Carol Smillie Interview

We have a cottage in Ayrshire about an hour from home in Glasgow which is an old lifeboat station. On a perfect weekend we’ll pick the kids up from school and go straight down in the car.


carolIt’s a tiny village, there’s nothing there and we don’t know anyone. That’s why I like it. It’s a complete retreat. When I’m at home I morph into another person – Carol Knight, Alex Knight’s wife and Christie, Robbie and Jodie’s mum. It’s very rare that you’ll see TV’s Carol Smillie in Ayrshire. I don’t think we put a brush through the kids’ hair the whole weekend!


When we arrive we’ll get the fire lit, unpack clothes, put stuff in the fridge and all that kind of malarkey. Then we’ll all sit down to eat together, which I like because we get to hear about every thing that’s happening at school with the children.


We might get up very late on Saturday morning. I don’t mind them wasting the morning, that’s fine, weekends are about relaxing. I’m not a Hitler in that respect; being down there is all about the kids. I think they love going to the cottage right now because we’re all together and Mummy and Daddy are there without babysitters or a nanny. Christie is ten though, so soon she’ll want to bring her pals, which will change the whole dynamic of the weekend and they won’t want to be seen with us. Robbie’s seven and Jodie’s five, so we’ve got a bit longer with them, but these kind of weekends are still precious at the moment.


They’ll spend half the morning drawing, painting and creating things. I’d rather they did that than watched telly, but CD UK or whatever is usually on in the background.


If the weather’s good I’ll get them out onto the beach. I kind of hear my mother talking as I shoe them out of the house. It’s a nice clean beach, but it’s Scottish sea – there’s lots of mucky stuff in there and loads of jellyfish – so they won’t swim, but they love getting in the rock pools and collecting snails, crabs, and prawns. Usually I’m with them the whole time, but there’s a big caravan park up behind the house with lots of elderly people keeping an eye if one of them wanders off.


If it’s raining, which it often is, we might go swimming to Turnberry – that’s a big golf hotel nearby – or we might just put on Wellington boots, grab umbrellas and coats and get out onto beach. If you’re dressed for it, the weather’s fine! And there’s something great about coming in from horrid weather to a roaring log fire, hot chocolate and board games.


Usually we have hot rolls for Saturday lunch, but there’s a hotel nearby, right by the sea, that doubles up as an old people’s home, which sounds bizarre, but it has a very good restaurant in it and the kids are always welcome. They love it, and they love being near the old people. There’s one particular American lady that they’re very keen on. She says ‘Hiya kids!’ and they go into her room where she has loads of chocolates and stuffed toys and all sorts.


I get absolutely no hassle around the village. Scotland doesn’t have that kind of paparazzi culture that London does. I’ve never ever been photographed at the supermarket or walking around at home. I think I could walk stark naked in Glasgow and it wouldn’t make it into the paper.


On Saturday afternoon we’ll do some sort of activity, maybe kites if it’s windy – all traditional stuff. We did buy sea-fishing rods a while back, but we never caught anything. We paid to fish on the loch at Turnberry a couple of weeks ago though, and caught a really big trout and had it for tea. Last weekend we went to the falconry, and watched them train a Harris Hawk. The kids loved that.


There are some stables at the end of the beach where we quite often go, but Christie’s allergic to the horse’s hair. It’s not so bad out on the beach with all the wind, it’s just when she strokes them and touches her face. She loves doing that though, so it’s very difficult to stop her.


There are good walks inland, but at five, seven and ten they’re not so into walking. They think: “What are we doing? Is this it? We just walk?” And after a while they get tired – they’re only small.


On Saturday evening we usually hire a DVD, turn all the lights out and sit on the big leather sofas.


I’m not very good at having people to stay in the house, I feel a bit like a hotelier, but I love having people down and cooking a big Sunday lunch. It’s all new to my friends’ kids so they run around with ours and think it’s the most superb place in the world while we chat away.


On Sunday nights, we feed them something light there, put them in pyjamas and hopefully they’ll fall asleep in the car on the way home. Alex knows exactly what point to order Chinese from so it’ll arrive just after we get back. We chuck them into bed – ding, ding, ding – then settle down to supper, usually just as exhausted as they are.


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