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The Kate Humble Interview

This interview appearead on the BBC Website :

Do you get cheesed off being dubbed the Waterworld Babe?
I'm not sure I've been on the show long enough for that to be something I'm called all the time! But, no, I don't get cheesed off, even though I don't regard myself as a babe. I hope I can hold my own with the guys. I'm probably more of a bloke than them if it came to arm wrestling in the pub - I ride horses a lot so I have Popeye forearms!

Are you into water sports off camera?
No. I used to be in a swimming team at school. Pre-puberty I would be swimming four times a day so I ended up pickled in chlorine and wrinkled all over - that put me off water quite a lot! For Top Gear Waterworld I've just been powerboat racing on the Solent and that was quite something. Going at 60mph - which feels like 120mph because you're on water - with half the sea in your face and an enormous helmet that weighs about twelve stone stuck on your head!

Did you enjoy being a model or was it a means to an end?
It was a total mistake. I was spotted in South Africa in 1988 and I did it for six months and saved enough money to travel through the rest of Africa. But I loathed it with a passion - I've always hated being photographed. I was far too fat to do catwalks - I would have fallen through - so I did editorial. They would put red lipstick on me. I never ever wear the colour so I hated that too. I don't know how to put make-up on - when I do it looks like a skin disease. This was in the days of apartheid and the one good thing about the modelling was that it wasn't colour-oriented so black and white models could mix quite freely.

How did you get your TV break?
I've worked in TV since I was 20. I started as a production secretary then worked my way up in independent companies. After a time I decided I never wanted to work in television again so I went off to try to be a travel writer. I'd been in Madagascar for two months and kept a diary and I did a piece for The Telegraph about that. I then got a slot on the Holiday programme on the strength of my travel writing. A week later I was asked to do a screen test. I had done one once before for Lonely Planet on Channel 4 but they told me I was too posh for them. Holiday took me on.

You were an 18-30 Holiday Club rep once for a TV programme. Is it a career you might fall back on?
It was incredibly scary and exhausting and I was very bad at it. The trainer said I'd never ever make a rep - I was clueless and I failed completely. There were only two redeeming features of the whole experience. One was that the other reps were fantastic - no way would I have got through it without them. The other redeeming feature was that it ended.

What are the best and the worst places you've travelled to?
Although San Antonio in Ibiza where I went for Club 18-30 was perfectly nice, it was definitely the worst experience for me. The best were Madagascar and Namibia. I'd dreamed about going to Madagascar for eight years. I'd read all the books. It was the toughest travelling I've ever done - walking 100 miles in three days lugging my tent and equipment. But it was so beautiful and the people were so kind and generous. I have a silver bangle on my left arm that was given to me by a little girl there - I've never taken it off. I loved Namibia entirely for the landscape. I like deserts and some of the desert landscapes are just staggering. Huge dunes, deep caverns and very few people!

Since you go on holidays for a living what do you do on your time off?
I do the sort of travelling I'd never do on Holiday. My next planned trip is 21 days following the old salt route from the middle of the Sahara to Timbuktu. By camel.

Do you have a career plan? What do you think you'll be doing in five years time?
I don't have a career plan and I've no idea what I'll be doing. I hope I'll still find travelling as exciting and stimulating as I do now. I hope to have written a travel-based book - it doesn't matter whether it's published or not. I'll be too old still to be doing Top Gear Waterworld unless I have cosmetic surgery! I hope I'll still be healthy and I hope my husband won't have scampered off because of all the travelling. He says: "Christ, now where are you off to?" I don't really have ambitions, I have dreams. The current one is the salt route trip. Then there'll be another one.

If you were marooned on a desert island and could have only three things with you what would they be?
A backgammon set. I'd play against myself. I'm very competitive and a bad loser so I'd probably end up killing myself! Then I'd take a very big dictionary because I'm conscious that my vocabulary is poor. And finally I'd take a big knife - a Boy's knife - my husband bought me that is usually in my back pocket when I'm travelling.

What was it like working on a crocodile farm?
Hard work and I learned one big lesson. Don't think that because you hatch a crocodile it will be your friend.

What do you want to do on Millennium Eve?
I want to be in the desert on my own: I loathe New Year's Eve. The best New Year's Eve I ever spent was in a tent on a beach in Mozambique. I went to bed at 8.30 in the evening! I love deserts and being away from people. I'll probably end up as an appalling, grumpy old woman in tweeds - definitely tweedy - carrying a walking stick solely for the purpose of hitting people who come too near!


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