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A Great Greek Revival – Athens, Daily Mail

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Daily Mail: A Great Greek Revival. Published 18th April 2018

Athens

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By Rob McGibbon
Published on 1st September 2012

I have never been one for ambitions or seeking things out. Life has just happened for me. I have just been incredibly lucky

The prized possession you value above all others…

A beautifully inscribed piece of paper signed by the Queen conferring a knighthood on me in 2005. It was an enormous honour and is hanging in a prominent position in my study.

The unqualified regret you wish you could amend…

I have been too lucky in life to have any regrets. It really has been charmed, so it would be invidious of me to say I wish something had been different. Besides, I am an optimist, with a reasonably sunny nature, and I believe that regrets are futile. Things go wrong in every life, but you must move on.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions…

I would begin with a breakfast of fresh mango on a boat in the Andaman Sea off Thailand with my wife Helen, followed by a stroll on the beach at the Banyan Tree hotel in the Seychelles. Our three children and five grandchildren – the whole cotton-pickin’ lot of them – would then join us for a fun al fresco lunch at Club 55 in St Tropez. After that we’d all head to Crane Beach in Barbados where I would attempt to body surf, but probably drown. I’d then have a cup of tea in a boat beside the Fastnet Rock off Cork in Ireland, followed by cocktails at the Borgo Santo Pietro hotel in Tuscany. Helen and I would have a candlelit dinner in a garden in Marrakech and I’d end the day with a large Armagnac on the terrace of our holiday home in Gascony, South West France. As you can see, my perfect day is geared around regular intakes of food and drink!

The temptation you wish you could resist…

Trying to do everything at once. I am not much good at preparing and I like to do things quickly, so I tend to do at least two things at the same time. My whole professional career has been built on no preparation.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance…

The Catcher in the Rye. I read it when I was 17 and it was the archetypal book for your late teens that spoke to my generation.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day…

I always longed to be invisible around exam time so I could get an early peak the questions. But the general thought of being invisible doesn’t appeal to me now because I would see things I’d be better off not seeing!

The pet-hate that makes your hackles rise…

Hatred in all its forms. It is futile and worthless and causes all the ills in society. Hate ends in nothing but tragedy.

The film you can watch time and time again…

High Society. There’s never been a cast like it – Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly – and the music of Cole Porter. I’m a great fan of musicals and this one never fails to lift me.

The person who has influenced you most…

It has to be Helen. We have been married for 47 years and not only has she given me the greatest thing imaginable – my family – she has also made me a better person. She is kind, loyal and gentle, and I have to live up to that, rather than think of myself. She’s also a bloody good cook!

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint…

I’d never buy a pie and a pint for anyone because it’s a recipe for indigestion! I’d like to have a chat with the ancient Greek warrior Alexander the Great and ask him what drove him on. He is the antithesis of me. I’m lazy by nature and can’t understand why he didn’t just stay in Macedonia and enjoy himself, instead of conquering all those countries.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child…

That’s easy – be kind. Kindness is the most important thing in life, but sadly there is not enough of it in the world.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity…

I have a keen interest in birds. To say I’m a twitcher would be going to far, but I am fond of sitting in the garden looking at the parakeets or red kites. The beauty of birdsong in the morning is something to behold.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again…

I don’t recall mislaying anything, but when you get to my age – I’m 73 – possessions are less important. I am more concerned about losing my marbles and my memory. I am forever putting my glass down in the evening, then saying, Who’s taken my drink?!

The unending quest that drives you on…

I have never been one for ambitions or seeking things out. Life has just happened for me. I have never been driven. I have just been incredibly lucky.

The poem that touches your soul…

I am a great lover of poetry, particularly the First World War poets. Wilfred Owen is my favourite and his Dulce et Decorum Est is very powerful. It is a testament to the false gods of nationalism and the futility of war.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase…

That I have more brains than I actually have! I seem to be credited with intelligence way beyond the reality. I am in a privileged position, so people think I have the answers, but it is important to always have humility and be aware of your limitations.

The event that altered the course of your life and character…

In 1967 I sent a tape of a radio programme I did in Ireland to Mark White, the assistant head of the BBC’s gramophone department. He wrote back and offered me a slot on Midday Spin, which I did down the line from Dublin. I was astonished to get a reply, let alone a job. I had always wanted to work for the BBC and everything grew from there. It was the changing point of my life. It wouldn’t happen nowadays because no one at the BBC would listen to an unsolicited tape.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it…

Crime is not something that we should encourage. I am too bourgeois and law abiding to want to do a crime. I wouldn’t even rob a bank because I worked in one for four years, so it wouldn’t feel right!

The song that means most to you…

Stardust by Nat King Cole with the arrangement by George Jenkins is a masterpiece. Like all great music, it speaks to your heart. That song brings back romantic memories, but I’m not telling you what they are! 

The happiest moment you will cherish forever…

It’s hard to single out one happy moment because I have been happy through most of my life. But it was incredible when I sunk the longest televised putt in history at Gleneagles in 1981 during one of Peter Alice’s Pro-Celebrity Golf games. I was playing with Fuzzy Zoeller against Lee Trevino and Trevor Brooking when I holed out on the 18th to win the match. Perhaps it will be the only thing I am remembered for.

The saddest time that shook your world…

When our daughter Vanessa died from heart complications a few weeks after she was born in 1966. They were terrible days, but I don’t like to dwell on it, or say too much publicly. You deal with tragedy as best you can. Life has to go on.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you…

To have played rugby for Ireland. My left knee was injured badly when I was younger, not that I would have been good enough to make it. I was walking around with a duff knee for fifty years, until I got it replaced two years ago.

The philosophy that underpins your life…

I believe in stoicism. Life happens and we cannot control it. Accept whatever it brings.

The order of service at your funeral…

I’m not gone yet! Give me another 10 years and I might start thinking about it, but I haven’t got a gravestone marked, or told anyone what I want because I am not ready to go. I am not religious, but I would expect to have a service at our local church and be buried in England, not Ireland, because this is where my family is. I would want a party afterwards where everyone will say, “Well, that’s the end of him, let’s have a drink!” Death doesn’t scare me. There’s a lovely song called When You Are Old, which has the lyric: ‘When you are old and full of sleep/And death no longer makes you weep’. I’m stoic about it all.

The way you want to be remembered…

With affection. For people to have liked you is about all you can hope for.

Sir Terry Wogan died aged 77 from cancer on 31st January 2016.

Terry Wogan: The Definite Article – Writer’s Cut

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Veteran crooner Tony Bennett

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Actor David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff

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Actress Leslie Ash

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Bargain Hunt presenter Tom Wonnacott

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England fast bowler Stuart Broad

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Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy

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Olympic diver Tom Daley

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Tennis commentator Andrew Castle

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Click image to see how the article appeared in Weekend magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former Formula 1 ace David Coulthard

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Jane Asher TD

Click image to see how the article appeared in Weekend magazine

 

‘I wish I could have my virginity back, it would be fun to lose it again – without all that guilt!’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: actress and cake queen Jane Asher

The prized possession you value above all others...My wedding ring, which Gerald [cartoonist Gerald Scarfe] and I chose together before we got married in 1981.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...That my father Richard never got to meet his grandchildren Katie, 40, Alexander, 33, and Rory, 31. He died far too young, in 1969, when he was only 57.

The temptation you wish you could resist...The second and third glasses of wine that I keep promising to refuse!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Stoner by John Williams from 1965, about a young farmer who falls in love with literature. It sums up the loneliness and frailty of the human condition.

The person who has influenced you most...My doctor father. He still constantly inspires me.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Harmful unscientific nonsense, from ‘detox’ and ‘colon cleansing’ to the waste of money in taking unnecessary supplements.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...God. I’d ask Him why He set the world up in such an over-complex and cruel way.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...You’re more likely to regret the things you don’t do than those you do, so go for it.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d zip around supermarkets taking all the packaging off the fruit and veg.

The film you can watch time and time again...Laughter In Paradise from 1951, in which a joker instructs his heirs in his will to undertake tasks that are totally out of character. It’s funny and moving as they improve their lives in ways they couldn’t have predicted.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My virginity! It would be fun to lose it again without the guilt and pregnancy fears linked with it in the past.

The unending quest that drives you on...I don’t believe there’s any ‘meaning of life’, but the not knowing keeps one going.

The poem that touches your soul...The House Is Not The Same Since You Left by Henry Normal. It’s so poignant how it expresses love and loss through the everyday objects that surround us.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...In showbiz you have to give up minding about what people think of you. I’ve read so many ‘facts’ about myself I never knew that I take them all with a pinch of salt.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Giving £100 to support Private Eye magazine in 1970. As a Thank You I was invited to its 10th birthday party in Brighton – where I met Gerald. It was fancying at first sight!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d steal the stunning antique Chanel diamond necklace I saw in a Knightsbridge shop window a few weeks ago. When I asked the price I nearly fainted.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...I loved reading horror comics as a child, which developed into an adult love of horror films – the scarier and gorier the better. I enjoy being really frightened, while knowing deep down that I’m safe.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...I’m a bit of a messy hoarder, so I need to sort out the cupboards, drawers and corners in my house that are full of unused stuff.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...It’ll start at 8pm – I’ll be in a hit new Broadway play, then Gerald and I will stay on the beach at the Rosewood Mayakoba hotel in Mexico. I’ll have an enormous breakfast: fresh berries with porridge, then poached eggs on toast with crispy bacon and very strong coffee. After reading the great reviews of my play I’ll go snorkelling, then we’ll meet our children for lunch in a mountain restaurant in Meribel, France. Afterwards I’ll ski like a dream. In the afternoon I’ll film an Emmy-nominated new TV series in Milan, then hit the shops there. In the evening Gerald and I will watch Don Giovanni, and we’ll end the day at Lulworth Cove in Dorset where I’m magically the owner of a cute cottage. We’ll eat fresh lobster with Veuve Clicquot champagne. Before sleeping, time stretches so I can finish all the wonderful books that have been piling up by my bed.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Realising aged ten that religion was a man-made invention. To know I only had this world to worry about came as a huge relief.

The song that means most to you...Gerald and I have always thought of Nilsson’s Without You as our song. Part of a good marriage involves the dependency reflected in the haunting line, ‘I can’t live, if living is without you…’

The saddest time that shook your world...Like most people I’ve had tragedies, but I’m afraid I can’t reveal any details out of respect for those involved.

The philosophy that underpins your life...To be kind is the most important attribute of all, but it’s not always easy.

The order of service at your funeral...Whatever will help my children not to be sad. If they’d rather there was no official ceremony that’s fine by me.

The way you want to be remembered...Alive!

The Plug...Jane stars in The Gathered Leaves at Park Theatre, north London, 15 July-15 August. For tickets call 020 7870 6876 or visit parktheatre.co.uk.

 

Cake entrepreneur Jane Asher

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Published: 13 June 2015

Tennis ace Tim Henman:

‘Retiring from tennis in 2007 was the happiest moment of my life. For once I could do normal things without worrying about training or travelling’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: former tennis ace Tim Henman 

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My wine cellar at home in Oxfordshire. I have about 1,200 bottles and I’ve spent far too much money on them. I love champagne, white Burgundy and red Bordeaux.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not being able to cook properly. I’m excellent at scrambled eggs on toast and pasta, but that’s about it.

The temptation you wish you could resist...That extra glass of wine that always leads to the hangover.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. My mum and dad always read it to me on Christmas Eve. I read it to my three girls – Rosie, 12, Olivia, ten and Grace, seven – so there’s a lovely continuity.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d put all the cheats in sport out of business.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Impatient drivers who jump the queue.

The person who has influenced you most...My dad Tony. He introduced me to sport and taught me about the will to win. There aren’t many dads more competitive than mine!

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...My grandfather Henry Billington, who died when I was six. He played tennis at Wimbledon in the late 40s and 50s, so I’d love to talk to him about his experiences.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Good manners don’t cost anything, but they are so important. We’ve brought up all our children to be well-mannered.

The film you can watch time and time again...Wedding Crashers with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. I’ve seen it at least 30 times, but I still find it funny.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Watching Bjorn Borg play at Wimbledon in 1981. I was six and he was the defending five-times champion. It inspired me to be a professional tennis player.

The unending quest that drives you on...To putt as well as US golfer Ben Crenshaw.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Fires! I love building a bonfire, or sitting by an open fire in the house. I find flames mesmerising.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My healthy right shoulder! I injured it when I was 11, then aggravated it over the years and had an operation when I was 21. It aches when I play tennis.

The poem that touches your soul...If by Rudyard Kipling. The lines about treating triumph and disaster just the same are above the door as you walk out onto Centre Court.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I sit on the fence. For years, I had to give what was considered the ‘right’ answer to the media. Now, as a commentator, I can give the honest answer!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d steal the contents of the cellars at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. There are 600,000 bottles of the finest wine.

The song that means most to you...Let Me Entertain You by Robbie Williams. It was played at the arena in Birmingham during the Davis Cup against America in 1999. We lost 3-2 but it was an amazing weekend of tennis.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up in a villa on stilts in the ocean in the Maldives with my wife Lucy and our girls. We’d have a huge English breakfast and exotic fruit before swimming with dolphins. I’d play 18 holes with my golfing mates at Augusta and shoot a course record 62. We’d have a lobster and seafood platter for lunch at the clubhouse with a bottle of Montrachet white wine. Then I’d join the family at the Boulders Lodge at Singita Game Reserve, by Kruger National Park, South Africa where Lucy and I stayed on our honeymoon. We’d spend all afternoon watching animals, then have some Dom Pérignon Rosé in the bush. We’d go home and take our black Labradors Bumble and Bella for a walk, then end up at The Sweet Olive pub in the village of Aston Tirrold near our home. We’d take over the place for friends and family and enjoy fillet steak with magnums of Petrus ’82. The day would end in my own bed.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...When I retired from tennis in September 2007! I remember taking the girls to school and thinking, ‘Wow, I can do this without worrying about training, travelling or playing.’

The saddest time that shook your world...When our 12-year-old Labrador Bonnie died two years ago. The vet put her down at home because she was so ill. I held her and sobbed.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To travel more. I’ve visited 81 countries and want to see as much of the world as possible. New Zealand is top of the list.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Always give 100 per cent. I never won Wimbledon, despite being in four semi-finals, but I’m happy with my achievements because I gave everything I had.

The order of service at your funeral...I’m too busy living to dwell on it.

The way you want to be remembered...As a good father, husband and friend. And he had a great wine cellar!

The Plug...Tim Henman’s Charity Foundation and Centrepoint host a Pro-Am tournament in London on 24 June. For tickets to the gala dinner visit henmanfoundation.org.

 

Tennis Ace Tim Henman

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Published: 6 June 2015

Former England cricketer Nasser Hussain:

 ‘I’ve become enthralled with netball since my daughter Leila started playing’

We ask a celebrity a set of probing questions and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain 

The prized possession you value above all others...My dad Joe’s old watch. He died six years ago when he was 68 after a long illness and my mum gave it to me. I plan to leave it to my two boys Jacob, 13, and Joel, 12.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not reading more when I was a kid. I was always off playing cricket.

The temptation you wish you could resist...A glass of chardonnay at about 8pm each night after putting our three kids to bed. And a second glass depending on what kind of day it’s been!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...A Good Walk Spoiled by John Feinstein about life as a professional golfer. I love golf and this really takes you inside the mind of a pro.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d listen to a José Mourinho half-time team talk at Chelsea. Even though I’m an Arsenal fan, I sense that he always says something that lifts the team, but what is it?

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Rudeness. Manners get forgotten all too often these days.

The person who has influenced you most...My dad. He sacrificed so much so I could pursue my love of cricket as a boy. He drove me all over the country.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Nelson Mandela. I’d talk to him about how he managed to continue fighting for his beliefs without bitterness.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Be the best you can be. As long as you’ve given 100 per cent, you can hold your head up high.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Shawshank Redemption. I’ve seen it 50 times. It’s so powerful and Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are an amazing double act.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A gold cricket bat medallion I bought on my first tour of the Caribbean with England in 1990. I wore it for five years, but then it just disappeared.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...I’ve become enthral-led with netball since my nine-year-old daughter Leila started playing. But I’m obsessed with the ‘footwork rule’. I have absolutely no idea how it works!

The unending quest that drives you on...To have no regrets.

The poem that touches your soul...Daffodils by William Wordsworth. To me, it represents the arrival of spring and the cricket season.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m angry. I was caught on camera shouting at the players when I was captain and that became my image. I’m a lot more chilled than people expect.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Being caught out soon after coming in at No.3 in a Test match against India in 1996. But I stayed put and waited for the umpire’s decision, which is a bit naughty, and was given Not Out. I went on to score 128 and was named Man of the Series. That was a turning point in my career.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d break into the Picasso Museum in Paris, steal one of his paintings and give it to my wife Karen. She loves his work.

The song that means most to you...Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Connor. I was listening to it during a period when I was scoring lots of runs, so I kept playing it. We cricketers are a superstitious lot!

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake in my own bed at home in Essex and have a fry-up with Karen and the kids. Then we’d arrive in Ullswater in the Lake District for a walk. We’d take a steamboat ride, then have a ploughman’s lunch in a pub. I’d only have a pint of lime and lemonade because any alcohol at lunchtime sends me to sleep. After that I’d play a round of golf at Augusta. Maybe I’d squeeze in a parachute jump after that. I’ve never done one, but it’s good to be taken out of your comfort zone! Later I’d join the family on Crane beach on the south coast of Barbados for some boogie-boarding, then have a rum punch and a roti in a beach bar. We’d spend the evening in Barcelona having tapas with a decent bottle of white wine. The day would end back home.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Watching Jacob score the winning goal in a league decider for his school when he was nine. All his team-mates went ballistic and hugged him.

The saddest time that shook your world...The day my dad died. I wish I’d spent more time with him, but I was away travelling so much.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To own a private jet to bypass all the hassle at airports.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m a worrier by nature, but I try to limit my worrying to the things that matter.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d want a private ceremony with a few pleasantries and no fuss. I’ll leave provision for a wake with some decent wine, so it can end on a happy note.

The way you want to be remembered...With a smile by the people I love.

The Plug...The Investec Ashes begin on 8 July. For information about Investec private banking visit investec.co.uk/pb. Twitter @InvestecCricket.

 

 

Former England Cricketer Nasser Hussain

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Published: 30 May 2015

Riverdance creator Michael Flatley:

"The saddest time? My father’s passing. It shook me deeply. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was deliver the eulogy. But he is still guiding me and I feel his presence with me all the time"

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Riverdance creator Michael Flatley

 

The prized possession you value above all others...A first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses from 1922 with illustrations by Henri Matisse. It’s signed by both men and I keep it in the library at Castle Hyde, my home in County Cork.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not marrying my wife Niamh 20 years ago! We met in 1993 when she was in Riverdance. Our wedding in 2006 was one of the happiest days of my life.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Dancing in my show Feet Of Flames at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2000. It was thrilling to be on the stage where so many heroes, such as Muhammad Ali, had performed.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Don’t resist – cut yourself some slack and enjoy life.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Meditations by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. So much of what he wrote is still relevant today.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d stay at home looking in the mirror – it’d make a nice change from what I normally see!

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...People who drive slowly in the fast lane on the motorway.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Mission with Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons is stunningly shot and has the best soundtrack ever.

The person who has influenced you most...My father Michael taught me self-discipline, hard work and integrity. He died in March aged 88 and I miss him terribly. He was my hero.

The poem that touches your soul...The last page of Ulysses is like the finest poetry. It’s timeless and elegant and I’ve memorised all the words.

The unending quest that drives you on...To do something of greatness that makes the world a little bit better.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A 1968 Corvette Stingray, which I had when I was growing up in Chicago. It was a real beauty, but I had to sell it to pay the rent.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Julius Caesar. I’d like to know if he was aware he was going to be assassinated.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Believe in yourself and in your dreams.

The song that means most to you...Yesterday, When I Was Young by Charles Aznavour is about living for today and not letting life pass you by.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...The opening night of Lord Of The Dance in Dublin in 1996. I was fired from Riverdance in 1995 and everybody seemed to abandon me, even though I’d created it. My father said, ‘Forget about them, just create a new show.’ I finally did it and we got a standing ovation.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...To break into Rome’s Colosseum at night and dance my heart out would be incredible.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...What people think about me is none of my business.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...I’m a flautist too and I collect antique wooden flutes. I have about 50 and I keep them by the bar at home. I like nothing more than mixing a perfect martini and playing a couple of them.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d spend all day with Niamh and our son Michael St James, who’s seven. Breakfast would be on the balcony of the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy: espresso coffee for me and two croissants with melted chocolate. Then a Mangusta 130 yacht would power us along the Amalfi Coast – where we’d walk through Ravello – then to Monte Carlo for lunch at Le Louis XV restaurant at the Hotel de Paris. I’d have risotto with fresh truffles and some Château Latour 1982, then we’d relax on the beach at the Reethi Rah hotel in the Maldives. I’d spend the rest of the day playing Lego with my son. In the evening, I’d drink a dry martini at the George V hotel in Paris, then have dinner with Niamh in London: I’d have a pasta starter at Harry’s Bar with some Petrus 1990, then head to C London for a veal chop with mashed potatoes and some Cheval Blanc 1990, before finishing with dessert at Mark’s Club with a glass of Château d’Yquem 1947. After that we’d go dancing in New York at a place I always keep secret. We’d dance to Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra.

The saddest time that shook your world...My father’s passing. It shook me deeply. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was deliver the eulogy.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To have my new paintings accepted by the art world. My first exhibition is in London in June.

The philosophy that underpins your life...When the bell rings, get out there and throw your best punch.

The order of service at your funeral...I just want plenty of good Irish whiskey and music, so everyone has a good time.

The way you want to be remembered...As someone who gave every last drop of energy on stage to make people happy.

The Plug...Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games is at London’s Dominion Theatre, and then touring. For tickets visit lordofthedance.com.

 

 

Riverdance Creator Michael Flatley

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Published: 23 May 2015

TV presenter Chris Tarrant:

‘I love flower arranging. Seriously! It gives me great satisfaction – and gives me wife a big laugh!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s presenter Chris Tarrant’s turn

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My lucky 1949 George VI sixpence. It was handed to me in 1984 by a stranger who said, ‘Be lucky.’ My first marriage had collapsed and my career was in bad shape. Then I got a job presenting on Capital Radio.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Pork pies. They have no nutritional value but they’re so tasty.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...David Niven’s memoir, The Moon’s A Balloon. It made me laugh and inspired me to write about my own life.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d follow Kim Jong-un around. North Korea is such a mystery, it would be fascinating to see what really goes on.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Footballers swearing on TV. Children are watching.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Deer Hunter with Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken. It’s riveting, especially the Russian roulette scene.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...That I never learnt to play the violin. I had lessons when I was ten but I packed it in.

The person who has influenced you most...My dad Basil. He was such a kind and honourable man. Dad died from heart failure in 2005 when he was 85.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Henry VIII. He was creative and sensitive, but also capable of brutal acts.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Treasure every day because you never know when your number is up. When I was 11 one of my best friends was knocked off his bicycle and killed.

The song that means most to you...A Day In The Life by The Beatles. As a DJ, it was the only song I could play and always enjoy.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Flower arranging. Seriously! I like walking in the country, picking wild flowers and putting them in vases. My wife has a good old laugh about it.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...The ability to bowl fast. I was a decent fast bowler, but now I’m 68 I’ve lost my speed. It’s nothing to do with the stroke I had last year – I’ve recovered. I’ve become a wily spin bowler now.

The unending quest that drives you on...To catch a 100lb carp.

The poem that touches your soul...For The Fallen by Laurence Binyon. I think it’s the best war poem.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m a motormouth who talks all the time. I can be larger than life when I’m working, but I’m a quiet, sensitive person.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Presenting Tiswas, which started in 1974. Everything in my career has come from that.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I would murder Aleksandr the Meerkat from those TV ads. I have to turn the telly over when he comes on.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d begin fishing for salmon at the River Gaula in Norway. I’d be with my mate Sean who loves fishing, but isn’t very good, which makes me look better. We always put the fish back, but after that I’d have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast with coffee at a cafe by the river. Then I’d watch a Test match between England and India in Calcutta where Alastair Cook would score a fast century. Lunch would be in Cambodia with Jane. They make the best curries in the world. I’d have a few local beers, visit some ancient temples, then go to the Maldives with Jane and my kids [he has six, aged 22-38, from two previous marriages]. We’d snorkel alongside the great manta rays, then hang out on the beach. I’d watch the sunset in Yukon, Canada, and have a huge steak for dinner. I’d end the day at home in Berkshire. I’d pour myself a glass of red wine and watch an episode of The Sopranos.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Getting the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in 2000. Dad came on stage to give it to me disguised as the Phantom Flan Flinger from Tiswas.

The saddest time that shook your world...My mum Joan dying in 2012. She was 92. It was made worse when her house was burgled three days later.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To sleep with Tina Turner! That smile, those legs…

The philosophy that underpins your life...Never lose sight of the things that really matter. Even when I was working all hours on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, I’d go to a river at midnight to do a bit of fishing.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d want a very positive and uplifting service at a local church with Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy. I want my ashes scattered on the River Kennet in Berkshire and later all my family and mates can have a big cricket match in my memory at Lord’s.

The way you want to be remembered...As someone who made people smile.

The Plug...Dad’s War – Chris’s tribute to his war hero father – is published in paperback by Virgin priced £7.99.

 

 

TV Presenter Chris Tarrant

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Published: 16 May 2015

Sherlock actor Rupert Graves:

‘People think that the writer Robert Graves was my dad and that the diver Tom Daley is my son!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Sherlock star Rupert Graves 

 

 The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not concentrating at school. I left at 15 with a few low-grade CSEs, and I’ve had to wing it ever since. I’ve always felt a bit insecure about my education.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Showing off. Whether it’s telling bad jokes, pulling funny faces or doing silly accents, I can’t help myself. I’ve even broken bones doing mad stuff.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The US detective novel Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke. It has beautifully drawn but flawed characters.

The person who has influenced you most...The theatre director Frank Hauser. He directed me in my second professional play, the comedy Candida by George Bernard Shaw, when I was 23. I hadn’t trained as an actor so I felt out of my depth, but he taught me to go on my instinct.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Philadelphia Story from 1940, with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart. It’s brilliantly funny.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’m an Arsenal fan, so I’d listen to manager Arsène Wenger talking tactics in the dressing room at half-time.

The prized possession you value above all others...My 1965 Gibson ES-120T electric guitar. I bought it last year for £1,100 and I love its rich, jazzy sound.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...My own intolerance to other drivers. I’m probably as guilty of bad driving as them.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Nelson Mandela. I didn’t appreciate just how great he was until I read his obituaries.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Darts. I used to play at the pub, but I can’t now because I’ve got five kids! It’s thrilling that the difference between winning and losing is a fraction of a millimetre.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...I’d encourage them to trust their own judgement.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...Perfect vision in my right eye. I got stabbed in it with a sword in a school play, and I’ve had tunnel vision on that side ever since.

The unending quest that drives you on...To squeeze as much enjoyment out of life as possible.

The poem that touches your soul...The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock by TS Eliot. It’s full of sadness and regret.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That writer and poet Robert Graves was my dad, and Olympic diver Tom Daley is my son because he looks like me!

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Joining the circus when I was 17. I replied to a YTS offer at my local Jobcentre in Weston-super-Mare and became Tomato the Clown for a while on £25 a week. It was my first chance to perform professionally, and it helped me get my Equity card.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d devise a brilliant, Italian Job-style raid on the Bank of England’s gold bullion stocks.

The song that means most to you...I’m always uplifted when I play Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...The day would begin on an island in the Maldives with my wife Susie and our children [Joseph, 11, Ella, ten, Noah, eight, Isaac, six, and Zoe, four]. After tropical fruit and coffee we’d snorkel over the coral reef and swim with turtles. I’d harpoon some fish for a beach barbecue, then go on the best eight waterpark rides imaginable, which will have been installed on the island just for us. Later, Susie and I would take the bullet train from Tokyo to the Japanese countryside and climb some awesome mountains. After that, I’d look at some ancient ruins in Ethiopia, then airlift some actor friends to our tropical island for a sunset game of beach football. Later, Susie and I would have dinner with friends at the amazing Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. The day would end at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho watching David Bowie doing a super-exclusive gig, during which I’d come on stage and play guitar perfectly. Spectacular!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Our wedding day in 2001 in a park by Sydney Harbour. I’ve never felt such happiness and excitement.

The saddest time that shook your world...When I saw my mum dead. She [Mary] died in 1993 when she was only 59. She had been ill with cancer for a long time, so I knew she was going to die. There was a sense of relief that she was no longer suffering, but seeing her body in the hospice and to be faced with the finality of death was overwhelmingly sad. I was with her for about an hour and, basically, I howled with emotion.   

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To play guitar brilliantly like Johnny Marr from The Smiths or King Crimson’s Robert Fripp.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Treat life as an adventure and keep your sense of humour.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d have a funeral pyre in a big field, then as it burned people would party around me with some great live music and plenty to drink. My loved ones can throw my ashes to the winds somewhere special to them.

The way you want to be remembered...Fondly by my family and friends.

The Plug...The Stroke Association funds research, campaigns for better prevention and care, and supports survivors. To donate, visit stroke.org.uk/donation or call 0303 3033 100.

    

Sherlock Actor Rupert Graves

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Published: 9 May 2015

Strictly Come Dancing’s Bruno Tonioli:

‘My mother’s death made me grow up, but even now it is like a constant stabbing in the heart. Nothing takes away the pain’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Strictly judge Bruno Tonioli

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My mother Fulvia’s gold wedding ring and bracelet. She died suddenly from a heart attack in July 1994 when she was 63. It was a great shock, so I have huge emotional attachment to her jewellery and I keep it near me.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...I wish my parents had lived to see me on Strictly. My father Werther died in 2001 when he was 70 after suffering from Alzheimer’s.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Smoking. I started when I was 14 and I smoke about ten a day, but sometimes I get through 20. It’s my only addiction and I can’t control myself.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez blows my mind. It’s like you’re reading in 3D.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d see the private rooms at Buckingham Palace and find out if the Queen watches Strictly! I hear that Camilla does.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...People in cinemas with trays of stinking junk food who sit there munching and slurping during the film.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Alexander the Great. He conquered half the world by the time he was 30. I want to know how he did it.

The person who has influenced you most...The theatre director Frantz Salieri. I was 18 and an amateur dancer, but he gave me the lead in the hit show La Grande Eugène, which went to Paris and London and started me on my path.

The piece of wisdom you’d pass on to a child...Never lose your curiosity – you never know when a piece of knowledge will be useful.

The film you can watch time and time again...Singin’ In The Rain. It makes you want to be in showbusiness and the dance numbers are brilliant.

The unending quest that drives you on...To be open to opportunities and ready for the next adventure.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Gardening. I’ve never been taught, but I can plant anything – even a twig – and it grows. My ancestors were farmers and I garden by instinct.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A gold chain my grandmother Ines gave me when I was 18. It was stolen in a burglary in London a few years later. I never told her.

The poem that touches your soul...John Lennon’s Imagine has universal value. Even without music, its words speak for themselves.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m an exuberant, larger-than-life character. That’s a performance I create to entertain people. Away from TV I’m quiet, low-key and private. I’m happy cooking, gardening and being with friends.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...My mother’s death, because it made me grow up. It’s like a constant stabbing in the heart. Nothing takes away the pain.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d steal one of Chris Evans’ Ferraris, just to see his face when he realises it’s gone. I’ve never owned a Ferrari, so his collection makes me green with envy.

