Interview: Jenni Falconer, TV presenter
She may have just finished presenting This Morning, where she was filling in for Holly Willoughby (herself on maternity leave) – but, “I’m doing a few more bits and pieces for them. I’m also doing the Lottery and I’m doing voice overs, I’m booked up with work for the next couple of weeks.”
After that, though, she insists she’s going to slow down … maybe. “I’m going to get bored, I know, because I get bored when I have just one day off. I like to keep busy. When I sit still I find the fridge becomes my closest friend.
“And also, I’ve been getting these aches in my ribs. It only kicks in when I sit down to watch television in the evening and that’s it – I’m in agony. So if I keep moving I don’t think about it.”
The self-confessed fitness freak barely sits still as it is. A running convert after she took up the sport while filming The Big Country in Scotland in the mid-1990s, she has since run the London Marathon twice, as well as the Great Scottish Run last year.
“I love running,” she says. “It’s really difficult in this industry, when you’re freelance and you’re working irregular hours, you need to take the work when it’s there, so you can’t commit to classes, you can’t commit to group activities or team games. You end up trying to find a sport or activity you can do on your own, and that you can do anywhere you go as well, so you’re very limited. But running was something I could do.”
She works out five times a week, whether it’s pounding the streets near her home in south-west London, or doing weights or a session on the cross trainer at her local gym. Horse riding is another favourite activity – in 2006 she won the BBC1 Sport Relief show Only Fools on Horses – though obviously that particular pastime is off the agenda at the moment.
“I’m rubbish at tennis but I love it,” she adds. “Basically, if I get a chance to go and play some kind of sport I take it. I just love the way exercise makes me feel. Any activity that makes me sweat and gets my blood pumping is what I enjoy doing.”
So it makes sense that she would be behind her own range of sports clothing, XPG, which she has produced in collaboration with Debenhams. But a little incongruous, perhaps, considering she is eight months pregnant?
She laughs: “We started work on this ages before I was pregnant – over a year ago. In fact, it was meant to come out at the start of this year, but it was delayed because we didn’t get the right fabric and we wanted to make sure it was all right. I’ll be able to wear my own sportswear to get back in shape, which is nice.”
In fact, she hasn’t really stopped working out since announcing she was going to have a child with her husband, Cutting It actor James Midgley. “I thought I was going to go nuts but, until I was about five or six months pregnant, I was able to pretty much carry on as normal,” she says. “I just had to cut down the distance and speed I ran at. So I was running five miles twice a week up until about five and a half months pregnant. Then I suddenly ballooned and it was too much, so I cut back completely.
“I still do a lot of walking – I have a dog and he’s kind of grateful I’m not running because he used to get dragged everywhere. And I still work out with a trainer once a week – we’re just doing bingo wing elimination and things like that.
“It’s not because I’m trying to win a competition,” she insists, almost defensively, “it’s just because I like to do fitness.”
She’s quick to refute any claims that she might be under pressure to stay slim for the television cameras. “The whole pressure thing – there is no pressure to look a certain way. There are all shapes and sizes on television. Quite often you find that if you’re thinner you get less work because people don’t like it.”
So there will be no post-baby diets for Ms Falconer – “I don’t like to diet. I don’t miss out anything. If I want something I’ll have it” – but that doesn’t mean she’ll be slouching around in her jammies waiting for the phone to ring and the work offers to start again. “I’ve got a London Marathon place sorted, so that’s nine months from birth to run in the marathon,” she says. “I’ve been told it’s achievable by people who’ve run it before me, so that’s the goal. If you have a challenge ahead you’re more likely to be a bit more motivated.”
Born in Glasgow in 1976, Falconer appeared on ITV’s Blind Date (choosing Donda, an 18-stone fish and chip shop owner, as her date). The pair ended up presenting a BBC Scotland show before she moved to outdoor series The Big Country, followed by stints on Holiday, GMTV and Entertainment Today.
And, although she left Glasgow as a child, her accent is as strong as ever. “You don’t lose your accent if you’re from Glasgow, because when you come home everyone goes, ‘Oooooo, get you!’”
The nature of her work means Falconer has nothing urgent calling her back from the nappies, Sudocrem and cuddles with her baby.
“I don’t really have to make any plans so I’ll just see what happens and take it job by job,” she says. “It’s an industry where you can’t really plan.”
As for her ideal scenario, she is non-committal. “You can say what you’d like to do but it’s not necessarily going to happen that way. Most of the jobs are taken, to be honest, so you just have to wait and hope that a vacancy comes about or that a new job is created where there’s space for you.
“I think I’m quite lucky in that I’ve been working quite hard up until the baby is due to arrive and then I can just play everything by ear. So if a job comes in I can weigh up whether it’s the right thing to do or not, and if nothing does – as everyone says when you have a newborn – you are quite busy anyway. So it’s kind of going to work for me either way.”
She’s hoping she might make it back to Scotland more often. “This year it has been particularly difficult to get back because of work. But I’m sure once I’ve given birth and my life gets a bit more regularity I’ll be able to come back a bit more often.”
She’s patron of the Scottish Breast Cancer 2000 charity, whose annual ball takes place on 29 October, “so I’m due to come to that but I don’t know if it’s going to be possible or not yet”.
Apart from her mum’s caramel shortbread, the thing she misses most about her homeland is the freedom to get out and about. “Mum and Dad live ten minutes from the centre of Glasgow and it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s beautiful and it’s so easy to be out of town. That’s one of the most lovely things about living in Scotland: as much as you can be in this amazing, exciting, cosmopolitan city, you can be out of it in a matter of minutes, unlike London.”
But while the next few months are filled with uncertainty, she can’t quite picture herself as a stay-at-home mum. “I love work. I’ve always had a full-time job since I was 18 so I can’t imagine sitting at home with a baby, but apparently that’s what’s going to happen to me. And apparently I’m going to love it!”
XPG by Jenni Falconer launches next month in Debenhams stores and online. Prices range from £16 for a running vest to £40 for a shower resistant training jacket. See www.debenhams.com for more details.