Broadcaster Clare Balding lives in London with her civil partner, Alice Arnold, their dog, Archie, and their cat, Itty. Clare’s memoir, My Animals And Other Family (Penguin) is out now in paperback.
Nothing has connected me to other people as much as writing my book. It’s a memoir, rather than an autobiography, and I wanted to make people think about their own childhood; their relationship with animals and their brother or father, and the things they were insecure about at school.
My father is a very comic character in the book. Every time he appears, you know something disastrous will happen, whether it’s putting milk in the kettle or attaching our toboggans behind his truck and not noticing for half a mile that my brother Andrew had fallen off.
I offered Mum three vetoes – but she didn’t use any. It’s really a book about my mother. It’s about her and the influence she had on my life: she is the beginning, the middle and the end of it. Dad’s attention was like a spotlight coming on you – it was so bright, it was startling; my mother’s was constant daily sunlight.
The book is also a real slice of an English country lifestyle. Although I suppose it was quite unusual too. I grant not many people have the Queen to breakfast!
I love being Auntie Clare. But I’m quite happy to just have a dog. I can get a bit panicked with too many children around. Not everyone has to have children. If everyone had two or three, we’d run out of room.
I’ve had so many things, good and bad, said about me. I’m way beyond worrying about what people say. You have to push it aside; you wouldn’t make it to work tomorrow if it bothered you. “Jog on,” I say to myself – and laugh about it.
I felt like a misfit at school and I think that’s quite common. But that feeling is an advantage when I interview people because when you’re on the sidelines, you’re a spectator. I can talk to different characters with different life experiences and I can listen very carefully. I’m much more interested in them than in me in that interview, just as I should be.
But when I have to stand up and perform, I switch in to performance mode. Music is very useful for getting into a certain frame of mind. With a live event, there are key points that have to be very tight and someone is counting in my ear all the time. It’s quite draining. Last year’s boat race took me a week to get over.
Having thyroid cancer in 2009 really didn’t change my life at all. I wish I could say that I had this epiphany. But I knew I was lucky before that, so it’s not like I suddenly realised how lucky I am.
The most important quality in a partner is a sense of humour. Not taking life too seriously and the ability to enjoy. Also someone who is practical, thoughtful and considered. Alice is probably more analytical than I am. I’m relatively simple, and most days I’m like a Labrador puppy, where everything is great.
This is an edited version of Clare’s interview. To read the full article, pick up the June issue of woman&home, out now.