The song that means most to you...The aria Casta Diva from Bellini’s opera Norma. I once saw Montserrat Caballé sing it and I sobbed uncontrollably right from the introduction.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’m single, so I’d meet gangs of friends in different locations. Breakfast would be at the Grand Hotel Timeo, in Sicily, which has breathtaking views of Mount Etna. I’d have a cappuccino and Sicilian pastries. After that I’d snorkel over the coral reef of an island in the Maldives and feed tropical fish. Lunch would be fried baby calamari in the bay at Positano, Italy. I don’t drink much, but I’ll have a glass of rosé, then stroll around Rome. I’d have a coffee in a café, then do some shopping. I’d watch the sunset over cocktails on the island of Santorini in Greece, then go for dinner at The River Café in west London. A group of us would sit outside on a hot summer’s night, sipping some Gavi white wine and eating whatever the chef recommends. After that I’d see a show on Broadway and end the day in my own bed at my flat in Maida Vale, London.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...When I took my parents to the Royal Opera House in the 1980s after I’d found some success as a choreographer. They’d never seen an opera and they were so startled they could hardly speak. It was a precious time and I thank God I took them.

The saddest time that shook your world...Any bereavement is sad. Each one brings back the pain of the others.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To play a baddie in a movie. I’ve choreographed about ten films and appeared in two, but it would be great fun to play an evil genius or a heavy-duty Mafioso or even a vampire!

The philosophy that underpins your life...Keep believing in your dreams.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d have a couple of big opera arias for dramatic effect, then a party. I’d like my ashes scattered under a tree in a beautiful garden in London.

The way you want to be remembered...He did the best he could.

The Plug...Fight For Life is a charity that helps children with cancer. Please support it by visiting fightforlife.org.

 

 

Strictly Come Dancing’s Bruno Tonioli

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Published: 2 May 2015

Historian Dan Snow:

‘Life is best organised as a series of adventures from a secure base’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: broadcaster and historian Dan Snow.

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My books. I have about 1,000 and each one evokes memories of what life was like when I read them.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not taking up a rowing scholarship at University of California, Berkeley, after I finished at Oxford. It would have been amazing. Instead, I went to work with my Dad [broadcaster Peter Snow] at the BBC, but sometimes you face big decisions and there’s no wrong answer.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I read it when I was 17 and it filled me with a yearning to enter an adult world that was exotic, erotic and thrilling.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d film the intimate moments of the world’s most powerful and pompous men, then broadcast it. Hopefully, it would take them down a peg or two.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Losing the Boat Race with Oxford in 1999. I realised that life was not a golden progression from one success to another and that I needed to work harder.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Betraying children by discouraging them from aiming high.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Salt and vinegar crisps. I ration myself to one packet a week because they’re so bad for you.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Last Of The Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis. The acting, story, look and sound are amazing. I’m fascinated by 18th-century America.

The person who has influenced you most...My mum, Ann. She’s always struck a balance between work and fun, compassion and tough love.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Horatio Nelson. I’d love to experience his legendary charisma. He got seasick, so I’d give him a wide berth at sea.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...I’m obsessed with preparing for the apocalypse! I doubt our infrastructure could cope with a large solar flare.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...You will fail at lots of things, but never let that stop you.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...The fearlessness of my 23-year-old self. When my daughter was born [Zia, now three], I went to Syria to make a programme about the war and I realised I was being selfish. I have responsibilities now and shouldn’t have been running around a battlefield [Dan is now 36].

The unending quest that drives you on...To see all the ancient ruins of past civilisations, particularly those in Central and South America.

The poem that touches your soul...Ulysses by Tennyson. It has a verse for almost every situation we face in life.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...Nearly everyone thinks that Jon Snow is my dad. Dad is Peter and Jon is my first cousin once removed!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d assassinate warlords from Syria to the Congo.

The song that means most to you...Slide Away by Oasis. I was 15 when it came out in 1994 and my world was opening up as childhood slid off me.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d spend all day with my wife Edwina with our six-month-old son Wolf strapped to my stomach and Zia in the backpack. We’d watch dawn come up on a kayak in Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand. Breakfast would be pastries in a cafe in Paris. We’d hike along the South Downs then whizz around the Roman ruins in Libya. A speed boat would then take us to a lunch of local delicacies in Byblos, Lebanon. After that, we’d raft down the Columbia River in Canada, stopping off in Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia. I’d have a Kokanee beer there before watching the sunset in Stone Town, Zanzibar. We’d have a cocktail on the quayside in Portofino, Italy, before watching the Northern Lights in Scotland. Then we’d have Beef Wellington for dinner in a pub in Derbyshire with a glass or two of red wine. Edwina and I would have a night out in New York, then I’d finish the day looking at the stars from a raft floating 1,000 miles east of Newfoundland.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...The day I left a summer job in the Canadian Rocky Mountains when I was 18. To re-enter civilisation, I had to run along tiny trails, shouting out to ward off grizzly bears, but I didn’t have a trouble on my mind.

The saddest time that shook your world...In 2013, my wife lost our child six months into her pregnancy. It was difficult to smile for a long time.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To read War And Peace. I have got to get that sorted!

The philosophy that underpins your life...Life is best organised as a series of adventures from a secure base.

The order of service at your funeral...Just friends and family telling silly, weird stories. My ashes can be thrown into the wind on the South Coast.

The way you want to be remembered...As someone who never took being happy and alive for granted.

The Plug...Dan has produced a series of history Apps. Find them in the Apple App Store or visit timelineww2.com.  

 

Historian Dan Snow

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Published: 25 April 2015

England rugby player Danny Cipriani:

‘I love philosophy. My motivational coach quotes philosophers like Aristotle and I keep a journal of the sayings’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s rugby player Danny Cipriani

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My medal for winning the Heineken Cup – the European Cup for rugby – with London Wasps in 2007. It was an incredible feeling to win in front of 82,000 at Twickenham.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Breaking my ankle during a Wasps match against Bath in 2008. I missed a tour of New Zealand with England and it took months to get fit again.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Peanut butter Chunky Kit Kats. I’m on a strict diet to maintain my fitness but I often give in to a Kit Kat at the petrol station on a long motorway journey.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. It reaffirms that you must trust your instincts when playing sport, and in life.

The poem that touches your soul...If by Rudyard Kipling always inspires me. It helps me deal with challenges and remain positive.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d infiltrate all the major teams ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup to find out how they plan to play against England.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Untidiness. I’m the one telling the guys to clean up the training ground. It’s part of discipline.

The film you can watch time and time again...Any Given Sunday with Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx. It’s about an American football team and is spot-on about the way sport works.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Philosophy. My motivational coach, Steve Black, is always quoting philosophers like Aristotle and I keep a journal of the sayings.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d pull off an intricate robbery on a Las Vegas casino, like in the Ocean’s Eleven film, and give the money to the poor.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My first pair of rugby boots. I was given them when I was seven and it felt like my birthday and Christmas had come at once. They disappeared after we moved house when I was 12.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Find the courage to be true to yourself, no matter what.

The person who has influenced you most...My mum, Anne. Her and Dad split up when I was two. She did The Knowledge to be a black taxi driver and get me through private education.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Martin Luther King. I’d like to know how he found the strength to fight against such extreme odds.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m a party boy and a drinker. It started when I was photographed at a nightclub, but I was dropping some tickets to a friend. I’m very committed to my profession.

The unending quest that drives you on...To be the best I can be. I’m only 27, so I still have everything to play for.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Attending a week’s training camp at London Wasps academy when I was 15. After that I knew I wanted to be a rugby player.

The song that means most to you...The Motto by Drake. It reminds me of my friend Tom Maynard [the Welsh cricketer who died on a Tube track in 2012 after fleeing police]. I remember him dancing to it with a big smile.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d start in the South Yarra area of Melbourne, Australia. I played for the Rebels there a few years back, so I’d have a reunion brunch with mates at a local cafe. I’d have scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, exotic fruit and good coffee. Later I’d go to Tobago where my dad Jay lives. We’d have a big family lunch of crab and dumplings on the beach at Store Bay. As I’m on holiday I’d have a few beers, then we’d all go snorkelling over the reef. In the evening, I’d meet friends for dinner at Nobu in LA. We’d have sushi and wagyu beef, with plenty of sake and then I’d fly everyone to Las Vegas in a private jet for ringside seats at the Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao fight. We’d all end the day by checking into a high-roller suite at the Aria hotel.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...My England debut against Ireland in 2008 when my boyhood dream came true.

The saddest time that shook your world...When my uncle Peter died of throat cancer before Christmas last year. He was only in his late 50s and I was with him when he died.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To win the World Cup with England.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Never give up.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d only want a modest church service. Then I want my ashes scattered on the sea in Tobago, followed by a big beach party for my friends and family.

The way you want to be remembered...He was occasionally on time!

The Plug...Danny is ambassador for the Welcome Back To Milk campaign for a2 Milk. Visit a2milk.co.uk.

England Rugby Player Danny Cipriani

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Published: 18 April 2014

Master chef Michel Roux Jr:

‘I was a bit of a rocker in my teens, I still love a good head bang!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of chef Michel Roux Jr 

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My collection of cookbooks and old menus, particularly a signed 1903 first edition of Le Guide Culinaire by the legendary chef Auguste Escoffier. My father Albert gave it to me when I was in my 20s. It’s priceless to me.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not letting my daughter Emily, 24, go to the Champions League semi-final, second leg, between Arsenal and Manchester United in 2009. I was meant to have two tickets, but only got one. I’m a big United fan and it took about five seconds for me to decide to take it. She still reminds me about it!

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...Time is my most precious commodity, so a perfect day would be cutting away from London to enjoy peace with my wife Giselle and Emily, hopping between islands in the Seychelles. I’d wake up in the luxurious cotton sheets of the hotel on Frégate Island. Breakfast would be a croissant, mango juice and an espresso. Then I’d go for a run, a swim and snorkel. We’d then take a speedboat to a bigger island called Mahé for lunch at the Plantation Club Hotel, where Giselle and I got married in 1990. We’d have grilled local fish with a bottle of Chapoutier Le Meal 1990. Then we’d spend the rest of the day on Bird Island where I’d swim and read, then go fishing on the beach with a fridge next to me full of Taittinger and Krug champagne!

The temptation you wish you could resist...Good-quality confectionery, especially Amedei chocolate from Italy. If I open a box I go on a feeding frenzy.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Cod by Mark Kurlansky, which recounts the fish’s impact on the world. It will get anyone hooked!

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d love to have been in the Man United dressing room in 2003 when Alex Ferguson kicked a boot at David Beckham.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Apart from traffic in London, it’s graffiti on beautiful old monuments.

The film you can watch time and time again...I love Quentin Tarantino movies, especially the two Kill Bill films. They’re gory but hilarious.

The person who has influenced you most...I’m hugely indebted to my first head chef Henri Hellegouarch. He taught me so much, especially to never be late. To this day, I’m always on time.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Napoleon. I’d love to know if he was really such a great tactician.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Keep a diary of important moments in your life. You can refer back and be inspired, or learn from your mistakes.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Shark fishing. I love pitting my wits against them with a light rod. The biggest I’ve caught is a 170lb blue shark, but I always release them unharmed.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A gold ring my father gave me in my teens. He’d inherited it, but I lost it fishing in the Thames.

The unending quest that drives you on...Perfection, but I seldom reach it.

The poem that touches your soul...Poetry doesn’t float my boat but I love rugby and adore Jerusalem. I sing it out loud.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m Raymond Blanc. People stop me and say, ‘How lovely to see you, Raymond.’ I often don’t correct them, and just let them go on their way, delighted to have met the great Raymond!

The event that altered the course of your life and character...The day Emily was born. It was our fourth and final attempt at IVF, so it was extra special. The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I enjoy fast cars, so I’d steal a McLaren road car and drive it as fast as I could.

The song that means most to you...Child In Time by Deep Purple. It’s a belter that takes me back to my teenage years when I was a bit of a rocker. I still love a good headbang to it.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Watching United beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the Champions League Final in Barcelona in 1999. I was sitting behind the goal where they scored.

The saddest time that shook your world...When my uncle Jean died about 15 years ago from cancer in his 50s. He was super, and I was very close to him.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To hook a big black marlin. I’m planning a trip to the Azores soon to try my luck.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Fill each day with new challenges and tackle them head on.

The order of service at your funeral...I always shun big parties because I don’t feel comfortable, so I don’t want anything grand. But I’ll leave provisions for a feast with great wine, including Pol Roger champagne, Château Haut-Brion red and Château d’Yquem sweet wine. If I manage to buy a plot at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, I’ll be buried there.

The way you want to be remembered...For inspiring youngsters to work in my industry. That’s the most important thing you can do.

The Plug...Michel and his father Albert have created the Chez Roux @ Blue Riband restaurant for the Investec Derby Festival, 5-6 June. For tickets visit epsomdowns.co.uk.

 

Master Chef Michel Roux Jr

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Published: 18 April 2015

Master chef Michel Roux Jr:

 

‘I was a bit of a rocker in my teens, I still love a good head bang!’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of chef Michel Roux Jr 

The prized possession you value above all others...My collection of cookbooks and old menus, particularly a signed 1903 first edition of Le Guide Culinaire by the legendary chef Auguste Escoffier. My father Albert gave it to me when I was in my 20s. It’s priceless to me.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not letting my daughter Emily, 24, go to the Champions League semi-final, second leg, between Arsenal and Manchester United in 2009. I was meant to have two tickets, but only got one. I’m a big United fan and it took about five seconds for me to decide to take it. She still reminds me about it!

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...Time is my most precious commodity, so a perfect day would be cutting away from London to enjoy peace with my wife Giselle and Emily, hopping between islands in the Seychelles. I’d wake up in the luxurious cotton sheets of the hotel on Frégate Island. Breakfast would be a croissant, mango juice and an espresso. Then I’d go for a run, a swim and snorkel. We’d then take a speedboat to a bigger island called Mahé for lunch at the Plantation Club Hotel, where Giselle and I got married in 1990. We’d have grilled local fish with a bottle of Chapoutier Le Meal 1990. Then we’d spend the rest of the day on Bird Island where I’d swim and read, then go fishing on the beach with a fridge next to me full of Taittinger and Krug champagne!  

The temptation you wish you could resist...Good-quality confectionery, especially Amedei chocolate from Italy. If I open a box I go on a feeding frenzy.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Cod by Mark Kurlansky, which recounts the fish’s impact on the world. It will get anyone hooked!

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d love to have been in the Man United dressing room in 2003 when Alex Ferguson kicked a boot at David Beckham.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Apart from traffic in London, it’s graffiti on beautiful old monuments.

The film you can watch time and time again...I love Quentin Tarantino movies, especially the two Kill Bill films. They’re gory but hilarious.

The person who has influenced you most...I’m hugely indebted to my first head chef Henri Hellegouarch. He taught me so much, especially to never be late. To this day, I’m always on time.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Napoleon. I’d love to know if he was really such a great tactician.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Keep a diary of important moments in your life. You can refer back and be inspired, or learn from your mistakes.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Shark fishing. I love pitting my wits against them with a light rod. The biggest I’ve caught is a 170lb blue shark, but I always release them unharmed.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A gold ring my father gave me in my teens. He’d inherited it, but I lost it fishing in the Thames.

The unending quest that drives you on...Perfection, but I seldom reach it.

The poem that touches your soul...Poetry doesn’t float my boat but I love rugby and adore Jerusalem. I sing it out loud.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m Raymond Blanc. People stop me and say, ‘How lovely to see you, Raymond.’ I often don’t correct them, and just let them go on their way, delighted to have met the great Raymond!

The event that altered the course of your life and character...The day Emily was born. It was our fourth and final attempt at IVF, so it was extra special.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I enjoy fast cars, so I’d steal a McLaren road car and drive it as fast as I could.

The song that means most to you...Child In Time by Deep Purple. It’s a belter that takes me back to my teenage years when I was a bit of a rocker. I still love a good headbang to it.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Watching United beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the Champions League Final in Barcelona in 1999. I was sitting behind the goal where they scored.

The saddest time that shook your world...When my uncle Jean died about 15 years ago from cancer in his 50s. He was super, and I was very close to him.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To hook a big black marlin. I’m planning a trip to the Azores soon to try my luck.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Fill each day with new challenges and tackle them head on.

The order of service at your funeral...I always shun big parties because I don’t feel comfortable, so I don’t want anything grand. But I’ll leave provisions for a feast with great wine, including Pol Roger champagne, Château Haut-Brion red and Château d’Yquem sweet wine. If I manage to buy a plot at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, I’ll be buried there.

The way you want to be remembered...For inspiring youngsters to work in my industry. That’s the most important thing you can do.

The Plug...Michel and his father Albert have created the Chez Roux @ Blue Riband restaurant for the Investec Derby Festival, 5-6 June. For tickets visit epsomdowns.co.uk.

 

 

Master Chef Michel Roux Jr

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Published: 11 April 2015

TV presenter Ben Shephard:

‘People don’t expect it of me, but I love classical music. When I was 12, I won a school scholarship for playing piano and clarinet’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilish questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Good Morning Britain host Ben Shephard 

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...That I didn’t propose to my wife Annie sooner – we’d been together nine years. Marriage gave me calmness.

The temptation you wish you could resist...That extra glass of wine at the end of a boozy night. It’s the one that really hurts in the morning.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The Tao Of Pooh. It uses the characters from Winnie The Pooh to explain Taoist philosophy. The simplicity is magical.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...I get impatient with people who take life too seriously.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d follow political leaders to hear what they’re really planning.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Sting with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The chemistry between those two is electrifying.

The prized possession you value above all others...A Bremont MB1 watch. You can only get one if you’ve been ejected from a plane in a Martin-Baker ejection seat. My mate is an RAF fighter pilot and he and his passenger had to eject from a Tornado. The passenger didn’t want his watch so I bought it. It’s unique.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...The youthful elasticity in my skin. Now that I’m 40 you can see every line on my face and I’ve got bags under my eyes.

The person who has influenced you most...My mum Jo. She’s incredibly generous and is always the life and soul of a party. She taught me so much.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Bobby Moore. To talk to him about the moment he lifted the World Cup at Wembley would be amazing.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...My first date with Annie in 1995 when I kissed her for the first time. We’ve been together ever since.

The unending quest that drives you on...To live by a beach, so I can kite surf every day.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Playing classical music. It’s not exactly unusual, but I don’t think people expect it of me. I got a scholarship when I was 12 for piano and clarinet. I played in orchestras and bands throughout my teens but stopped in my 20s. I’m coming back to it now because my kids are learning piano.

The poem that touches your soul...I love Jerusalem by William Blake as a hymn. I’m very patriotic.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...My son Sam passed this on to me after he came back from nursery with a grazed knee. He said, ‘The most important thing about falling over is learning to pick yourself up!’

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m short! People meet me and always say, ‘You’re much taller than I expected.’ I’m 5ft 10½ – the half is very important!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d do an ingenious con against bad people to right an injustice, just like in The Sting.

The song that means most to you...Górecki by a band called Lamb. A friend introduced Annie and I to it not long after we got together and it always reminds me of our early days together.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up in Sydney with Annie and our boys – Sam, nine, and Jack, eight – and have a fry-up for breakfast at a cafe by the harbour. Then we’d hang out with my godmother Auntie Chris and my cousins who live there. After that, I’d go to Queenstown in New Zealand for a few hours of extreme sports, such as bungee jumping and river surfing. I’d stay there for lunch and have roast lamb with a decent bottle of red wine. In the afternoon, Annie and I would check into Burgh Island Hotel in Devon where we got married in 2004. We’d have a few whisky sour cocktails in Gary’s bar at sundown. Guests usually dress up for dinner, so I’d be in black tie and Annie would wear a 20s dress. In the evening, all my family and friends would gather at the Golden Lion pub in Port Isaac, Cornwall, where my parents live. We’d have fish and chips and too many pints of Doom Bar bitter. We’d end the night staggering up the hill to Mum and Dad’s for a nightcap before crashing out.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Watching West Ham win 2-1 against Blackpool at Wembley in 2012 in the play-off final to get into the Premier League.

The saddest time that shook your world...When our Jack Russell Daisy disappeared when I was 13. She went off hunting rabbits in Epping Forest and never returned.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To hit the winning shot in the Ryder Cup.

The philosophy that underpins your life...There’s always tomorrow to sleep, so grab every opportunity now.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d have a church service with hymns. There’d be a game of football followed by a big party. Annie’s reserved two plots for us at a church near our home in London. It’s a bit macabre – but at least I know where I’m going to end up!

The way you want to be remembered...He brought out the best in people.

The Plug...Ben Shephard presents the obstacle course gameshow Ninja Warrior with Rochelle Humes and Chris Kamara on ITV on Saturdays at 7pm. 

 

 

TV Presenter Ben Shephard

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Published: 4 April 2015

Documentary-maker Louis Theroux:

‘People think I’m a calculating inquisitor , but I’m just as bumbling off camera’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: documentary-maker Louis Theroux

The prized possession you value above all others...A print of the outlaw Ned Kelly by the late Australian artist Sydney Nolan, which my dad [writer Paul Theroux] gave me for my 40th birthday.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...That I didn’t go to art school before going to study history at Oxford. I’ve always enjoyed painting but I went to teach in schools in Zimbabwe instead.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Chocolate with sea salt. I’m particularly weak in the evening.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. The sweep of his writing is bewitching.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d go to the headquarters of the church of Scientology. I’ve been working on a film about them for a year, but access has been tricky. It would be a coup to follow its leader David Miscavige.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Casual snobbery from people obsessed with materialism. I tell people I live in Harlesden in north-west London and I can see them thinking, ‘Why do you live there!’

The film you can watch time and time again...Coraline, about a girl who finds a secret passage to another world. My children loved it when they were younger.

The person who has influenced you most...The film-maker Michael Moore. He gave me my first break in television on the show TV Nation in 1994 and encouraged me to break the rules.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Shakespeare. I’d document his writing process and get to know about the difficult passages in his life that gave him his craft.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Look after your body because there will be a bill to pay when you’re older. I’m 44 and things are happening that I never dreamed of – like bad joints and man boobs!

The poem that touches your soul...The Embankment by TE Hulme always moves me.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...The Crossrail tunnelling machines. I’m on an email alert list that tells me when they’ve reached a certain point. I then click through to see some pictures.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d hunt pigeons and squirrels to use as food. A lot of money could be saved if we ate urban wildlife. I’ve heard of people ‘harvesting’ squirrels from parks and serving them at dinner parties!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My healthy left knee. It’s been damaged by jogging.

The unending quest that drives you on...To make the perfect TV programme. It always becomes a damage-limitation exercise, from what you hope to film to what you actually get.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m a calculating inquisitor who affects a pose to achieve his ends. The word ‘faux-naive’ is used a lot. It’s flattering that people think I have a plan but I’m as bumbling in real life as I am on camera.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Going to work on a weekly newspaper in San Jose, California, when I was 21. It was my first proper job and I discovered a love for journalism and America.

The song that means most to you...Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright by Bob Dylan. It’s about being heartbroken, and it reminds me of a turbulent romance ending when I was 25.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d have breakfast at the cafe in Roundwood Park near our home with my wife Nancy and our children – Albert, nine, Fred, seven, and Walter, who’s five months old. I’d have the full vegetarian breakfast – veggie sausages, tomatoes, fried eggs, baked beans and toast with coffee and tea. I’d then spend a few hours hang-gliding over London. Lunch would be oysters and champagne with Nancy at Grand Central Station’s oyster bar in New York, although I might start off with a Bloody Mary. We’d hang out with the kids all afternoon on Santa Monica beach and I’d have some fresh mango with salt and chilli. We’d drop the kids off with granny and go to the Louvre in Paris. We’d then wander around Le Marais district and have dinner at a bistro. We’d end the day with the kids in a town in Provence, playing pétanque with locals, drinking wine as the sun goes down on a summer’s evening.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Winning a Spelling Bee in New York when I was 25. I was against 15 other journalists. I won by spelling ‘shillelagh’ – an Irish walking stick.

The saddest time that shook your world...My parents getting divorced. I was about 22, but even when you’re an adult it’s upsetting.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To play tennis well. I go on court thinking I can execute great shots, but they end up hitting the net.

The philosophy that underpins your life...To be honest and kind. Sometimes for a journalist being honest means being unkind. It’s a conflict, but above all you must be honest.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d have a Quaker-style service on the South Downs in Sussex. People could share a few memories of me then throw my ashes to the breeze.

The way you want to be remembered...As a gifted athlete and artistic colossus. Failing that, as a thoughtful person.

The Plug...Transgender Kids, tomorrow, 9pm, BBC2. Louis’s archive documentaries are repeated on Tuesdays at 10pm on the Really channel.

 

Documentary-maker Louis Theroux

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Published: 28 March 2015

Actor Richard E Grant:

‘My features suggest I’ve just heard bad news. But it doesn’t mean I’m not laughing inside’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s actor Richard E Grant’s turn

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...I’m haunted by the moment a doctor told my father, Henrik, that he only had months to live after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. To witness his absolute loss of hope was devastating.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Eating Christmas puddings once a month throughout the year. I stockpile them in the January sales.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Alice In Wonderland, which I’ve returned to time and time again since I was a boy. It’s a perfect guide to the British sensibility with sublime imaginative leaps and droll wit.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d fly around releasing fragrances that would prompt people to live their dreams. Nothing beats olfactory nirvana!

The prized possession you value above all others...My Pelham Puppets. I had a marionette theatre in my parents’ garage in Swaziland, where I grew up. I have 40 now and keep buying more.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Casual racism.

The film you can watch time and time again...Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway never ceases to make me laugh with its skewering of actors’ egos.

The person who has influenced you most...My wife Joan Washington. We began a conversation in 1982 and we haven’t stopped talking since. Her kindness and compassion never cease to surprise and amaze me.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Neil Armstrong. I was 12 when he stepped onto the moon in 1969 and hearing his voice from space on the radio made me want to be an astronaut. I’d love to hear every detail of his trip.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Everyone was your age once. Even if they appear crinkly, inside they’re not.

The poem that touches your soul...The Hollow Men by TS Eliot. It’s deeply moving.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Smelling things! I love putting my nose to flowers, food, fabric or the necks of people I like. Last year I fulfilled a dream and brought out my own fragrance, Jack.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...In 1986 our first daughter was born at 27 weeks and only lived for half an hour. You never get over the loss of a child, you learn to navigate your way around it.

The unending quest that drives you on...My father instilled in me that heaven and hell are to be found here on earth and that you only get one crack at it, so grab it while you can.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...Like everyone with a long face, my features suggest I’ve just heard bad news but it doesn’t mean I’m not laughing inside. Ha ha!

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Getting the part of Withnail in Withnail And I in 1986. If Daniel Day-Lewis had accepted it when offered, I wouldn’t be answering these questions now!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d round up despots, starting with Mugabe, lock them in a room, each armed to the teeth, and let them sort themselves out.

The song that means most to you...When I was a waiter in Covent Garden in 1982, The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams played endlessly. It inspired me to believe that I’d make it as an actor.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d spend all day with Joan and our daughter Olivia, 24, beginning at dawn with breakfast on the terrace of The Gritti Palace hotel in Venice – fruit salad, croissants and orange juice. This would be followed by swimming on Macaroni beach in Mustique and lunch at La Petite Maison in Nice – truffle macaroni, tuna with their special sauce and mashed potatoes, then mango sorbet. I’d have an hour’s kip in a hammock at Steve Martin’s house in Beverly Hills, then a bike ride along Venice Beach with Steve giving a commentary on everyone we pass. Dinner would be with James Brolin and Barbra Streisand at their house in Malibu. Later I’d dance at the House On Fire club in Swaziland, then sleep in a tent at the Mkhaya game reserve. The next day would begin at 5am in a hot-air balloon over the Masai Mara in Kenya to view game.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...The final day of filming my autobiographical film Wah-Wah in the Mkhaya game reserve in 2004 when a family of elephants appeared. It happened just as the film ran out.

The saddest time that shook your world...My father’s death at the age of 52 when I was 24. Although he was an alcoholic I remember his charm and provocative sense of humour most.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...I’d like to write and direct another film.

The philosophy that underpins your life...The here and now is everything. Make the most of it while you can.

The order of service at your funeral...I’m not ready to go yet!

The way you want to be remembered...Swaziboy was here and had the ride of his life.

The Plug...Richard E Grant’s 7 Deadly Sins is on Fridays, 9pm, Discovery Channel. Discover his fragrance at jackperfume.co.uk.  

 

Actor Richard E Grant

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Published: 21 March 2015

MasterChef judge Marcus Wareing:

‘If someone cuts a corner in my kitchen I turn into Mr Shouty, but I’m always fair’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of chef Marcus Wareing

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My two-Michelin-starred restaurant Marcus At The Berkeley Hotel in London. I created it from scratch. It’s my life’s work and I love it.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not studying hard enough. I worked at my dad Raymond’s fruit and potatoes business when I was 11 and left school at 16 without qualifications to go to catering college, so I’ve had to catch up.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Not switching off my iPhone or iPad long after work. I do 16-hour days and I’m always thinking about business.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...A Kestrel For A Knave by Barry Hines. It’s about a troubled boy who bonds with a kestrel – Ken Loach based his film Kes on it. I read it when I was 12 and identified with the boy being a loner.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d spend the day in Google’s HQ in California to see what ideas they have in development. I’m fascinated by technology.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Mess and untidiness. I go to someone’s house and see the state of their kitchen and think, ‘Jesus Christ, why?!’

The film you can watch time and time again...The Wolf Of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio. I love the way he motivates his staff to make money. The environment was similar when I was training to be a chef and I enjoy that competitive spirit.

The person who has influenced you most...The chef David Nicholls, whose son Dan broke his neck in 2003. He’s doing so much with his charity [Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation]. David helped me when I was having a tough time. He’s special.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Maggie Thatcher at her peak in the 80s. I’d like to know how she remained so strong when she was fighting so many battles, like with the miners. She was unique.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Take advantage of your schooling – it will be the bedrock of your life.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To have been a top boxer. I started at nine and I was good, but I gave up at 17 when I moved from Southport to London.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Politics. I love the battle of it and the complexity of the issues. I see the country as a company, and it should be run like one.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My Nanna Emily, who died in her 60s when I was 11. She was great fun – I always asked her to take her false teeth out. I wish she’d lived to see me get on in life.

The unending quest that drives you on...To never give up.

The poem that touches your soul...I’m not into poetry but I love the hymn Lord Of The Dance. It reminds me of going to church at school for the Harvest Festival, which taught me the importance of giving back.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m Mr Nasty. If someone cuts a corner in my kitchen I turn into Mr Shouty, but I’m always fair. I can be very relaxed.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Working for my dad’s business as a boy. On Saturdays I did the deliveries with him on the wagon and I got to see inside kitchens at restaurants and hotels. I loved the buzz and it inspired me to be a chef.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...Speeding – and I would do it very regularly. I drive a Jaguar F-Type and I love speed. But I have a clean licence.

