Midas interview: Journalist and former Weakest Link presenter Anne Robinson tells Rory Sachs about spending, self-editing and the joy of having multiple housekeepers
How much is an ounce of gold?
I have no idea… Is that 18-carat gold? Let me get this clear – you, asking the question, are not absolutely sure whether it’s 18-carat or nine-carat? Why are you asking me when you can’t give me a full question? We are currently in a situation where you’ve asked your first question, but it’s incomplete, and insufficient for me to answer it correctly.
How did you earn your first pay cheque?
From my mother’s business. She had inherited a market stall in Liverpool and she turned it into a considerable wholesale poultry business. But she always kept the market stall, and she made us work on it when we came home from boarding school for half the summer holidays. It was cold, it was wet. But at the end of the four weeks we left for the Carlton hotel in Cannes in the South of France.
What did you spend your first pay cheque on?
Books, definitely books. At that age, I think that I probably liked Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Dickens.
Are you a spender or a saver?
Oh, I’m profligate. I spend. I’m gold-standard spend.
What can’t money buy?
Well, it can’t buy health, can it? At a certain level, it can’t buy health. It can’t buy contentment, serenity. What else can’t it buy? It can’t always buy good staff, actually. Is that a problem you have with staff, Rory?
Live to work or work to live?
Probably working to live at the beginning, and then the other way round. I mean, I’ve mostly retired and it’s the first time I think I’ve contentedly given up.
What drives you?
Enthusiasm, fear of failure, opportunity, an inability to miss an opportunity, the prospect of having fun. Yeah, that’ll do.
What is your idea of happiness?
Well, I think it’s quite useful to realise that happiness is not an ongoing state for anyone, then you don’t get disappointed. I mean, for me, happiness is my large kitchen table, surrounded by and feeding family and friends. That happens almost every weekend. Probably apart from clothes, [what] I spend money on is staff and food. Happiness is having two housekeepers – one in London, one in the Cotswolds.
How do you like to unwind?
I like to play tennis, I run. I hate Pilates. The music. I do the Times crossword.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading Colditz by Ben Macintyre. And I’ve just finished the last volume, and there’s another one coming out, of [Henry] ‘Chips’ Channon’s diaries, which are now free of being redacted and very, very good.
Are there any downsides to fame?
Not a single one. I tell you, it’s roses all the way. People ask you to do things that you’re not qualified to do. The first time I was on Question Time, I think I only said ‘hello’, ‘good evening’, and ‘good night’. It’s like everything else – you get better at it. You’ve got to be prepared to fail.
What’s your favourite memory of Weakest Link?[While filming the US version] Being at a Lakers game and standing in the inner circle with Mike Nichols, Tyson the boxer, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rob Lowe. The trick was to think that this isn’t going to last for ever, so just enjoy it and count the money.
What annoys you?
I don’t like bad grammar. I don’t like ringing call centres and somebody is saying, ‘How’s you yourself today?’ I don’t like people who don’t self-edit. I wish we could all have a remote control, and, if someone’s going on too long, you just stop it, and fast forward.
How do you react when someone asks you to say your catchphrase?
You know, my mother taught me on that market stall that customers are royalty. And anyone who asks me to say ‘You are the weakest link’ is a customer.
Anne Robinson illustration: Ross Tudor
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