If anyone is an advocate that life is for living, no matter what age you are, it's Carol Vorderman. The 55-year-old former Countdown star spoke to us back in July 2016 when she was preparing to attempt to become the ninth woman in history to fly solo around the world. Taking off in her plane Mildred, her journey would have been documented on Channel 5 in Carol's Incredible Solo Flight Around The World. But sadly Carol had to cancel her plans after her mum's cancer diagnosis. In July 2017, her mum Jean sadly passed away.
Speaking in 2016, Carol opened up about those plans, saying: "It was my childhood dream to be a fighter pilot. I decided I needed to go to the best university to do the most appropriate degree, which is how I got to Cambridge against all the odds. I was one of the first 50 girls ever to read engineering there. I tried to join the university air squadron but they said 'You’re a girl, you can't join'. Then when my daughter went to Cambridge, she was allowed to join the air squadron and when I bought Mildred and got my license, my first trip by myself in my plane was to fly to Cambridge to see her at the air squadron and then fly myself back. I never thought that day could ever happen."
"Flying is a passion," she added. "It's like having a lover – you completely want to be with that lover because it's so fantastic. Flying has given me this whole new group of friends, and we all share the same lover, if that's not too weird."
Flying has always been a passion for Carol
When Carol spoke to us, she had just put her beautiful Somerset home on the market for £2.6million. Hidden down a wooded private lane deep in the countryside, yet only eight miles from Bristol, her low-slung modern villa is as voluptuous as its owner. The walls are round, the two giant woodburning heaters are perfect ellipses and the vibe, especially on a glorious summer's day, is California cool.
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"I basically ripped out everything apart from the fundamental shape," she said. She wanted to build a dream house for herself and her two children, Katie, now 24, and Cameron, 19, following her two divorces. "My manager, John Miles, lives nearby and I knew Bristol well by the time I decided to move here," she said. "Bringing up my children in central London was right for a few years but then I wanted somewhere that would ease that pressure." She added a water feature, the pool and a gym.
The former Countdown star spoke to us in 2016
"When I bought this, I had two young teenagers, and I wanted an area where they could just be with their friends," she explained. "It was absolutely specifically built so you can have two separate parties going on at the same time." She has thrown huge bashes here. "I'm a Christmas Eve baby [hence her name], but you can't have an outside party at Christmas. I had my 50th in a big marquee with about 300 people. Everybody came in 1970s stuff; there were afro wigs all over the lawn the next morning. I've got the best photos. All I can say is, I like a party – a lot."
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So why is she letting this party palace go? "I have done the responsible-parent thing, tick; children done all right, tick; children still love you? Just about – tick. Career? Yeah, done that. I have cared for my mum. She normally lives with us, but I have moved her into another house round the corner from where we're going to live in Bristol. But have I partied enough? No. I hate the phrase 'me time', but I now want to travel. And when you have a big house and big grounds, it's difficult."
In our interview, Carol also encouraged other women over 50 to follow their own dreams, by launching a new website called Victoria. "My mum always used to say that when you get to 50, it's downhill from there," said Carol. "I thought 'Great mum, that's marvellous'. But while that might have been true for my mum's generation, it's not true now - it's the opposite. We have such fantastic opportunities; it's a different time in your life but life is just a series of chapters – nothing lasts forever. Nobody knows what's going to happen and I think when you get to this age, you become a lot more conscious of that."
Carol says she wants to party more
While Carol had huge success as the co-host of Countdown for 26 years and as one of the Loose Women panel for three years until 2014, she's keen for people to know about the accomplishments she's had off screen.
"I have my online maths school Maths Factor which teaches 20,000 kids a day so I've become the best selling education author of all time. I'm now honorary group captain in the RAF so that's come full circle, I'm ambassador for 35,000 air cadets and I've been working with NASA challenger centres, which is all about educating children. These are things that carry on but they're never reported because it's not sexy stuff. But they're a big part of me."
With so much going on, there's definitely no time for a man at the moment after splitting from pilot Graham 'Duff' Duff in 2016 after three years, and she knows why women are less keen to marry again the older they get.
Carol was announced as the face of Victoria.co.uk
She explained: "Only a tiny percentage of single women over the age of 50 want to get married again, while a larger percentage of single men over the age of 50 do. Why is that? Because generally the woman looks after the man! And you get to our age and you go you're not all that, I'm quite happy as I am! I'm not saying I won't ever get married again but it's not on my horizon at all and I think I'm allergic to gold. I'm strictly single and don't want to settle down. I've done all that and I had a wonderful 13-year marriage that went badly wrong at the end. People say marriage should be forever but some people have very long bad marriages."
Carol has other ambitions yet to achieve and possibly a new TV show in the pipeline. "I can't tell you about that but there might be something," she smiles. "I'm planning on flying my daughter Katie to Australia next year and I have invitations all over the world – people keep saying, 'Come over here Vorders!' I'm going to learn to fly a floatplane and I want to work more with NASA. If I died tomorrow I have done more than I could ever have imagined, I feel so lucky. But right now I am having the time of my life!"
Carol Vorderman is supporting P&G's 'Women of a CERTAIN age' campaign and has been announced as the face of Victoria.co.uk, a site dedicated to celebrating a new generation of timeless women.