The song that means most to you...How Deep Is Your Love by the Bee Gees. It was the first dance at my wedding to Jane in 2000.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d begin at the top of The Shard in London to watch the sun rise, then go for a full English breakfast in the restaurant there. I’d then take Jane and our kids – Jake, 13, Archie, ten, and Jessie, seven – on a helicopter ride over Paris. We’d walk around the city before going to New York for lunch at Eleven Madison Park where I’d have the Tasting Menu and some wine. In the afternoon, we’d go skiing at Courmayeur in Italy. I’d stop for hot chocolate on the slopes. Later, I’d like a sail on a boat near St Tropez at sundown and some rosé wine before heading to Las Vegas. I love boxing, so I’d have ringside seats with my dad and brother Brian to watch Floyd Mayweather Jr fight Manny Pacquiao. I’d end the day with the family at the One & Only Reethi Rah hotel in the Maldives with a seafood barbecue and some decent wine.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...The births of my three children and, professionally, taking over the lease of my restaurant Marcus in 2008.

The saddest time that shook your world...The attacks on New York on 9/11. It was the beginning of war on the West and it was devastating to see.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Work hard. Then work harder.

The order of service at your funeral...A simple church service followed by a cremation and I’d leave plans for a party with a fantastic meal. I want my ashes scattered in the South of France, so I’ll always be in the sunshine.

The way you want to be remembered...As a great father.

The Plug...Marcus owns three restaurants – Marcus At The Berkeley Hotel, The Gilbert Scott Bar and Tredwell’s. Visit marcus-wareing.com.

 

 

MasterChef Judge Marcus Wareing

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Published: 14 March 2015

Wildlife presenter Kate Humble:

‘I know I look as though I haven’t brushed my hair for years – but I like being scruffy and caked in mud’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s wildlife presenter Kate Humble.

 

The prized possession you value above all others...Upper Meend Farm in Wales’s Wye Valley, which my husband Ludo and I bought in 2011. It’s harsh land but beautiful, and connects me with nature.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not going to see my dear friend Pablo in Peru five years ago when he emailed to say he was ill. He had hepatitis, but didn’t let on how serious it was. He died two weeks later – I was devastated.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Smelly cheese like Stinking Bishop or Roquefort. I can’t sleep properly for three days after I’ve eaten some.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The novel Picture Palace by Paul Theroux. It’s about a 70-year-old photographer looking back on her life. It’s funny and moving.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d disable the internet and all mobile phone networks to reintroduce everyone to the wonderful world that we live in.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...How the English Government refuses to charge for plastic bags. In Wales it’s making a tangible difference.

The film you can watch time and time again...Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford look so completely edible and it’s hopelessly romantic.

The person who has influenced you most...David Attenborough. I first met him at a dinner party when I was 27, before I was on TV. I was struck by how polite, modest and gracious he was.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Freya Stark, the 20th-century British travel writer who visited parts of the Middle East long before other Western women.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Always go with your gut feeling and never let anyone sway you.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...The circus. As a girl I dreamed of being a trapeze artist and I still love going to circuses – it makes me feel five again.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...That bounce in your body you have when you’re younger, which means you can fall over without hurting yourself. I’m 46 and if I ever fall in a heap nowadays people immediately think about calling an ambulance!

The unending quest that drives you on...To show the natural beauty of the world through my work, so people strive to help preserve it.

The poem that touches your soul...Silly Old Baboon by Spike Milligan is seared into my soul from my childhood and always makes me smile.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...Magazine editors always seem to think that I want a make-over, so I can be glammed up in designer dresses and wear Jimmy Choo shoes. I know I look as though I haven’t brushed my hair for years, but I actually like being scruffy and caked in mud.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Filming Lambing Live on a farm in Wales in 2009. I was driving there one morning at 5.30am and a light bulb came on – I suddenly knew I belonged on a farm.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d arrange the mass destruction of every plastic shower curtain in the world. Everything about them is disgusting.

The song that means most to you...The Muppet Show Theme – it always makes me feel perky. Our dogs, Badger, Bella and Teg, are known as The Muppets and we sing it to them every morning.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up at 5.30am in my camper van on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, then Ludo and I would go for a walk with our dogs. Later we’d have lunch with friends at a tiny fisherman’s shack we own in the northern Dordogne, France. I’d buy food from the local market and we’d drink plenty of local wine, then go for a dip in the lake. After that, Ludo and I would go scuba diving in Papua New Guinea. In the evening, we’d go on safari at Luangwa Valley, Zambia, to watch wild dogs at twilight. We’d have fresh fish with flat bread for dinner cooked at the portside in Essaouira in Morocco, then watch the Northern Lights from the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia with a group of reindeer herders. I’d end the day in a hammock high up in a Canadian redwood tree.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...A night in September 2012 when I was driving a tractor as we cut hay on the farm. I had a dog on my lap and a bottle of cider in my hand as I drove under the stars. It was heavenly.

The saddest time that shook your world...The day Ludo’s sister Lucy died suddenly in 2006 when she was 40. She was so special and too young to die.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To ride in the Grand National like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Take responsibility for your actions and never make excuses.

The order of service at your funeral...I don’t want one – no ceremony, nothing. My choice would be for my body to be left on a hill in Wales to be eaten by red kites, but I doubt it will be allowed.

The way you want to be remembered...Do you remember that girl on telly who never brushed her hair?

The Plug...The Humble By Nature Big Day Out is on our farm on 4 July. Join us for fun events for all the family. Book at humblebynature.com.

 

 

Wildlife Presenter Kate Humble

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Published: 7 March 2015

Actress Siân Phillips:

 

‘The misapprehension about me? That I’m Sheila Hancock!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of actress Siân Phillips

 

The prized possession you value above all others...A quick charcoal sketch of my late Burmese cat Barnaby by the artist Stephen B. Whatley. He was painting my portrait at home and when I left the room he drew Barnaby. I love it.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not asking my mother, Sally, about her life. I only know the bare bones of her story and would give anything to know more. She died in 1985 from lung cancer when she was 85.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Saying ‘Yes’ to challenging projects. I can’t stop myself, but I put myself under so much pressure. I’m 81, so I should know better.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The Goshawk by TH White. It’s his own story about training a goshawk while he was living in the country and having a breakdown. It’s about a man right on the edge.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d shadow Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England. I find his breezy Canadian charm intriguing.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Loud voices in public, particularly from girls. They’re not taught to cultivate the lower register as we were 50 years ago.

The film you can watch time and time again...The 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai. It’s a wonderful adventure story about a group of Samurai trying to defend a village from bandits.

The person who has influenced you most...My mother for her work ethic and strength.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Sydney Smith, who was an English cleric and writer in the 18th century. He was one of the great wits of his time.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Get to know yourself.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...The Samurai fascinate me – I buy books to immerse myself in their fighting techniques, weaponry and rituals. They devoted their lives to an immense code – I find them so exciting.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A Louis XIV desk I bought in the early 60s for £700, which was a lot of money then. I took nothing with me when I left Peter [ex-husband, actor Peter O’Toole] in 1976. After that, the desk just got lost in the mix.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d fix the Lottery, so I could help people I care about – and keep plenty for myself!

The unending quest that drives you on...To deliver a performance that turns out exactly as I meant it to.

The poem that touches your soul...The Prelude by Wordsworth. It’s about being alone in the countryside and I identified with it because I grew up as an only child in a remote part of Wales.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m Sheila Hancock! I’ve known Sheila for 50 years and it’s happened many times. We laugh about it.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Getting into RADA in 1955 when I was 22. I’d always wanted to be an actress.

The song that means most to you...I love old Welsh songs about homesickness. They’re full of melancholy.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up in Connemara in Ireland and have a full Irish breakfast – black pudding, fried eggs, soda bread – followed by tea. Then I’d go for a walk in the rain by the Fan Lakes in the Black Mountains in Wales. I’d join a friend of mine in Venice for lunch at Trattoria alla Madonna, where I’d have squid in black ink with polenta. I’d spend the afternoon in London and have the best seats at a matinee at the Royal Opera House. After that I’d check into a quiet hotel I know on the East Side of Manhattan with my daughters Kate and Pat, and her daughter Jessica, who’s 15. I’d take my granddaughter to a cabaret at The Carlyle Hotel. If I could go back in time, we’d watch the great English singer Mabel Mercer perform. She was a sensation in the 1930s. I’d end the day at home watching The Big Bang Theory.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Finding my cat Barnaby after he’d been missing for three weeks in the early 1980s.

The saddest time that shook your world...The death from cancer in 2005 of my friend, the writer William Corlett. He was a wonderful, talented man who was funny and loyal.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To get a degree in science – but it’s quite unlikely now!

The philosophy that underpins your life...Choose happiness.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d like a simple service at the Actors’ Church St Paul’s in Covent Garden, then to be buried alongside my mother and grandmother in South West Wales.

The way you want to be remembered...I have no interest in being remembered. I want people to get on with living!

The Plug...Siân plays Fania Fénelon, the French musician who survived Auschwitz, in Arthur Miller’s Playing For Time at Sheffield Theatres, 12 March- 4 April. sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.  

 

Actress Siân Phillips

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Published: 28 February 2015

Broadcaster Selina Scott:

 

‘Thankfully, I’ve reached that state of grace when, frankly, I don’t give a damn what people think about me’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s broadcaster Selina Scott

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My Scottish grandmother Beatrice’s press cuttings. She was a singer who performed all over Scotland from 1907-12. She left the book to me when she died in 1974 at 91.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Giving up ballet when I was 13. Margot Fonteyn was my heroine and I’d love to have followed in her footsteps, but I grew to be too tall [5ft 9in]. I was devastated to give it up.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell about his life on Corfu in the 30s. It’s full of innocence and laughter.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Opinionated twerps who cannot see the bigger picture. Local politicians are the worst.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...Steal Donald Trump’s hairpiece, then bury it in the sand dunes of Aberdeenshire – the unique landscape I believe he’s wrecking with his golf development.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Giving a home to animals at my farm in North Yorkshire. I have 11 goats, two cats, four dogs and several hedgehogs. I can’t take any more!

The film you can watch time and time again...Doctor Zhivago for Omar Sharif’s eyes! I once ran into him at a dinner and he paid me one of the best compliments ever. He’s a smoothie, but I won’t reveal what he said!

The person who has influenced you most...My father, Charles. I have three sisters and a brother and he imbued in us all a strong sense of independence. He died in 2008 aged 81.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Queen Boudicca. She wore a big gold necklace in battle, so I’d like to know what happened to it and to witness her legendary piercing stare.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Never let your chances, like sunbeams, pass you by.

The poem that touches your soul...The Soldier by Rupert Brooke. It is so moving.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Archaeology. My farmhouse is littered with Stone Age artefacts. I even discovered a 6,000-year-old flint axe head.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...The athleticism of my youth! I was a jolly good runner and I could even bend over backwards to walk like a crab.

The unending quest that drives you on...Turning my new luxury natural fibres business into a global brand.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...I’ve reached that state of grace when, frankly, I don’t give a damn.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Interviewing Prince Andrew on The Wogan Show in 1985, when he asked me for my telephone number. A vice president of the television company CBS saw the show and offered me a job in America.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d hack into the Government computer to change the Honours List. Virginia McKenna should be made a Dame for her Born Free Foundation.

The song that means most to you...My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose by Robert Burns. It’s followed me through emotional moments of my life.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up at the Wakaya private island resort in Fiji and have fruit for breakfast overlooking the South Pacific. No tea or coffee, I always have hot water first thing. I’d spend the morning scuba diving, then fly to Kenya to see the lions. I’d grab a quick salad for lunch before arriving on the Island of Bute in Scotland. I’d enjoy a cream tea at Kildavanan Bay, then sail in a small boat up the west coast. I’d pop to Whitby for fish and chips and a cup of tea. The day would end with a long walk on the North York Moors with my dogs Nip and Kiki before going to bed with a great book.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...The last time I dived into the warm Mediterranean after a long cold winter in the North.

The saddest time that shook your world...Seeing desperately poor children in Ethiopia come alive with joy when they were given T-shirts and plastic footballs. I was on a relief mission with the Red Cross in 1985.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...Interviewing Prince Philip. He’s a fascinating man and I was disappointed to be thwarted by internal politics at the BBC after setting up an interview with the Duke for his 90th birthday in 2011. Fiona Bruce got the job, but I don’t hold anything against her for that.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d want it simple and for a choir to sing The Lord Is My Shepherd. Then throw my ashes to the wind.

The way you want to be remembered...I’d like a big bell cast and hung in Rievaulx Abbey on the edge of the North York Moors. When it rang out, it would echo through the loveliest of valleys.

The Plug...Naturally Selina Scott is my online company selling luxury socks, scarves and hats made from natural cashmere, mohair and, soon, yak! Visit selinascott.com.  

 

 

Broadcaster Selina Scott

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Published: 21 February 2015

Writer and comedian Barry Cryer:

 

‘I remember a boy at my infant school saying, "Your dad’s dead" and I punched him’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: writer and comedian Barry Cryer

 

The prized possession you value above all others...‘The Black Book’, an address book I’ve had for 20 years. My life is in it, if it was lost I’d be devastated.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not knowing my dad. He died when I was five, so I only have one or two memories of him, like us building an Airfix model plane, which I flew straight into the fire! His name was John and he died in his late 40s in 1940. My mother, Jean, never liked to speak about him.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Pork scratchings. They go so well with a pint that I’m prone to pig out!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The Good Companions by JB Priestley, about a group of dancers and singers on the road. Priestley is my literary idol and we were friends for the last ten years of his life.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d follow Tony Blair to see what he says when the mask is off.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...People looking at their mobile phones when they should be talking to you.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Live for the moment, that’s all there is.

The film you can watch time and time again...Groundhog Day. It’s about a man living the same day over and over again, which should get tedious, but never does. And Bill Murray is superb.

The person who has influenced you most...My wife Terry. We married in 1962 and she’s very honest, whereas I can be devious. She’s kept me on the straight and narrow.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Churchill. He was such a charismatic man. I’d love to tease out the lesser known details of his life.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Spiritualism. I believe there’s something in it, but I think there are a lot of fraudsters making money out of people’s sadness.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My hearing. I’m 79 now and I struggle to hear conversation when there’s a lot of background noise.

The unending quest that drives you on...Survival – in both life and work. I’ve been in showbiz since 1956 and in this game you don’t retire, the phone stops ringing. It hasn’t stopped yet!

The poem that touches your soul...Willie Rushton’s version of the limerick about the young man from Montrose – but you couldn’t print it here!

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m Barry Took! I’m always mistaken for other people. I was introduced to Princess Anne at Comic Relief as Tooky. Three weeks later I saw her again and was introduced as Barry Cryer and she said, ‘You were Barry Took last time!’

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Having a drink with David Frost in Danny La Rue’s club in London in 1963. I was with Ronnie Corbett and David asked us to work on The Frost Report. I was catapulted to writing full-time for TV.

The song that means most to you...Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers. It reminds me of falling in love for the first time at Leeds University when I was 19. The girl broke my heart – she told me she was gay!

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...Terry and I would take the Orient Express to Venice. I’d have porridge, then fried eggs, bacon and fried bread on board. We’d wander around Venice, then pop to Sydney for a boozy lunch by the Opera House, I’ve never been to Australia. I’d have a BBQ-style lunch with a nice cold lager – Carlsberg, not that Australian Foster’s rubbish! Later we’d hang out on a beach in Oz with our four kids and seven grandchildren, aged seven to 23. In the afternoon, without the family, we’d see the sights in Vienna and go on the Ferris wheel that was in The Third Man. I’d have drinks with friends at the Gilded Balloon comedy venue in Edinburgh. In the evening, we’d check into The Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan. We’d have Dom Pérignon champagne, followed by decent chardonnay and the special of the day for dinner. We’d watch a Broadway show before heading back to our house in Middlesex where we’ve lived since 1967. These days I end every night out with a cup of builder’s tea.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...The birth of my first son, Tony, in 1963 when I was 28. I finally had responsibilities, although I’m not sure it made me grow up!

The saddest time that shook your world...My father dying. I remember a boy at my infant school saying, ‘Your dad’s dead’ and I punched him.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To eat a prawn sandwich without some prawns falling out. I can never quite achieve it.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Think things are going to be awful, then whatever happens is usually an improvement and you cheer up.

The order of service at your funeral...It will be a humanist service, with people speaking about my life. I’ll pop up on a screen saying, ‘I know where you’re all going later: the pub! But I’m off for a drink with Eric Morecambe and Tommy Cooper.’ I want my ashes scattered in the garden of my local pub.

The way you want to be remembered...Family and friends have dominated my life, so to be remembered fondly by them is all that matters.

The Plug...Mrs Hudson’s Diaries – the life of Sherlock Holmes’s housekeeper as imagined by me and my son Bob – is out now, £12.99, therobsonpress.com.  

 

Writer And Comedian Barry Cryer

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Published: 14 February 2015

Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor:

‘I want to do a course to learn how to stuff a mouse but only if it died naturally’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor

The prized possession you value above all others...A Blythe Doll from 1972. She has an oversized head with big eyes. I bought her for £300 on eBay 15 years ago – she’s worth £800 now.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not going to the funeral of a girl at school who died suddenly from a heart problem when we were 18. Loads of other girls went and I should have too.

The film you can watch time and time again...Grease. I first watched it when I was seven and loved it. I remember when Kenickie says his condom has broken I asked my mum what that was. She said, ‘A medal he got for sports!’

The temptation you wish you could resist...I’m addicted to eBay. I think I’m buying treasures, but other people might describe them as junk!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr. My mother [ex-Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis] read it to me when I was four and I read it to my boys [Sonny, ten, Kit, six, and Ray, two]. I loved that the little girl was called Sophie.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d stand on stage during a big West End show to watch the actors up close.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Trust your instincts.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Taxidermy! I’m fascinated by anatomy. I want to do a course to learn to stuff a mouse – but only if it died naturally!

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...When people say, ‘I’m going to give 110 per cent.’ Above 100 per cent doesn’t exist!

The person who has influenced you most...My parents. My dad Robin took me to my first gig when I was eight – to see Pink Floyd at Earls Court. Mum is a very optimistic person who taught me to look for the positives in life.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...The 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson. I’d ask about the inspiration for her work, but she was a recluse so I doubt she’d want to see me.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...Dick Van Dyke’s autograph. I got it on a trip to New York aged 14. The box I kept it in went missing during a house move.

The unending quest that drives you on...Writing the next song.

The poem that touches your soul...Emily Dickinson’s Because I Could Not Stop For Death. I’m a bouncy, optimistic person, but this poem makes you think about the darker backdrop to life.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I always look perfect. People are surprised if they see a ladder in my tights, but while I’m often styled for TV, away from it I’m much more relaxed.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Releasing my song Groovejet in 2000. It was a success and it changed everything.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d paint a zebra crossing on a road near my house in west London because it’s a nightmare to cross with kids.

The song that means most to you...Mickey by Toni Basil. I love the odd choreography and the gurney faces she pulled in the video.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d spend the day going to places I’ve never visited. I’d be with my husband Richard and our sons and we’d wake up in Tokyo. We’d have sushi for breakfast, then wander around the city. After that, we’d arrive in rural Vietnam. We’d see the beautiful countryside, then have a stir-fry with glass noodles for lunch. Later we’d go to Delhi and see the real India. At sunset we’d head to a beach in Mexico. The kids would play on the sand while Richard and I relax in a cabana drinking margaritas watching the sun go down. For dinner I’d go to J Sheekey in Covent Garden for lobster and chips with champagne. Richard and I would end the day curled up at home watching a DVD.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...When I launched my last album Wanderlust last year. It was a big step because the work was so different and it was my first album not released by a major record label.

The saddest time that shook your world...My grandfather, Mike, dying in December last year. He was 83 and died from pneumonia. I miss him.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To play the piano. I gave up at Grade 4 when I was 14. I can play a bit, but I’m quite rubbish.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Cherish your relationships with friends and family.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d like Chopin’s Prelude in D Minor played and for my ashes to be scattered somewhere near the Thames.

The way you want to be remembered...She wasn’t bad at writing songs.

The Plug...Sophie Ellis-Bextor has designed Pretty Polly’s spring range of tights. Visit prettypolly.co.uk.

 

 

Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor

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Published: 7 February 2015

Sky News presenter Kay Burley:

‘People say I’m po-faced, but they’d be amazed how naughty I am’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Sky News presenter Kay Burley 

The prized possession you value above all others...My sense of humour! It’s essential for the job I do. The team at Sky are very serious, but in the downtime they’re hilarious. If it wasn’t for humour, I’d probably not be quite as sane as I am.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...My parents died quite young, so serious regret isn’t in my DNA. I live every day as if it were my last because one day it will be. That said, I wish I hadn’t bought my Range Rover Evoque last year. It cost about £40,000 and has been terrible. I’m going to replace it with a Porsche Macan.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s the best love story ever told.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It’s funny but deals with serious issues like ageing and unrequited love. Maggie Smith and Judi Dench are brilliant. I can’t wait for the sequel.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Having the last word, whether I’m arguing with friends or interviewing someone on TV. I can’t help myself.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d go to No 10 and listen to David Cameron to find out why he really doesn’t want to take part in the party leaders’ General Election debates. I think it’s because, as Prime Minister, he has the most to lose, but he can’t admit it.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Drivers at traffic lights who only indicate to turn right after the light’s turned green. You’re then stuck behind them if you want to go straight on. It drives me nuts.

The person who has influenced you most...My dad Frank. He was wise and had a great sense of humour, which my 21-year-old son Alexander has inherited. Dad died from a heart attack in 1995 at 65.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...There is no rush. Take your time, you have your whole life ahead of you.

The unending quest that drives you on...To be first with the news. If I’m beaten to it, I’m gutted!

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Formula 1 motor racing. I used to find it ridiculous and boring but I’ve grown to love it thanks to my son.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...The American writer Dorothy Parker. She was a great wit who’d be terrific company.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A 9ct gold necklace my mum Kathleen bought for my 12th birthday. It had my sign of the Zodiac, Sagittarius, on it but I lost it while playing in a park. I still think about it.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Covering the Herald Of Free Enterprise ferry disaster in Zeebrugge in 1987 for TV-am. I was a very a junior reporter but I volunteered to go. When I got back I was promoted to presenter and my career took off.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d break into Buckingham Palace and have a nose around. I want to know what the private rooms are like and if the Queen really keeps food in Tupperware.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m po-faced. People have a go at me on Twitter and say I’m too serious. They’d be surprised to know how mischievous and naughty I am away from the telly.

The poem that touches your soul...If by Rudyard Kipling. I first read it when I was 11 after my mum gave it to me. It’s a brilliant guide to how to live life.

The song that means most to you...Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I remember watching the video on Top Of The Pops in 1975 and it blew my mind.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d corral all my friends at Heathrow and take a private jet to Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s game reserve in South Africa. We’d see the animals then have a big lunch in the bush. Antelope burgers are tasty, but I wouldn’t tell my friends what they’re eating. After, I’d leave my friends there and go to base camp at Mount Everest with my son Alexander. Later I’d trek along the Inca trail at Machu Picchu, in Peru. It’s meant to be quite a spiritual journey, so I’d go alone to give me time to think. After that I’d nip back to Ulusaba for cocktails with my friends. I’d end the day at home in London with my three Irish setters, quietly reflecting on an amazing day.

The happiest moment you’ll cherish forever...Ringing my mum on 12 April 1993 and saying, ‘It’s a boy. You’re a grandma!’ I didn’t know at the time but she was very ill. She’d had breast cancer when she was 50 and it had come back.

The saddest time that shook your world...Walking with my mum a few weeks later, pushing the buggy, when she told me about the cancer. I said, ‘I can’t manage without you Mum.’ She was my world. She died on 11 December when she was only 59.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...Never breaking 12 seconds for the 100 metres when I was a kid. The best I did was 12.4.

The philosophy that underpins your life...It’s Kipling’s line, ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same…’

The order of service at your funeral...Gin. Laughs. Gin. No songs. More gin – I just want people to get drunk and tell a few stories.

The way you want to be remembered...Great mother, loyal friend, dog lover.

The Plug...Kay Burley presents Sky News from 2pm-5pm Monday to Friday. Follow her on Twitter @kayburley.

 

 

Sky News Presenter Kay Burley

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Published: 31 January 2015

Veteran broadcaster Michael Buerk:

‘People think I’m a bit of a snob…I’m not entirely convinced they are wrong’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s broadcaster Michael Buerk

The prized possession you value above all others...My Spitting Image puppet, which I bought at auction about ten years ago for £180. It makes me smile.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not asking my mother Betty about my childhood before she died of a heart condition when I was 16. I wanted to know about my father and how their relationship ended [Michael’s parents separated when he was three after his father, Gordon, was revealed to be a bigamist].

The temptation you wish you could resist...Sudoku puzzles. I do one every day and they make me believe that I’m clever, but they’re just a waste of time.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...The mangling of the English language. Top of my list is using ‘decimate’ to mean completely destroy something. It means to reduce by one tenth.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Passage To Juneau: A Sea And Its Meanings by Jonathan Raban. It’s a wonderful sailing adventure, but also an historical analysis of the British naval officer Captain George Vancouver.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d sit in a meeting of TV executives as they pick ‘celebs’ for a reality show. I’ve yet to find out why I was chosen for I’m A Celebrity.

The person who has influenced you most...My wife Christine. We’ve been married for 46 years and she never fails to tell me when I’m being an idiot.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My eyesight. I wore bottle-bottom glasses as a teenager which I blame – wrongly – for my lack of romantic success. I also failed my medical for the RAF because of it.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Samuel Pepys. He was an incredible gossip who would be wickedly fun company.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Butterflies. I was a keen collector as a child, and now I spot them with my grandchildren.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Churchill’s dictum, ‘The secret of success is to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.’

The unending quest that drives you on...To avoid being found out! Journalism is bluff; I hope to stay a step ahead.

The poem that touches your soul...Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est. It distils the tragic gap between the leaders in a war and the soldiers.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...My mother’s death. It made me wayward at school and left an enormous hole in my life.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I wish I’d tipped Jimmy Savile over the side when I met him on the QE2 years ago.

The film you can watch time and time again...Kind Hearts And Coronets with Alec Guinness and Dennis Price. It’s so deft and deliciously witty.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That because I was a newsreader I’m a self-important authority figure and a bit of a snob. I’m not entirely convinced it’s wrong!

The song that means most to you...Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits. It was the favourite song of cameraman Mohamed Amin, who filmed with me during the Ethiopia famine. That song reflects our camaraderie. He died in a hijacking in Africa in 1996.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d start with a canoe ride down the Zambezi with Christine and our twin sons Roland and Simon, who are 41 now. Breakfast would be a full English with HP Sauce at Il Blandford’s cafe in London. After that we’d check into the Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe and go on a game drive. Lunch would be at L’Hirondelle restaurant in Monte Carlo, where I’d have lobster salad and Provençal rosé wine. In the afternoon, my four grandchildren, aged five to eight, would join us in Turkey on our boat Skysong as we sail around Skopea Limani. Later, Christine and I would drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive to Cape Point in South Africa, then we’d have tea at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. Dinner would be in London at the Garrick Club. I’d have the set menu with club claret.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Professionally, discovering my report about the famine in Ethiopia in October 1984 was having an impact.

The saddest time that shook your world...My mother’s death. My grandparents didn’t allow me to go to the funeral, which is a continuing regret.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To be made a member of the House of Lords, but I’d be completely unqualified.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Churchill again: ‘Keep b*******g on!’

The order of service at your funeral...I’d have an Anglican service with an African choir singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa). I’d be taken out to Show Me The Way To Go Home.

The way you want to be remembered...He tried to be a good son, husband, father and reporter.

The Plug...Michael Buerk presents The Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday. Visit bbc.co.uk.

 

Veteran Broadcaster Michael Buerk

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Published: 24 January 2015

Wildlife TV presenter Michaela Strachan:

‘People send me photos of obscure insects asking what they are, but I don’t have a clue’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Springwatch host Michaela Strachan

The prized possession you value above all others...As I’m a vegetarian, it’s my vegetable garden at my home in Hout Bay, near Cape Town in South Africa. It has eight tiered veg patches in which I grow everything possible.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not learning to play a musical instrument properly. I learnt the flute for a few years, but gave up when I was eight because it made my neck ache!

The temptation you wish you could resist...Singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody when there’s a karaoke night. It’s excruciating – for everyone!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Born Free by Joy Adamson. I read it when I was 12 and it fuelled my love of wildlife. I wanted to be Joy and have my own lion cubs.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To be Doctor Who’s assistant. David Tennant would be my Doctor.

The person who has influenced you most...My mum, Jo. She’s 75 and never sees the bad in people.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Humans hunting elephants and rhinos just to make chopsticks out of their tusks or grind their horns into medicine. It drives me insane.

The film you can watch time and time again...Monty Python’s Life Of Brian. I knew most of the dialogue even before I saw it at the cinema – my older brother Gary and his friends were obsessed with it and kept acting the scenes to me.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Dian Fossey [the US zoologist who protected gorillas in Africa in the 60s-80s]. She gave her life to save animals [Fossey was murdered in Rwanda in 1985].

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Cricket! I always thought it was boring, but my partner Nick and our nine-year-old son Ollie love it, so now I go to matches with them and enjoy it – though I often take a book!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My flexibility. I trained as a dancer and used to be able jump off a table and land in the splits. Now I’m 48 I can’t do it any more.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Don’t judge people by your own circumstances. You have to broaden your knowledge to understand them.

The poem that touches your soul...I’m always moved by a poem I wrote about a baby orangutan called Lomon, who featured in a series I made called Orangutan Diary in 2007. It was about saving orphaned orangutans and I really connected with Lomon.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I know everything about British wildlife! People send me photos of obscure insects asking what they are, but I don’t have a clue. Chris Packham does know everything, so they should ask him!

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Buying a holiday home in South Africa in 2002. Because I made that leap, I met Nick, then I moved there and we had Ollie.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d rescue all the moon bears in China and Vietnam that are locked up while tubes drain them of their bile to make medicine.

The song that means most to you...Tubthumping by Chumbawamba raised my spirits if I ever got low when I had breast cancer last year [she had a double mastectomy]. I’m doing really well now.

The unending quest that drives you on...To inspire people to care for and love the environment.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d live with Mongolia’s snow leopards. They’re very elusive and little is known about them.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d be with my family all day [Nick, Ollie, and Nick’s three children from his previous marriage – Jade, 26, and twins Tom and Sam, 24]. We’d watch the sunrise by a river in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia, and have coffee and rusks [African biscuits] before going on a walking safari. Later Nick and I would scuba-dive off Malaysia’s Sipadan Island – while the kids snorkel – among barracuda, turtles and sharks. After a quick veg stir-fry on the beach we’d go to Knight Inlet in Canada to see grizzly bears salmon fishing in the rivers, then take a boat trip to follow orcas and humpback whales. We’d end the day back in Cape Town walking up Table Mountain – you can see the sunset on one side and the moon rising on the other. At the top Nick and I would share a bottle of chardonnay and a packet of cashew nuts. Then we’d take the cable car down and head home to bed.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Finding out I was pregnant with Ollie when I was 39. I was filming in Vietnam when I found out and I ran around showing the test to all the crew!

The saddest time that shook your world...When I was 16, my dad lost his job and our family lost everything. It resulted in me suffering from anorexia. But we came through it all.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Always look on the bright side of life. The world can be a harsh place, but you have to find the positives.

The order of service at your funeral...I’ll be buried in a biodegradable box, or have my body fed to sharks! I also want people to be sad – having a party and getting drunk seems so disrespectful.

The way you want to be remembered... She got children interested in wildlife.

The Plug...Michaela will perform her children’s show Michaela Strachan’s Really Wild Adventures at zoos, wildlife parks and family festivals this Easter and summer. michaelastrachan.co.uk.

