ she says. ‘Caron would have realised that, because we were very vocal and tactile regarding our affections. Showing your love is a great gift to give to any child.’
She’s now determined to give the 10 grandchildren she and her second husband, Stephen Way, share between them – aged from four to 24 – the same gift. ‘Being a grandmother is one of the most joyous things that could have happened to me,’ she says. ‘There’s such a feel-good factor when I’m around them and I just adore them.’
Gloria’s relationship with Caron’s sons, Charlie and Gabriel, has been a huge comfort in the years since her daughter’s death. ‘They’re part of my healing. I see Caron’s spirit living on in them,’ she says. ‘Charlie has her wicked sense of humour and Gabriel looks so like her. They’ve been in my life from the moment they entered the world, quite literally. Caron asked me to be there as each of them was born. So the bond between us has always been exceptionally tight and was made even more so because of her loss.’
Above: Gloria with Caron's sons, Gabriel and Charlie
Gloria also understands the importance of grandparents sharing their skills with others. She is supporting McCarthy Stone and the Royal Voluntary Service’s annual GrandFest celebration, which invites older people – GrandMakers – to teach masterclasses in everything from jam making to woodwork to the younger generations.
‘Passing on practical skills and sharing experience, which made my own childhood special, has to be one of the most satisfying and enjoyable aspects of spending time with my grandchildren,’ says Gloria. ‘I hope I’ve taught them quite a bit. I love tennis and we now have a couple of good tennis players in the family. We have done quite a bit of cooking together over the years, and I remember advising one or two about eating well when at university.
‘Mum was a wonderful cook. I inherited her love of cooking, although I’m not nearly as good. I only have to smell bread in a bakery and I’m back in her kitchen.’
However, it doesn’t look as if Gloria will be taking up full-time residence in her own kitchen any day soon. ‘I’m about to write my autobiography, plus I have my work with the Caron Keating Foundation [the charity Gloria set up in Caron’s memory] and I’ve been working on the BBC series Food: Truth or Scare.’
It seems she is still taking her father’s advice, filling each day to the brim and appreciating every moment.
Are you a Grandmaker?
All over the country, McCarthy Stone developments are humming with the sound of sewing machines, knitting needles and woodworking, as GrandFest gets underway.
As part of the celebrations for McCarthy Stone’s 40th anniversary, we are running a series of events where homeowners can share, learn, or brush up their skills in traditional crafts. Masterclasses in knitting, crochet, embroidery, lacemaking and quilting are on offer.
Gloria has joined us in launching the event, organised by the Royal Voluntary Service. ‘So many people of my generation would make perfect GrandMakers,’ she says. ‘We all have interests, knowledge and skills which have given us great pleasure over the years – and we can pass these on.
‘GrandFest is a fantastic opportunity to share this expertise with younger people and to inspire the next generation to enjoy these hobbies and experiences.’
Everyone is welcome to attend the events at McCarthy Stone developments.
To find out about events near you, go to the Grandfest page.
Words: Kate Corr. Photos: Anthony Woods, Alan Olley/Scope Features.com, Rex.