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The Woman's Hour presenter talks to Lisa Williams about toy Hoovers + hating her middle name...

Jane Garvey, from Crosby in Merseyside, was the first voice heard on BBC Radio Five Live when it launched in 1994. She presented its drivetime show for 13 years, before taking over from Martha Kearney as a BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour presenter. Funny, warm, and an extremely skilful interviewer, her voice is known by – among others - thousands of women needing mental stimulation during maternity leave. She has two daughters, aged 13 and 16.

My childhood was cosy, predictable and loving.

If the Garvey family could have a motto it would be, ‘I wouldn’t if I were you’. I’m a very unadventurous person. My parents won’t mind me saying that they are unadventurous people too. But that can be a good thing, it leads to security.

I was quite a difficult young child in the sense that I cried a lot, then I became a very fussy eater, and I was quite stressed as a child. I get the impression I was a pain in the arse to be honest.

I was a forceps delivery, and it was very difficult. I have been left under no illusion just how difficult it was. My mum stayed in Catholic nursing home for ten days after having me. I was taken to the nursery and she got lots of sleep and was treated like a queen. I had elective caesareans with my two and, with my first daughter, I was in there for 48 hours and then was discharged.

My earliest memory is of a white handkerchief with cherries on it. When I was about three, I jammed my finger in a door and had to go to hospital, and I had to have a hanky wrapped around my finger. I don’t remember the pain but I do remember the hanky.

My favourite toy, really terribly for Woman’s Hour, was a Hoover made for a child. There is a photo of me, at the age of two and half, wearing a pinny and standing next to a toy hoover. It’s awful really that these toys were around, and even worse that I wanted one.

I still have my teddy. Rather tragically, Teddy is still in my bedroom. It has lived in every bedroom I’ve ever had. He is nearly 52 so he’s quite bald, but he’s still wearing orange trousers and he’s got a blue bow tie. He’s been a very loyal companion and he’s been through a lot. I don’t take him abroad, I must add.

I hate my middle name, which is Susan. My dad chose that. I can’t stand it and I’ve told him that many times. I try very hard not to use it. It’s also Jenni Murray’s middle name.

I didn’t have a dummy. But my youngest daughter loved her dummy and I’m quite enthusiastic. It has done her no harm.

I was completely bottle-fed and I’ve never been seriously ill in my life for what that’s worth. It’s very hard to say if there’s any correlation. I did mixed feeding with both of mine and they’re both fine as well. Who knows? Touch wood, we’re all fine.

My early passions were books and talking. And that’s not really changed. I love reading and I loved school. My grandmother lived with us as I was growing up and that played a big part in my life and I now love interviewing older women in their 80s and 90s. I think they’re hugely underestimated as a force and I love talking to them.

My mum blames my career on the fact that when I was crying, and I did cry quite a lot, she would turn Jimmy Young up really loud to drown me out. I must have wondered, how can I get my mother’s attention? I know, I can be on the radio.

:: Listen to A Bleeding Shame, Jane Garvey's documentary on periods here.


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