I was told I’d be washed up on TV at 28 — but 20 years later I’m still here: Gabby Logan lambasts ageism, gives her blueprint for midlife marriage and insists she’ll do the splits at 60
Gabby Logan is, she admits, one of those list-writing, goal-setting, high-achieving, driven souls.
Before she was a sports TV presenter, she was also a competitive gymnast, so the combination is rather deadly.
She says she has already planned what she wants to be doing on her 60th birthday, even though it’s 13 years away. The splits.
Gabby Logan, pictured, has revealed she wants to be able to do the splits when she turns 60
‘It’s a goal. I can still do them now, but I want to be able to do them on my 60th birthday. When I was about 13, I remember a coach coming to see my team; she wasn’t a skinny minnie, and she was 60, but she could still do the splits. I’ve never forgotten her. So that’s the goal.’
Bless her bendiness, but Gabby feels everyone could do the same, with a bit of planning and dedication.
‘You absolutely could,’ she tells me, in a (hilarious, and woefully misplaced) show of confidence in my own flexibility. Some of us couldn’t even manage the splits when we were 13, Gabby, and aren’t our A&E departments busy enough?
Still, it is very Gabby Logan that she is planning ahead. She is the mistress of the whiteboard and family diary, but it’s quite touching that she wishes she were less hung up on ruthless organisation.
‘I had Claudia Winkleman on my podcast show recently and she is completely the opposite. She just trusts that things will happen. I rather admire that.’
Actually, she’s been gathering tips on, well, life, from all sorts of showbiz pals recently.
Gabby posted this photograph of her performing the splits while balancing on her head
In lockdown, since much of the sporting world has been on a break, she has been hosting a podcast called The Mid-Point, aimed at those who are middle-aged and proud.
She’s outed herself as such — which is actually quite something considering how it’s almost a tradition for women in telly to hope that no-one notices their age. In the past, some have blatantly lied about it, quite understandably if they come from an age where women disappeared into the shadows once the first wrinkles started to show. As Gabby did.
‘I was told by one producer that I’d be mad to want to pursue a career in sports presenting because he wouldn’t put me on air after about the age of 28,’ she says. ‘That’s how it was.
‘Recently, I went out with a group of girlfriends for dinner. We are all 48, 49, around that age. One of them — an actress — was saying that her Internet Movie Database (IMDb) entry still showed her as a couple of years younger than that. Her agent had put it on. She couldn’t get it changed.’
Hold on. She was told that she wouldn’t be on telly after 28? That’s when you are still a baby, in presenting terms. ‘Yes. I do remember my agent saying to me, quite early on, “why are you in such a rush. Slow down”, but the reality was that I’d been told that,’ she says. ‘Of course I was in a rush. We all were. We thought our careers were going to be over by the time we reached 30.
‘Women just disappeared when they got to a certain age. I used to think “where have they put them? Is there a cupboard somewhere?”.’
Gabby was in her mid-30s when she was teamed up with her great hero, Des Lynam. ‘He was in his mid-60s at the time. Could I have imagined still being in the job in my mid-60s? No.’
Obviously things have changed in the past decade or so — and the fact that women such as Gabby, with her 50th birthday in sight, are still working, and still planning to be working for decades more, is evidence of the sea change. ‘What’s happened is that there are just more women across the board, and you are seeing the female directors and producers move their way up.’
Gabby, pictured with her husband, former Scottish rugby international Kenny Logan and their twins Lois and Reuben
She says she was punching the air when Fiona Bruce landed the plum job of presenting Question Time.
‘She was, what, mid-50s, so the implication was that they saw her still doing that job into her mid-60s and beyond. That’s positive.’
What’s interesting is that there has been a near stampede of media folk outing themselves as being ‘of a certain age’.
Gabby admits it’s a subject she’s become fascinated by — hence the podcast idea, where she only invites those in their 40s and early 50s.
‘I’m the sort of person who endlessly reads about the phase of life they are in. So, when my children were younger, I was reading about child development. But now there is this thing, wanting to know how others are feeling about reaching this mid-way point. What does it mean to be at the halfway stage in your life?’.
Some of this is about the physical. Yes there is talk of wrinkles and ‘those bits of your skin that don’t behave like they used to’. She questions why, as a young woman she could sleep till midday, but now finds herself waking at 6am (answer: hormones).
She has corralled the experts, too. Sleep gurus, nutritionists, and doctors specialising in hormone treatment, all contribute. More fascinating, perhaps, are the celebs who are pretty candid about their own hang-ups and life experiences.
While her guests have included women (notably Denise Lewis, Caitlin Moran and Mariella Frostrup), she’s also been chatting to men, who also have interesting things to say about their assorted midlife crises.
Pointless presenter Richard Osman opens up about being single as the big 5-0 beckons, and a midlife career shift, which has seen him become a novelist.
The podcast format suits Gabby, too, though, and she admits it’s nice to escape the ‘sports presenter’ pigeon hole. ‘I did want to be Michael Parkinson,’ she admits.
Would Parky have been so open about his own life, though? One of the strengths of the format is that the ‘relaxed chatting among friends’ format leads to her opening up, too.
Gabby makes several startling admissions during the podcasts, including one where she says approaching your 50s gives you an ‘is that it?’ mentality, one where you question all your career choices.
There are other podcast gems. In a chat with Richard Osman, she opens up about one of the most terrifying experiences of her life. No it wasn’t presenting live from the Olympics, or white water rafting, it was cooking dinner for Mary Berry.
