Sally Taylor on sailing, charity and a rustic French escape
PUBLISHED: 12:56 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 12:06 11 January 2018
Veronica Cowan talks to Sally Taylor, presenter of BBC South's flagship news programme South Today
Sally Taylor lives a short distance from where I used to live, near Winchester, so the early-morning drive to her home gave an added dimension to our meeting. As we chatted over coffee and lemon cake made by her father, it occurred to me that she would be good fun as a dinner party guest.
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But if you are thinking of inviting her, you would have to compete with her tough work schedule: "I am at South Today from Monday to Friday, and BBC Radio Solent on Saturday morning, so the only day I have off is Sunday." In fact, her weekly column in the Southern Daily Echo - her "mild rant of the week" - is written on Sunday, completing the triad of her working in all three media.
Sally is really proud of her radio programme: "I love live radio, and it complements television so beautifully, because they have different strengths and ways of working." The show, she explains, has an eclectic mix of live music, a studio audience, a comedian, a chef cooking in the corner and a different band every week. "It is becoming known as a kind of promoter of music and of unsigned bands, and showing people that there are different things in music apart from what you can buy in a record shop."
"We have a couple of donkeys...Lexus and Lada"
A busy schedule makes it difficult for her to "dash off to France" to Chateau Buisson, where her partner of 10 years, Jean Paul, runs a business which includes a vineyard, bed-and-breakfast, wine-tastings and tours of the vineyard. "I tend to wait and then take a chunk of holiday, so I can spend more quality time out there," she explains, adding that the chateau, which was used during the French revolution by the right hand man of Robespierre, also has a restored villa, a Le Pigeonnier, with its own entrance and swimming pool for holidays: "It is a sort of rustic idyll, and a lot of French, German and Dutch people have visited, as well as quite a few English people, primarily by word-of-mouth." She loves going there, as does her dog, three-year-old Charlie, a German short-haired pointer: "We also have a couple of donkeys - Lexus and Lada," she adds.
She is involved with several charities, and is patron of Simon Says, a Hampshire charity that helps children who are bereaved: "I'm really proud of what it is doing. It is a wonderful support network for families, and the people who work in it are so dedicated."
An HIV and AIDS charity of which she is also patron is the Ribbon Centre, which seeks to prevent the stigma associated with the disease, and Sally sees one of the important aims as educating people, because of the ignorance that still surrounds AIDS.
She had to make a life-changing decision in 1999, when pre-cancerous cells were discovered in her right breast and there was a threat of them in her left, and she decided to have a double mastectomy, the surgery to her left breast being done as a preventative measure, because of a strong familial history of cancer, from which her mother died more than 35 years ago. She is now a vice-president of Wessex Cancer: "I wanted to give something back, because I had so much support from so many people, including sacks of mail, and I was very touched by it."
On being appointed a MBE in 2005: "It was so important to my Dad, to my family. He was really proud, and came with me on the day. It was fantastic"
Sail or return
She used to sail, but can't devote the time that sailing well would demand, but her interest in the sea is reflected in the many maritime programmes with which she has been involved, including the International Festival of the Sea. She also went to Antarctica on the Royal Navy's Portsmouth-based ice patrol vessel, HMS Endurance, although not all went according to plan.
She was invited by the Captain before any television programmes had done it, and her editor was delighted, but after a year of planning it got cancelled at 24 hours notice because Endurance was leaving Antarctica for repairs. "It was then put on hold and in the next 12 months, everybody who was anybody went to Antarctica," she recalls, "and of course we went as well." Describing icebergs the size of towns, she says: "It was the most amazing experience of my life, or it's at least in the top five." They were supposed to stay 10 days, but ended up on the ship for four weeks: "They couldn't get us off because of the bad weather."
To maintain fitness she walks a lot with Charlie, "the best dog in the world." They also go gun-dog training with friends, and the trainer John Birkett. The Wayfarers' Walk is a favourite "but anywhere by the River Itchen and those sorts of places."
The other thing she has a passion for is good wine and food. She recalls that she and a friend used to grow organic food in several places near Winchester: "It was like having allotments. We would go there after work, grow the food in the summer and then just give it away." This was partly a stress-reliever because she admits to being a "hard taskmaster" and puts a lot of pressure on herself, and gets angry with herself if things go wrong: "I am a lot better than I used to be. I used to be horrendous, but I am more relaxed now." While acknowledging that it is a driving force she now feels the need for a better life balance, which she has with Jean Paul.
She was appointed MBE in 2005. I pointed out that Channel Four's Jon Snow had told me that journalists should not accept awards, and she admitted to some ambivalence but said: "It was so important to my dad, to my family. He was just really proud, and came with me on the day. It was fantastic."