 

Wildlife TV Presenter Michaela Strachan

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Published: 17 January 2015

Super chef Heston Blumenthal:

‘I’m obsessed with table tennis. It’s like meditating because you can’t think of anything except hitting that flipping little white ball!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s chef Heston Blumenthal’s turn

The prized possession you value above all others...My OBE. I received it from the Queen in January 2006 for services to British gastronomy. It was unforgettable – one of my proudest moments.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...I believe regret’s a futile emotion because it’s carrying the past into the future. That said, I do regret blowing up the oven the day after I opened The Fat Duck [his three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Berkshire] in 1995.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Picking at food. I love to see how many flavours I can discover.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...On Food And Cooking: The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen by Harold McGee. I read it in 1986 when I was 20 and it affected me deeply. He wrote about the chemistry of food and challenged the accepted wisdom of how to cook.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Lewis Carroll. I’d love to ask what was really in his head when he was writing Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d go to one of my restaurants and freak out the chefs with daft pranks during service.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...I hate it when people are impolite and when someone takes the kudos for someone else’s work.

The film you can watch time and time again...Zulu with Michael Caine. I love how the soldiers fought against such odds. My dad bought a video recorder when I was ten and it was the first film we taped. I watched it 24 times!

The person who has influenced you most...Harold McGee. His writing reassured me that it was OK to challenge everything.

The piece of wisdom you’d pass on to a child...Blame, shame, guilt and fear are tied to the past. They’re not worth spending energy on.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...It may surprise people that I meditate. I’m all over the place because I’m so busy, but I’ve learnt to take time to be mindful.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My right hip! It had been damaged by osteoporosis and I had it replaced last year.

The unending quest that drives you on...To find answers to all my questions. I am endlessly inquisitive.

The poem that touches your soul...William Blake’s Jerusalem. The words carry a powerful metaphor about life. My eyes always mist up when I hear it.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m an über-smart scientist! My only A-level is in art. I just find knowledge wondrous and I’m enthusiastic and determined.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...My first fine-dining experience at 16. My parents took me and my sister to France and we had dinner at L’Oustau de Baumaniere. The world of gastronomy was revealed and I knew I was going to be a chef.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...Speeding.

The song that means most to you...Father And Son by Cat Stevens. It reminds me of my dad, who died in 2011, and of my son, Jack.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...My day would begin at sunrise with my girlfriend Suzanne on Signal Hill in Cape Town, then I’d meditate on a beach. After that I’d visit Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, where I’d buy fish for a sushi breakfast. I’d spend the morning skiing with my kids [Jack, 22, Jessie, 21, and Joy, 17] in Zermatt, Switzerland, then we’d ski in Courmayeur in Italy where we’d have lunch at Maison Vieille. I’d have white truffle spaghetti with Italian red wine. Afterwards I’d play table tennis with an instructor. I’m obsessed with it – it’s a bit like meditating because you can’t think of anything else except hitting that flipping little white ball! Later I’d visit the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania then go to San Sebastián for dinner with some chef mates. I’d end the day at midnight somewhere remote with the family watching the Northern Lights while cooking burgers on an open fire.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Personally, it’s the births of my children and, professionally, the day I got my third Michelin Star for The Fat Duck in 2004.

The saddest time that shook your world...The day in 2012 when two of my kitchen team died [a taxi carrying Ivan Aranto Herrera Jorge, 34, and Magnus Lindgren, 30, was hit by a bus in Hong Kong]. It’s made me understand what really matters in life.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To attain perfection in my work.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Question everything. I had a coat of arms made last year and that’s even the motto on my heraldry.

The order of service at your funeral...I just want there to be a lot of laughter and celebration. I know I’ve been really lucky, so I’ll have had no regrets.

The way you want to be remembered...As someone who lived in the moment, questioned everything and had fun.

The Plug...Historic Heston, a 21st-century take on British recipes from medieval times to the Victorian era is £40, bloomsbury.com/uk. Visit thefat duck.co.uk.

 

 

Super Chef Heston Blumenthal

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Published: 10 January 2015

Singer Paul Young:

‘I wish I could resist a big night out getting drunk especially when I end up on the tequila!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s musician Paul Young’s turn

 The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not writing more songs when I was young. I was happy to do cover versions because there were too many distractions, like going out, so I didn’t learn the craft seriously. It would have made a big difference to me financially.

The temptation you wish you could resist...A big night out getting drunk -especially when I end up on tequila! I used to party all the time when I was younger and I’d recover quickly. I’m 58 now and I only overdo it once a month.

The unending quest that drives you on...To keep discovering new music.

The film you can watch time and time again...One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. I love Jack Nicholson in that, he’s superb. It’s such a sad and moving story, yet it has great comedic moments.

The prized possession you value above all others...My Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorbike. I bought it as a wreck in the 90s and restored it. I love the sense of freedom on the bike.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d sit among gorillas and lions without fear of being attacked. That would be fascinating.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. It’s about a journey to self-knowledge. I read it in the 80s when I was experiencing fame for the first time and it taught me to appreciate it.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Violence against old people. These kind and helpless people have survived so much and they end up being attacked by some nasty piece of work.

The person who has influenced you most...My dad Tony. He’s 86 now and he taught the importance of good manners. I have a lot of respect for him.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Winston Churchill. I’d love to hear how he prepared himself to boost the morale of the troops in the darkest hours.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Always be polite.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...I’m desperate to learn how to sail a boat. I’m fascinated by the challenge of navigating the oceans.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My right ear! It got damaged in a car accident in Spain in 2012. I had surgery to repair it and I can still hear perfectly, but it sticks out. I’d like it to be normal again!

The poem that touches your soul...I’m moved by song lyrics, particularly Tom Waits’ Take It With Me. It’s about a man on his deathbed, wanting to take the heart of the woman he loves with him when he goes.

The song that means most to you...Wherever I Lay My Hat [his Marvin Gaye cover that reached No 1 in 1983]. It was a huge hit in the UK and launched me internationally.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Leaving my band The Q-Tips and signing my solo record deal. It was a new beginning.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That my record company styled me when I went solo in 1982. It all started because I wore a suit on the cover of my first solo album, but it’s ridiculous because I was wearing suits before that in The Q-Tips.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d pull off a bank heist, and steal enough cash to keep me and the family going.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d go to a little place in West Hollywood, LA, for a breakfast of corned beef hash with pancakes and coffee. Then I’d chill out on a beach in the Bahamas with my wife Stacey and our kids – Levi, 27, Layla, 20, Grady, 18, and Jude, eight [Stacey’s son from another relationship]. We’d go snorkelling, then have lunch in Sardinia, again by the sea. I’d have sea bream baked in salt with chilled local white wine. After that, I’d captain a sailing boat to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. We’d settle in at a beach bar and listen to a band and Stacey and I would sink a few margaritas as the sun went down while eating local food. We’d end the day in Las Vegas. I’m not a gambler, but the mad atmosphere is such a laugh. We’d check into a high roller suite at the Bellagio hotel.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Marrying Stacey in 1987. She taught me to enjoy myself.

The saddest time that shook your world...When my bulldogs Ronnie and Nancy died. I was in bits.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To own a fabulous sailing boat. It will happen one day.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Keep moving forward.

The order of service at your funeral...I want a church service with New Orleans funeral jazz music. I’d like people to say a few words about me and I may have my ashes scattered in the sea.

The way you want to be remembered...He sang some sad and mournful hits, but he partied until the end.

The Plug...My band Los Pacaminos have an album, A Fistful Of Statins, out now and there’ll be a Paul Young solo album this year. Visit www.paul-young.com. Twitter @PaulYoungParlez.

 

 

Singer Paul Young

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Published: 3 January 2015

Author Fay Weldon:

‘My unending quest is to write a sentence that says exactly what I intended it to’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s novelist Fay Weldon’s turn

The prized possession you value above all others...A book called The Story Of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, about a gentle bull who’d rather smell flowers than fight. My father Frank gave it to me for my fifth birthday and it’s the only possession I have from my childhood. He died from a stroke when I was 16.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Canapés at parties. They spoil your dinner and it’s easy to eat too many.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I read it aged 19 and it showed a world dependent on drugs, which is what we’ve become, not least with statins.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d love to walk alongside a hurricane without getting hurt. Extreme weather fascinates me.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Choosing to play hockey at school instead of netball when I was 11. Hockey was full of brutish, angry girls; netball was for smart, skinny ones.

The film you can watch time and time again...Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It’s magical and brings back such happy memories of watching it with my boys [now aged 30-55] when they were growing up.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Think for yourself, and never believe what you’re told.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Because they’re utterly uncontrollable, volcanoes intrigue me, to the extent that every morning I check online to see the progress of Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Meeting my second husband, Ron Weldon, in 1961. Suddenly I was the wife of an artist, mixing with creative types. It was the beginning of a new life.

The poem that touches your soul...London by William Blake…It’s about the tragedy of city life, and it makes me cry.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...Serious people think I’m frivolous, frivolous people think I’m a serious, man-hating feminist. I’m neither.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...The magpies in our garden in Dorset. They’re thugs that scare off all the sweet songbirds I love.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A blonde-haired doll called Panama Polly, which my mother Margaret gave me when I was four. It went missing during a house move about five years go.

The person who has influenced you most...My mother. She was an intelligent, brave feminist whose strength of character rubbed off on me. She died ten years ago aged 94. I still miss her.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...William Blake. I’d want to talk about the inspiration for his greatest poem.

The unending quest that drives you on...To write a sentence that says exactly what I intended it to say. I’m 83 now but I write every day and it’s a constant challenge to think of the right words.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d make all the cash machines dish out as much money as possible.

The song that means most to you...Little Wheel Spin And Spin from the 1960s, by Native American singer Buffy Sainte-Marie. It’s simple yet profound.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...My [third] husband Nick and I would have breakfast at the Hotel Continental in Oslo. I’d have figs, mango juice, scrambled eggs, bread and croissants, with lots of strong coffee. After that I’d buy the finest bed linen at Liberty in London, then spend a fortune on the most delicate lingerie at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. Lunch would be at The Ivy in London, where I’d have a vodka martini then fish and chips. Afterwards we’d tour Rome’s ruins with my four sons and six grandchildren, aged from 6-22, then eat ice cream in St Mark’s Square, Venice. At dusk I’d walk by the sea at Renvyle on the west coast of Ireland, where the singing of the seals sounds like mermaids. Dinner would be moussaka and chips in a taverna on Crete, where we’d all drink the local rosé and do some Greek dancing. My day would end back at home, reading a book in a deep hot bath. Bliss!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Getting my CBE from the Queen in 2001. She said, ‘You’re the one who writes television plays’ and I replied, ‘I write anything they pay me to, Ma’am!’ It made her smile.

The saddest time that shook your world...My elder sister Jane’s death in 1969 from cancer when she was 39. It felt as though half of me died with her.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...I’d love to be a ruthless businessman like Alan Sugar.

The philosophy that underpins your life...What goes around, comes around.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d be taken out in a cardboard coffin to the Radio 4 theme tune Sailing By [played before the Shipping Forecast], and buried in the graveyard of a church I go to.

The way you want to be remembered...Oh, didn’t she die?!

The Plug...Fay’s new book Mischief, an anthology of her short stories with a new sci-fi novella The Ted Dreams, is published by Head Of Zeus in February.

 

 

Author Fay Weldon

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Published: 27 December 2014

Motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss:

‘When I was 15 I read a book about a racing driver and was so amazed by all the crumpet he was chasing that I decided to become a racer’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss

The prized possession you value above all others...My ten Gold Stars from the British Racing Drivers’ Club for being the year’s top driver, starting in 1950 when I was 21 and the youngest to win one.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Retiring at 32 after a terrible crash in 1962. I was in a coma for a month and paralysed on one side for six months, and I was talked into making a rash decision. But I was at the height of my career and could have had another ten years.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Ordering ridiculous gadgets from those magazines that come free in newspapers. I’m a sucker for things like atomic clocks and foldable suitcases.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d sit among the tigers of Nepal. They’re quite extraordinary.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Road Star Hat Trick by Prince Chula. It’s about his cousin’s life as a racing driver in the 1930s. I read it at 15 and I was amazed by his stories of racing and chasing crumpet. That’s when I decided to be a racing driver.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Untidiness and disorganisation. I expect my PA to ensure my desk is clear when I come in of a morning.

The film you can watch time and time again...Top Hat. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are wonderful together and the music always puts a spring in my step.

The person who has influenced you most...My father Alfred. He raced in the Indianapolis 500 and was so encouraging of my career. He was like my best friend. He died in 1972 aged 76.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Fred Astaire. He was a fantastic dancer and actor and what a life he led. I used to be a fairly good dancer myself – maybe Fred could give me a lesson!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d steal a 1950s Ferrari racing car and drive it around Hyde Park as fast as I could.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Make sure you always tell the truth.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...My guilty pleasure is watching the courtroom TV show Judge Judy. It’s great entertainment.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My sex drive! I first lost the ability to have sex after I had my prostate out when I had cancer at 70. I took pills which solved it and even became the face of them. There was a billboard with my photo that said ‘Arise Sir Stirling’! But five years ago the pills stopped working – I ran out of steam.

The unending quest that drives you on...To keep busy. ‘Movement is Tranquillity’ is a motto I live by. I want to keep travelling the world having fun.

The poem that touches your soul...The only poems I’ve liked are the limericks my father taught me, but they’re far too naughty to repeat here.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m confident. I hate walking into a room full of people on my own.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...That crash in 1962 changed everything. It was great to survive, but it meant I gave up racing and suddenly had to work for a living. I went into the property business. It was a shock – nothing could live up to racing.

The song that means most to you...I’m Glad There Is You by Frank Sinatra. My wife Susie and I love it because it takes us back to when we were courting.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up with Susie on a Seabourn cruise liner sailing somewhere hot in the Far East, then have a full English breakfast, exotic fruit, and coffee, followed by a stroll on the deck. Later, I’d ski at Les Trois Vallées in France with my children – Allison, 42, and Elliot, 34, and my grandchildren – Oliver, 16, Emily, 12, and Katie, nine. Lunch would be gravadlax at Le Gavroche. I’d spend the afternoon on Copacabana beach with Susie and do some window-shopping. By that, I mean looking at the crumpet! Susie doesn’t mind because she knows it reminds me that I already have the best! We’d head to Singapore for dinner of black pepper prawns, sweet and sour pork and chicken with cashew nuts at a restaurant we love called Fatty’s. I’d spend the evening on a sunset game drive in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. We’d end the day sipping Pimm’s at a luxury lodge there.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Winning the Mille Miglia in 1955. It’s a 1,000-mile endurance motor race around Italy and I was one of the first non-Italians to win it.

The saddest time that shook your world...The death of my friend David Haines in 2009. He was 80 and had cancer. We’d been all over the world together and were closer than brothers.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...I wish I’d driven the Indy 500 – I never had the time.

The philosophy that underpins your life...I’ve always tried to live by two simple things: honesty and loyalty.

The order of service at your funeral...I’ll leave the details to Susie. She’s 23 years younger than me, so that’s a fair bet. Maybe my ashes will be scattered inside the racing circuit at Goodwood.

The way you want to be remembered...For being fast and fair.

The Plug...Please support the charity Hope for Tomorrow, dedicated to bringing cancer treatment closer to patients’ homes. hopefortomorrow.org.uk.

 

Motor Racing Legend Sir Stirling Moss

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Published: 12 December 2014

Only Fools star John Challis:

‘Because of Boycie people think I know about cars. I’m clueless’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Only Fools And Horses star John Challis 

The prized possession you value above all others...My 12th-century home in beautiful Herefordshire. My wife Carol and I moved here 16 years ago and it has an extraordinary atmosphere. You can really feel its history.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Losing the £50,000 inheritance left to me by my mother. I helped a friend out on an aloe vera farming idea in Portugal. It was a con and I lost the lot.

The temptation you wish you could resist...I’m addicted to BBC1 antiques show Flog It! We bought some antiques from the presenter Paul Martin’s shop in Wiltshire and he brought them to the house himself. He’s such a nice bloke.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...First Light, Geoffrey Wellum’s memoir of being a Battle of Britain pilot. It’s very inspiring.

The person who has influenced you most...Spike Milligan in The Goon Show. His surreal humour lit a spark in me.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Avarice.

The film you can watch time and time again...Apocalypse Now. It sums up the futility of war and Marlon Brando is riveting.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Buying a copy of The Stage when I was 19 and doing odd jobs. I replied to an advert to be an actor in a travelling children’s theatre company and got the job. I’ve never looked back.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Charles I. I’d like to ask him why he wouldn’t compromise and avoid such a bloody civil war.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...I don’t have children but I tell friends’ kids never to be afraid of failure. Just have a go.

The poem that touches your soul...Ode To Autumn by Keats. It’s a beautiful summing up of nature that uplifts me.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Geraniums. I propagate them and give them as presents to people. I keep them for years. You’d think they were my children!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My youth! I’m 72 and still have lots of energy, but everything creaks now.

The unending quest that drives you on...To stay alive! I’ve seen so many friends fall off the perch lately.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m a second-hand car dealer! Because of Boycie in Only Fools people think I know about cars. They’re disappointed when they discover I’m clueless.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d destroy every wind turbine intruding on our landscape. I think they’re grotesque.

The philosophy that underpins your life...How little can I do to get away with it? I’m quite lazy!

The song that means most to you...The Show Must Go On by Queen – the version sung by Paul Rodgers of Free after Freddie Mercury died. His voice gets to me and I love the sentiment.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I support Tusk Trust, which protects wildlife in Africa, so I’d infiltrate the ivory trade and take out the Mr Bigs who run it.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...Carol and I would have breakfast on the Orient Express on our way to Venice. We’d be in the Côte d’Azur carriage, designed by René Lalique, and I’d have scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. We’d spend all morning in Venice, which would be devoid of crowds, then take a gondola to the Cipriani Hotel for lunch overlooking the lagoon. I’d have roast chicken and vegetables with champagne. After lunch we’d head to Reid’s Palace hotel in Madeira for tea and a cheese sandwich. The hotel decor is a throwback to the 30s and 40s, a period I love. After that we’d arrive in Hawaii and meet friends for a ride in a traditional outrigger canoe. We’d have a party and watch the sunset with Piña Colada cocktails. Carol and I would end the day by checking into the Ava Gardner suite at the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy. On this day, we’d be in the 40s and the hotel would be full of Hollywood stars of that era. I’d sip a chilled glass of Vin Santo and watch the fun.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Renewing my wedding vows with Carol in 1997 – two years after we got married. I’d been married three times – which I’m not proud of – and I felt like the luckiest man in the world to have finally met the right woman.

The saddest time that shook your world...The day my dad Alec died from a heart condition. He’d suffered from dementia for ten years. I felt guilty because I’d never really got to know him, or how he felt about anything.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To play Doctor Who. I was a henchman alongside Tom Baker in 1976, but to be the Doctor would really be something.

The order of service at your funeral...I want a wicker coffin covered in geraniums and a church service with Thank You For The Music by Abba and Here I Go Again by Whitesnake.

The way you want to be remembered...He had a go and made people smile.

The Plug...John begins his Boycie one-man tour on 23 January in Croydon. Visit www.wigmorebooks.com.

 

Only Fools Star John Challis

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Published: 6 December 2014

MasterChef presenter John Torode:

‘I love flying big hefty kites. I like the sense you’re going to be lifted into the air’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s MasterChef host John Torode

The prized possession you value above all others...My Condor bicycle. It’s hand-made specially to fit me. I eat a lot for my job so I cycle to stop getting fat.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Opening my first restaurant, Pasta Connection, in Melbourne when I was 20. I should have learned more about business before I took that step, but I was a total donkey. It went bust in a year.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Puff pastry. I love pasties, sausage rolls and especially Aussie meat pies with tomato ketchup.

The film you can watch time and time again...Crocodile Dundee. It’s corny but also brilliant and funny.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it when I was 14 and it was an eye-opener. It was like voyeurism into another world. The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d just sit on the beach and relax. That’s one of my favourite things, but these days it’s impossible without someone asking for a selfie with me.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...People making a hash of expensive ingredients. I find waste abhorrent.

The person who has influenced you most...John Dench, the chef at Tsindos Bistro in Melbourne where I did my apprenticeship. He taught me how to cook, clean and how to listen.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...HG Wells. I’d love to know how he managed to come up with such amazing ideas for his stories.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Blow your own trumpet, otherwise someone will use it as a spittoon! My dad taught me that.

The poem that touches your soul...I like Ogden Nash because he’s funny. ‘The cow is of bovine ilk; One end is moo, the other is milk.’ Fabulous!

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Flying big hefty kites. I have one 9m long. I like to feel the power of the wind and that sense you’re going to be lifted into the air.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m gruff. I’m blunt on MasterChef because there’s no point wasting time with platitudes. But off the telly, I’m pretty nice.

The unending quest that drives you on...To never stop learning about food.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A St Christopher medal that I lost last year. Lisa [his girlfriend, actress Lisa Faulkner] gave me a new one and I keep it close.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d get rid of traffic jams and bad drivers in London.

The song that means most to you...Gold by Spandau Ballet reminds me of driving to the beach when I was 18, singing it at the top of my lungs.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...My mother dying [Ann died from a heart condition when she was 31]. I was four at the time and I don’t remember it, but my two brothers and I moved away from Dad to be brought up by my grandmother. Nanna was wonderful and I had an idyllic childhood. I have a few memories of my mum but I’m not sure if they’re real or if I constructed them later when I was a kid. I visit her grave every time I’m back in Australia.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d spend all day with Lisa and my kids (two boys aged 19 and 17 from his first marriage, and a son, ten, and a daughter, eight, from his second). I’d begin with a swim on Manly beach in Sydney, followed by coffee and toasted banana bread in a cafe. I’d ski in Courchevel and have lunch at the Bel Air restaurant on the slopes. I’d have salad and steak-frites with mustard and good red wine. I’d spend the rest of the day chilling out on the Phi Phi islands in Thailand with the family. I’d get fish from the market and cook for everyone while I have a few cold Singha beers. The day would end with a swim in the sea at night as the water glows with phosphorescence.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Going to the beach in Australia as a teenager, sailing a boat, and hanging out with mates are the happiest moments I’ve had.

The saddest time that shook your world...I was upset when my Nanna died when I was 18, but she was 77, so I was prepared for it. I’m not sure I’ve had particularly sad times.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To do slalom waterskiing on one ski. I’d love to zip in between the buoys at full stretch, but at 49 I’m too old and afraid to do it.

The philosophy that underpins your life...In life, you get back what you put in. Put in a lot and a lot comes back. Give little, then very little comes back.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d want a very simple church service with people bellowing out hymns, like Bread Of Heaven. I’m undecided about burial or cremation, but I want to end up next to my mum in Morpeth, Australia.

The way you want to be remembered...There’s no need to remember me. I’ll be happy to just fade away.

The Plug...John has partnered with hot drinks machine Tassimo as one of their Perfect Host panel, to help teach people how to host the ideal gathering. Visit www.tassimo.co.uk.

 

 

MasterChef Presenter John Torode

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Published: 29 November 2014

Naturalist David Bellamy:

‘I’ve loved ballet ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a dancer but I was too heavy’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s naturalist David Bellamy’s turn

 The prized possession you value above all others...A compass I bought for my wife on our 50th wedding anniversary in 2009. It’s the one that guided Henry Morton Stanley across Africa to find fellow explorer David Livingstone in 1871, and it makes me feel in touch with a very special happening in history.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Selling my Lotus Super 7 in the 1960s when we needed a bigger, more sensible family car. Being so low to the ground gave a great sense of speed.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Saying ‘Yes’ to all requests! I’m 81 but I love working and helping others.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...A Girl Of The Limberlost from 1909 by Gene Stratton-Porter, which I read with my mum as a boy. It’s about the destruction of trees in the US, and it made me want to read more about nature.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d visit Florence and see treasures such as Botticelli’s The Birth Of Venus without having to queue.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Boy racers playing loud bass music in fast cars.

The person who has influenced you most...My cockney granny Sarah Low. She lived with our family in south-west London during the war and took over. She was always there when you needed her and she got us through it.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Winston Churchill. I queued to see him lying in state in 1965. He was so concerned about our diminishing butterfly population he created a butterfly garden at his home Chartwell.

The film you can watch time and time again...Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I must have been about 36 when I first saw it but I was still mesmerised. What a car!

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Think for yourself.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Ballet. I read Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes when I was a kid and it inspired me to want to be a dancer, but I was too heavy – better built for rugby.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My sense of smell. I lost it when a hockey ball collided with my nose. Sadly I can’t smell flowers.

The unending quest that drives you on...To save all plants and animals from extinction around the world.

The poem that touches your soul...The Old Vicarage, Granchester by Rupert Brooke. It’s so moving.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m the Jolly Green Giant! I’m a botanist and an academic but I’ve been stuck with that nickname for decades. I’m not complaining though – it’s helped my career.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Getting a job as a school lab technician in Ewell, Surrey when I was 20. That’s where I met my wife and fell in love – and I still am! Rosemary is my pillar.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I would steal The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch from the Prado Museum in Madrid.

The song that means most to you...Sparrows Can’t Sing by Barbara Windsor. It was the first record I bought, and it reminds me of carefree times with Rosemary before children came along.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d take in the dawn at the North Pole with Rosemary, then have a slap-up breakfast on the shores of Lake Huron, one of North America’s Great Lakes. We’d relive a trek we did on the West Coast of Scotland in our younger years, then climb Ben Lawers mountain; I’d have a nip of Springbank whisky to keep me going. A magic carpet would then take us and our children – Rufus, Henrietta, Brighid, Eoghain, Hannah – and our nine grandchildren aged from eight to 24 to an exotic beach in Malaysia. We’d all go snorkelling and look at wonderful marine life, then eat oysters for lunch. After skiing at Plagne Montalbert in France, with a break for my favourite andouillettes – tripe sausages – we’d take all the kids to Fortnum & Mason in London for cream tea and Knickerbocker Glories. I’d end up in Italy’s Apuane Mountains drinking red wine and watching the sunset.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Spending New Year’s Eve with my young family at Ayers Rock in Australia in 1978. It was hot, the light on the rock was incredible, and the family was together. A wonderful moment.

The saddest time that shook your world...My granny dying. It was as if the sun had gone out.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To be Father Christmas at Hamleys. Every child seems to think I’m Santa, so it would be good to actually do it one year.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Never give up.

The order of service at your funeral...I’m too busy living to think about it. But when it happens I hope it’ll be sunny and they’ll play Henry Burton’s hymn There’s A Light Upon The Mountains.

The way you want to be remembered...As a loving dad and grandad and a happy botanist who fought for conservation.

The Plug...Look at these two websites as proof that I’m still working hard! www.bna-naturalists.org, and www.conservationfoundation.co.uk.  

 

Naturalist David Bellamy

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Published: 22 November 2014

Royal commentator Dickie Arbiter:

‘I’ve been ice-skating since I was a child, I don’t do jumps but I love to dance on the ice’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Royal commentator Dickie Arbiter

The prized possession you value above all others...A silver apple engraved with the letter ‘D’ that Princess Diana gave me for helping with her first solo work trip to New York in 1989. I was media manager for Charles and Diana for five years.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...I wish I’d been a better dad. I was a single parent to my daughter Victoria after her mum and I divorced when she was three. I missed so much time with her until she was ten because of work.

The film you can watch time and time again...Zulu with Michael Caine. It makes me wonder what Southern Africa would be like today without the Zulu war.

The temptation you wish you could resist...German marzipan. It has a thin layer of dark chocolate and I can eat a whole box.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The Scramble For Africa by Thomas Pakenham. I spent 13 years in Africa when I was young, and this tells how greedy Europeans developed the continent.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...If you want something in life, go out and get it.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Dirty shoes and nails. There’s a lot of scruff around these days.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d swim with hippos to see what they’re like up close.

The person who has influenced you most...My 93-year-old mother Ruth, who lives in a residential home in Zimbabwe. She taught me that anything is attainable if you really want it.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...King George VI. He was a shy man forced into the job because of the abdication, but he stepped up when our country needed him.

The unending quest that drives you on...To make sure the day isn’t wasted.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A pair of cuff links given to me by a girlfriend in 1965. They were stolen from my home in south London in 2002.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Ice-skating. I started as a child. I’m 74 now and still skate five times a week at 6am. I don’t do jumps but I like to dance on the ice.

The poem that touches your soul...Charles Wolfe’s The Burial Of Sir John Moore After Corunna, about the great general dying in 1809. It’s so emotive.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...I give the impression that I’m always right. In truth I probably am right – but not always!

The event that altered the course of your life and character...My headmaster telling my mother that I must leave school before my O-levels because I wasn’t working. We duly went to live in Rhodesia, and leaving school without any exams made me live on my wits.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d steal a painting called Field Of Battle, painted by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Princess Victoria. It’s owned by the Queen and I saw it while working at Buckingham Palace. It depicts a woman holding a soldier who’s died in a battle in Crimea. I’m amazed how the Princess captured such anguish.

The song that means most to you...The Evening Hymn And Last Post. It’s usually played by a military band and reminds me that each day at sunset, someone somewhere’s lost a loved one.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d start the day with an early morning skate, then have breakfast of grapefruit, kippers and coffee at The Wolseley. Later my wife Rosemary and I would walk around Paris, which would magically have far fewer Parisians! We’d have lunch at Fouquet’s restaurant. I’d have oysters and steak tartare. I don’t drink alcohol much, so I’d just have Coca- Cola. Later we’d relax at a game lodge in Zimbabwe and go for a swim before heading out on a walking safari to see elephants at a watering hole at sunset. We’d end the day in New York having dinner at a simple diner with Victoria, who’s 40, my grandson Raff, who’s 11, and my son-in-law Ryan. I’d end up back at home completely knackered!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...The day I found my uncle Harry Stock’s war grave in Israel. He died aged only 24 in 1947 when he was with the British Army in Palestine. I last saw him when I was five. He was a wonderful man and I’ve always thought about him.

The saddest time that shook your world...When my dad, Hans, died soon after I turned six. He’d been terribly ill with TB and diabetes. Soon afterwards I was shipped off to boarding school, which was horrific.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To anchor a TV chat show. Do they hire old people?

The philosophy that underpins your life...Live it to the full.

The order of service at your funeral...No service, just a party. I want the song Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered, dancing and for people to get drunk!

The way you want to be remembered...Despite his bluster, underneath it all he was a pretty OK guy.

The Plug...My book, On Duty With The Queen is out now (Blink Publishing). Visit www.dickiearbiter.co.uk.

 

Royal Commentator Dickie Arbiter

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Published: 15 November 2014

Actress Rula Lenska:

‘People think I’m tough but in reality I’m a real softie’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s actress Rula Lenska’s turn

 The prized possession you value above all others...A tiny 2in by 2in book given to my mother, Bisia, by her sister Lula for her 23rd birthday when they were in Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. Lula had made it and added a story about St Peter writing Mamma’s name at the gates of Heaven. It’s the most moving piece of memorabilia. She gave it to me 15 years ago and I was so touched I cried. Sadly, Lula died in September aged 90.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day....I’d be a fly on the wall on a submarine in crisis. I’d love to see how the men react under pressure.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...That my mother was not with us when our family gathered at our ancestral seat in Poland. She’d died four months earlier in 1996. Mamma lived at that stately home until the Nazis invaded. We scattered her ashes beneath her favourite tree there.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Smoking. I gave up a year ago, but I still feel strong urges.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The Princess Of Siberia by Christine Sutherland, about a Russian woman trying to find her husband who’s been sent to Siberia. It’s so reminiscent of what my family went through during the war.

