In 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 Carol Vorderman.
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With more than 30 years in the television industry - initially as one of the original co-presenters on ‘Countdown’, and later on the likes of ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and ‘Loose Women’ - there are few more qualified to deliver “wise words” than Carol, who tells us about her one regret in life, her plans to fly solo around the world… and one particularly fun-sounding trip to Brazil she’s got planned…
What do you do to switch off from the world?
There are three main things, really. I go walking a lot, with my iPod in, I can lose myself for hours doing that, I really enjoy it. I’m not a runner, but I am a walker. What I listen to varies, really. If I’m doing country walks when there’s no one around, I’m normally singing away, so I listen to Motown or something like that, or dance as well, but if I’m walking around town then it would be something slower, otherwise people would think I’d gone a bit nuts, walking around swinging my arms about everywhere. It’s best I do that out of the public gaze.
As well as walking, I switch off flying, and I’m not the only person to say that - a lot of businessmen and businesswomen who learn to fly have said that as well. Everybody has their computers and their smart phones now, and everything’s pinging and ponging all day long, but when you’re up there, it requires your whole brain, so it’s actually really relaxing, because normally in life, a lot of stresses in the modern world come from the fact we have to think about 100 things in an hour - it’s constant, it’s never-ending. But when you’re up there, it’s just the one thing, and no one can get to you, it’s lovely!
And then the third thing I do… I’ve never really been a big reader of novels, I’m not really interested in them, to be honest. I read them and I go, ‘oh well that’s made up.’ But I do like reading adventure stories, from real-life adventurers. Right now I’m reading about my heroine, Mildred Bruce, and her flight around the world. That means a lot to me, because this is stuff that someone else hasn’t made up - and it’s actually more fantastical than fiction, because life always is, isn’t it?
Carol is currently fronting MoneySuperMarket's 'Car Insurance Epic Mind Drive' experience
When and where are you happiest?
A lot of different places make me happy, really. I love a party, I’m a big party girl. I don’t go to enough, although some would say I go to too many! And I’m really happy at home, because my mum lives with me, and she’s very funny. And then obviously in a plane.
But lots of different places, I couldn’t say where I’m happiest - I’ll tell you where I’m not happiest, is sitting on a beach or by a swimming pool. I get bored! *laughs*
My sign when I know I’m happy enough - and ‘enough’ is my magical word - when I’m happy enough, is when I’m skipping, I’m bouncing around, and I literally skip up to the front door, and that’s when I know I’m at my ‘happy enough’ stage.
What has been the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn?
Not to do too much… to say no, I think. But that’s only really come to me in the last couple of years. That’s the hardest lesson - it’s a good lesson, though.
I’m not very good at doing nothing, I’m just not good at it, so then I say yes to everything! So my diary is always full, but if I look beyond four months ahead it looks like it’s empty. It’s not, but there are lots of spaces. So if someone asks me to do something in six months time, I’ll say ‘yes, of course, I’ll do that!’, but then, of course, it’s never empty by the time you get there, so it took me a long time to learn to say no.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
I’m trying to remember what I was like at 13! I think I’d tell her to learn to fly young. I’m doing it now, but that’s my one regret.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
Fun! That’s what I would try to bring. Just be the entertainment for people.
What keeps you grounded?
Family, I suppose. We are very much a three-generation household, and we’re a close family.
Carol says her upcoming trip around the world is top of her bucket list
What three things are left at the top of your bucket list?
To fly around the world solo, obviously, and that’s coming next year. I want to go to every Formula 1 Grand Prix one year, and fly myself from one to the other. And then to go with a bunch of my outrageous friends on a float in a Brazilian carnival, with one of those outfits on!
What do you think happens when we die?
I have no idea, but I don’t think anybody else does either.
When do you feel that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
I remember when I was growing up, they used to say, ‘there’s never been any life on Mars, because there’s no water up there.’ And now we know there was. And that’s just about science, new evidence comes forward, and therefore the conclusions change. I think we think too much of ourselves, you know? And so, I don’t think that the human race is the ultimate form of anything. We are to ourselves, but I think we have an incredible arrogance about us. I think that we could do with a lot more humility, and appreciation of other things.
Whether that means a God, I’ve no idea. But then neither does anybody else, do they? It’s all blind faith. If people want to believe that, then I would never criticise that at all. You know, my mum’s very Christian, I waver in and out, my daughter’s very Christian, and I respect that. And it’s not for me all the time, but then sometimes it is. I think I’m very like a lot of people in that.
Flying also really gives you a sense of looking down, and thinking, ‘why are there arguments down there?’ Because actually there’s no difference, there’s just a few miles, there’s a mountain between those people and those people, and then we falsely create difficulties. I don’t mean ‘we’ as in Brits, I just mean in general, people are always trying to find differences.
For me, I just think make the most of being here, because you’re not here very long. Nobody is. Even if you’re the oldest person in the world, you’re still not here, relatively, very long. So do these things, and keep people around that make you happy. And keep out the miserable people!
Carol tries out the 'Car Insurance Epic Mind Drive'
Carol also took the time to tell us about MoneySuperMarket’s epic driving experience, the 'Car Insurance Epic Mind Drive', a unique driving experience she tried out for herself earlier this week, that allows users to control a car using their brainwaves alone.
“It’s quite spooky actually when you see it happen,” she tells us, the day after trying out the new technology for herself, “And my brain never stops, so you have to really concentrate - but I’m quite good with now with the flying. So it was really really interesting.
“You have to train the computer to understand your brain patterns when you’re thinking - left, right, stop and start is fundamentally what it is.”
If you’d like the opportunity to 'use your head' and try out this unique technology for yourself, you can register for the chance to drive the mind-controlled car on Money SuperMarket’s website, by clicking here, before 12pm on Wednesday 15 July.