TV presenter Gloria Hunniford has said that as an Irishwoman, she likes to have her family "living around the corner" so she can see them all the time. After her daughter Caron Keating passed away from cancer in 2004, the lively 73-year-old has treasured watching Caron's sons Charlie and Gabriel grow up. Their father Russ Lindsay has since remarried to TV star Sally Meen.
Gloria often brings her brood together for days out and big, family holidays, and here the self-proclaimed "fun" grandmother chats exclusively to HELLO! Online about her family's latest adventure to Universal Studios in Florida, her family-focused lifestyle and her help in raising Caron's sons Charlie and Gabriel.
CLICK ON PHOTO FOR GLORIA'S HOLIDAY SNAPS
Did you take the whole family to Florida?
"Well that was one of the marvellous things — it was a completely multi-generational trip. We had Stephen and myself as the grandparents, my sons Michael and Paul, and three of my grandchildren, Charlie and Gabriel who are Caron's children, and Beau who is Paul's son. Russ, who was married to Caron, came with his wife Sally and their daughter, little Tilly."
So it was a holiday for all ages?
"Yes, it was great, really cross-generational and there's something at Universal for everybody. The mere fact that the boys are old enough to go on the rides themselves takes the pressure off a bit because you don't have to watch them every second. That's what I loved about it — everybody could have fun and everybody could do it at their own pace. For the grandparents, if you haven't got the energy to go on the rides all day everyday you can still do a lot in your downtime, either lying in the sun or relaxing at the spa. It was a really good family holiday."
Did your grandsons enjoy the trip?
"They had a whale of a time. Some days they'd go into the park at 11 o'clock in the morning and they wouldn't come back until nearly 11 o'clock at night. They voted the Harry Potter ride the best, and it certainly was from my point of view. You 'play' quidditch with Harry and so on — it was a very clever ride. I didn't go on the upside down ones because I'd be sick as a dog, but my grandsons loved them. They were also very keen on the water rides, which again I avoided because you get absolutely drenched."
What other things did you get up to, apart from the rides?
"When we had done the entire park and all the rides, which we did, we would lie by the pool or go to the spa and relax. We stayed in the Portofino Bay Hotel and would come back by boat at the end of the day to all the piazzas and restaurants, so there was a bit of peace and sanity in the middle of mayhem."
Have you always been very family-focused?
"Yes absolutely. Being Irish, Irish mothers don't want their children very far away. They want them living around the corner so they can see them all the time. We've always been a great family for having holidays together and sharing those moments — they really are good memory makers."
How often do you see your grandsons?
"I see Caron's boys quite often. Charlie's 18 and at university and Gabriel's 16 and has been busy with exams, but I always find time to fit around their schedules. I always work on the assumption that they have to eat, so I take them out for tea and that kind of thing."
How involved have you been in Charlie and Gabriel's upbringing?
"Well I'm not with them all of the time, but I like to think I bring fun into their lives. I try to organise big holidays or days out. For example Gabriel has just finished school and so he rang me and said, 'Right nana, where are we going to go for our day out?' because I'd said as soon as your exams are over, we'll go out and have a blast. I love it when they ring up and say, 'When are we going out?' and I try and get them tickets for concerts and they love that."
What's been a lasting memory for you with your grandchildren?
"I took Charlie and Gabriel to New York when they were younger for the first time in their lives — I try and do things they haven't done before. I always think no matter what age you are, you always remember the first time you go to New York. Those sorts of memories never shift. We've taken them twice now, but the first time all Gabriel wanted to do was to photograph yellow cabs because that's what he'd seen in the movies. It's lovely watching all of that."
How do you balance home and work life?
"Sometimes not very well, it can get out of kilter. I try to schedule my diary so I can get a day off and not have to go into London every day, but sometimes I have to go in five days on the trot. My husband is very understanding though and I say to him, 'Look, it's only for this week and next week it won't be so bad.'"
What would you say is your secret to a happy marriage?
"Stephen has always been a support and would never stop me from doing anything. He might say to me sometimes, 'Now I think you're overdoing it a bit,' but he would never stop me from doing something I wanted to. I think it's an old cliché but you have to have a sense of humour and be able to talk to each other, because no matter what the problem is or the sadness or the happiness is, if you can talk about it easily and about anything then it's great. That's the one thing Stephen and I have always been able to do because we were really good friends for about a year before we got together and that's what I'm really glad about."
Book your trip
Seven-night package with Virgin Holidays starts from £945 per adult and £455 per child, and includes:
- Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick direct to Orlando
- Accommodation at the 5 star Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal on a room-only basis with car hire
Price is per person based on 4 adults and 2 children (under 12) travelling and sharing one garden view room and one bay view room. Prices are based on departures on 8 Jan 2014. To book, visit virginholidays.co.uk or call 0844 557 3859.
Universal 2-Park Bonus Ticket
Experience the best of Universal Orlando Resort with unlimited admission to both Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure for up to 14 consecutive days. The Universal 2-Park Bonus also includes all-club access to the live entertainment at Universal CityWalk, Orlando's hottest nightspot.
Tickets start from £109 per adult and £99 per child (2013 prices).
See universalorlando.co.uk for more information to buy your ticket now.