For the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to Gloria Hunniford.
Here, the ‘Loose Women’ star, who is currently supporting a study into canine heart disease, opens up about learning to deal with the death of daughter Caron Keating, reveals why she wishes she’d had more children, and explains why her dogs are her babies.
What do you do to switch off from the world?
I’m pretty good at doing that - I love my garden. I can’t say I’m marvellous with a spade, but I love pottering or getting home on a hot day from steaming London and watering my plants. We also have a family home in France and that’s a total switch off for me because it’s different to anything else we normally do.
How do you deal with any negativity?
My mother taught me how to deal with it years and years ago, when I didn’t really understand what she was talking about. When I was a child, if I broke or lost something, had a row or broke up with a boyfriend, she’d say to me: ‘Now listen, stand back and listen for a minute. Is there anything you can do? Can you apologise? Can you mend it? Can you look for it? If you can, do it 100%. If it’s out of your control, let it go because it’s negative energy.’ I still use that philosophy to this day and always hear my mother’s voice in my head.
When and where are you happiest?
That’s very hard to say, but as far as television is concerned, I’ve always done everything live. I like the edge of it and the fact it is now or never - I think it brings the best out of everybody. Then I’m always happiest when my family is around, whether they’re here or we’re with them. We’re a close family and we get together as much as possible. My dogs also make me very happy. When your children go off and have their own children, your dogs become your babies.
What has been the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Again, going back to my mother, she said, ‘In life, you should always buy a good bed or a good pair of shoes, because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other.’ It’s very true!
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
Losing my daughter [Caron Keating, who died in 2004 from breast cancer], for sure. I’d previously lost my parents and my husband who was the father of my children. But when you lose a child, it is the hardest lesson you ever have to deal with, because you cannot carry a child for nine months and give birth to them and lose them without it being the deepest pain imaginable. That’s been a tough lesson and still continues to be - it never goes away, and you just have to learn to cope with it.
There are days when you are feeling strong, but somebody could just say something, and it takes you right back into that awful black space. Somebody who’d been out of the country came back recently and said to me, ‘How’s your gorgeous daughter?’ Well, I couldn’t answer. Occasionally you get hit between the eyes by that sort of thing.
Running the foundation is part of my healing, because I’ve found turning something negative into something mildly positive is very good.
What would you could tell your 13-year-old self?
When you’re older, have more babies. I regret now not having more children. I never had a set number in my mind, and looking back now, it’s maybe because I lost my daughter. I love big families and love children, and if I had my time again, I’d try to have more.
What three things are at the top of your to-do list?
One of them is to take three months and drive across America from east to west. Another we’re doing next year, because I’ve often wanted to go back to Australia to have a bit of closure as far as Caron is concerned. We haven’t been back in 12 years. We’re going to go on a cruise at some point next year, which will leave from Australia, where we will fly to and get that closure, and then we will sail to Japan. I probably never would have gone under my own steam, but this is partly for work as well.
We already try to get all the family together in France a couple of times a year, so my big wish would be that all of that continues as our family grows more. I love it when I say goodnight to my grandchildren, I’ll see them again in the morning.
What do you think happens when we die?
I totally believe in the afterlife and that we go somewhere. I don’t know what it looks like or what it is, but I have to believe that because I want to know I will see my parents and my loved ones and my daughter again. I would hate to think this is it, I can’t buy into that at all.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
When you look at the magnificence of a country, for example when you’re out at sea and it goes out as far as they eye can see. It’s all that natural beauty that makes you think it’s bigger than all of us.
What keeps you grounded?
By nature, I’m quite grounded and my family also keep me grounded, because it doesn’t matter how glamorous the job is or how exciting or challenging it is - when I come home I’m just mum, or wife.
What do you try and bring to your relationships?
Friendship is the bottom line. Loyalty, I’m very good at keeping in touch and I feel in reverse that’s what people bring to a relationship with me. For example, one of my great friends who was living in Switzerland when my daughter was very ill, she said I could ring her any time of the day or night. Although I never did have to call her, I knew she was there and I thought that was one of the ultimate acts of friendship - that dependability, that closeness and that trust.
What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?
Hard Rock support our foundation I set up in Caron’s name and we have cancer charities all over the country, and they are really kind to us, year after year. On this particular occasion, Cliff Richard, who I have know for 45 years and who has been under great stress himself, he decided he would spend his birthday with our event, and I thought that was a real act of kindness. He could have spent it with family or friends, but he came along and it was wonderful, and we had a big cake for him.
At the same time, Rod and Penny Stewart came, and that was a real act of kindness, as it was his investiture week, so they were very busy with having friends and family down from Scotland, but they made the time to come. It made the event and pumped up the amount of money raised.
Gloria Hunniford is supporting the EPIC study led by the RVC who have made a major breakthrough in management of canine heart disease. Find out more here.