Ruth Langsford on work, Weybridge and her wedding
It's an exciting time at the moment for Ruth Langsford, presenter of ITV1's This Morning, as she prepares for her wedding next spring to co-host Eamonn Holmes. Here, she speaks to Tracy Cook about life at home in Weybridge, her busy career in television and why, at the age of 49, she can't wait to get married
Sitting in Ruth Langsford's spacious living room, perched on a taupe settee, it wouldn't have surprised me in the least if we'd been sat on the sofa at ITV1's This Morning. Just like on the television, she is warm, funny and welcoming - the only difference being that today it's me asking the questions instead of her.
"One of the nicest things a mum from school said to me was, 'you're just like you are on the telly: you're ever so normal,'" says Ruth, 49, who lives in Weybridge with her co-host and partner of 12 years, Eamonn Holmes. "And you know what, I thought to myself, I am actually, and I took it as a huge compliment. I don't know what people expect really - that I have this glamorous life - but I just fell into television really."
Be that as it may, she certainly has one of the best jobs in TV now, presenting ITV1's flagship daytime programme on Fridays and filling in for Fern Britton when she is away.
"It's absolutely my dream job," says Ruth. "I touch wood all the time - I'm so lucky to be doing it. I was a transmission loggist in the West Country when This Morning started at the Albert Dock in 1988 and as a viewer I've always loved it. I can understand why it's still going strong - it's got a great identity and it moves with the times."
She's certainly a very game presenter - just the previous week she had tested out a very tricky exercise machine wearing a pencil skirt.
"Yes," she laughs. "I was doing a piece to camera, lying on this contraption with my bottom up in the air, and all I could think was the camera can see down my top and I've got my boring bra on!"
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A Weybridge mum
The perils of pencil skirts aside, she says This Morning is also her ideal job because it ties in perfectly with her other role, as Weybridge mum to son Jack, age seven, who is at St George's College Junior School.
"It suits me with family life - I'm not really looking for a full-time job," she says. "I do a lot of the school runs and I love that. But I have got a nanny, Josie. I couldn't manage without her, because I fill in for Fern when she's away, which is mostly the holidays and I don't have family nearby.
"Josie is part of the family. We went to her wedding recently and Jack was her page boy. Jack's used to me working and, even in the summer holidays, I am usually home by three. I do get fed up when I read about celebrities talking as if they don't have childcare - it just makes other women feel inadequate."
But now Ruth has another wedding to prepare for - and this time it's her own. Eamonn asked her to tie the knot at Cheltenham Races in March this year and they plan to marry next spring.
"It wouldn't have mattered to me if we hadn't got married or if Eamonn hadn't proposed," says Ruth. "We have a very happy relationship, a good life and our biggest commitment is our son Jack. But actually I was really surprised when he proposed and very glad. I'd always thought it wouldn't make any difference, but it does somehow.
"I do feel different: it's a sort of shift up in our relationship. Actually, I feel quite giddy about it. It's made me laugh, too, the idea of two nearly 50-year-olds getting married. There's been so much excitement and I've been showing off my engagement ring like a 20-year-old! It's ridiculous really."
The couple have been sharing the sofa at This Morning since last summer. Meanwhile, Eamonn also presents Sunrise on Sky News, ITV1's The Feelgood Factor and his own show on Radio 5 Live. The pair have also just appeared in an episode of ITV1's All Star Mr and Mrs, which they won. So what's it like working with your partner?
"Oh, it's great!" she says. "There are definitely more upsides than downsides. I know what makes him tick - I trust him completely - and I know he'd help me if I was struggling with something. I know what makes him laugh and what embarrasses him - and he's exactly the same with me.
"The downsides are that you do take the job home with you. We do have our spats on air - I think sometimes we forget we're on TV and we bicker, like most couples. And we're more honest with each other than you would be with a co-presenter. He'll say, 'why did you ask that stupid question?', or I'll say, 'why did you interrupt me?', and we'll carry that row home in the car!
"People are intrigued by the idea of a couple - that's why Richard and Judy are so popular. I had a lady say to me the other day, 'I was watching you and Eamonn last Friday and I had a feeling he was getting on your nerves!' I said, 'you were right, actually, he was!'"
The couple moved to Weybridge four years ago, just before Jack started school, and Ruth is surprised at how settled she feels in Surrey. She grew up used to moving frequently, as her father was in the army. Born in Singapore, she lived in five different countries before she was ten, and was eventually sent to boarding school because of her parents moving so much.
"I really love it here," she says. "Weybridge has got a nice atmosphere; it's not tiny like a village, but it's small enough to get to know people in the shops - I was just having a chat with the lady in Waitrose earlier. And, of course, it's near London for work, and the motorways, and yet it's quite rural. If we moved now, it would be to change house, not location."
She is also delighted that her mother is moving from the West Country to the Surrey/Sussex borders to be near her and her sister Julia, who lives in Lingfield, and their father Dennis, 82, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 12 years ago and has recently moved to a nursing home nearby.
"We've got him into a care home just ten minutes from my sister's," says Ruth, who famously broke down on This Morning talking about his condition to a caller during a studio discussion. "I've already seen him three times since he moved here two weeks ago - so much better than the round trip to Cornwall."
Now Ruth is an ambassador to the Alzheimer's Society and in May ran the BUPA London 10,000 in St James' Park to raise money for the charity.
"I like to do everything I can to raise funds for them, and the run was a challenge for me, too," she adds. "For my dad, it's too late. He's physically very healthy, but he doesn't remember us really. It's very hard for the family."
At least he got to see how successful she became, after initially encouraging her to go for her first job in television when they lived in the West Country. After starting out at her regional ITV as an assistant, Ruth was offered the chance to become a continuity presenter. As she laughingly explains, "I began my career with my hand up a rabbit's bottom! I operated the legendary children's birthday puppet Gus Honeybun." She progressed to reading the regional six o'clock news and then to co-hosting Loose Women. She has also appeared on shows like Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and Ready Steady Cook and her love of gardening led her to present BBC2's The Great British Garden Show.
However, one person who remains staunchly unimpressed is her son Jack. "Oh, he's so over us being on TV!" laughs Ruth. "Although for a while when he was little, he did think everyone's parents were on TV. Now he's just impressed by the people we know: Eamonn met Robbie Coltrane and Jack was really excited that he knew Hagrid from Harry Potter; likewise I interviewed John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack in Doctor Who, and he thought that was great."
Just then, Eamonn arrives home from presenting Sky's breakfast news and pops his head round the door to check what film Ruth wants to see that evening. A lively discussion about movies and the merits of various local cinemas ensues. It's just like a regular ITV Friday morning, minus the cameras! Now I really feel like I'm on the set of This Morning.
My Favourite Surrey...
Shop: "The Heart shopping centre in Walton. I'm a bit of a high street shopper really, and the Heart's got everything I need. Although I am devastated that Woolworths has gone. Jack and I used to go there on Saturday mornings and it had everything from pick and mix to DVDs and birthday presents."
Restaurant: "I love Nando's in Walton - we go with Jack. And Eamonn and I love the tapas bar, El Meson de Los Hermanos, on Baker Street in Weybridge."
Place to Visit: "Wisley Gardens. I love gardening and have presented some gardening shows, so I'm looking forward to taking my mum there."
View: "Box Hill. It's so beautiful. But I bet everyone says that!"