'As you get older you're not in the looks business any more – you look good for your own self-esteem': Under the microscope with Joan Bakewell
The broadcaster and novelist, 78, on plastic surgery, being weight-conscious and why her life was turned upside down last year
'I've been doing Pilates for 20 years – it helps your posture,' said Joan Bakewell
ARE YOU HEALTH CONSCIOUS
Yes, I’m cautious. My sister died of breast cancer in her late 50s, and so the moment I get a twinge I go round to the doctor. Some doctors — who all look as though they’re in their 20s — say: ‘Well, what can you expect at your age’ and it’s inappropriate. At my age I expect to be fit and well and I expect them to help me keep well.
DO YOU WATCH YOUR WEIGHT
I’ve always been weight-conscious. I was rather solid at school, and in my 20s I realised I needed to know about nutrition and calories. I was a wartime child and have never recovered from the greediness that rationing engenders. Faced with menus in restaurants I have to fight the urge to gobble it all up.
Dark chocolate. I allow myself a little reward at the end of the day. I’ve got high cholesterol and make an effort to drink soya milk, but it tastes odd and I’ve decided it’s too late to give up on butter and cream.
DO YOU WORK OUT
I’ve been doing Pilates for 20 years — it helps your posture. One thing you want to avoid as you get older is shrinking — the Queen, for example, used to be rather taller. Thankfully, I don’t seem to have shrunk at all yet. I also live in a Victorian house with lots of stairs, and while people say I’m too old to be running up and down them, it helps me get a bit of exercise each day.
WOULD YOU HAVE PLASTIC SURGERY
Probably not. As you get older you’re not in the looks business any more — you look good for your own self-esteem, you’re not ‘putting it out’ any more. But I have nothing against it.
'In my 20s I realised I needed to know about nutrition and calories,' said Joan
Nothing more than the odd bad cold, but last year I broke my foot and life was turned upside down. We still don’t know how it happened — I stopped being able to walk on my right foot. The doctor said it was a stress fracture. He looked at me rather comically and said: ‘It’s a football injury.’ I’d just gone into the House of Lords as a working peer, and was on crutches for four months. It’s amazing how it damages your sense of self.
POP ANY PILLS
I take glucosamine for my joints as well as omega-3 oil and folic acid, plus ginkgo biloba because it’s rumoured to help with memory and the brain.
HAVE YOU NOTICED YOUR MEMORY GETTING WORSE
No — it’s a cliche, but use it or lose it. You have to keep using your brain.
EVER BEEN DEPRESSED
I had a rickety life in the Seventies and Eighties and saw a psychoanalyst. She made me think about myself and become more self-aware.
LIKE TO LIVE FOR EVER
I’m much less fearful of death than I was in my 20s. But life is dense with activities, ideas and opportunities and I don’t want to leave the party.
Joan’s second novel, She’s Leaving Home (Virago), is out now.