‘I feel mentally better than I have for 20 years’ Fern Britton opens up about life in lockdown

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  • While some love lockdown and others hate it, the past 11 weeks of isolation have helped Fern Britton on the road to recovery as she comes to terms with personal issues that she hasn’t had time to bounce back from, until now.

    ‘It’s given me a little time to recuperate,’ Fern explained. ‘I’ve had a tough couple of years – my mum died, my father died, my cat died, my marriage folded – so to get a chance to just sit and not have any responsibility or worries, it’s lovely. I feel mentally better than I have for 20 years.’

    The TV presenter-turned-author’s struggles are no secret – Fern announced the end of her 20-year marriage to chef Phil Vickery back in January, just a month after losing her dad, Tony.

    And despite the COVID-19 circumstances, family and friends are helping Fern build a brand new life.

    A cornish retreat

    Fern is no stranger to the region, and previously revealed she would often spend six months at a time at her Cornish home in the picturesque town of Padstow. Speaking on the Suzi Perry Breakfast Club video podcast, she confessed it was only supposed to be a temporary move that resulted in her ‘unintentionally’ isolating with her daughters Grace, 23, and Winnie, 18.

    Fern said, ‘They’ve helped with everything that’s happened but it was unintentional. I came down last June with my cats and my daughters, because my younger daughter Winnie had just finished her A levels and didn’t want to go to university, and Grace had just finished her degree, so they needed some space. We came just for the summer, they got jobs in a restaurant and they’re busy working and making friends, then it was Christmas. So when lockdown came we just stayed.’

    Biscuits and wine

    Before lockdown, Fern had just moved into a new home in Cornwall and planned renovations got put on hold when Boris Johnson announced the measures in March. But it also meant she had time to adapt to her new surroundings.

    Fern explained, ‘It feels unreal here, so much that it feels like heaven. It’s done an awful lot of us a lot of good and I feel guilty saying that but then you have to count your blessings… There’s nobody knocking at the door or ringing unnecessarily – it’s just lovely. So I’m taking it as being in a health farm – except I’m eating biscuits and drinking wine.’

    Support network

    One thing that’s also changed is Fern’s place as leader of the family, but it’s something she is starting to enjoy. She explained, ‘It’s interesting being with daughters who are becoming alpha females. I’ve always been the mum in the pride but I’m not the chief lioness any more.’

    And Fern has formed friendships with other strong women, like chef Rick Stein’s ex-wife, Jill, who also divorced after a long marriage.

    Fern said, ‘I’ve made some really nice friends. Jill Stein is a wonderful businesswoman, a strong supporter of women and a fantastic interior designer. I’m very lucky to have made friends with her and her interior design friend Teri Walter.’

    And she’s got the added support of neighbours too. Fern added, ‘I have a friend who is just through the garden gate called Caroline, she’s become a great friend. There’s another woman called Susie Ray who’s an artist-copyist. She delivered some beautiful homemade pasties to my doorstep. I’m living in paradise.’

    Fern is keeping busy too. She said, ‘I’m planning a new book, maybe something for the stage, as how will I know if it will work if I don’t try? The dream is to have a dramatised book.’ For now, at least, Fern insists she’s ‘happy being me and finding out who I am again’.