This is the latest in the Back In Time series but is the title a bit patronising to people from the north?
They often diddle around with the title — they’ve had shows called Back In Time For Brixton and Back In Time For Christmas. This time it’s Back In Time For Tea, which explores the last 100 years of food and people up north. It’s not patronising, it’s what you have — you have your tea. If It Was Back In Time For T’Tea I’d raise an objection.
Were you surprised by anything?
There were a lot of emotional stories. There’s still food poverty now but in the 1920s it was a struggle for working people to feed their kids. If you weren’t middle class you’d just have a little bit of bread and dripping. And in the 1980s, miners who were on strike would receive food parcels from miners around the world. So they’d get tins of food, not knowing what they’d find, from miners in Russia.
You had pasties at your wedding. Do they feature in the show?
No they don’t, but I love Carrs Pasties. My mum ran a pub and would sell pasties and pies, so we’d pick them up from Carrs Pasties in Bolton. We’d come back in the car with trays of warm pasties for her to sell. When I got married we had a rave-up and served Carrs Pasties at 10pm and they all got wolfed down.
You do your 1980s show on Radio 2. Have you been star-struck by any guests?
I’m doing it until May and then ‘Ooh’ Gary Davies is taking over, who is a very appropriate choice. Kim from Mel & Kim was very nice and Holly Johnson from Frankie Goes To Hollywood is a lovely bloke and has become a friend of the show. It’s fun to meet people who were so massive.
Is there anyone you wanted to get on but haven’t?
I loved George Michael but never got to interview him — I was convinced I’d marry him one day. I met him once, years ago, in the smoking room at Radio 1, which really dates this story. I hate smoking now. I’d just finished my show and he was waiting to see Jo Whiley — we had a real giggle.
You started your career as a model. Was it glamorous?
It was very unglamorous. There was a lot of waiting around and being surrounded by girls who are size six. There were fun sides — I got to work in New York, Milan and Korea — but it’s just a job, there’s only so long you can stare into the middle distance while holding your belly in. It was a good two years and I grew up a bit — and it’s how I got the presenting job on The Girlie Show. That was from a modelling casting — so they were obviously looking for serious journalists. I did an audition talking into a camcorder and then mithered them to death phoning them, asking if I’d got the job. Totally uncool. But that’s why I’ve got such a lovely career today — it started from The Girlie Show.
Where were you scouted?
In Paris. My sister was doing a French degree there. I’d just finished my A levels so I went to see her. I’d roam around Paris all day with a map and a few francs. I went into a boutique to look at the clothes. I was skint and the owner said I should try modelling. I was about to karate chop him in the windpipe but he didn’t seem weird, and he gave me a card and told me to contact a modelling agent in the UK.
Does modelling send people doolally if they do it too long?
No, 99 per cent of people do it for a couple of years and get bored with it. I grew up with Linda Evangelista not getting out of bed for less than £10,000 but I’d schlep into Manchester and do a modelling job for £60 because it was the equivalent of doing three shifts in my mum’s pub. It’s only the top one per cent that make mega bucks. Once, in Korea, we had to sit on piles of salt because the shoot was for winter clothes and it looked like snow — even though it was 80 degrees.
What lessons have your career in broadcasting taught you?
Treat people well and don’t take things for granted. I took things for granted at the start and then things get a bit quiet and you think, ‘Ooh, what’s happened?’ You need to be the person people want to work with. I am that now — I appreciate it more.
Back In Time For Tea is on Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC2