Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark talks love, anxiety and 40-minute nosebleeds

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Five Minute Philosopher is a weekly series in which Stylist gets profound with people we love. What will the Newsnight presenter and author make of our existential questions? 

What is the meaning of life?

 It’s being alive to the world around you and embracing every opportunity. 

What is the difference between right and wrong?

A feeling in your gut. A sinking feeling is how you know something’s wrong – it’s that anxiety. 

Where is your happy place?

Wherever the family is.

Nature or nurture?

Both, firmly. 

Is it better to be liked or respected?

I can only go by what I do, which is respect the people that I like. 

If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be? 

Being a good mother, wife and friend. I would like all three if possible – am I allowed? 

Who or what is your greatest love?

My husband, Alan, my children, Caitlin and James, and my brother, Alan. And shoes. 

When did you last lie?

Last Thursday when I said I was fine but 
I was nearly panicking on a flight to London because my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding. A wonderful consultant gynaecologist who I happen to know, Professor Mary Ann Lumsden, was on the flight and she was amazing. She held my nose in a vice-like grip, so it stopped bleeding about 40 minutes later. 

Does the supernatural exist? 

I think there’s an extra dimension but I think it’s about intuition, spirituality and being at one with nature sometimes. I don’t think it’s supernatural. 

Are you fatalistic?

Only up to a point. We (hopefully) can be agents of our own destiny (sometimes). But I think we have to do our best. 

What is your greatest fear?  

Something awful happening to my children. 

Animals or babies?


Kirsty recommends The Mandarins by feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir

What talent do you yearn for?

I yearn to play tennis at the highest level and to play the piano passively.

Do you like to be complimented?

Who doesn’t?

Do you have a high pain threshold?

I think I have a very high pain threshold. I was in a 22-hour labour with Caitlin, and I also had a hysterectomy, aged 46, which took a great deal of recovery.

What book do you recommend most to others?

The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir. It follows a group of young people in Paris at the end of the war with all their hopes, dreams, disappointments and betrayals. But most of all it’s the story of one woman’s tussle with herself versus her heart.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

That you ultimately fail at a lot of things.

What food sums up happiness?

Any food cooked at home with love.

What have you never understood?

Technology – it’s why I can’t fix the bloody television. 

What is the one thing you want to know before you die? 

That I’ve lived a good life. 

Are you scared of dying or what happens when you die? 

I would certainly not like to die a painful death. But scared of dying? I just don’t want to die before I see all sorts of things happening to my kids, like them being happy and fulfilled in their life, developing and changing. I’m hoping for more years to come. 

Quinoa or quavers? 

Quinoa. The problem with Quavers is when you add onions, red pepper, mushrooms and coriander it just doesn’t work. 

Kirsty’s new novel, The House By The Loch (£16.99, Two Roads), is out on 13 June      

Lily says:

“Kirsty Wark is no bullshit, and she’s well researched.”

You can read all of the articles from Lily Allen’s special guest edit of Stylist here.

Photography: Rex features

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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