Carol Vorderman is still on course to be a high-flyer and take to the skies for a round the world solo flight. She put plans for the adventurous trip on hold to care for her beloved mum Jean, who sadly passed away a year ago when she was nearly 89.
“From the age of 21, I’d loved looking after Mum. I employed her full-time from when I was 25. We always lived together. It’s taken time to come to terms with losing her,” says the former Countdown star, 57.
Jean battled cancer three times before her terminal diagnosis and Carol says: “My solo world flight was put on hold while I looked after Mum. But it seems the right time to whip up that dream again.
“It’s going to take a couple of years so I’m looking at 2020. It’s a lot of organisation, but I’ve already done a lot of the preparation so I don’t have to start from scratch.”
Carol, who has two children – daughter Katie, 26, and son Cameron, 21 – has another ambition that she is keen to tick off her bucket list... she wants to get on the set of the new Top Gun movie.
“Who wouldn’t?” she laughs. “I will be begging, and pleading and blagging and contacting everyone I know to get on the set and, if I don’t, at least I know I tried.”
The 57-year-old is currently on a mission to find the country’s unsung heroes as she launches this year’s Daily Mirror’s Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB.
“This is possibly the most important time,” she says. “Without the right nominations there would not be the right award winners.
“I can’t stress it enough – if readers know of someone they regard as special then let us know. Go online and do not be put off by writing a nomination. It’s not a GCSE exam. We are not looking at spelling or grammar. We are looking at the people out there who deserve recognition.”
Carol has been at the heart of Pride of Britain since the first awards in 1999 and they mean a lot to her.
“Of all the programmes I’ve ever appeared in, Pride of Britain is the one that means the most.
“Countdown is the show that changed everything for me, but Pride of Britain is far more than a show – it’s a national institution and never fails to make me feel emotionally involved.
“There’s a family feeling around Pride of Britain. The winners are all so good at keeping in touch because everyone wants to stay involved after the show – that’s why previous winners such as Katie Piper joined us on the judging panel last year.”
Carol says: “I meet the winners backstage and the one thing they have in common is that they are all immensely modest and can’t quite understand why they have won an award.
“They can understand why everyone else is a winner but they say ‘I’m not special. I’ve not done anything worthy of being nominated’ yet they have often done incredible things.”
Carol describes last year’s awards ceremony as “an emotional roller coaster” as it followed the Manchester bombing, the Grenfell fire and the London Bridge and Westminster attacks.
“It was the first time many of the Manchester bombing survivors had been in public together and that was difficult for many of them,” says Carol.
“Many people had seen these events on television and they were just awful.
“I always say to the winners that the awards are to celebrate them and by the time they go up on stage they genuinely see that is what we are trying to do.
“I know there are a lot of amazing people out there and we want to know about them.
“Don’t worry about the nomination categories – there are a lot of special awards – just let us know why you think the person you know should be nominated and we have a team of researchers who will follow it up and do the rest.”
Carol says: “Whenever I feel a little dip, I think of last year’s incredible Pride of Britain winners.
“Remembering their kindness, bravery, humour and modesty lifts me again.
“Then, instead of feeling weepy, I feel lucky to have had Mum until she was nearly 89. I think of our lovely, funny times instead of the pain of losing her.
“That’s the magical thing about Pride of Britain, which was Mum’s favourite show.
“It reminds us to appreciate the good in the world. I think it has that special effect on everyone.”
To nominate someone for a Pride of Britain award, pick up a form in selected TSB branches or go to prideofbritain.com