She explains that when she and her husband, former Scottish international rugby player Kenny Logan, moved out of London to Buckinghamshire, and she found one of her neighbours to be . . . yes, Mary Berry, who promptly invited her for dinner. This meant returning the favour. The horror!
‘I had to take the day off work, to prepare,’ Gabby admits. Well you would. She opted to serve lamb with mint sauce, reasoning that Mary’s husband Paul is traditional in his tastes. For afters, she went for a fail-safe cheesecake — which received a compliment from Mary, which means Gabby can die happy.
‘She told my children my cheesecake had a crispy bottom,’ she says.
Even before they were neighbours she regarded Mary — the patron saint of grafters — as her heroine. ‘She works so much harder than I do,’ she says.
When her mate Claudia Winkleman joins her for their chat, they casually talk about how they recently shared a bed. Have we missed something? It turns out it’s not that torrid; more the Morecambe and Wise form of bed sharing.
They were away with mutual friends and ended up sharing a hotel room. Gabby was rather horrified when Claudia leapt into her pyjamas and into bed without removing her copious eye make-up. While Claudia was equally enthralled when Gabby — confirming her status as the sensible one in any gathering — started faffing about with headbands, cleanser, toner and cotton wool.
‘Claudia and I have completely different approaches to all that stuff. Exercise too. I love it. I have always trained hard and, if anything, I’ve upped my game recently.
‘We had one expert on who said that at this mid-point you have to train harder than you’ve ever done before, if you want to still be strong and flexible later in life. I haven’t been able to convince Claudia of this, though. She won’t have it.’
To be fair, Claudia is the guest who seems to have most embraced midlife. Her tips? Afternoon naps, forget all the ‘perfect mum’ stuff and use Chrissie Hynde, eternal rock chick, as your role model.
‘What’s glorious about Claudia is that she reckons she’s always been middle-aged, so even when she was 20 she was like this, so she’s quite prepared for this stage.’
In our chat, Gabby is similarly open. Yes, she reckons she’s probably perimenopausal, not yet experiencing hot flushes but definitely feeling the inexplicable ‘rage’ that can descend at this point in life. ‘Which is entirely natural,’ she points out.
‘Caitlin Moran explained it very well. She said the anger that we feel has always been there, but masked with all the lovely caring female hormones. Once they decline, there’s no mask.’
Is she getting more shouty in middle age, then? ‘Yes. I know I go on at Kenny for shouting at the kids, and then there are towels left on the floor and I’m the one flying off the handle. I hate it when I start nagging. I hate being a nagger but, at the same time, it’s all quite fascinating.’
It’s probably quite significant that this is the first opportunity she’s had the time to create something like this podcast. The planning started way before lockdown, but obviously the Covid crisis meant diaries — both hers and her guests’ — were emptier. It has been a natural ‘taking stock of your life’ time, she says.
Also, there is a sense of time hurtling by. ‘Personally, my 30s seemed to go on forever, probably because they were so tied up with having young children. Much of that decade felt like walking through treacle, but my 40s have flown by. Old age is suddenly creeping up.’
Gabby and Kenny have two children. Twins Lois and Reuben are now 15. The route to parenthood was difficult. The couple had IVF, and Gabby nearly died during a difficult delivery.
I interviewed her when her twins were tiny, and the couple had not yet decided what to do with the extra embryos they had ‘on ice’ — a common dilemma for those who have been through fertility treatment. After ten years, these embryos have to be either used or destroyed, which can be a difficult decision.
‘I remember going out for lunch with Kenny and having to make the call together. It is difficult, but we decided to donate them to fertility research.’
She still gets broody though. Talking about meeting the baby of a colleague recently, she says: ‘I gave him a cuddle and didn’t want to let him go.’
She’s clearly a hands on mum, driving to a showjumping event her daughter is competing in after our interview.
She’s honest, too, about the challenges of having teenagers. ‘I think I was lucky with lockdown, because they were old enough to get on with it themselves. Had it happened a few years ago, and I’d had to do the homeschooling, I would’ve had a breakdown.’
Clearly the idea of them leaving home, or at least not being as dependent on their parents, has concentrated the mind.
She chats about that midlife dilemma (common to women in the TV world, but possibly still less common to men) of having spent your entire career managing the family.
‘I know I have definitely turned down work because it would involve being away from the kids for too long.
‘I have to be away anyway for the big things like the Olympics, but there are other jobs that I said no to. But now I’m looking at a phase of my life where I will be able to say yes to more things, and that is exciting.’
She cites a conversation she had with a childless colleague, Clare Balding. ‘Clare did the maths and told me that she reckoned she had about 64 more hours in the week than I did, because I had to factor in all the kid stuff. That made me think. What do I do with those extra hours?’
Then there is Kenny. ‘So many people make the mistake of not planning for the empty nest, about how life is going to be. It hits you between the eyes — and then people are having divorces and separations. I want to be more pragmatic about it.’
She gets quite excited when she hears of women — and men, for that matter — changing careers in their 40s.
‘We once rented a house from a woman who was a banker and gave it up to retrain as a doctor. I thought that was incredible.
My mum changed direction later in life. She was a beauty therapist but became a property developer in her late 30s. It was great to see her have a real passion for something. It’s possible.
‘If we all have another 20 or 30 working years, so much is possible.’
Onward to 50, then. And to the splits at 60.
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