Esther Rantzen shares her joy at being made a dame in the New Year's Honours list

TV presenter Esther Rantzen reveals how her thoughts turned to her late husband broadcaster Desmond Wilcox when she found out she was to be made a dame, in an exclusive interview in HELLO! magazine.

"Oh what I wouldn't do to be able to go screaming upstairs to Desi," says Esther of her husband who died in 2000 aged 69. "We would have jumped up and down and promised each other faithfully that we wouldn't tell anyone."

"It was a formal letter from the Cabinet office so I assumed I had got into terrible trouble," she laughs as her daughter Watchdog reporter Rebecca Wilcox tells HELLO! "Dad would be so proud. He would be planning a big party, ordering new stationery nameplates and a personalised number plate!"

While Desmond's death has left a huge void, Esther reveals the joy in her grandchild Benjamin (Rebecca's two-year-old son) has transformed her life, as it is revealed there is more happiness for Esther as Rebecca is due to have a second son in March. Esther tells HELLO!: "Obviously it would be wonderful if Desi were here. But in a way, Desi lives on in Benji, He has transformed my life totally."

She admits she still feels loneliness. "Absolutely. I think it's the happy times, like opening that letter, and occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays and Benji's birth."

Esther, whose honour comes in recognition of her charity work (she founded Childline in 1986 and The Silver Line, a help line for the elderly, in 2013), has found ways to combat loneliness, telling HELLO!: "Television and radio are terrific. I love reality television – Strictly, X Factor, you name it, and programmes such as Gogglebox make me laugh out loud. Laughter is so important."

As she approaches her 75th birthday in June this year, Esther is as busy as ever. Over Christmas she spoke to callers to The Silver Line. "I spoke to a gentleman on Christmas Day who said it had been years since he had spoken to anyone at Christmas."

See the full exclusive story in HELLO! magazine, out now.