The film you can watch time and time again...Quo Vadis. It’s a bit dated but I love Peter Ustinov as Nero.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Unpunctuality.

The person who has influenced you most...My mother. She came from an aristocratic background then lost it all and had to restart in England. But she never carried any bitterness.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Cleopatra. I’d love to see just how beautiful she was.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Professionally, it was getting the part in Rock Follies, the TV drama about a female rock band in the 70s. I went from being a jobbing actress to getting recognised in the street. Personally, it was visiting Tibet in 1991. I became a quasi-Buddhist. I chant every day.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...All alternative medicine, from acupuncture to massage.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Do as you would be done by.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...I will be very brave and tell you that it is my hearing. It has deteriorated over the last 10 years and I need hearing aids for both ears now. I can still hear birdsong and quiet music with them, but I struggle in rooms with lots of people and ambient noise. It has never stopped me working and it never will, but my business is fairly cut-throat and if you let people know that you have a problem of some sort, then they might use it against you. It is a mystery as to why my hearing started to go and may have been down to an ear infection I got whilst diving in Africa. Thankfully, it is not getting any worse, so it has nothing to do with old age.

The unending quest that drives you on...To have balance and harmony.

The poem that touches your soul...Chief Seattle’s speech in 1854, when the native Americans surrendered land to white settlers. It’s about how Man should live in harmony with nature.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d park on double yellow lines in London.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m tough. I give the impression of being in control and I’m good at the ‘Don’t mess with me’ face. But I’m a great softie.

The song that means most to you...Send In The Clowns sung by Glynis Johns. The words imply that however perfect things are in a relationship, the person you’re with is in another place, physically and mentally. It reminds me of my marriage to Dennis Waterman.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d begin with a safari on elephant-back in Chitwan park in Nepal. I’d then fly over Mount Everest to have a full English breakfast in Kathmandu. After that, I’d arrive in Monkey Mia on the west coast of Australia with my daughter Lara, 32, and my grandson, Ethan, two and a half. My mother would be back with us and we’d swim with dolphins, then have a fish barbecue. I’d have coffee in Piazza del Popolo in Rome, before seeing Verdi’s Nabucco at the Sydney Opera House. I’d have dinner in first class on a flight back to London with a few Wyborowa or Zubrowka vodkas and end the day at home in London with a hot water bottle, a book and a cuddle with my cat.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Standing in the water at Monkey Mia in 1987 with my mother while dolphins swam around us.

The saddest time that shook your world...My mother’s death in 1996 from emphysema when she was 74. She was too young. Her four children were by her side and it was extraordinary feeling of coming full circle. I was holding her hand as she died. There was a great sense of relief to see her pain and effort to breathe finally end. All the worry disappeared from her face and she looked 20 years younger and very peaceful. We were then able to brush her hair, put on her perfume and put her rosary on her hand. It was a special, holy moment for all of us, but then I was hit by devastating sadness. I still miss her enormously.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To play the queen of the vampires in a Hammer horror film.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Give positive and you get back positive. But the same goes for negative.

The order of service at your funeral...I’ll have a biodegradable coffin covered with flowers. It will be a Catholic and Buddhist ceremony with chanting and shamanic drumming. I’d like my niece to sing Pie Jesu and I want my ashes scattered in Poland with my mother, in Africa and in my daughter’s garden.

The way you want to be remembered...Game for a laugh, daring, loyal and fair.

The Plug...Rula is in The Frozen Scream at Wales Millennium Centre from 11-20 December and Birmingham Hippodrome from 7-17 January. Visit www.wmc.org.uk or www. birminghamhippodrome.com. 

 

 

Actress Rula Lenska

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Published: 8 November 2014

Singer and TV presenter Aled Jones:

‘People think I’m still a 13-year-old choirboy in a ruff. They see me in a pub with a pint and look shocked’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: singer and TV presenter Aled Jones

 

The prized possession you value above all others...The gold disc for my first album as an adult. It was released in 2002 when I was 31 and was called – imaginatively – Aled! As a child I’d sold seven million records, so it was a huge relief when that album went gold.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Turning down The Johnny Carson Show in America when I was 14. Neither me, nor my mum and dad had heard of him, so we said no.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Ginsters Cornish pasties! I drive a lot and I’m weakest at 1am when I stop at a motorway service station. Those pasties smile at me like the devil.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The Bible. I’ve spent my life singing church music, so its spirit is seared onto my soul.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’m a big Arsenal fan, but I’m dismayed by our team of late, so I’d go into the dressing room at half-time to hear what Arsene Wenger says to them.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...All-vaulting ambition. You come across it a lot in ‘showbiz’ and it’s ugly.

The film you can watch time and time again...Die Hard. It’s kept me entertained on countless nights in hotels because it’s always on. Alan Rickman is brilliant as the baddie.

The person who has influenced you most...My wife Claire and our children Emilia, 12, and Lucas, nine. We got married in 2001 and I’ve been so happy ever since.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Freddie Mercury. He was such a showman, so a pint with him would be entertaining.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Treat others how you want them to treat you.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Wine and gastronomy. I’m not brilliant in the kitchen, but I’m getting better. I love wine, especially if it’s from Tuscany.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d steal a private jet.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...My boy soprano voice. I took it for granted.

The unending quest that drives you on...To be as good at my job as I can be.

The poem that touches your soul...For The Fallen by Laurence Binyon, about the First World War. It’s so moving.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...My voice breaking. It happened gradually after my 16th birthday, but we announced that I was retiring before it had gone. Not many careers end at 16. But it made front-page headlines all over the world.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To write more music and to have a go at breaking America.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m still a 13-year-old choirboy in a surplice and ruff! People see me in a pub with a pint and look shocked. I’m a middle-aged man of 43.

The song that means most to you...Walking In The Air. It’s played a huge part in my life. I even get builders shouting ‘I’m walking in the air…’ when I go by.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d spend the day with my family and start with a full English breakfast at The Olympic – a cinema and restaurant near my home in Barnes, west London. We’d sit outside because I love watching the village wake up. After that, I’d play tennis on Centre Court at Wimbledon, then we’d go to Circular Quay in Sydney for lunch. I’d have a Balmain Bug lobster and a few glasses of Australian sauvignon blanc. I’d have a snooze in the afternoon, then wake up on Macaroni Beach on Mustique. I’d swim, then sit on the sand with a cold beer as the sun went down. On this day, I’d see the optical phenomenon known as the ‘green flash’ as the sun disappears. In the evening, Marco Pierre White’s Oak Room restaurant would re-open in Piccadilly. I loved that place and on this night Marco would cook for Claire and me. Marco’s a friend and he said he used to listen to my music when I was a kid to calm him down after a night in the kitchen! I’d leave the menu to him, but we’d tuck into a bottle of Brunello wine. I’d end the day at home.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Getting my MBE from Prince William in 2013. I knew Princess Diana and had sung for her and Charles, so it felt like I’d gone full circle.

The saddest time that shook your world...When my grandmother Annie died when I was about eight. It was the first time I had to comprehend death.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Terry Wogan gave me this bit of advice, ‘Spread yourself as thinly as possible – then it’s very hard to get rid of you!’

The order of service at your funeral...It will be a church service, but I won’t be there, so I don’t mind what’s played or what readings there are.

The way you want to be remembered...As someone who tried, who was kind and, hopefully, made a difference.

The Plug...Aled Jones stars in White Christmas at the Dominion Theatre. Visit www.whitechristmasmusical. co.uk. His new album The Heart Of It All is out on 24 November.

 

Singer And TV Presenter Aled Jones

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Published: 1 November 2014

Actress Patsy Kensit:

‘I wish I could erase the misapprehension that I got married lightly and quickly. Each time I married for love’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of actress Patsy Kensit

 

The prized possession you value above all others...Two objects made for me by my two sons. A small ceramic box in the shape of a heart with ‘I love you’ on it, made by James when he was seven – he’s now 22. And a stunning wooden dolphin that Lennon, who’s now 15, made two years ago. They’re priceless.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Turning down the part of Ross’s girlfriend in Friends in 1998. I was married to Lennon’s dad Liam [Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher] and our life was in London, so I said no.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Giant Toblerone bars. I see them in Aldi and throw them in the trolley.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Jennie by Paul Gallico. It’s about a little boy who turns into a cat. My mother read it to me when I was ten and we cried our hearts out. It’s so moving.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d come out of the house looking like a bag of laundry with no worries about being photographed.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...The lack of manners on the Tube. It can be pretty rough.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Royal Tenenbaums with Gene Hackman and Ben Stiller. It’s full of nostalgia, and dark humour. I’ve seen it at least 50 times.

The person who has influenced you most...My mum Margaret. She was told she was going to die of breast cancer when I was four, but she kept going for nearly 20 years. She never cried or got depressed, she just got on with life. She died when she was 54 and I was 23.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Jackie Onassis. She was so elusive and had such grace. There’s so much myth around her I’d love to hear the truth.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Sleep on it.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Tapestry. I’ve been doing it for years because it calms my mind. I’m currently working on some poppies from a John Lewis kit!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A letter Ava Gardner wrote to me after we filmed The Blue Bird in 1974 when I was six. She called me ‘the sweetest girl’. One of our pets chewed it up years ago, I was heartbroken.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d steal Elizabeth Taylor’s Krupp diamond ring, given to her by Richard Burton. It was sold at auction in 2011 for £6 million. We played catch with it when we were filming The Blue Bird in Russia.

The unending quest that drives you on...To keep changing for the better.

The poem that touches your soul...How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I’m a hopeless romantic and I relate to that sense of an all-consuming love for someone.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I got married lightly and quickly [Patsy’s been married and divorced four times]. Each time I married for love. Divorce is horrid, but I still believe in marriage.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Downsizing my house and scaling back on work after leaving Holby City in 2010. I became a hands-on mum and it’s been the happiest time of my life.

The song that means most to you...The Who are the greatest rock band and I love The Seeker for its energy.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I hate technology, so every gadget would be disabled in my house. I’d have a peaceful morning meditating and doing yoga. Later, a handyman would arrive and fix every single job in the house – in five minutes! I’d have lunch with the boys at Benihana in London. I’d have the filet mignon and prawns with mushrooms. Then we’d go to Sicily and check into Villa Angela – a hotel owned by James’s dad [Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr]. James is working there at the moment and loves it. We’d all climb up to Mount Etna. Dinner would be white truffle pasta at Bice in New York, then I’d go to The Book Of Mormon musical on Broadway which I’ve been dying to see. I’d spend the evening back at home in my flannelette pyjamas from Primark reading a book with just a rose-scented candle for company.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...When I got the all-clear from ovarian cancer in October 2013. It made me determined never to take another day of my life for granted.

The saddest time that shook your world...The day my mother died. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of her. My only wish is that I can be half the mother that she was.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To make a film directed by Ken Loach.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Treat every day as if it’s your last – because it could be.

The order of service at your funeral...I want it to be more celebratory. Everyone would get a shot of something to warm them up as they go into the church, then my coffin would come in to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy. Later, I want them to have a big party and get drunk.

The way you want to be remembered...For my boys to be proud of me and to think, ‘Yeah, Mum was there for us.’

The Plug...Patsy Kensit hosts Seven Deadly Sins Week each day from 2-9 November at 9pm on ID channel on Sky 522 or Virgin 214. 

 

 

Actress Patsy Kensit

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Published: 25 October 2014

Gameshow host Richard Osman:

 

"The sadness day of my life? When my father told me he was leaving home. I remember every second in complete detail"

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Pointless co-host Richard Osman.

The prized possession you value above all others... My grandad Tom Wright’s six Second World War medals. He was a very special person in my life – he helped bring me up after my parents divorced.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Wasting ten years from the age of 17 being shy. I thought I was different because I’m tall [6ft 7in] and have nystagmus [a condition that makes his eyes flicker]. You learn later that everyone has things they’re embarrassed about.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Salt and vinegar crisps. I’d happily have them as my main meal.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Catcher In The Rye, which I read when I was 20. It was moving and funny.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d go into bankers’ offices, find their passwords and transfer a day of their wages to charity, particularly Child’s i Foundation, which finds families for orphaned children in Uganda.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... It sounds geeky but I love snooker. I’m encyclopaedic about it and go to watch the World Championships. I love how these guys have such mental strength.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... When people get angry if you disagree with them. Can’t we just agree to disagree?

The film you can watch time and time again... Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. It’s funny, charming and intelligent.

The person who has influenced you most... Tim Hincks, president of the TV production company Endemol, where I’m his deputy. I did a six-month trial at his company 14 years ago and I’m still there. Tim and I just clicked. We still do.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... I’d love to sit in a pub in Dickensian London and just chat to the regulars.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Never judge people by what they say, but by what they do.

The song that means most to you... Suede’s Metal Mickey. My brother Mat is the bass guitarist and seeing them on Top Of The Pops in 1992 was monumental.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... The cruciate ligament in my left knee. I damaged it playing football when I was 23 and it’s affected me ever since.

The unending quest that drives you on... To maintain happiness.

The poem that touches your soul... Wendy Cope’s Valentine is a very beautiful poem. If you want poems about love, Wendy’s the one.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... I wish the fact that I’m 6ft 7in was a misapprehension. People always comment on it and they mean well, but I’ve had it all day, every day, all my life.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Being born with nystagmus has made me the person I am. I can’t see properly. The world to me is like driving in fog – not that I’m allowed to drive!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d create my own airline tickets that automatically upgrade me to first class.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d have a lazy morning at home in west London, reading the papers with a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich. Then I’d go for a walk at Chiswick House with my dog. I haven’t actually got a dog, but I’m dog-broody. After that I’d arrive in Dubai with the kids [a daughter, 16, and a son, 14. Richard is separated from their mother] and go to Wild Wadi Waterpark, which is a wonderful place. Later I’d walk along the Thames to Craven Cottage to watch my team Fulham play. I’d have a pie before the match and we’d win. After that I’d go to New York. It would be snowing and I’d go to an art house cinema to watch It’s A Wonderful Life. I’d end the day at home with friends drinking decent red wine and having a takeaway while we played games and had some laughs.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Watching Fulham beat Juventus 4-1 in a second-leg match in the Europa Cup in 2010, thereby winning 5-4 on aggregate.

The saddest time that shook your world... The day my dad told me he was leaving home when I was 10. I remember every single moment in complete detail. It was an awful, but I was brought up by a fantastic mother and grandparents and I’d like to say to any kid out there who is going through something similar, that it does get better. It will be OK in the end.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To get a tattoo, but recently my daughter said, ‘If you get a tattoo I’m going to take heroin.’ So this ambition may frustrate me a bit longer.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Try to be kind.

The order of service at your funeral... I want my coffin to come in to The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash. I’ll create a quiz for the congregation, pitting one side of the church against the other. I’d like my ashes scattered in a garden of remembrance on the hills overlooking the sea at Brighton, which is where my grandparents are.

The way you want to be remembered... With love by my children and friends, and for them to remember I love them, too.

The Plug... The Very Pointless Quiz Book by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman is published by Coronet priced £14.99. It’s guaranteed to ruin your Christmas Day! 

 

 

Gameshow Host Richard Osman

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Published: 18 October 2014

Dr Miriam Stoppard:

‘People think I’m frivolous because I love fashion but I can be deeply serious too’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: childcare guru Dr Miriam Stoppard

The prized possession you value above all others...My collection of drawings, birthday cards and Thank You notes from my 11 grandchildren – aged six to 15. I look at them each day and feel loved.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Buying books. I buy four or five a week and my house has piles of unread or half-read books everywhere.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Florence Nightingale. She defied convention to succeed in a man’s world. I’d love to talk to her about the Crimean War.

The film you can watch time and time again...I love all Humphrey Bogart’s films, especially To Have And Have Not with Lauren Bacall. The sexual chemistry crackles.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss. It’s about love transcending time.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not learning to speak Mandarin. I used to watch Chinese films in the 80s and have loved it ever since.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...People who feel the world owes them a living. I’m from a poor Geordie family and we had a strong work ethic. It was impressed upon me that you have to work.

The person who has influenced you most... John Ingram, my mentor when I was training to be a doctor in my 20s. He took me under his wing and lit the fuel in me to pursue medicine.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Be the best you can be and take failure in your stride.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...The origins of the universe. I could listen to Professor Brian Cox for hours. I love the science of working out how everything began.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A pencil drawing of a horse by the late artist and friend Elisabeth Frink. She gave it to me, but it was thrown out by mistake during a house move.

The unending quest that drives you on...Discovering knowledge, particularly about medicine. I’m 77, but my brain is as voracious as ever and I keep engaged.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m frivolous because I love fashion, make-up and hair. I love those things but I can be deeply serious.

The poem that touches your soul...Seamus Heaney’s Digging. He talks of his father’s ability to dig peat and shape earth, while he only has a pen.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Passing my 11-plus. We were from a slum area and my ambitions were not great. Passing that exam got me into Central Newcastle High School and a new life. I realised that by working hard and passing exams anything was possible.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...My life’s full of happy moments. A recent one was collecting my ten-year-old granddaughter Esmé from school when she told me she’d been voted Form Captain.

The saddest time that shook your world...When my son Will, now 42, got whooping cough when he was three months old. We had to rush him to hospital and he was put in an oxygen tent. I thought I would lose him.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d steal all the art squirrelled away in private collections and put it on display.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d watch the painter Frank Auerbach work.

The song that means most to you...Richard Strauss’s At Sunset. It’s about the brevity of life and how one day you’ll no longer see the things you most cherish.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up in a bolthole I own by Bamburgh beach, Northumberland, where I spent much of my childhood. I’d begin the day with my favourite walk to Stag Rocks then have a coffee and a croissant at Noel’s village shop, which hasn’t changed since I was a child. Later, I’d go fishing in the Bahamas with my husband Chris, Will and my other son Ed, 40. Their dad Tom [playwright Tom Stoppard] and I are great friends, so he’ll join us. Lunch would be with the wider family at my house in southern France. I’d prepare salad, vegetables and local cheeses and open some local white wine called Le Perlé. In the afternoon I’d go trekking in the Himalayas. In the evening, Chris and I would go to Opéra Comique in Paris to watch Debussy’s Pelléas Et Mélisande. I’d end the day with dinner at my friend Nicole Farhi’s house with girlfriends. She makes a delicious Provençal rabbit dish and she’d treat us to some wonderful wine.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To travel the trans-Andean train through Peru and Bolivia.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Onwards and upwards.

The order of service at your funeral...I just want a party, which can take whatever form my family decides. I’d like my ashes scattered at Stag Rocks.

The way you want to be remembered...For introducing the concept that women should choose how they give birth.

The Plug...I’m an ambassador for Shampoo Heads, quality shampoo and bubble bath for children. Visit www.shampooheads.com.  

 

 

Dr Miriam Stoppard

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Published: 11 October 2014

BBC economics editor Robert Peston:

‘My voice comes out stilted on the BBC, it’s not how I speak all the time’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: BBC economics editor Robert Peston 

 

The prized possession you value above all others... All the letters and notes left by my wife Siân (author Siân Busby, who died of lung cancer at 51 in 2012). On the day of her funeral I came across the letters we wrote to one another in our early 20s, which was wonderful.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not working hard at Oxford University. In three years I only attended one lecture. I took far too keen an interest in wine, women and song. I had a wonderful time though.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m obsessed with 70s music – new wave, punk, The Clash, Roxy Music and David Bowie. I’ve got 3-400 albums and often go to gigs by old bands like Blondie and the Pixies.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Chocolate ice cream. I have a habit of making late-night freezer raids.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd. I read it at 14 and was moved by its romance.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d attend a meeting between Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger and the club’s directors to see who’s responsible for our parsimony in the transfer market.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... People smoking outside buildings.

The film you can watch time and time again... DodgeBall with Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn is a great family favourite. We’ve watched it countless times and it always makes me laugh.

The person who has influenced you most... Siân. She saw through my weaknesses, like my tendency towards vanity. She’d poke fun at me and made me understand that it’s more important to think about others than myself.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Karl Marx. I’d love to know what he makes of what Stalin and Mao did with his ideals of Communism.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... You have to respect yourself in life and, to do that, you have to respect others.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... Three rings I gave Siân, which were stolen in a burglary in 2012 – an engagement ring, a platinum wedding band that was my grandmother’s, and a gold one which spelt out the word ‘darling’ in semi-precious stones. I’d hoped to give them to the boys (Max, 17, and Simon, 28, from Siân’s first marriage).

The unending quest that drives you on... To improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. It’s not good enough.

The poem that touches your soul... Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress. It’s about how you must seize the day. It’s very romantic – and I’m a terrible romantic.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That the way I speak on the BBC is how I speak all the time. My voice comes out stilted when I’m broadcasting. I can’t explain it – something happens that makes me sound weird. But I’m not complaining because people recognise me and Rory Bremner does impressions of me.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting a job as a journalist on Investors Chronicle in 1984. I’d been a stockbroker, which I hated. Then I got the job on the Chronicle and discovered journalism. I’ve never wanted to do another job.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d imprison all of Black Lace the day before they were due to record Agadoo.

The song that means most to you... Here, There And Everywhere by The Beatles. Siân put it on a tape she made for me early on in our relationship.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d spend the day with Max and Simon doing a tour of cities. We’d start in Havana with fresh mangoes, which are delicious there. I’d seek out a decent cup of coffee, which is hard to come by in Havana. We’d walk around all morning then have lunch in Beijing. I’d get a Chinese mate to take us for a spicy Sichuan meal. Later we’d walk around the hutongs (ancient neighbourhoods) then visit the Forbidden City, which would be emptied of tourists. We’d have tea in Mumbai, then go to Istanbul for the evening. We’d walk round the sights then have a big dinner of local dishes, houmous and grilled meats with decent white wine. I’d end the day at home in north London.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When Siân and I got back together in 1994. We’d gone out in our early 20s, then drifted apart. We met up again in our early 30s and over dinner at The Ivy we worked out that we wanted to be together forever.

The saddest time that shook your world... The 3rd of August 2012 when Siân’s doctors said they couldn’t prevent the cancer from killing her.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To dive elegantly.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Try to do the right thing.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d like the Busch Quartet’s recording of Beethoven’s String Quartet No.14 Opus 131 played while people eat delicious food and drink the best claret.

The way you want to be remembered... For doing some decent journalism and for the charity I set up…

The Plug... Speakers For Schools provides leading speakers to state schools free. www.speakers4schools.org.  

 

 

BBC Economics Editor Robert Peston

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Published: 4 October 2014

Magician Paul Daniels:

‘I wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds on flash cars in the 80s. I call it Clarkson Syndrome’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s magician Paul Daniels

The prized possession you value above all others...Two steel bowls that the British magician Robert Harbin used in a trick back in the 1940s. They were a gift, and they’re incredibly rare.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Checking Twitter and Facebook every morning when I should be getting on with work. It’s a big distraction, but I enjoy the interaction with people.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...John Northern Hilliard’s Greater Magic. It covers tricks, but also the meaning of life and how magic fits into it.

The film you can watch time and time again...The Wizard Of Oz. My dad Hughie was the projectionist at our local cinema [in South Bank, near Middlesbrough]. I was nine when I watched the film there and was amazed by it.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...The magician Mac King is a friend who does a skit in his Vegas show when he pretends to be invisible. I’d freak him out by being a real invisible man during that.

The song that means most to you...Handel’s Zadok The Priest. It was played at the end of my wedding to Debbie McGee in 1988.

The piece of wisdom you’d pass on to a child...Read as much as you can, and be sure to question everything you read.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Buying flash cars in the 80s and 90s. I had a Citroën Maserati, then a Ferrari and a couple of Bentleys. I threw away hundreds of thousands of pounds on what I call a Clarkson Syndrome.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...My own untidiness. Every day I promise to put things in the right place, but I don’t. So Debbie puts things away, which I struggle to find.

The person who has influenced you most...My father. He could do everything from mending cars to electrics. He inspired me to want to know more about things.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To appear in a movie.

The unending quest that drives you on...The pursuit of knowledge. But nobody likes a know-all, that’s why Debbie will never watch Eggheads with me.

The poem that touches your soul...I’m tickled by Ogden Nash’s work because of its silliness.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...The human memory. I’ve studied it and now coach people how to remember things.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...The tip of my left ring finger, which I accidentally cut off with a saw in 2012. Nerve damage means everything I touch with that finger feels like it has a hole in it.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I perform the same on stage as I did on TV. My live performances are way funnier.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Reading about the age prediction card trick when I was 11. I found a Victorian book with instructions on how to do the trick and it opened up the world of magic to me.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Kiss A Tit! Keep it simple, stupid, and think it through.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d wipe out the people who decided not to dredge our rivers. Our house in Berkshire was flooded because of them.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Stalin. I’d simply ask him why he murdered all those people.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d spend the day with my family including my three sons Gary, Paul and Martin, and my grandchildren – Martin’s kids Lewis, 15, and Camilla, 12. We’d have breakfast at the Magic Castle Hotel in Hollywood, then head to Disneyland followed by Knott’s Berry Farm, a theme park in California. Lunch would be in a Red Lobster restaurant in LA, then we’d head to Universal Studios stopping off at the Bates mansion from Psycho. I’d pop back to London for double egg and chips with white bread and butter at the Windows Restaurant at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane. In the evening, Debbie and I would check into The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas then go and see O by Cirque du Soleil and Mac King’s magic show. We’d then relax at La Chevre d’Or hotel in Eze, in the South of France. I’d have a glass of sancerre on the terrace and watch the lights of the boats on the Mediterranean.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...Pulling off a tough gig in the 90s. The audience were bankers and aristocracy – people not known for laughing. But not long into the gig people were crying with laughter.

The saddest time that shook your world...The day my father died 20 years ago when he was 73. I felt like i had lost my best mate. I miss him, but I talk to him all the time. I’ll be making something and I’ll say, ‘Come on Dad, how do I do this?’ And he’ll help me.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d like a service at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the West End, with friends telling lies about how much they loved me. I’d like my ashes to explode over the Thames in a firework.

The way you want to be remembered...As the only man who lived to see the end of the DFS Sale!

The Plug...My new UK tour Back Despite Popular Demand is now on. Visit www.pauldaniels.co.uk. Twitter @thepauldaniels.  

 

 

Magician Paul Daniels

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Published: 27 September 2014

Sixties pop icon Sandie Shaw:

‘If I was invisble for a day, I’d forage inside you pants!’

 

 We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s singer Sandie Shaw’s turn

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My Gohonzon [an ancient Buddhist scroll]. I’ve had it since I became a Buddhist when I was 30. I chant under it every day to focus my mind.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...That I didn’t appreciate my mother Rosie when she was alive. I was the apple of my daddy’s eye and Mum stepped aside so I could be a daddy’s girl, which must have been a sacrifice. She died 20 years ago from old age at 73.

The film you can watch time and time again...Ben-Hur. My dad, Pat, took me to see it at our local cinema in Romford when I was ten. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the action scenes.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Alice In Wonderland. My godmother Auntie Doreen used to say, ‘If our Sandra can read and write, she’ll do alright in life.’ I was eight when she gave me Alice and it blew my mind.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Chocolate, especially dark chocolate with ginger.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d forage inside your pants! If that answer is not allowed, then I’d empty people’s wallets of all their cash, fill a room with the notes and roll around naked in it singing Big Spender. You don’t see real money any more, it’s all credit cards, which is a shame.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Trespassers. I can’t stand it when people walk across my land in Oxfordshire and don’t show it any respect.

The person who has influenced you most...A Japanese man called Kazuo Fujii, who taught me the concepts of Buddhism and how to apply them.

The poem that touches your soul...Cargoes by John Masefield. My English teacher Miss Parrot made us learn it parrot-fashion. It didn’t touch my soul but I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to be like her, I want to do something more exciting.’ That was the moment I decided to follow my dreams.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Nelson Mandela. I feel sad that I never got to meet him. His achievements were extraordinary and he was so loved.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Judge somebody by what they do, not what they say.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Architecture. I’ve done a lot of studying and love drawing diagrams. I’ve designed a house that I’m going to build on my land in Grenada.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...The money my first husband lost! [Sandie was married to designer Jeff Banks from 1968-78]. I was rich but he lost the lot through not paying his tax. But I’m rich again now!

The unending quest that drives you on...To live up to my principles in an environment that is so unprincipled.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That Essex girls are stupid. I’ve come up against it all my life. I know I’m bright, but I’d erase that joke for other girls’ sakes.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Being a mother. I have three grown-up kids [Gracie, Amy and Jack] and I see motherhood as one event that has shaped my life. I feel the same about being a grandmother [Sandie has four grandchildren aged four to eight].

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d park anywhere I want in central London.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d do totally new things. My husband Tony and the kids can come along if they want, but I don’t mind being on my own. I’d make a tour of forests and immerse myself in nature. I’d begin in a deciduous forest in England with a bowl of nuts and fresh fruit for breakfast, then go to a wood in northern Portugal, then one in Norway. In all of these places I’d forage for food and listen to birdsong. In the afternoon, I’d go to Sri Lanka for some mangoes and have a doze in a hammock. Later I’d go to Nepal to see the lotus tree where the Buddha became enlightened. I’d end the day in a wood in Japan sleeping in a treehouse.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...It sounds crass but making my new record. It’s the first time I’ve sung something that I’m totally proud of.

The saddest time that shook your world...Watching the news and seeing how mothers are suffering across the world in wars like in Syria.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To build my house in Grenada. After that I’ll have another ambition lined up that I will achieve. I believe in getting things done.

The philosophy that underpins your life...‘Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’, my Buddhist chant. It means everything and enables me to live to my full potential.

The order of service at your funeral...I honestly don’t care because I’ll be dead. It’s up to my family to do whatever is appropriate for them. But a few tears wouldn’t go amiss!

The way you want to be remembered...Just fondly.

The Plug... The new single Riot Pictures by Neil Davidge featuring Sandie Shaw is out on 6 October on 7HZ records. Sandie is currently celebrating 50 years in the music business.

 

Sixties Pop Icon Sandie Shaw

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Published: 20 September 2014

Actor and comic Ben Miller:

‘Everyone thinks I’m Rob Brydon. Even Stephen Fry thought I was him at the BAFTAs!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s actor and comedian Ben Miller

 The prized possession you value above all others... One of Eric Morecambe’s pipes. I bought it five years ago for a fortune on condition that I never reveal how much I paid for it or who I bought it from. I’m a huge fan of Eric’s and I treasure it. I keep it in a safe.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I’ve never had a fistfight! I had scrapes at school, but I’ve never punched anyone or been punched. I’ve missed out on a part of social discourse.  

The film you can watch time and time again... Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are the all-time great movie double act.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Fight by Norman Mailer. It’s about the Rumble In The Jungle fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974. It captures the essence of fighting.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Cake, especially carrot cake from Gail’s bakeries around London.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Find what you love to do as a job and you’ll never have to work in your life.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d hang out with The Rolling Stones as they record an album. To see how they create their songs would be an amazing experience.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Bad manners. We’re all happier when we’re considerate to other people.

The person who has influenced you most... My father, Michael. He was a very principled, intelligent and funny man, who was also incredibly kind and giving. He taught me so much and, if I can be a quarter of the man he was, I will be very happy. He died of cancer in 2011 when he was 73. I had a terrible time dealing with it. I doubt I will ever really get over losing him. He was such a special man and a fabulous father.       

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Albert Einstein. I studied physics and did a PhD for three years. I’d love to hear Einstein’s take on the advancements since his work.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... The search for life on other planets. I think we’ll find something within 20 years.

The unending quest that drives you on... To create comedy that will stand the test of time.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My first guitar, which was given to me when I was 14. It went missing about ten years ago.

The poem that touches your soul... Mending Wall by Robert Frost. It’s about two neighbours building a wall and reveals a truth about human nature.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m Rob Brydon! It’s extraordinary and I wish I could convince people I’m not him. It happens sometimes five or six times a day. Even Stephen Fry thought I was him at the BAFTAs last year.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d impersonate a detective during a gangland murder investigation. It would be incredible to see how murder teams work.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Meeting my comedy partner Alexander Armstrong in 1990. He was living on a barge in Chiswick and we clicked one booze-sodden evening. He’s like a brother – without him, I wouldn’t have a career or a life!

The song that means most to you... Love Minus Zero by Bob Dylan on his record Bringing It All Back Home. It’s so romantic. A friend read the words at my wedding to Jessica last September.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d watch the sunrise at Topanga Canyon in Malibu, then have breakfast at Made By Bob, a deli in Cirencester, Gloucester. I’d have pancakes, poached eggs, bacon, maple syrup and a double espresso. I’d walk that off in Gairloch in the Highlands of Scotland with my wheaten terrier, Ruby. Lunch would be with Jessica on the island of Ischia, Italy. After that, we’d drive from Cape Town to the Franschhoek vineyards to taste white wine. Then we’d head to Sydney where we’d be joined by our kids Harrison, who’s two-and-a-half, and Sonny, eight [from his first marriage]. We’d take a boat around Sydney, where I’d have cuttlefish for dinner. We’d end the day at the Shutters On The Beach hotel in Santa Monica. My nightcap would be a tonic water with lime juice and cane syrup.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Winning the 1,500m in 5 min 16 sec, aged 15, at school in Nantwich, Cheshire. My record still stands!

The saddest time that shook your world... Seeing the countryside where I grew up get over-developed. It used to be wild with hedgerows and rivers.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To be in a band. I was in one called The Dear Johns at college and that’s still what I’d love to do.

The philosophy that underpins your life... If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him! It comes from Buddhist teaching and is, of course, not be taken literally. It means always be mistrustful of anyone who positions themselves as a guru and says they have the answers.

The order of service at your funeral... I want the hymns How Great Thou Art and Jerusalem and a Monty Python sketch. I’m undecided about burial or cremation – I don’t fancy either.

The way you want to be remembered... With love and as someone who brought a bit of laughter.

The Plug... Ben’s movie What We Did On Our Holiday is out on 26 September.

 

Actor And Comic Ben Miller

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Published: 13 September 2014

Desert Island Discs’ Kirsty Young:

‘People think I’m standoffish. I should be more gregarious but I’m shy’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My family photos. They trigger so many memories.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not savouring my youth. I wish I’d appreciated being full of energy and not having responsibilities.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Sourdough bread and salted Irish butter. If I didn’t like it so much I wouldn’t have to go to the gym so much!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Nothing To Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes. It’s an incredible memoir about how you deal with it when people close to you die.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Elizabeth I. She was a pioneer in a man’s world. And I’d like Elvis Presley to be with us too. He could paint my toenails, which he supposedly did for Barbra Streisand.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d love to be in the Today programme studio when a big story kicks off. I’m a radio nut and to present that programme is the absolute pinnacle.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Making my own jam and chutney. I got into it when we moved from London to Oxfordshire in 2011. It’s my secret ‘granny’ activity.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Seeing rubbish in hedgerows gets up my snout! I wish people wouldn’t abuse the countryside.

The person who has influenced you most... My mother, Catherine. She’s 72 now and we’re very close. She’s loyal, very stylish and has a terrific sense of humour. She also taught me how to be a mother.

The film you can watch time and time again... Woody Allen’s Crimes And Misdemeanours. It’s so clever and the acting is superb.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m a bit standoff-ish. I’m reserved, which is a Scottish thing, and that can be misinterpreted. I should be more gregarious, but I’m quite shy.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A pair of diamond earrings given to me by Nick [her husband, hotelier and club owner Nick Jones] and my daughter Freya [13] on the birth of my second child Iona [now eight] in 2006. A thief stole them from my bag five years ago.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Everything passes.

The unending quest that drives you on... To find the perfectly cut dark blue jacket! You can shove it over anything and you immediately look done.

The poem that touches your soul... Late Fragment by Raymond Carver. It’s very short – only 30 words – but it articulates how all of us want to be loved.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Meeting my husband 16 years ago. I’d gone to Babington House [one of Nick’s hotels] in Somerset with my sister, Laura. He carried my bags and had lunch with us. By the end of lunch he’d captured my heart.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Live your life kindly.

The song that means most to you... Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Andy Williams. It was played in the bar later that day when I met Nick. Everybody was having a big night and we were up on the tables and chairs singing, and he was sort of singing it to me.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal one of Samuel Peploe’s paintings from the Scottish National Gallery.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... The day would begin at home. Both my daughters would sleep late, then Nick would make us scrambled eggs. We’d take our dogs, a Labrador called Olive and a Maltese crossbreed called Pierre, for a walk then Nick and I would go for lunch with my Scottish family at The Shore seafood restaurant in Leith. Then we’d walk on the beautiful Gullane beach. We’d be collected at the seafront by a speedboat which would reappear on the northwest coast of Majorca, where we’d go swimming.We’d drop anchor at Cala Foradada and walk up the hill to a restaurant we know for some rosé wine. The day would end back at home. We’d have all the family there – including my two stepchildren – as well as the neighbours for a barbecue. I’d do salads, but Nick is head of operations on the wood oven. We’d laugh into the night with the kids running around us.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When I was six and I made Laura properly laugh for the first time by doing a funny voice. We’d found our secret language of humour.

The saddest time that shook your world... When the 11-year-old daughter of someone dear to me had E. coli seven years ago. We knew she could die and I felt totally impotent. Luckily she made a full recovery.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To do the perfect interview on Desert Island Discs.

The order of service at your funeral... I will have a humanist funeral. All I ask is that someone reads the poem When I Am Dead, My Darling by Christina Rossetti and that they serve Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne. I’d like my ashes scattered in our garden.

The way you want to be remembered... For small kindnesses.

The Plug... Meningitis Awareness Week runs from 15-21 September. Kirsty is a patron of the Meningitis Research Foundation. For more information visit www.meningitis.org.  

 

Desert Island Discs’ Kirsty Young

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Published: 6 September 2014

Broadcaster John Suchet:

 ‘I would forcibly extract the tonsils of anyone who coughs during a classical music concert!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s broadcaster John Suchet’s turn

The prized possession you value above all others...My trombone. My mum Joan bought it for me when I formed a school jazz band aged 17. I still play it – badly.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Turning down the chance of a posting to Congo by Reuters when I was 26. My then wife, Moya, was pregnant and I needed to stay in London.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Brazil nut chocolate. As a kid I saw my dad eating some, pleaded for a piece, and it changed my life! No meal seems complete without it.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck. What Rose of Sharon does on the last page still moves me to tears. I won’t give away what she does, but it’s a remarkable act of compassion.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d fix every faulty London Underground signal and train so there’s no disruption for a day.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Smoking. Not just for what it does to the smoker, but for what it does to me if I get anywhere near them. My voice is my livelihood and smoking destroys it.

The film you can watch time and time again...Cinema Paradiso. The scene where the little boy, now a famous film director, returns to his hometown and looks towards the cinema where he befriended the projectionist brought tears down my cheeks.

The person who has influenced you most...My grandad, James Jarché, a press photographer. I listened enthralled as a child as he talked of his adventures. I’m sure that’s where I first got the urge to travel to far-flung places.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Beethoven. I’d ask, ‘Who was the woman we call the Immortal Beloved, the only woman who ever returned your love?’ It’s the greatest mystery of his life.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Blow your own trumpet – because no one else is going to blow it for you.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Snooker. My dad Jack was a gynaecologist who looked after world champion Joe Davis’s wife. He gave us a table when I was 14, and I was hooked.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A volume of short stories about Sherlock Holmes, a present when I was in hospital after knocking myself out at school. One day it just wasn’t there any more.

The unending quest that drives you on...To get just one radio link to come out as I want it to! They’re never quite as good as they were in my head.

The poem that touches your soul...I’ve never got poetry. Kipling’s If is probably the closest I’ve come to liking a poem, but I’d still probably prune a few lines.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m ‘such a nice guy’. Really? You should see me when I get angry!

The event that altered the course of your life and character...The fall of Communism. I presented the ITN news from the Brandenburg Gate days after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989; I’d watched it go up when I was still at school in 1961.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d forcibly extract the tonsils of anybody who coughs during a classical music concert.

The song that means most to you...Unforgettable by Nat King Cole. I was playing it in my room as a teenager when Mum came in with tears in her eyes and told me her great secret. It stays a secret.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...After a lie-in (my days normally start at 5.30am to present Classic FM) I’d have a two-hour brunch, made by my partner Nula, at our Docklands flat. We’d go to Vienna for lunch at Zum Schwarzen Kameel, where Mozart and Beethoven ate, and then onto our hideaway hotel in the Bavarian Alps for a steam bath and massage. We’d see Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Sydney Opera House, followed by dinner in Saint-Paul de Vence, with views of the French Alps and the Med. We’d end the day watching the sun go down on the Kerala coast in India.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...The first time each of my four grandchildren [from his three grown-up sons] called me Grandad.

The saddest time that shook your world...Watching my wife Bonnie suffer from dementia. Nula and I both have spouses in end-of-life care with dementia. They have no recognition, no bodily control, no dignity left, yet the priority is to keep them alive. We are kinder to animals. The Bonnie I remember no longer exists.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To be able to play any of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Live every day as if you will not see tomorrow. One day you won’t.

The order of service at your funeral...No funeral service, no mention of a deity, nothing religious.

The way you want to be remembered...Simply as a good broadcaster.

The Plug...John Suchet presents the flagship morning show on Classic FM, weekdays from 9am to 1pm, available on 100-102 FM, on the Classic FM app and at www.classicfm.com.  

 

Broadcaster John Suchet

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Published: 30 August 2014

Veteran actor Bernard Cribbins:

‘Like anyone else I have my downs, and acting can be tough – I was doing a 70-hour week when I was 14’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s veteran actor Bernard Cribbins 

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My TV! I spend too long watching it. Sport is my big thing. I’m a fisherman and even like watching fishing.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not learning to play the guitar properly. I used to play a few folk songs and some blues, but I broke my wrist in 1975 and haven’t played well since.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Milk chocolate. Mars, Snickers, Kit Kat: you name it, I’ll probably eat it.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Tarka The Otter by Henry Williamson. I read it aged 12 and loved the adventure. It set off my interest in fishing.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d watch a heart transplant operation. I had a triple bypass in 1998 and it saved my life. I’m 85 now and still going strong. Those surgeons are truly amazing.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Drivers who tailgate. It’s inconsiderate and unsettling.

The film you can watch time and time again... Singin’ In The Rain from 1952 with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. The song Make ‘Em Laugh is genius.

The person who has influenced you most... A theatre director called Douglas Emery, who ‘discovered’ me in a little play when I was 12 and told my parents I might have some talent. He was kind and caring and set me on my way.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The actor Johnny Weissmuller. I loved him as Tarzan when I was a boy. I’d like to know how he got along with Cheetah, his chimpanzee sidekick!

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Listen to your mum. She knows best!

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... For 50 years I’ve been growing little trees and giving them to friends. One pal’s garden has a Cribbins Copse, containing birch, oak, ash and walnut trees.

The unending quest that drives you on... To keep working. I love the variety of my job – movies, stage, TV, singing – and don’t want to stop.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have gain... My knees! I’ve had them both replaced. They work well but I can’t kneel without feeling the metal.

The poem that touches your soul... Rudyard Kipling’s Tommy. It’s a bitter poem about the way some soldiers weren’t respected when they came back from WWI. It angers and saddens me.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That actors are permanently jolly and don’t have a proper job. Like anyone else I have my downs, and acting can be tough – I was doing a 70-hour week when I was 14.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Marrying my wife Gill on Saturday 27 August, 1955. She was an actress so she knows my trade well and has always been there for me and organised me. She’s made me a better person. She’s wonderful!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d fix the Lottery when it’s a mega jackpot. I’d keep half for us, then spread the rest to people who need it.

The song that means most to you... I’m choosing, very selfishly, one of my own: The Hole In The Ground. It got to No 9 in 1962 and Noël Coward even chose it for his Desert Island Discs in 1963. It brings back so many happy memories.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... Gill and I would have breakfast looking at the sea from the Mount Lavinia hotel, near Colombo in Sri Lanka. I’d have fresh pineapple with lime juice and some fine local tea. We’d then fly to Port Douglas in the north of Australia, where I’d catch a barramundi fish, which we’d have for lunch with chips at a café on the jetty. We’d pay a quick visit to the top of Mount Everest to enjoy the view without having to do the climb! Supper would be at a little Italian restaurant in Covent Garden. I’d have veal with prosciutto, then spaghetti with garlic sauce. We’d see Guys & Dolls at the National Theatre – with me in it! I had the best time ever playing Nathan Detroit there in 1983. I’d watch a bit of TV at home in Surrey before crashing out.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Completing my first parachute jump during my National Service when I was 18. It was exhilarating, but also a great relief to get to the ground.

The saddest time that shook your world... Watching my father die. He was 67 when he had a stroke. I was holding his hand when he disappeared.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I’d love to be in a Western. I could be the old chap driving the wagon with the mules.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Do as you would be done by.

The order of service at your funeral... I’m a lapsed Catholic, so I’d probably have a church service – as I may be clutching at straws at the end! I’d like a friend to read Joyce Grenfell’s poem If I Should Go, for the line, ‘Parting is hell, but life goes on, so sing as well’. I’d want some classic guitar music from Big Bill Broonzy and Eric Clapton, and I’d like my ashes sprinkled on the Thames near the National Theatre – so they’d end up in the sea where I’ve enjoyed fishing.

The way you want to be remembered... As a good actor.

The Plug... Catch Bernard in Old Jack’s Boat daily at 12.40pm on CBeebies. 

Veteran Actor Bernard Cribbins

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Published: 23 August 2014

Straight-talking Baroness Trumpington:

‘Rafa Nadal picking his bum all the time really annoys me. My nickname for him is Piles!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Baroness (Jean) Trumpington

The prized possession you value above all others... My flat in Battersea, south London. I’ve been here since 1988. Every old bird needs a nest and this is mine.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not having more children. I have a son, Adam, so I’m lucky. My husband [historian and writer Alan Barker, who died in 1988] and I tried for another child, but it wasn’t to be.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Cigars. Twice a month I like a Cuban Cohiba – a big fat cigar for a big fat girl! I smoked 50 cigarettes a day, but I quit in 2001. Cigars are a naughty treat.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Alan’s The Civil War In America. It brings to life the tragedy of the war. He dedicated it to me.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d go to a men’s Turkish baths then become visible, just for the fun of seeing the shock on their faces!

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... If you are in any doubt, go by your instincts.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d have eggs and bacon with coffee for breakfast at The Farmers Club in Whitehall with Adam. I’d swim in Lake Como, Italy, before lunch at the House of Lords with Baroness Turner. She’s a great buddy, even though she’s a trade unionist! I’d have pan-fried skate with anchovies, salad and a carafe of white wine. After, I’d play tennis with Roger Federer at the River Club in New York, and I’d win.  Later I’d wander around Turenne in France and have a glass of champagne. I’d have a spicy Bloody Mary at the Knickerbocker Club in New York, then dinner there with George Clooney. We’d have lobster and vintage Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin red wine. I’d end the day dancing at Annabel’s in London – with Mikhail Baryshnikov!

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Rafa Nadal picking at his underwear when he serves. I love tennis but I find that so unattractive. My nickname for him is "Piles"!

The unending quest that drives you on... To go to sleep at night with no regrets.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal a Rolls-Royce with a chauffeur and a police escort! I worked for the Queen in the 80s [as a baroness-in-waiting] and had to greet heads of state at Heathrow. Driving back to London with a police escort was thrilling.

The film you can watch time and time again... Casablanca. It’s so romantic. Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart are wonderful together.

The person who has influenced you most... Rab Butler [a Tory minister in the 40s, 50s and 60s]. He was a generous and wise advisor and friend.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Charles II. He turned England back into a lovely place to live after Cromwell. He was jolly attractive, so we’d probably have a good flirt!

The philosophy that underpins your life... Be prepared to take chances.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Needlepoint. I used to make cushions for rich friends with images of their fine houses, but I’m 91 now and my eyesight is bad, so it’s not possible.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My mother’s and grandmother’s recipes dating back to the 19th century. They were destroyed in a fire. It’s very sad.

The poem that touches your soul... Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier. I lost three boyfriends at Dunkirk and another one and a cousin at El Alamein. I knew the pain of losing people I loved and that poem brings back the raw emotion.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I don’t get nervous when I’m doing public speaking. I’m all of a quiver beforehand.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting married in 1954 at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. It was lovely to be able to share things in life, to love and be loved. Alan and I were very happily married and I miss him dreadfully.

The song that means most to you... J’ai Ta Main [known in English as Holding Hands] by Charles Trenet. I went to Paris after the war to study art and that song reminds me of a wonderful romance I had there.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... VE Day. I worked at Bletchley Park during the war and we had an early idea that it was to end, so I went to London. I danced all night and remember kissing lots of men.

The saddest time that shook your world... Selling our family home, Luckboat House in Sandwich, Kent, in 1988. I have happy memories of our lives there and I still miss it.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To be a portraitist. I studied art but I was a very bad artist.

The order of service at your funeral... The service will be at St Margaret’s, Westminster, with everyone singing All Things Bright And Beautiful and the Battle Hymn Of The Republic. I want my ashes scattered under a cherry tree in Kew Gardens that I planted in memory of Alan and where his ashes are.

The way you want to be remembered... For giving pleasure to other people.

The Plug... My two grandchildren have started businesses. Virginia’s furniture design business is 9191 (www.9191.co.uk) and Christopher’s personal training company is Over-Training (over-training.com).  

 

Straight-talking Baroness Trumpington

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Published: 16 August 2014

House of Cards author Michael Dobbs:

"My life changed when I was verbally beaten up by Margaret Thatcher in 1987"

 

We ask a celebrity a set of probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: House Of Cards author Michael Dobbs

The prized possession you value above all others..My family tree. It tells me where my parents came from, which gives me a greater understanding of them and, consequently, my own life.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not getting to know my mother, Eileen, better when she was alive. She died from ovarian cancer when she was 50 and I was only 26. She was a marvellous woman who did everything possible to raise her four kids, often as the main breadwinner. Whatever the Dobbs family is today, we owe to her.

The film you can watch time and time again... Casablanca. Play it again, and again, Sam! All the acting is magnificent, especially Humphrey Bogart’s.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Politics (Michael held senior posts in the Thatcher and Major Governments and is now in the Lords). It’s a rollercoaster ride and the pay is awful, but it’s endlessly fascinating. And it matters.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I read it at the age of seven by torchlight under my bedcovers. It taught me that books are doorways to different worlds.

The crime you’d commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d lace together the boots of the opposition goalie so England wins a penalty shoot-out.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Intolerance.

The person who has influenced you most... Ernie Vale – my headmaster at primary school. He taught me there are consequences when you do wrong.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Jesus. I’d like to judge him as a man. I wouldn’t ask him anything, just listen and decide for myself.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Love your parents. If you can’t, then try and remember it wasn’t all their fault!

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Driverless cars, which will make traffic jams a thing of the past. I’m appalled by the time people waste driving.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... The ability to sprint across the rugby field. I was pretty speedy in my younger days and played prop for my county.

The unending quest that drives you on... To provide for my family.

The poem that touches your soul... The Listeners by Walter de la Mare. My son Harry, who’s 16, recited it for a school competition. It was beautiful.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m ‘Westminster’s baby-faced hitman’. That was a nickname given to me by a newspaper in 1987 when I was Margaret Thatcher’s chief of staff. Obviously, I had to be tough and sack a few people, but that was a long time ago.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Being verbally beaten up by Margaret Thatcher in 1987. She needed a victim and I was it. Two weeks later, I sat down to write House Of Cards as a form of therapy.

The song that means most to you... Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth always brings tears to my eyes.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... To sit in a British woodland on a sunny spring day surrounded by wildlife – I’d marvel at the foxes, birds and deer.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d breakfast on muesli and Darjeeling tea on a balcony in Les Mazots de Gryon in the Swiss Alps, gazing at the mountains with my wife Rachel. I’d go snow-shoeing while my four sons (Will, 26, Mike, 24, Alex, 18, and Harry) skied like maniacs. I’d then have a massage while looking out on the wonderful landscapes of Vietnam. Then I’d go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and feed giant grouper fish hard-boiled eggs, which is thrilling. Teatime would involve a glass of ice-cold Mythos beer at Petros’s bar in Spartochori on the island of Meganisi, Greece. I’d then head to the Moon and sit alone, thinking and looking back at Earth. I’d have some nuts and a glass of good Gevrey-Chambertin red wine. I’d end the day with a walk on Mars.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... A day years ago when I was telling one of my sons off and realised I should stop being so pompous.

The saddest time that shook your world... The Brighton Bomb in 1984. Seeing what my friends Norman and Margaret Tebbit went through was awful. Since then I haven’t taken anything in life for granted.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To be 14st again, like I was at 19 when I rowed for Oxford. These days the scales are tipping 15st.

The philosophy that underpins your life... They’re coming to get you, so run as hard as you bloody well can.

The order of service at your funeral... I’ll be fired into space then have the best wake my Irish ancestors could devise.

The way you want to be remembered... Who cares? It’s what you do before then that matters.

The Plug... Watch House Of Cards on Netflix and read my novel The Lords’ Day. Visit www.michaeldobbs.com.

 

 

House Of Cards Author Michael Dobbs

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Published: 9 August 2014

Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter:

‘People always think I’m cleverer than I am because of the Morse plots’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Inspector Morse author Colin Dexte

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A signed first edition of AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad. I have about 75 first editions, but I’d rescue that one if the house was burning down.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Having four operations on my ears in my 20s. I began losing my hearing at 18, but the surgery hurt and didn’t help.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Ginger nuts. I have diabetes but I find them hard to resist, and then my wife Dorothy tells me off. 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Bleak House by Charles Dickens. It’s a masterclass in writing.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d see what life is like in private for the Queen and Prince Philip. I heard they liked Morse – maybe they watch Endeavour now!

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Litter. I’m 83 now and in a wheelchair, but each day Dorothy takes me for a walk and we pick it all up. 

The film you can watch time and time again... The African Queen. It has such tension and chemistry.

The person who has influenced you most... My big brother John. We shared a bed for 19 years as we were so poor. One night, when I was 16, he woke me up playing Beethoven’s 7th. He was in tears and I was intrigued. Classical music’s been one of the great joys of my life. Sadly, John died two years ago.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Richard III. I’d love to know what happened to the Princes in the Tower (the sons of Edward IV who were put in the Tower of London by Richard, then vanished).

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... When I taught classics from 1952 to 1966, I’d tell my pupils that asking questions is vital.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Greek mythology – but I’ve forgotten much of it now, not least the names of Zeus’s 117 daughters!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... The ability to follow The Archers. I loved it for 56 years, but gave up in 2011 because the female characters all sounded too similar. I really do miss it.

The unending quest that drives you on... To write the best page I can.

The poem that touches your soul... Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray from 1751. It’s so lyrical it’s like music when you read it.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting my first book, Liberal Studies, published in 1964 started my writing career.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m cleverer than I am! The Inspector Morse plots made people think I’m very smart. I’m definitely not as smart as Morse.

The song that means most to you... Something by The Beatles. It reminds me of my daughter Sally, because it was her favourite when she was young.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... It’d help if I were younger – so let’s say I’m 50! I’d start with porridge in a hotel in the Austrian mountains.Dorothy and I would go for a walk in the hills of mid-Wales and stop in Machynlleth for tea, then drive through Florida for some sun. Later, we’d have fish and chips at The Trout Inn in Oxfordshire, with Sally, 55, and our son Jeremy, 53, and his children – Thomas, 24, and James, 22. I’d paddle in the sea at Skegness, which I loved as a boy, and then see England win The Ashes at The Oval. I’d end the day at the Bayreuth Festival in Bavaria listening to Wagner’s Die Walküre.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal Vermeer’s The Milkmaid from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

I love it so much I put a print in Morse’s home.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Being given the Freedom of the City of Oxford in 2001. At the time, the only living recipients were Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The saddest time that shook your world... When my daughter’s dog Mycroft died. He was very poorly and he looked at me with such sadness as the vet prepared the needle. I could hear Sally, who was 13, weeping next door. It was one of the few times I’ve wept.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To be World Chess Champion. I was pretty good at school – but never good enough. 

The philosophy that underpins your life... Initium est dimidium facti, which means ‘The beginning is half of the deed’. I’ve always found that the beginning is the hardest part of anything. Once that’s done, I’m off and away!

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have a simple service with the hymn O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go. I don’t believe in the afterlife – so for all I care you can put my ashes in the dustbin.

The way you want to be remembered... As a good teacher.  

The Plug... Colin’s book Cracking Cryptic Crosswords is published by Offox Press, £7.99. www.offoxpress.com.   

 

Inspector Morse Author Colin Dexter

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Published: 2 August 2014

Tennis Ace Pat Cash:

"I’m a Reiki Master and heal people by channelling the universal energy"

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. Here, former Wimbledon Tennis Champion Pat Cash serves up his answers…

The prized possession you value above all others... Three electric guitars given to me by great rock guitarists – Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest and Mick Cocks of Rose Tattoo. I play guitar and music is my big passion in life. Those guitars are all black and make a lot of noise.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Losing a match point against Ivan Lendl in the US Open semi-final in 1984. That haunted me for years, but it ultimately helped motivate me to beat him in the Wimbledon final in 1987.      

The temptation you wish you could resist... Kettle chips. I always have a bag in my pantry. If I need to lose weight they’re the first things I sacrifice.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... I’d ask Jesus, Buddha and Krishna for advice on how to save the world from the mess we’re in.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... A Course In Miracles by Helen Schucman. It’s has 365 daily lessons to help your spiritual transformation. It’s helped me be a happier person.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I’d love to learn to fly a small plane and then jets.   

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Shoes left by the front door. My kids [Pat has four: Daniel, 28, and Mia, 26, by a former partner, and twins Shannon and Jett, 19, by his ex-wife] did that for years. I’d walk in and the door would hit them and rebound in my face. They knew Dad was home when the shoes got kicked around!

The film you can watch time and time again... Forrest Gump. It’s funny but sensitive too, with real depth.

The person who has influenced you most... Two tennis coaches guided my career and my life – massively. Ian Barclay got me through to the Wimbledon final. And recently Brad Langevad has kept me injury-free and still playing.  

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... The coolest chunky silver bracelet I bought in Mexico. It’s the only bit of expensive jewellery I’ve ever bought, but it was stolen.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Trust your instincts and try not to judge yourself too harshly.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m a Reiki Master, which is a form of healing by channelling the universal energy. I got into it in the late 90s – I’ve helped a lot of people but I don’t practise it as much these days.

The unending quest that drives you on... To understand the big questions in life. I may never find the answers, but I’ll learn while looking.

The poem that touches your soul... I’ve never really got poetry, but songs move me. One Of These Nights by The Eagles has really powerful lyrics.    

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d go back to the 2000 presidential vote in Florida and rig it so Al Gore won, not George Bush. Bush caused irreparable damage with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’d like to see what the world would be like if he hadn’t become president.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m an outspoken loudmouth. In Australia anything I say gets turned into a ridiculous headline. I speak my mind, but I don’t say anything for the sake of it.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Winning Wimbledon. I was 22 and my dad said I could live off it for the rest of my life. He wasn’t far wrong!

The song that means most to you... Exciter by Judas Priest. I heard the roaring guitar of that song when I was 16 and it changed my attitude to music. I’ve loved rock ever since.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d hang out with tigers – without the fear of being eaten.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d have breakfast at home in south-west London. I make great wheat-free pancakes with maple syrup. I’d then go hiking in Bryce Canyon in  Utah. I love its stone sandcastles whipped up by the wind. I’d meet up with all my kids and my two grandchildren [Mia’s children, Talia, four, and Patrick, one] in St Anton in the Austrian Alps, which is beautiful. Later, I’d go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, then have a few beers on a beach in St Vincent in the Caribbean. In the evening, I’d go and see the American rock group Cheap Trick play at the House of Blues in LA. I got the idea for the chequered headband I wear for tennis from them. I’d waste the night away watching them rip it.  

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When my son Daniel was born on my 21st birthday. Watching him arrive was astonishing.

The saddest time that shook your world... The three years between 1996-98. My marriage was falling apart, my career was coming to an end, and I was deeply depressed.

The philosophy that underpins your life... This too will pass.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have a simple service in Melbourne where I was brought up, with some great music, wine and food. I’d like my ashes scattered on the ocean.

The way you want to be remembered... As a great dad and a loving friend.      

The Plug... Pat is part of family festival Sportfest, sponsored by Weetabix,  on 2 and 3 August. Visit www.weetabix.co.uk. Download Pat’s Tennis Academy App via www.patcash.co.uk.

 

 

Tennis Ace Pat Cash

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Published: 26 July 2014

BBC TV presenter Matt Baker:

‘I got the bug for auctions from Dad – the other week I bought an accordion I can’t even play’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s TV presenter Matt Baker’s tu

The prized possession you value above all others... My wedding ring. It’s made from ten links of the chain on my maternal great-grandfather’s fob watch.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not finishing a Paratroopers cross-country course on Blue Peter in 2004 (Matt was a presenter until 2006). I gave up with 150m to go. The sergeant major bawled, ‘Baker. You’ll regret that for the rest of your life!’ And I have.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Robin Hood. I’d like to know if he really existed.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Buying things at auctions or on eBay. I got the bug from Dad – he once bought the contents of a school library! The other week I bought a mother-of-pearl accordion I can’t even play.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The children’s book Old Farm, New Farm by Felicia Law, which I read when I was seven. It’s about a farmer who renovates his farm. It inspired me to do jobs around our family farm in County Durham.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d watch spies being briefed at MI6, then follow them to see them carry out their orders.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Litter. If I see someone dropping it, I ask them to pick it up.

The film you can watch time and time again... Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s a great comedy and I was called Ferris at school because I looked like Matthew Broderick in the film.

The person who has influenced you most... Either of my parents – Mike and Janice. I get a love for animals from Mum and my work ethic from Dad. 

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Luck is a lifetime of preparation for a moment of opportunity.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Painting. I’ve always loved drawing and recently I started painting as a way to relax. We’ve converted our spare room into a studio.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... An orange Tonka Toy tractor with a trailer that went missing 20 years ago. I learnt how to reverse with a real trailer by playing with it.

The unending quest that drives you on... To not waste time and always make the best of my abilities. 

The poem that touches your soul... Anthem For Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen. The way he describes the horror of war is so haunting.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I just turn up in front of the camera on Countryfile and say some lines off the top of my head. I spend a lot of time preparing and thinking about what to say.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... The day my mum took me to a gymnastics club when I was six. After that gymnastics was my life. I trained hard and became British Junior Champion but I had to give up when I was 14 because I had anaemia.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d love to devise an ingenious bank robbery. 

The song that means most to you... Billy Ocean’s Love Really Hurts Without You. I was in a dancegroup in my teens and we danced to it in clubs. My wife Nicola was in the crowd one night and that’s how we met.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d start at dawn in Wyoming herding cattle on horseback like a cowboy. Then I’d have breakfast on the west coast of Scotland. I love the mountains. I’d have a full Scottish fry-up with haggis and I’d be joined by Nicola and our kids Luke, seven, and Molly, four. Then we’d cram into an Aston Martin DB5 and drive through the English countryside to London where we’d take a private jet to Vietnam for a lunch of fish and chips on the floating communities at Ha Long Bay. I’d go snowboarding in Canada in the afternoon, then meet the family for tea at a watering hole on safari in Tanzania. Nicola and I would have prosecco by the Grand Canal in Venice, then take the Orient Express back to England. They’d serve roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner with fine wines. I’d end the day at my local pub in Hertfordshire with a pint or two of ale.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When I got a perfect ten for my floor routine in the National Gymnastics Championships when I was 13. It was a dream come true.

The saddest time that shook your world... The day my Border collie Meg was put down three years ago. I’ll never forget watching her eyes close. 

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To take my wife and kids to the places I went to when I was presenting the Blue Peter Appeals. I saw people in the remotest places who have tough lives. It taught me how to appreciate what you have.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Push yourself to your limit – you have more to offer than you imagine.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have a church service, but I’d want it to be uplifting. I’d like my ashes scattered outside our farm in Durham so the wind takes me across the countryside.

The way you want to be remembered... As someone who had a go and inspired others to have a go too.

The Plug... Matt Baker is presenting the BBC’s gymnastics coverage at the Commonwealth Games. He also presents The One Show and Countryfile on BBC1.

 

BBC TV Presenter Matt Baker

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Published: 19 July 2014

Hairy Biker Dave Myers:

‘I used to deal in antique ceramics in the 80s. Now I have about 200 pieces’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Hairy Biker Dave Myers’ turn

The prized possession you value above all others... A Breitling Colt watch which my wife Lil and Si (King, his sidekick in The Hairy Bikers) bought for my 50th birthday. It was very generous.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I stopped painting after I left Goldsmith’s art school. It was my dream to be a professional artist. But I went in a different direction.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Fattening foods like fish and chips, pies, beer and pork belly. I love them, but I got fat and unhealthy, which is why we started The Hairy Dieters. I’ve gone from 18st to 14st 12lb recently.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon, about his four years travelling the world on a motorbike. It opened up my eyes to what was possible on two wheels.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d stand on stage at an Aerosmith concert and play air guitar alongside Steve Tyler and Joe Perry in front of 10,000 screaming fans.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Racism, particularly towards immigrants. Lil is Romanian and there are too many sweeping statements about nationalities that cause a lot of hurt.

The person who has influenced you most... Phil Eaton, my art teacher at school. He was a breath of fresh air in a stuffy place and so inspiring. 

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Don’t fret about something that may never happen.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m a Geordie! People come up to me and say, ‘Howay, man, it’s great to meet a fellow Geordie’, but then I have to disappoint them. I’m born and bred in Cumbria.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Antique ceramics and glass. I have about 200 pieces. I owned an antique shop in the 80s, so I always had to sell things I liked. Now I can buy stuff and not have to sell it.

The film you can watch time and time again... Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Audrey Hepburn is fabulous. I’ve seen it 12 times, but it still makes me weepy. 

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal a Suzuki Hayabusa motorbike and take it for a fast ride on the motorway.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A train set my dad bought me when I was three. I sold it for £45 when I had my antique shop and I’m sad I let it go.

The unending quest that drives you on... To never lose my love of cooking.

The poem that touches your soul... Auguries Of Innocence by William Blake. He can sum up the whole cosmos in four simple lines.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Meeting Si on the set of the Catherine Cookson series The Gambling Man in 1992. He was ordering a curry for lunch when everyone else was having salad. We got talking and became inseparable.

The song that means most to you... Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. It was everywhere in 2006 when I met Lil in Romania. Whenever I hear it now it gives me a happy glow.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To ride in the Isle of Man TT Race. It’s utterly thrilling.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I’d ask him about the women he hung out with – and why he loved his pet wombat so much!

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d start the day with Lil at Sharrow Bay Country House hotel at Ullswater, Cumbria, where I’d have a Cumberland breakfast – bacon, sausages, the works, and a pot of coffee – served on Royal Worcester china.Then we’d arrive in Cape Town and pick up a Harley-Davidson and ride into the Great Karoo desert. Elevenses would be a bacon and banana sandwich on dark South African bread. Then I’d go fishing for tarpon at Barra del Colorado in Costa Rica with Si and some mates. Later, I’d check into the best suite at the Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires and have a bottle of Bollinger.  After that I’d dance the paso doble with my Strictly partner Karen Hauer at Sadler’s Wells Theatre with Brucie in the stalls. Supper would be in Venice with Penelope Cruz. Lil would understand and there’d be no hanky panky. I’d take her to the fish restaurant Trattoria alla Madonna. We’d drink Tears of Christ (Lacryma Christi) white wine and have spider crab. I’d meet Lil later at Deauville for a glass of calvados.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When our producer rang to say The Hairy Bikers show had been commissioned in 2005. I was a make-up artist on Spooks at the time.

The saddest time that shook your world... The day my fiancée Glen (short for Glynnis) died. I’d proposed to her on New Year’s Eve in 1997 and then we found out she had cancer. She died that May and she was only in her early 50s.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Never limit your ambitions.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d like vodka martinis before a service with a reading of Blake’s Innocence. I’d be carried out to The Scorpions’ The Best Is Yet To Come.

The way you want to be remembered... The bloke who had a go.

The Plug... The Hairy Bikers’ Diet Club is perfect for anyone wanting to lose weight. www.hairybikersdietclub.com.  

 

Hairy Biker Dave Myers

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Published: 12 July 2014

War Horse author Michael Morpurgo:

‘I can’t resist pork pies, I eat them secretly so my wife doesn’t catch me’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s author Michael Morpugo’s turn

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not playing rugby for England. I played for my school and Hertfordshire County when I was 16. But as I got older I discovered that many others were stronger and faster than me.  

The temptation you wish you could resist... Pork pies. I’ll buy some, then eat them secretly so my wife Clare doesn’t catch me. I’m 70, so I should be chewing on celery, not eating pork pies.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Man Who Planted Trees by the French writer Jean Giono. It’s a simple, powerful story that shows how every life can make a difference.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Horatio Nelson. He was a complex man and a true hero. I’d ask if he really put the telescope to his blind eye.

The prized possession you value above all others... A pair of bright red ‘Stratford’ Church’s shoes, which were part of a special range made for the Olympics. They make me feel light-hearted and fun.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d walk in the African savannah alongside a herd of elephants. They’re my favourite animal.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Cruelty.

The film you can watch time and time again... Jour de Fête with Jacques Tati from 1949. I’ve seen it many times but it still makes me laugh.

The person who has influenced you most... Robert Louis Stevenson. Reading Treasure Island when I was ten made me realise I could be transported to other worlds by a book.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Do as you would be done by, it’s at the heart of everything.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Classic cars. I love their look and smell and their romance.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... The ability to sleep through the night. I generally go to sleep and wake up three hours later. Deep sleep is for the young and content.

The unending quest that drives you on... To keep having new experiences. I don’t want to become a boring old goat.

The poem that touches your soul... The Christmas Truce by Carol Ann Duffy. It’s about the un-official truce on the Western Front in WWI. It’s so moving.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That because I’ve written about animals, I must be an animal lover. I live on a farm and I like animals, but not all of them!

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Meeting Clare when I was 19 and on holiday in Corfu. I was heading for the Army, but her principles changed the way I thought. Eventually I quit Sandhurst and became a teacher and then I started writing. We’ve been married for 51 years.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal the Alfred Jewel from the Ashmolean museum in Oxford. It’s an Anglo-Saxon artefact and it’s beautiful.

The song that means most to you... The Year Turns Round, which was written by John Tams for the National Theatre’s adaptation of War Horse. It’s so stirring to see the whole cast singing it.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up with Clare at Samson Hill Cottage B&B on the Scilly Isles. I’d have granola, scrambled eggs, bacon and coffee, followed by a walk in the snow in the Engadine Valley, Switzerland, watching the dipper birds on the river. Lunch would be grilled fish and a glass of prosecco at Trattoria Altanella in Venice and we’d be joined by our eight grandchildren, who are aged six months to 27. I’d walk up the Pyrenees to Lescun, where you have Spain and France on either side. Tea would be at our home in Devon with a pot of lapsang souchong and lemon drizzle cake. For dinner, Clare and I would go to the Hotel de la Marine at Barneville-Carteret, Normandy. I’d have lobster and a nice bottle of Château de Beaucastel 2009 white wine. We’d finish the day back on the Scilly Isles with a moonlit walk on the beach.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When I saw two large brown hares boxing each other in a ploughed field in Essex when I was nine. It was a beautiful, fleeting moment that has always stayed with me because it triggered my love for the countryside.

The saddest time that shook your world... The day my mother died 15 years ago. She was 75 and had been ill for some time, but it was still unexpected. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you lose your mother, it still leaves you feeling insecure and alone.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I’d love to go down deep into the ocean in a submarine.

The philosophy that underpins your life... People matter. My late godmother Mary taught me that you have to value every human being.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d love Thomas Tallis’s Spem in Alium, which is heavenly, and friends can sing or play some pieces of classical music. I want my ashes to be scattered on the River Torridge in Devon or on the sea by the Isles of Scilly.

The way you want to be remembered... With affection by friends and family. I’d love my books to be remembered, but it’s fine if they forget my name.

The Plug... Michael Morpurgo presents In Flanders Fields, a celebration of songs, stories and poetry from WWI, on 25 August at Kings Place, London. Visit www.kingsplace.co.uk

 

 

War Horse Author Michael Morpurgo

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Published: 5 July 2014

Tennis coach – and Andy’s mum – Judy Murray:

‘People think I’m a hard, pushy mum but I’m very light-hearted’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Judy Murray’s turn.

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My house in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, just outside Dunblane. I spend so much time travelling I feel like I’m on holiday when I’m there.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not taking up a tennis scholarship at the University of Virginia when I was 16. I wasn’t brave enough.

The film you can watch time and time again... The Devil Wears Prada. My life’s been saturated with tennis, so I love how it takes you behind the scenes of a fashion magazine. And Meryl Streep is brilliant.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Godiva chocolate melted over strawberries. It’s fantastic!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I don’t know about resonance, but it’s a great story. I couldn’t put it down.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Darts! I went to the World Championships last year. The audience was chanting, ‘There’s only one Judy Murray!’ It was hilarious.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Shoeshiners. Seeing someone at the feet of someone else makes my stomach turn.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d listen to commanders give speeches to soldiers. Seeing how they prepare their men for the ultimate sacrifice would be fascinating.

The person who has influenced you most... Frank Dick, the former sports coach and motivational speaker. He opened my mind to how to build a support network around an athlete. 

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Prince Philip. He’s been a part of history for so long already and I love that he doesn’t suffer fools lightly.

The unending quest that drives you on... To set up a tennis centre in Scotland. I want to leave a legacy.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... Andy and his brother Jamie’s first teeth that fell out. I kept them in a box, but I lost it when I moved two years ago.

The poem that touches your soul... Robert Burns’ Address To A Haggis. I love it because it’s fun and for its Scottishness. I also like haggis!

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m a pushy mum, hard, overbearing and serious. Away from the court, I’m very light-hearted. I’ve never pushed my boys to do anything they didn’t want to do.

The song that means most to you...Caledonia by Scottish singer and songwriter Amy MacDonald. It reminds me how much I love my country.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To dance an Argentinian tango with Artem Chigvintsev from Strictly Come Dancing.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... When Andy won the US Open Juniors in New York in 2004. We were all catapulted into the media spotlight. We had to learn to live in the public eye, which isn’t easy.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d be part of an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist on a Las Vegas casino. Then I’d give all the money to help prevent child poverty.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d have breakfast at the Carlisle Bay hotel in Antigua – with George Clooney! I’d look at the sea and George – two lovely views! I’d have coffee later at Le Pain Quotidien in Wimbledon with Baroness Trumpington – she’d be entertaining company. I’d have lunch at the Old Course Hotel, St Andrews, with golfer Bubba Watson. Afterwards I’d like to see him have a go at The Himalayas course, which is really hard. Then he’d take me for a spin in the General Lee, the car from the Dukes Of Hazzard, which he owns. Later, I’d relax at the spa of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge with the singer Lulu; she seems feisty and fun. Andy, Jamie, their partners and I would have dinner at the Cromlix Hotel near Dunblane, which Andy bought last year. I’d have cheese soufflé and New Zealand sauvignon blanc with soda and ice. I’d end the day at the Inverlochy Castle Hotel in Fort William with a glass of Baileys by a roaring fire.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Jamie’s wedding at Cromlix in October 2010. It’s so rare for all our family to be together. People might think it would be seeing Andy win Wimbledon, but when he won I felt relief more than anything!

The saddest time that shook your world... The Dunblane tragedy (when 16 children and their teacher were shot dead in 1996 at Jamie and Andy’s school). I have friends who lost their children that day and I will never forget how lucky I am to still have my kids.   

The philosophy that underpins your life... Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have Caledonia played at St Blane’s Church in Dunblane. I’d like my ashes scattered on the Isle of Eriska on the west coast of Scotland.

The way you want to be remembered... She worked hard and made a difference. 

The Plug... Judy Murray is an ambassador for Lavazza, the official coffee of Wimbledon for the fourth year running. For details visit www.lavazza.com.

 

Tennis Coach – and Andy’s Mum – Judy Murray

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Published: 28 June 2014

Chef and restauranteur Antonio Carluccio:

‘Everyone assumes I’m grumpy. Some people think I look like a Mafloso’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s TV chef Antonio Carluccio’s turn

The prized possession you value above all others... My home in south-west London. I moved in eight years ago and I call it Il Castelluccio – The Little Castle. My garden is full of fruit. I have prunes, pears, quinces and plums.

The film you can watch time and time again... Il Postino (The Postman) is the most beautiful and touching film. It takes me back to happy times in my childhood in northern Italy when my father was a railway stationmaster.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The great actor Peter Ustinov. I met him briefly at a party in the 90s and he was such an interesting, intelligent man with a great sense of humour. I’d love to go back to the 50s when he was playing Nero in Quo Vadis (released in 1951). I loved him in that film.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I no longer have any communication with my ex-wife Priscilla and her children. They were such a happy part of my life for so long, but something has happened and I cannot explain what. 

The temptation you wish you could resist... Asking so many questions about everything.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d follow a traffic warden around and cause chaos as he gives out tickets.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Ignorant people.

The person who has influenced you most... My mother, Maria. She was always ready to defend her six children, and mother taught me a lot about cooking. She died 20 years ago and there are only three of us children left.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I love the fantasy and losing myself in the stories.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Think big and if things don’t go as you plan, just try again.

The philosophy that underpins your life... MOF MOF: Minimum of Fuss, Maximum of Flavour.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Whittling wood to make walking sticks. I started when I was a boy and I now have about 300. I’m even a member of the British Stickmakers Guild. I find it relaxing.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A bronze statue of a girl holding lilies. She was stolen during a house move about 40 years ago and I miss her.

The unending quest that drives you on... I wish I could cook Chinese food but even though my friend Ken Hom has taught me a bit I still can’t do it.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m grumpy. My face is not entirely sympathetic and some people think I look like a Mafioso! But I’m jolly and gentle.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... The death of my little brother Enrico when he was 13 and I was 23. He drowned in a lake. I don’t think I’ve ever got over it. It made me question the Catholic Church and the existence of God.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal the secret treasures from the Vatican, then give the proceeds to the poor.

The poem that touches your soul... I Love You So Much by the German Joachim Ringelnatz. I lived in Vienna in my 20s and a girl called Inge was my first true love. It reminds me of her.

The song that means most to you..I Would Like To Kiss You, an old Neapolitan song recorded by Pavarotti and others. I remember my father Giovanni singing it to my mother.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... My day would begin in my garden listening to the birds. I’d have porridge, coffee and fruit from my trees. I’d meet my girlfriend Sabine and go to the Amazon rainforest to meet a tribe that is lost to civilisation. Later I’d go for a walk in woodlands in Hampshire to pick mushrooms. Sabine and I would spend the afternoon in the Caribbean. I’d go snorkelling to look at turtles. Lunch would be salad with fresh fish and tomatoes dipped in the salty sea water. After lunch I’d relax in a hammock with a Havana cigar, then have a nap. Then I’d go to a fishing village by the Black Sea and eat a kilo of Beluga caviar. Sabine and I would watch the sun go down on safari in Africa, then arrive at a tranquil lake in Kerala, India, for a spicy dinner. I’d end the day with a malt whisky.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... The day in 2009 when I awoke from depression. I’d tried to kill myself (Antonio stabbed himself in 2008), but after going into The Priory hospital I slowly got better.

The saddest time that shook your world... Enrico’s death. That awful moment I saw him in the mortuary is an image that will never leave my mind.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To organise all the photos from my life. They’re all over the place in boxes and drawers.

The order of service at your funeral.. I want my body laid on a bed of sliced truffles then carried into the crematorium by six beautiful women. I then want a party in the foothills of Mont Blanc in Italy, where my ashes will be put into a firework which will explode and scatter me across the countryside.

The way you want to be remembered... As a jolly fellow who was good to people and enjoyed simple things.

The Plug... Antonio’s new book, Pasta, is published by Quadrille, priced £20. Visit www.antonio-carluccio.com.

 

Chef And Restauranteur Antonio Carluccio

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Published: 21 June 2014

Veteran war reporter Martin Bell:

‘I’d love to go on Strictly and win – they’ve asked me twice but I never will’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of former MP and veteran BBC war reporter Martin Bell.

The prized possession you value above all others... My military memorabilia. I covered 18 conflicts as a BBC correspondent and brought back souvenirs. I have bullets from Vietnam in ’67, a shotgun cartridge from Rhodesia in ’72 and shrapnel from the Yom Kippur war in ’73. The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Leaving my wife Hélène for another woman in 1980 after ten years of marriage. We had two young daughters at the time. I was lucky that Hélène and I remained friends until she died from cancer in 2001 when she was 57, and my daughters and I are close.

The film you can watch time and time again... The Third Man. The screenplay is beautifully written by Graham Greene, and Orson Welles is superb.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Collected Poems by Wilfred Owen. He writes wonderfully about the wastefulness of war.

The temptation you wish you could resist... A glass or two of Bushmills Irish whiskey at the end of a day.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d follow George Osborne around. I’d like to see how he balances the work in his constituency with holding a high office of state.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Classic FM! The music is OK, but the inanity of the chatter is dreadful.

The person who has influenced you most... The BBC broadcaster Charles Wheeler. He taught me that it was possible to be fair, but not necessarily neutral when it came to the armed and the unarmed.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Rudyard Kipling. I read the Just So Stories to my grandchildren and I would be fascinated to get to know him.

The song that means most to you... Amazing Grace by John Newton, particularly when played on the bagpipes. It’s the song of songs and the ultimate hymn.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Lift up your eyes off the screen and look at the world. I’m 75 and I’m concerned to see the amount of time children spend in front of a computer.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I love military music and often listen to regimental marches. They’re stirring and full of historical resonance.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A wooden windmill made by a German prisoner of war which I bought when I was seven. When you wound it up a little woodman chopped wood. It was stolen from my house five years ago.

The unending quest that drives you on... To make sense of the experiences I had in my career.

The poem that touches your soul... Kipling’s Epitaphs Of The War, which he wrote after his son John’s death at the battle of Loos in 1915. He wrote, ‘If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied.’

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m holier than thou because I stood against Neil Hamilton and Tory ‘sleaze’. I’m full of flaws. But my parliamentary expenses were always most reasonable!

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Being wounded in Sarajevo in 1992 when I was hit by shrapnel in the abdomen. Before then I’d been totally cavalier with the risks I took. But I stopped taking things for granted after that.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d fly first class on an

economy ticket. For most of my life I’ve turned right when boarding, so I’d enjoy the thrill of turning left.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d have a full English at Simpson’s-In-The-Strand, then fly to Saint Helena in the South Atlantic – it’s beautiful. After that, I’d have lunch in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, and look at its ancient skyscrapers. Later, for old time’s sake, I’d nip into the bar at the Europa Hotel in Belfast  – the most bombed bar in Europe – for a Guinness and a Bushmills. Then I’d watch Norwich City win at Carrow Road. The day would end in Normandy at my daughter Melissa’s house with my three grandchildren – Max, 15, Natacha, 13, and Clementine, ten – and my other daughter Catherine. I’d cook roast lamb and spend the evening relaxing.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Waking up from the anaesthetic in Sarajevo and knowing that I did not have a life-changing injury.

The saddest time that shook your world... My father Adrian’s death in 1980. He was 79 and died of old age. He founded The Times crossword puzzle in 1930 and I admired him hugely.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To dance with freedom and grace, but sadly I’m hopeless. I’d love to go on Strictly Come Dancing and win. They’ve asked me twice, but I never will.

The philosophy that underpins your life... To try and leave this world in a little better shape than when I found it.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have a church service with music and readings, but one with more fanfare than sadness.

The way you want to be remembered... As someone who did his best to make a difference and as a professional broadcaster who didn’t make things up! 

The Plug... My memoir, National Service, about my two years in the Army stationed in Cyprus, will be published in November.

Veteran War Reporter Martin Bell

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Published: 14 June 2014

MasterChef’s Monica Galetti:

‘Everyone thinks I’m grumpy. I’m always smiling on MasterChef but it gets edited out!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s MasterChef’s, Monica Galetti…

The prized possession you value above all others... Family photos. I was brought up in Western Samoa and then New Zealand and have very few photos from childhood, so those that remain are precious.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A white gold pendant in the shape of a chilli, which was a birthday present from a friend in 2003. It broke at work, so I wrapped it in clingfilm and put it in my pocket, but I must have somehow thrown it away. 

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... King George VI. I became intrigued by him after watching The King’s Speech. I’d love to meet him at that pivotal time in his life.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Drivers who indicate randomly. You never know what someone who does that will do next.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Cake in all its forms. Walnut and ginger is one of my favourites.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the 19th- century anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It’s so moving how Tom never loses his faith in humanity.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d follow the Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, who created El Bulli, around. He’s one of the best chefs in the world. 

The film you can watch time and time again... Forrest Gump. I love its humour. When I want someone to work faster in the kitchen, I say, ‘Run, Forrest. Run!’  

The person who has influenced you most... Michel Roux Jr, my boss at restaurant Le Gavroche, which has two Michelin stars. He taught me yelling at people doesn’t get results

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Make sure you travel a lot before you settle down. Seeing the world feeds your imagination.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Scuba diving. I really love watching the fish and coral. It’s so peaceful.  

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Letting my husband David [head sommelier at Le Gavroche] drive our new Mercedes ML first! When it was my turn he got annoyed because I had to adjust the seat. That started an argument and I vowed never to drive it again.

The unending quest that drives you on... To keep learning new tricks in my industry. The day you stop learning is the day you hang up your apron.

The poem that touches your soul... Comme Un Chef (Like A Chef), by a French judge at the Bocuse d’Or, the World Cooking Championships in 1997, which I competed in. He read it out and it was very inspiring. It really captured the passion of our craft.

The song that means most to you... When We Dance by Sting. It’s very romantic and it was played for our first dance at our wedding in 2004.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m stern and grumpy! I’m always smiling when we make MasterChef, but it gets edited out! People meet me and say, ‘You’re much nicer in real life!’

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Coming to England on holiday in 1997. I got a glimpse of London life and loved it so I went home, saved up, and came back a few years later. I’ve been here ever since.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d cook a banquet in the State rooms at Buckingham Palace for friends and family, then leave without clearing up! 

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d watch the sunrise at Savaii Island in Western Samoa with David and our daughter Anais, who’s seven. I’d eat local fruit and drink from the freshest coconut. After that I’d take pictures of the salt flats at Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. We’d have a picnic lunch – prepared by the best chef in South America – at Machu Picchu in Peru. I’d spend the afternoon relaxing in the hot springs in Turkey, then have a glass of Krug champagne with David before ending the day at Riomaggiore in northern Italy. We’d be joined by all my family from New Zealand and then the Italian chef Massimo Bottura would cook us one of his wacky pasta dishes. We’d see out the day gazing at the view while drinking Meursault.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Anais’s birth. She’s brought a sense of balance to my life.    

The saddest time that shook your world... Moving from Samoa to New Zealand. I was raised in Samoa by two aunties while my mum worked in Auckland. I joined her when I was seven and I remember arriving there in winter. I was so homesick.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... For David and I to open our own restaurant.

The philosophy that underpins your life... The show must go on.   

The order of service at your funeral... I’d want something short and simple, followed by a party to celebrate my life. I will leave a menu of fantastic food and great wine.

The way you want to be remembered... As a loving wife, mother and friend. And as someone who smiled a lot! 

The Plug... Monica will be at the Taste of London festival, Regent’s Park, 18-22 June. www.london.tastefestivals.com.

 

MasterChef’s Monica Galetti

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Published: 7 June 2014

Running legend Sir Roger Bannister:

‘People often ask me if I meant to break the four-minute mile. I spent two years training for it. That was my sole aim!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s runner Sir Roger Bannister’s turn

The prized possession you value above all others... My lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Neurology in 2005. I was a neurologist for 40 years and it is quite an accolade to be honoured in that way.  

The temptation you wish you could resist... Using my wife Moyra’s calligraphy pens. She’s an artist and her pens are precious. She quite rightly tells me off!

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The 18th-century writer Samuel Johnson. I’ve such respect for his achievements and the fine life he led. He struggled with religion for much of his life, so maybe we could discuss that.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Diseases Of The Heart And Circulation by the doctor Paul Wood. It had a huge impact on my work in neurology.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Never bringing down my golf handicap from 28.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d go to the Oval Office and help Obama get his healthcare programme implemented. 

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... When people are downbeat about the state of the world. I’m 85 and I remain hopeful and optimistic.

The film you can watch time and time again... A Matter Of Life And Death from 1946, which stars David Niven. It’s powerful and entertaining.

The person who has influenced you most... Moyra. She’s also 85 and we’ve been married nearly 60 years. She’s my most valiant supporter and a wonderful mother to our four children.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... People often ask, ‘Did you mean to break the four-minute mile?’ It makes me laugh because I trained for two years with that sole aim. (Sir Roger ran the first sub-four-minute mile on 6 May 1954.)

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My right ankle! It was crushed in a car crash in 1975 and I was never able to run again.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... ‘When you are facing an exam paper, read every question three times!’ When I was 14 I misread a question, which cost me dearly.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m fascinated by spies. It’s incredible how they can betray the people they love.  

The unending quest that drives you on... To remain physically fit for as long as possible. I started showing signs of Parkinson’s disease three years ago, but they’ve been slow to develop.

The poem that touches your soul... Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon. It’s about the end of the First World War and is filled with hope.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Coming fourth in the 1,500 metres at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. I was favourite to win gold and had planned to retire from running, but when I got home I vowed to break the four-minute mile. The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’ve never done anything criminal and nothing could persuade me to start now!

The song that means most to you... The Messiah by Handel. From the age of eight, my parents took me to church, which is when I first heard it. It fills me with happy memories.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up at 4am and go sailing with Moyra along the south coast of Britain to Selsey Bill in West Sussex. We’d have a full English breakfast on board. At various stages of the day we’d see our four children – Erin, Clive, Thurston and Charlotte – and our 14 grandchildren. I’d have lunch at my club, The Athenaeum, on Pall Mall, but on this day I’d be joined by Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher – the two pace men for the sub-four-minute mile run, who are both dead now. I’d have lobster thermidor and a pint of bitter. After that, I’d go mountaineering in Switzerland. Clive has a chalet there, so I’d have tea with him. Moyra and I would have cocktails on top of the Empire State Building in New York then fly back to London for a performance of The Magic Flute at the Royal Opera House with the entire family. We’d all have dinner during the interval. Moyra and I’d end the night back at home in Oxford.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Breaking the four-minute mile. I always feel that the triumph is shared equally with the two Chrises.

The saddest time that shook your world... The Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. I remember being acutely anxious that the world could end.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To start carving wooden animals again. I took it up three years ago but last year I had an arthritic shoulder replaced and I haven’t got the strength back to do it.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Do as you would be done by. 

The order of service at your funeral... My daughter Charlotte is an Anglican priest, so she’d conduct the service at St Mary’s Church, Oxford. I’d have Fauré’s Requiem and Abide With Me. Moyra and I bought a plot in a cemetery north of Oxford five years ago, so we can be buried next to one another.

The way you want to be remembered... Simply with affection.

The Plug... Sir Roger’s memoir Twin Tracks is published by The Robson Press, priced £20.

 

Running Legend Sir Roger Bannister

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Published: 31 May 2014

Singer James Blunt:

 

"The biggest misapprehension about me? That I am a romantic! Like a lot of men, I’m uncomfortable talking about emotions – I prefer to put them into my songs."

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the singer James Blunt’s turn

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Neglecting friendships. I’ve been on the road for eight of the past ten years, so I’ve missed weddings, funerals and the births of dear friends’ children.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Smoking when I’m drunk. But I guess if I do it enough I might end up singing like a man!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Catcher In The Rye. I read it at 15 and related to Holden Caulfield’s frustration. It was how I felt about school.

The person who’s influenced you most... Elton John has been an amazing guide. I signed to his Rocket Music Management company when I started and he’s still my ‘over’ manager – I have a manager, but Elton’s the boss of the company.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I was a reconnaissance officer in the Army for six years, so I know about trying not to be seen! I’d follow Vladimir Putin and hear what he’s planning for Ukraine.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Selfies! If I could go back in time, I’d give the guy who created phone cameras a lobotomy.

The prized possession you value above all others... A tuk-tuk taxi I bought in Bangkok. It cost £300 and I had to pay £2,000 to get it home to Ibiza, but now I drive it everywhere. 

The film you can watch time and time again... This Is Spinal Tap. I first saw it when I was 14 and loved it. It’s amazing how true some of those clichés are.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Adolf Hitler. I’d try to understand how such evil can exist in a man’s mind.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Success should not be measured by fame and fortune, but by happiness and friendships.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Motorbikes. I keep a CCM 450cc at my sister’s home in England. It’s the best way of getting across London.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... An Iggy and the Stooges T-shirt that was stolen from my suitcase on a trip six years ago.

The unending quest that drives you on... I love my life as a musician, so I’m driven to keep on writing and performing.

The poem that touches your soul... Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. It has a good code for life.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m a romantic! Like a lot of men, I’m uncomfortable talking about emotions – I prefer to put them into my songs.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Leaving the Army in 2002 and moving to LA to make the Back To Bedlam album. I’d been saying for years that I wanted to be a musician, so to finally do it was wonderful.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... Streaking was a great victimless crime of the 70s and 80s and I miss it. I’d make it a feature at major sporting events.

The song that means most to you... Fall At Your feet by Crowded House. It was the first song I learnt to play on the guitar, which was like the moment of discovery in music for me.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up à deux (with his fiancée Sofia) and watch the sunrise from an atoll off Belize in Central America, then go scuba diving. I’d have breakfast at NoMad hotel in New York with friends – eggs and corned beef hash. I’d spend the morning skiing the Vallée Blanche in Chamonix, then lunch would be a drive-through takeaway from In-N-Out Burger on Mulholland Drive in LA. I’d be in a convertible and order a Double-Double Animal Style. I’d then park up and eat while looking at the view. After that I’d head to Mexico to surf at Puerto Escondido and stay there until the sun went down. The evening would be at home in Ibiza with Sofia and friends. We’d have dinner at a local restaurant – I’d have fresh fish and start with a few cold beers, then some decent wine. After dinner we’d all head to Pacha nightclub, where I’d hit the vodka and dance. That normally goes on until dawn and then it’s back to mine for a party. We usually crash out at 11am, which is a bit more than 24 hours, but hopefully that’s OK!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Leaving Harrow School at 18. I’d been boarding for ten years, so it was euphoric to finally have freedom.

