Alive and presenting

Francine Stock returns to the screen tonight, after an absence caused by breast cancer. She tells Ann Treneman of her battle, her hopes and her new antiques show

Francine Stock is a serious kind of journalist and so it may come as something of a surprise this evening to hear her say "Welcome to The Antiques Show". She laughs at my raised eyebrows over this rather sumptuous new role: "Just because I've tackled news doesn't mean I don't have other interests, you know. I'm not an entirely serious person."

The CV tells another story. Weighty is too light a word to describe one with the likes of Newsnight, The Money Programme and The World at One on it. The fluff, such as it is, is provided by Panorama. And yet, tonight, Francine Stock can be seen presenting a programme that includes a profile on the Queen of Clutter, contains the hot tip that the Excalibur lavatory brush could be an antique of the future and tells us how to get wax off candlesticks (put them in the freezer). It is fun, interesting and almost as compulsive as the Roadshow. It is, however, a far cry from the serious (and male) world of politics and finance.

"Well, I don't think it would be called women's broadcasting or anything like that!" she says. I ask another, similar question. "You want to know if I am taking the soft option, don't you? I don't see it that way. There is something very interesting about people talking about objects. It is fascinating. There is a sort of fetishistic quality to it. But I'm still doing some serious stuff too. These days it is a question of doing things that I enjoy."

The word "enjoy" is one that Ms Stock uses with precision and care. "When you spend a lot of time in a hospital bed, you think about a lot of things," she says. She did that in 1995 when, with her second child just five months old, she was diagnosed as having breast cancer. "The disease was fairly advanced because it had been misdiagnosed twice before that."

Within days she was in hospital, having a mastectomy, and then conventional chemotherapy. Later on she had a radical treatment of high-dose chemotherapy non-stop for four days. "The idea is that it is like Dyno-rod, it completely flushes out the system." It is also deadly enough to kill your own bone marrow. "You have no immune system so you have to be kept in isolation until they can put your original bone marrow back in."

Ms Stock says this all very matter-of-factly with a lightness that must have taken some time to master. The entire treatment took a year and she has been clear for another year. She is 39 and married to the owner of a design and investment company. They live in south-west London with their two children and a black Lab named Lottie. Since the chemo her hair has grown back a darker shade of brown and "all of this business" means she could not care less about the odd wrinkle or two. "Let them come!" she exclaims.

It is only when she talks of her children that her voice becomes anything other than brisk. "It was very difficult. Rebecca was three-and-a-half and Eleanor five months. It was the stuff of, oh, like the worst sort of made-for-television whatever and suddenly it is happening to you."

Another decision made from the hospital bed was to ditch the book she had been working on for 18 months - a non-fiction study of the politics of marriage - and have a go at a novel that is now almost finished. "You do eyeball your own mortality in a way that you would never choose to do otherwise and nothing is for granted. There are no guarantees. I do something now because I'll enjoy it or I might be good at it or get satisfaction from it, but I don't do things out of duty any more."

The Antiques Show comes in the "enjoy" category. Her mother had a share in an antiques shop and so Francine has more than just a passing interest. But where are her own objects of fascination? I glance around the front room dominated by a rather surreal turquoise Conran sofa that would not look out of place at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. "Yes that is becoming an antique rather quickly," she says.

"So do you have any real antiques?"I ask, looking in vain for even the odd loo brush on display.

"Well," she says also looking around, "in the other rooms, but they do tend to be family things. I'm afraid I'm interested in smaller rather than grand antiques." Further questioning unearths one old and large favourite: a Georgian dining table that she bought from her mother for pounds 50 many moons ago.

But she then makes up lost ground by reciting entire scenes from the Roadshow. Ms Stock says that she thinks a good name for the show would have been "Fetishes" and she is right. Not least this week is the case of the toasting fork. It is purchased by one John Biggs, a dealer known as "Mr Bubble Wrap" for his prolific selling. He buys the fork while on a 10,000-mile shopping trip before a trade fair. He paid pounds 400 for it and was selling it for pounds 650. You'll have to watch to see its final price - but it was a steal.

Ms Stock presents and reports for the programme and it is clear that she is much happier asking the questions than answering them. She has said very little in public about her illness before. "I can see that some people might be interested. I'm not ashamed of it and if it does help other people to know about it, then that's fine," she says.

I ask if she ever wonders "why me?" and she does not pause for an instant before saying no. From the beginning she knew other women her age with breast cancer. Now she knows a lot more. Not all of them made it, "Plus, in the twist of it all somebody I knew was killed in a freak accident. You know the fragility of life comes home to you rather than the awfulness of this particular thing."

I wonder out loud if she might do a programme on breast cancer. "There have been a few offers, I haven't shut myself off from it. I do feel strongly about it but I don't want to make a career out of it, frankly. I mean I am still the same person as before".

'The Antiques Show' begins tonight at 8.30pm on BBC2.

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice