The making of a screen stalwart

Smiling and unflappable, Carol Bundock is a familiar face in Suffolk as she brings us the news from Look East. But did you know she was in her late 30s when she first entered a newsroom?NEIL HAVERSON reports.

Smiling and unflappable, Carol Bundock is a familiar face in Suffolk as she brings us the news from Look East. But did you know she was in her late 30s when she first entered a newsroom?

NEIL HAVERSON reports.

When Carol Bundock opened her front door, Poppy and Alfie, two exuberant cocker spaniels, rushed out to greet me.

As Carol and I chatted in the conservatory, the two of them kept a careful eye on the proceedings.

“Cocker spaniels have been part of the fabric of our life for 33 years,” said Carol as the boisterous duo grappled for pole position beside their mistress on the sofa.

Despite the bustle, you can see the calm persona that graces the Look East screen.

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Carol was born in Surrey in 1953 and unashamedly said: “I rejoice in my age. I don't mind if people know. You see people on the telly quoted as 45 and you think; what!”

She grew up in Leigh-on Sea, Essex and moved to Holt in Norfolk in 1975.

Looking after daughter Laura and son Jonathan Carol was a 'stay-at-home mum'. Then in 1986 she became a mature student at the University of East Anglia.

“I took Drama and English,” she said, adding: “I call drama 'applied English' because Ian, my husband, says I have a BA in pretending! When I graduated I had to find a job. I had always been interested in the media and I went along to a careers talk thinking, at the good old age of 36, what can I do? There was a panel of people from the media including two people from the BBC and I asked them what the chances were of getting a job. One of them said: 'Let's put it this way love, the editor of Panorama is 30 and the editor of the nine o'clock news is 31.' I sat down!”

But fortunately the news editor from Radio Norfolk, Kevin Burch, was there and he invited anybody interested for a look round the station.

Carol said: “It was my Road to Damascus moment. I walked into the newsroom and thought 'wow!' I was desperately keen. I did a lot of tea-making and an awful lot of smiling. I had a lot of luck and my voice was okay.”

For two-and-a-half years she was up at 5am to host the breakfast show. She said: “The first time I went on air I felt as though I had won a BAFTA, it was such a thrill.”

Next she moved to the mid morning show but was interested in how the television side worked.

She said: “I dipped my toe in. I read the early morning bulletin for a couple of years and co-presented Out and About.”

Carol moved to reporting and presenting the news for Look East, in the course of which she interviewed her two literary heroes, Alan Bennett and Bill Bryson. She also met Bob Geldof when he was awarded an honorary doctorate at the UEA.

She said: “He was great! In spite of his dishevelled look he was really attractive; very nice - and quite shy. He is totally committed, absolutely passionate about Africa.

“But I consider it a great privilege to meet the general public. I love meeting people. I'm very aware when I deal with a big tragedy. At one time I was a bereavement visitor and people always remember the press coverage. It's not just a story, it's somebody's life.”

There's plenty to do between bulletins; cutting and editing, preparing for live interviews and “mugging up” on subjects. For daytime bulletins there is an autocue operator but for the evening news the presenter has to “pedal” it.

“If you had a coughing fit it'd be really scary!” Carol said. “I don't know what I'd do.”

She added: “Because we cover East Anglia we try not to say Norfolk first of the three counties. One day I said 'Good Evening to Essex, Sorfolk and Nuffolk.'

“I knew I said something wrong but didn't know what. In my ear where the director is normally talking to me it went terribly quiet. They were all trying not to laugh.

But you carry on regardless; it's live broadcasting; foot in mouth!

Well, it's only television - no one dies!

On July 1 last year, Carol married her long-time partner Ian Barmer, also a journalist with Look East. The wedding took place in the Temple at Blickling Hall. There were 18 guests - plus Poppy and Alfie.

She said: “We got permission from the National Trust for them to go! We kept the wedding a secret. On Monday morning we sent an email to everybody at Look East with a picture saying: 'Guess what we did at the weekend!'”

But it could all have turned out so different. Two months before the wedding Ian was taken seriously ill.

“The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital saved his life,” Carol said. “We couldn't have got better treatment if we'd paid for it. It was a salutary experience. It totally changed our perspective on life. We've reached an age and stage where sadly we've lost a couple of friends who have died too early. I believe in celebrating the here and now.”

Carol had time off to nurse Ian. When she returned to Look East she reduced her hours to 25 a week.

For two years she has been a Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk and said: “I attended a Citizenship Ceremony at City Hall. There is a negative view of people coming to this country but it was incredibly moving being there; seeing these people and the things they are bringing to this country.”

Carol was a Brownie, Guide and Ranger and became a Queen's Guide. Now she is putting something back into the movement as President of the Norfolk Guides. She said: “I absolutely adore working with Guides. They have modernised very cleverly and it still appeals to girls. There are hundreds waiting to join; there are not enough leaders.”

She is also President of the Norfolk Red Cross and said: “They're known as a worldwide humanitarian organisation but one of the slogans is 'Across the world and around the corner'. I'm the 'around the corner' bit.”

But Carol describes home as “the hub of my world”. She enjoys bird watching, yoga, reading and gardening. She said: “I do the flowers, Ian does the fruit and veg. We talk about work for five minutes then that's it.”

Daughter Laura is 31 and has just joined Sky News from the BBC. At one time she read the news for West while mum read the news for East, at Look East.

Son Jonathan is 29 and works as a tree surgeon for Norwich City Council. To Carol's delight, he and his partner are about to have a baby. She said: “I've been grandmother waiting to happen!”

And what about the future?

“I'll carry on until such time as whatever. When high definition television comes in I'll probably retire!”

N

This interview first appeared in Let's Talk magazine. The December issue is in shops now

Q&A

Q: What was the first record you bought?

A: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel

Q: What was the last CD you bought?

A: Jan Garbarek and TheHilliard Ensemble's Officium - soprano and tenor saxophones and those voices!

Q: What's your favourite food?

A: Anything from the garden

Q: Is there something in your wardrobe you just can't throw away - even though you never wear it?

A: A 1950s black cocktail dress I bought from the Big C shop for £7.50. I wore it on my 50th and haven't done so since

Q: What's your favourite film?

A: American Beauty. It was a masterpiece, brilliantly played by Kevin Spacey and Annette Beining. It exposed the small mindedness of society, and, even though it was set in American suburbia, could easily translate here. Plus I always love it when Americans laugh at themselves, which they can do very well

Q: What would you spend your last £5 on?

A: Dog food!

Q: If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?

A: Ban advertising. I consider advertising responsible for much of society's discontent. It offers an aspirational way of life, not a real one, and when people can't match up to whatever it is that's being advertised they feel discontented

Q: What is your favourite indulgence?

A: Chanel lipsticks

Q: What's your idea of the perfect Sunday afternoon?

A: Being out in the garden knowing the kids are coming round for dinner

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