Interview: Fern Britton

As her fifth novel is published, Fern Britton talks about her upcoming fitness challenge, the trouble with politicians and why she’ll always love TV

Interview: Fern Britton

Fern is looking fit and well.

Fern Britton is looking fit and well, when we meet near the Buckinghamshire home she shares with TV chef Phil Vickery and her four children.

But having shed the pounds in recent years, thanks to a gastric band coupled with sensible eating and plenty of exercise, most notably cycling, she’s been fit for some time now.

On Friday, May 1, she embarks on #Challenge 57, a 1000-mile bike ride, cycling 57 miles a day (a mileage to match her age) from John O’Groats to Land’s End, to raise £57,000 for Professor Robert Winston’s Genesis Research Trust.

“I’m 57, I was born in 1957, and I want to do something big for that so #Challenge 57 was born,” she explains of the challenge.

“I’ve been in constant training for the last 10 years so I keep it topped up, but in the last six months I’ve been pushing it some more. I’m doing hills that I couldn’t do before. And I’m running two to three times a week.”

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She’s also an enthusiastic gardener, although The Big Allotment Challenge, which she hosted, did not meet the hopes that it would be horticulture’s answer to The Great British Bake Off, and hasn’t been recommissioned for a third series.

Exercise plays a big part in her life, but she doesn’t worry about injuring herself or her body wearing out.

“My core strength is very good at the moment, my legs are very strong. I do get tired, but then as you get older, you learn to use your energy wisely, so I have endurance.”

The exercise also helps stave off the bouts of depression Fern has battled for years.

“I’m not on medication at the moment. I’m doing very well, and maybe upping the exercise has helped.”

But she realises the depression could return.

“I’m fully expecting to have another episode. It takes a while to recognise it, but now that I’m experienced in it, I start to recognise the signs, usually when it’s a bit too late. Feeling invisible and not looking forward to anything are two big signs. Those are mine. The family is very understanding.”

Her fifth novel, A Good Catch, has just been published, a romantic yarn about the intertwined lives of two couples in Cornwall. It explores the subjects of class distinction, unrequited love, undetermined parentage – and body image.

One of the female protagonists, Loveday, is voluptuous rather than slender and not a conventional fashion-follower, but is an altogether more likeable and desirable character than her slim, well-groomed best friend, Greer.

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Is this Fern’s stand against the pressures women face to look slim and perfectly dressed?

“It wasn’t an intentional rebellion but I can see why you would think that. I have a friend who is kind of Loveday to look at and she’s just so gorgeous – men and women fall for her. She’s got these fantastic jiggly bosoms. Everything about her is gorgeous. That’s a good heroine to have."

Fern’s contracted to write two more novels, although she likes keeping her toes dipped in the TV world, but not to the same extent as her This Morning days. “I love television. I still always want a foot in the door.”

Fern’s one of those talented interviewers who assumes a cosy, comfortable rapport with interviewees, before slamming them with the killer question. No one should forget that she was the one who coaxed former PM Tony Blair to say that he thought it would have been right to remove Saddam Hussein, even if he had known beforehand that he had no weapons of mass destruction.

And in the run-up to this general election, you get the feeling that when she hears a debate or sees an inflammatory news story, she’d like to be right in there with the questions.

“I’d ask Cameron not necessarily about policy, but about who he is. Whoever we’re voting for, we need to know that we like them!”

  •  A Good Catch by Fern Britton is out now, priced £12.99

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