The saddest time that shook your world... Seeing acts of genocide in Kosovo in 1999 was horrendous and devastating. To witness how people can hurt one another will never leave me.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To play at the Super Bowl – and have the obligatory costume malfunction. I’ll never be big enough in the States, although it might be possible if it’s ever staged in Luxembourg!

The philosophy that underpins your life... Life is not a dress rehearsal.

The order of service at your funeral... I’m on the fence about religion, so I’ll hedge my bets and have a church service. I want to be buried in an environmentally friendly cardboard box under a tree, overlooking the Hampshire countryside where I was brought up.

The way you want to be remembered... As that guy who wrote that song about that girl on the Underground. You know, Wotshisname…?!

The Plug... James Blunt plays at Epsom Downs Racecourse on 3 July. Tickets: 0844 579 3004. His Moon Landing arena tour arrives in the UK in November, visit www.jamesblunt.com.

 

Singer James Blunt

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Published: 24 May 2014

Opera singer Alfie Boe:

 

"I love ghost-hunting TV shows. I believe in an afterlife and want to go on a ghost hunt myself one day"

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of tenor Alfie Boe

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... I was invited to sing to Luciano Pavarotti in private in 2002 but didn’t have the confidence. I kick myself now because I could have had the most amazing masterclass. He died a year later.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Pastries! I can happily eat four or five almond croissants in a row.

The film you can watch time and time again.. The Dad’s Army film from 1971. My dad Alf got me into the TV series when I was seven and I love the movie.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d sit in on a meeting of the executives at my record company. You never know what’s being said behind your back in this business!

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... My luggage being lost by airlines. It’s happened about four times in the past year alone.

The prized possession you value above all others... My Harley-Davidson. I’ve had it two years and it’s a beauty. I live in Utah in the US now and love riding it into the desert or the mountains.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... I’ve never been one for reading, but I made myself read Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables when I was rehearsing to play Jean Valjean in 2010. It’s astounding. It made me feel the characters’ emotions and changed me as an artist.

The person who has influenced you most... My dad. He loved music and shaped my tastes, and I try to emulate how he was with me when I’m with my kids (Grace, six, and Alfie, two). He died in 1997 from a brain tumour.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Elvis. I’m a big fan and I’d love to ride out with him on our Harleys and talk to him about his life and music. Maybe we could do a duet together.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Ghost-hunting TV shows. I believe in an afterlife and want to go on a ghost hunt myself one day.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My first drum kit. It was a three-drum set from 1960. Dad bought it for me when I was 12 as a surprise. I sold it three years later for £150 to buy a bigger set. I’d pay thousands to get it back!

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Believe in your decisions.

The poem that touches your soul... A monologue from Henry V that begins ‘O, for a muse of fire…’, which I had to learn for an audition. It fills you with strength and confidence. I still read it every now then for inspiration, even though I didn’t actually get the part!

The unending quest that drives you on... To make my best album. It keeps me striving and improving.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I only sing opera. I sing a range of genres, from opera to rock and country, and I especially love Italian folk songs.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Singing Bring Him Home at the 25th anniversary of Les Misérables at London’s O2 in 2010. I got a record deal after that.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d hack into the Inland Revenue’s computer system and alter my tax bill. 

The song that means most to you... Beautiful Dreamer by Slim Whitman. Mum (Pat, now 79) and Dad used to sing it to me in bed. It takes me right back.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin the day at Hawaii’s Grand Wailea hotel with a huge platter of exotic fruit, then make my way to its pastry counter, which is always piled high. I’d relax on the beach with my wife Sarah and our kids, then we’d go skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho. We’d have lunch at the Pioneer Saloon, a Wild West-themed restaurant with sawdust on the floor, swing doors and walls covered with animal heads. I’d have prime rib steak and a gigantic jacket potato, with a couple of steins of local ale. After a nap I’d nip back to Hawaii to watch the sunset, then take Sarah to Pompeii for a Pink Floyd gig. They’d magically reform just for us, then we’d have dinner with the band and stay up all night jamming.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When I first saw Sarah in 2003. She was sitting on a bench in the building where I was rehearsing in San Francisco. I said, ‘Any idea how I can get a decent cup of tea around here?’ and she fell for it! It was love at first sight.

The saddest time that shook your world... My dad’s death. He was only 63 and I was 23. Dad was fun-loving, caring but very strong, and was always smiling and singing. I miss him every day.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I’d love to play a villain in a big Hollywood action movie.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Work hard, believe in what you do and surround yourself with people you can trust, who’ll tell you the truth.

The order of service at your funeral... After a traditional service I’ll be carried out to Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll.

The way you want to be remembered... As someone who brought joy to people.

The Plug... Alfie’s new album Trust is out on Decca Records and he’ll be touring the UK later this year. For tickets visit www.alfie-boe.com.  

 

Opera Singer Alfie Boe

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Published: 17 May 2014

Broadcaster Peter Snow:

‘I was asked to audition for James Bond, but I was so tall they’d have to put the girls on soapboxes’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s broadcaster Peter Snow’s turn…

The prized possession you value above all others... The 30 or so scrapbooks containing 50 years of our family’s history. We’d all be devastated if we lost them.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not being cast as James Bond! The producers asked me to audition in 1968, but then said, ‘You’re rather tall, aren’t you?’ I’m 6ft 5in, and they said they’d have to put the girls on soapboxes.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Coating my toast with far too much marmalade or Marmite.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Edward Gibbon’s The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire. It captivated me when I read it at 16 and led me to read ancient history at Oxford.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d go into a behind-closed-doors meeting Margaret Thatcher had with China’s leaders in 1977 in China. She was cross about something, and I wish I could have witnessed how she harangued them.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Nouvelle cuisine. I want food, not a pretty picture!

The film you can watch time and time again... The Wages Of Fear from 1953 about a lorry loaded with nitroglycerine that could explode at any moment. It’s the most tense, realistic film I’ve seen.

The person who has influenced you most... George MacMillan, my Greek and Latin teacher at school, who’s in his late 80s now – an inspiring man who helped get me into Oxford.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The Duke of Wellington, an extraordinary character. I’d love him to explain what was behind his knack for winning – he never lost a battle.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Be good-mannered and always listen to people.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Model railways. I have a 60-metre 00-Gauge layout in my loft – I’ve had it 30 years. I find it mesmerising watching the trains go round.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... Patrick, a boyhood teddy bear. I took him to boarding school at seven, but the other boys laughed so much I posted him home. I lost him years later in a house move.

The unending quest that drives you on... I’m a sailor, and own a 43ft boat, so discovering exciting new anchorages is a constant delight that never ends.

The poem that touches your soul... Tennyson’s Ulysses, which describes what a man should think about the wide world. I’m 76 and it’s forever inspiring.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m the father of Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow! We’re cousins, and he’s only nine years younger than me!

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Turning down a job as a management trainee at Mobil Oil in 1962 after I came down from Oxford. I taught for three months, then joined ITN as a sub-editor. That made me realise I wanted to be a journalist and I’ve never looked back.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d flatten the Lion’s Mound monument the Dutch built on the Waterloo battlefield to commemorate the Prince of Orange. It’s a hideous blot on the landscape.

The song that means most to you... Remember The Alamo. I love the song’s lyrics, melody and vision it conjures up of that great battle.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d have breakfast in Athens with my wife Ann and take a good long walk to the Acropolis, then we’d visit some dear friends in Nicosia in Cyprus. We’d go to Kyrenia beach on the island, to be joined by the family, including my six children [three with Ann and three from two previous relationships] and eight grandchildren. After lunch at a local restaurant, I’d go to my home in south-west London to do a few hours’ writing – I’m currently writing about the Battle of Waterloo. Then I’d head to Beirut for a delicious mezze dinner with some very rich Lebanese wine.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Watching my son Dan win the 2000 Boat Race with Oxford.

The saddest time that shook your world... Losing my mother, Peggy, to liver cancer at the age of just 60. She was such a wonderful, sparky woman.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I always wanted to be an architect and I’d love to have designed a magnificent building.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Be ready for anything, do your homework and be lucky.

The order of service at your funeral... My wife refuses to tell me! In truth, it’s not something I’ve considered because I’m too busy living life to the full to think about death.

The way you want to be remembered... As an enthusiast, particularly on General Election night!

The Plug... Peter will be talking about his new book, When Britain Burned The White House, at the Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival on 26 May. Visit www.salisburyfestival.co.uk.

 

 

Broadcaster Peter Snow

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Published: 10 May 2014

TV presenter Gaby Roslin:

‘People think I’m saintly but I lose my temper and get frustrated – and I get drunk too’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s TV presenter Gaby Roslin’s turn

The prized possession you value above all others... My photo albums. I have about 20 and I love dipping into them.

The regret you wish you could amend... That I never bought my mum, Jackie, a Mini. When one drove past she’d say, ‘I’d love one of those.’ She died in 1997 at 62. It would have given her such pleasure.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Chips from the chippy with extra salt and vinegar and ketchup.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My 20/20 vision. I’m 49 now and my eyesight is going, so I need to get reading glasses soon.

The film you can watch time and time again... Grease. I saw it at 14 and fell in love with John Travolta. I watched it endlessly on video and his picture was on my schoolbook.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d love to record a meeting at a corporation when it takes a decision that will have a negative impact on the environment, and then humiliate them with the evidence.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Peter Pan. My Granny Moo [Muriel] read it to me and I’ve read it to my daughters Libbi-Jack, who’s 12, and Amelie, seven. I love Neverland.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... I get angry during the school run when I let drivers out and they don’t raise a hand, or nod to say thank you. What happened to manners?

The person who has influenced you most... Granny Moo. She taught me never to be judgmental. She also had a wicked sense of humour.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and  a pint... Nelson Mandela. His gift to the world was truly extraordinary and I was devastated when he died.

The wisdom you would pass on to  a child... Never give up on your dreams – but don’t hurt anyone in the process.  

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Penguins! I’ve adopted a penguin at London Zoo, which costs £35 a year. He’s a Rockhopper called Ricky and once a year my kids and I get to go into the enclosure to feed him. Penguins are full of character.

The unending quest that drives you on... To continue working as a television presenter. I’d love to present a live daytime show again. 

The poem that touches your soul... I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth. As a child  I didn’t get poetry, then I went to drama school and I had to recite that poem for an audience. Something clicked in me and tears streamed down my face. I suddenly appreciated poetry’s power.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m saintly. I’m known for being happy, keeping fit and eating healthily. But, of course, I do lose my temper, get frustrated and get drunk too.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting the presenting job on The Big Breakfast with Chris Evans in 1992. I had to do five screen tests but then Chris said, ‘Give this girl the job!’ I was beside myself with excitement.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d break into Selfridges, then spend the night trying on the best designer clothes and jewellery and eating the best food and drinking champagne in the food hall.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d have a tropical fruit platter followed by toast and Marmite while watching the sunrise from the Victoria Falls Hotel with my husband (publisher David Osman) and the girls. Then we’d walk through Central Park and around Manhattan, visit the Museum of Modern Art and take a boat trip to the Statue of Liberty. We’d visit Rome to see the sights, then have a glass of prosecco and a lunch of fresh fish and grilled vegetables. Later, we’d walk along London’s South Bank watching the street entertainers, followed by a country walk. Next we’d head to a beach in the Caribbean so the kids could play in crystal-clear water, while we have a few cocktails. We’d end the day with a barbecue on the lawns of the Victoria Falls Hotel watching the beautiful sunset.

The song that means most to you... Lady by Kenny Rogers. He sang it to me live on The Big Breakfast.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... In 2012, when David proposed to me. It was on holiday on the beach in Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean with our girls. The stars were out and I turned around and he was down on one knee. I said yes and we all started jumping around together.

The saddest time that shook your world... When my mum died in 1997. She had lung cancer. Mum was such a strong woman but so kind.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To climb to base camp at Mount Everest. I have no desire to get to the summit, that would be enough.  

The philosophy that underpins your life... Do as you would want others  to do to you. 

The order of service at your funeral... All I’ll insist on is for it to be a cheerful occasion with plenty of laughter to celebrate my life. I think I’d prefer to be buried rather than cremated.

The way you want to be remembered... For being a good friend, a great mummy, but most of all for smiling.

The Plug... Gaby presents Food Inspectors, Thursday, 8pm, BBC1.

 

TV Presenter Gaby Roslin

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Published: 3 May 2014

Radio and TV presenter Johnny Vaughan:

‘I collect Edward VIII Coronation souvenirs. It’s funny they celebrate something that never happened. I look at them and think, That’s showbiz!”

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: TV and radio presenter Johnny Vaughan

The prized possession you value above all others... The original manuscript  of the short story by Bruce Robinson that became his film Withnail And I.  I bought it through a rare books dealer about ten years ago, but I won’t say how much for. I totally love the film.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Shaving my head when my hair started receding eight years ago. You can’t go bald gracefully on TV – you either have hair, or you shave your nut.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Making jokes about almost anything, which can get annoying. I hide behind humour.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Horatio Nelson. He was a real maverick and a proper Englishman.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Dead Souls, by the 19th-century Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. It’s about the value of a single life and the dehumanisation of people.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d attend the G7 Summit and play puerile practical jokes on the world leaders to show them up for what they are: idiots.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... The MPs’ expenses scandal. I watch the expenses I charge for my business, yet we can’t trust that lot to behave properly.

The person who has influenced you most... My dad, Randall, who’s 79. He’s an engineer so he really understands things and is always there with advice.   

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... When faced with a dilemma, follow your instincts.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My hair. I put thickening spray on it when it started falling out, but it looked like Fuzzy Felt and I lived in fear of sweating on TV and dye flowing down my face.

The poem that touches your soul...Walking Away by Cecil Day-Lewis. It’s about letting go of the things you love.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Collecting Edward VIII Coronation souvenirs. I have tea cups, mugs and plates. I love that they commemorate something that never happened.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m the action film actor Jason Statham. It happens often, especially with Germans. I was in Portugal once when a group of them befriended me. I only twigged when they asked me about martial arts.

The unending quest that drives you on... To find new questions to answer.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... The birth of my daughter Tabitha when I was 34. From that moment I’ve done everything in terms of what it will mean for Tabitha (now 13), and my son Raff (11).

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To be the President of Chelsea Supporters club.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... Nothing could persuade me to break the law again. Prison is not a nice place!  (Johnny served 24 months for cocaine dealing when he was 22.)

The philosophy that underpins your life... Leave all decisions until the last minute. It means you have the best chance of having all the information. 

The film you can watch time and time again... The Searchers from 1956 starring John Wayne. It’s the greatest Western ever made.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up in an Italian palazzo, which I’d own because on this day I’d be a mysterious and handsome Italian billionaire. I’d run my empire effortlessly all morning while having the finest food and wearing the best clothes. In the afternoon, I’d watch Chelsea beat Manchester United 3-2 at Stamford Bridge with Tabitha and Raff. After that, I’d board my private jet with all my mates – who would also be billionaires – and we’d fly to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show at an unbelievable Las Vegas hotel and hang out with all the beautiful girls.Then we’d eat the best steaks at Peter Luger steakhouse in Brooklyn, with the finest red wine, followed by the biggest Havana cigars. I’d end up back in bed at home in south-west London with my wife, Antonia.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When Chelsea won the FA Cup Final on 17 May 1997. 

The saddest time that shook your world... When my bulldog Harvey died four years ago aged 12. I was smashed up and sobbed like a baby.

The song that means most to you... Is It Something You’ve Got by Tyrone Davis. It takes me back to the era of my early 20s when I had a blast.

The order of service at your funeral... I’ll lay plans for a joke to be played during the service, like for a bunch of musicians to play sombre music but mess it all up. I want something amusing to remind people of my humour.

The way you want to be remembered... As a good mate who helped people be a bit happier as they started the day.

The Plug... Johnny is nominated for Speech Personality Of The Year for his talkSPORT show, The Warm Up, at the Radio Academy Awards on 12 May. Visit www.radioacademyawards.org.

 

Radio And TV Presenter Johnny Vaughan

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Published: 26 April 2014

Actor and writer Nigel Planer:

‘I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time getting drunk and partying in my 20s. It only led to hangovers.’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s actor and writer Nigel Planer

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A dark green Silverline metal filing cabinet. For the past 40 years all my notes, ideas and drafts have been a total mess. A few months ago my wife, Roberta, suggested a filing cabinet and it’s absorbed the lot. Miraculous!

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Wasting time getting drunk and partying in my 20s and 30s. All it leads to is a hangover. I’m 61 now and the ticking clock has really hit me.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d hang out in Naomi Campbell’s dressing room at a fashion show, either to see her changing or throwing a tantrum. Either would be entertaining, both would be perfect!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal the landscape paintings David Hockney did on an iPad. The colours in them are so vibrant they bring you alive.

The book that holds  an everlasting resonance... Freedom At Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre about the Indian independence movement in 1947. I love India and I’m fascinated by this period. A million people died.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... That things are never built for tall people. I’m 6ft 3in and I’m always banging into doorways.

The person who has influenced you most... My dad George, who was a scientist. He’s 94 now and he’s always been the voice of reason in my life.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A pink linen shirt from Boden. I bought it six years ago and it gave me the confidence to wear colour, but it disappeared.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Mini Magnum ice creams. I’ve been known to eat three at once.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The author Robert Louis Stevenson captivates me, not only for his novels but also his travel writing. I’d love to hear about his journeys. 

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... See the funny side of life.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Learning Hindi. I’ve done a year of evening classes already.

The unending quest that drives you on... To write better. I’ve written TV scripts, plays and novels, but it’s always incredibly difficult.

The poem that touches your soul... Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus And The Carpenter because it’s about double acts, which have been a feature of my career.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... I’m always being asked if I’m 3rd Rock From The Sun actor John Lithgow. 

The event that altered the course of your life and character... A journey I did overland to India when I was 20. I saw the world for what it really is.

The song that means most to you... Queen’s These Are The Days Of Our Lives. I sang it every night to 2,000 people in the musical We Will Rock You while I was divorcing my second wife. It’s such a beautiful, resonant song it saved me during those dark times. 

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To be in a long-running comedy TV series.

The film you can watch time and time again... Monsoon Wedding. It’s funny and moving and the first Indian film that Westerners really got. 

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d watch the sunrise in Umbria, Italy, while eyeing birds of prey through my binoculars. I’d read and write for two hours before meeting Roberta and my sons – Stanley, 25, and Harvey, 14 (from two previous marriages) – in Kochi in India for breakfast. I’d have idli (Indian doughnuts), with English marmalade, that Roberta will have brought. Then we’d all go on a drive in Yosemite National Park, California, and have a picnic. Later, we’d visit the Museo dell’Opera in Florence, then have tea by the Duomo. I’d watch the sunset over the Hooghly River in India, then go for dinner with Roberta on the island of Moorea in the South Pacific. We’d sleep on a houseboat by Tower Bridge. I love houseboats and I particularly love that bridge.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... My wedding to Roberta in 2013. We were together for eight years from when I was 25, then got back together in 2003. Things feel right now.

The saddest time that shook your world... Sunday nights during the divorce from my first wife, Anna, when I had to hand Stanley back to her.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Never wear light socks with dark shoes, it makes you look untrustworthy.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d like to be cremated at Golders Green Crematorium in North London. I’d have a reading by the actor Roger Allam and I’d like my ashes scattered beneath Tower Bridge.

The way you want to be remembered... He was good at making friends.

The Plug... Nigel plays Grandpa Joe in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory until 17 May. The show is booking until 2015. For tickets, visit www.charlieandthechocolatefactory.com

 

Actor And Writer Nigel Planer

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Published: 19 April 2014

Art critic Brian Sewell:

‘If I was invisible I’d go to the House of Commons and light a huge bomb that would wipe out the leaders of all parties. I feel very let down by them’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s art critic Brian Sewell’s turn 

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My dogs – a border terrier called Gretel and Lottie the Staffordshire-bull terrier cross. I’ve always had dogs and I’d be suicidal without them.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... The lack of sympathy I showed my mother, Jessica, in her later years. She had a spine affliction, but I thought she was playing up so I wasn’t as understanding as I might have been. I’m 82 now and I’ve inherited the condition so I know what she was going through. Mother died at 96 from old age in 1996.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Fresh coffee. I drink at least two litres every day. I know when I’ve overdone it because my hands start to shake.

The film you can watch time and time again... Lawrence Of Arabia with Peter O’Toole. It’s as near to a work of art as a film can be.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d go to the House of Commons and light a huge bomb that would wipe out the leaders of all parties. I feel very let down by them.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. My mother gave it to me for my seventh birthday and I still have that edition.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Cruelty to animals.

The person who has influenced you most... My mother. I was illegitimate, which was a real stain on a woman in the 30s. She took me to the National Gallery from the age of four and taught me to look at art.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Alexander the Great. He was an extraordinary general to have conquered so much. I’d ask him what finally compelled him to stop fighting.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... The same thing my Catholic priest told me when I was 14, ‘Bring everything to the bar of your own judgement.’ Question everything.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Old cars. When I was young I had Daimlers but I can’t afford them now, so I drive a Mercedes A-Class.

The unending quest that  drives you on... To understand art. Despite writing about it all my life, much of it is incomprehensible. I’d pitch much of what’s been made recently into the Thames.

The poem that touches your soul... The Hound Of Heaven by Francis Thompson. It moved me when I first read it as a boy and it moves me still.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m posh. I was a poor b*****d but got my voice from my mother. I think of myself as classless, so it’s irritating to have assumptions made about me.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Doing National Service. It taught me that if I had to, I could kill.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d poison every Chinese ivory trader.  

The song that means most to you... Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss. They perfectly reflect my romantic feeling towards life. 

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A painting of a nude man by the Scottish painter William Bell Scott from 1828. I kept it in a drawer for 40 years. Last year I noticed it had gone. It must have been stolen.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up at 4am on the south-west coast of Turkey in a gulet – a Turkish sailing boat. I’d sit reading and listening to Schubert and Strauss until my companions emerged, then I’d go swimming. We’d breakfast on fresh Turkish bread with runny honey and coffee, then swim to the shore and explore the Roman ruin of Xanthus. We’d be picked up from the beach by hot air balloon and land in the gardens of the Vatican and go to the Sistine Chapel. There, I’d lie on a bed on top of a moveable scaffold and be wheeled around the chapel by handsome young men, looking at Michelangelo’s frescoes. Occasionally, one of the young men would climb up to serve me chilled water and Italian delicacies. I’d have dinner at Bibendum in London – a dozen Scottish rock oysters and a whole crab – and end the day on that bed in the Sistine Chapel. In fact, I would happily expire there.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... My first journey to Italy in 1955, at 24. Five friends and I drove there and I’m thankful I experienced Europe before mass tourism took it over.

The saddest time that shook your world... Listening to Chamberlain declare war with Germany in 1939.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To write a book about Michelangelo that explains the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. 

The philosophy that underpins your life... To help anyone whenever I can.

The order of service at your funeral... I’m leaving my body to science, and if there’s anything left, they can burn it, mix the ashes with bird food and scatter them on the steps of the National Gallery.

The way you want to be remembered... As someone who made the lives of a few animals a little bit better.

The Plug... My book Sleeping With Dogs: A Peripheral Autobiography is published by Quartet, priced £12.50. Visit www.quartetbooks.co.uk.

 

The Late Art Critic Brian Sewell

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Published: 12 April 2014

Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud:

‘I’d love to dig up St. James’s park and turn it into allotments’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud

The prized possession you value above all others... A 2in-high model of a Roman wall which I made from cork in 2009 under the tuition of a master modeller in Rome. It’s like a little piece of art.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not working out what I wanted to do in life until I was 35. I’m 54 now.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Book Of Common Prayer. I was brought up as a Methodist and I sang in the choir at Cambridge University, so I’m deeply connected to the text.

The person who has influenced you most... My father Donald. He was a scientist and was always making or repairing things. There was never any question of hiring someone to fix the car or do  up the house  – we did it all. Dad gave me an instinct to find out how things work, which underscores everything in my life.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I would ride a vintage Triumph motorbike recklessly around London.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Laziness. I spent much of my life being lazy, but now I’m so itchy to do things that I don’t like to see it in others.

The film you can watch time and time again... Trading Places. Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy are so good together. I love its unadulterated silliness.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Haribo sweets. Once I start on a packet it’s hard to stop.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Benjamin Franklin. He came from modest beginnings to become one of the Founding Fathers of America. I’d love to know what he makes of the world today.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... There are bits of you that have to grow up. But not all of you.

The song that means most to you...Nice ‘n’ Easy by Frank Sinatra. It’s about falling in love, and his voice gives such meaning to the words.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Planting trees is my big hobby. I’ve planted hundreds around my home. I love the story of a tree’s life cycle.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... An old macintosh I’d had for about 15 years and left on a train platform a couple of years ago. I’ve tried to buy the same one but it’s no longer made.

The poem that touches your soul... I love the works of John Hegley, but it’s impossible to choose just one poem. They all have a sharp truth in their humour. Like me, he grew up in Luton, so I see him as a fellow traveller.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... Four-fifths of people I meet say, ‘I didn’t think you’d be so tall’ and the other fifth say, ‘I thought you’d be taller!’ To avoid further confusion, I’m 6ft 2½in.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Passing my 11-plus got me into a very good grammar school with teachers who expected more from me than I thought possible, and set off a chain of events that led me to study at Cambridge.

The unending quest that drives you on... I want to go to the grave knowing my housing company has helped build high-quality, sustainable homes that people enjoy living in.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d dig up St James’s Park in London and turn it into allotments.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d meet a bunch of mountaineering soulmates at the foot of Mont Blanc in France at dawn. We’d cross-country ski, climb to a glacier, marvel at the views, then ski down – to Rome! Here, I’d be joined by my wife Zani and our children (Elsie, 12, Milo, 16, Grace, 22 and Hugo, 26; the elder two are from a different relationship). We’d visit the Ara Pacis monument, and have lots of pasta at a small trattoria. I’d also have a delicious Roman stew and lemon tart with some good Italian red wine. We’d travel to the Isle of Skye to stay at a friend’s house and watch whales breach. I’d spend time talking to the makers of Harris Tweed, which is a passion of mine, then I’d be joined by a club of fellow whisky lovers to drink the night away with Talisker single malt, while watching the Northern Lights.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... The year I spent working in a Tuscan vineyard when I was 18. I saw the whole cycle of the making of wine.

The saddest time that shook your world... My father’s death in 2003, aged 73. He was a brilliant, cerebral man, but also the kindest, gentlest person I’ve ever known. I still miss him.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To own a hilltop vineyard in Italy and spend my days tending the vines. I could still do it in my 80s.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Now you’re here, get on with it.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d prefer for the service to be one of total disorder! I’ll be dead so I wouldn’t care if they threw my body in a ditch. I’ll leave money for a wake, to make up for my curmudgeonly side that’s kept me away from so many parties. I’d be happy for my ashes to be scattered on the hills of Dovedale in Derbyshire.

The way you want to be remembered...Just to be remembered would be nice, but we’re all little specks of dust, so it’s highly unlikely…

The Plug... Kevin McCloud will be at Grand Designs Live, 3-11 May, London ExCel. Tickets: call 0844 854 1348 or visit www.granddesignslive.com.

 

Grand Designs Presenter Kevin McCloud

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Published: 5 April 2014

Actress Caroline Quentin:

 

‘If I were invisible, I’d swim naked in the Serpentine, then walk into the Caviar House in Piccadilly and smother my body with the best Beluga!’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s actress Caroline Quentin’s turn…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A Father’s Day card I drew for my dad, Freddy, when I was six years old. It was of a ballerina on pointe and drawn in waxed crayon on sugar paper. I was estranged from my dad since I was 14 after my parents divorced and I only saw him about four times after that. He died in 2011 following a car accident when he was 88. After he died, his wife gave me the card. It was in a frame and she said that he had always kept it by his bedside. As soon as I saw the card I could remember drawing it and colouring it in for him. I opened up the frame and saw my little handwriting. It was intensely moving to know that he had kept that card so close to him during all that time. It was like I suddenly knew that he cared for me and had thought of me. It was really quite healing. Now I keep it on the piano at my home in Devon. I look at it and think of him.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not travelling to Australia to see my actor friend Gary Olsen after he phoned in 2000 to tell me he had cancer. He died two months later at just 42.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Getting into clean sheets fully clothed when I’ve changed the bed.

The film you can watch time and time again... Elf with Will Ferrell. My kids and I watch it every Christmas and still find it hilarious.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Go-Between by LP Hartley. I read it at 15 and it reminds me of  long hot summers and the end of innocence.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... When men refer to any woman over the age of 60 as ‘young lady’. It’s so patronising. I’m 53 now and I dare say it’s about to happen to me soon. Aargh! 

The person who has influenced you most... Theatre director Mike Alfreds. He taught me how to act.

The unending quest that drives you on... For the taps in my house to work! I hope my husband is reading this…

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I love painting, mainly watercolours. I’m not very good but I get a lot of pleasure from it.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The playwright Anton Chekhov. I’d ask him how he created his characters.

The poem that touches your soul... Hope Is The Thing With Feathers by Emily Dickinson. It tells you that even in the darkest times, hope will come to you like a bird.

The piece of wisdom you’d pass on to a child... Don’t let the b*****ds grind you down.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Be ready to say yes, not no.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That people know me! I’m always being stopped because people think they’ve met me at a family function. I think it’s because I’ve played homely, accessible characters on TV.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... My parents divorcing. I was at boarding school when I got a call to say that Daddy wouldn’t be there when I came back. Even now I hate saying goodbyes. 

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d cut Boris Johnson’s floppy hair off to see if we would perceive him differently.  

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up before dawn on a summer’s day at our bungalow in Cornwall and go rowing on the Helford River in my boat, Hot Flushing. I got it when I was having the menopause, hence the name! I’d watch the egrets and cormorants as the sun rises. I’d have a breakfast of dosa (rice pancakes) with tomato chutney and a glass of cool lassi (yoghurt drink) at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai, then be joined by my husband Sam (Farmer, a cosmetics designer) and our children Emily, 14, and William, ten. We’d go for a dip in the hotel’s pool then we’d go to galleries in Paris before a spin on the carousel in the Tuileries Gardens. Lunch would be in a typical bistro – lamb cutlets and green beans for me, followed by tarte tatin with a bottle of Merlot. After that I’d nip home to Devon for a bit of gardening. In the evening, we’d all amble around Barcelona, but later Sam and I would have a romantic dinner at a fish restaurant. We’d drink white Rioja, and end the day back in Cornwall.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d swim naked in the Serpentine, then walk into the Caviar House on Piccadilly and eat all the Beluga caviar. I’d then smear it over my body and rinse it off back in the Serpentine. I’d love the decadence of it.

The song that means most to you... Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean because it gets the whole family dancing.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A Victorian diamond ring I bought for £4,500 in the 90s. It was stolen two years later.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When Sam got his new teenage cosmetics taken on by the Space NK chain earlier this year. People are sniffy about our relationship because he’s 12 years younger than me and has stayed home looking after the kids. I’m so proud he’s done all this on his own.

The saddest time that shook your world... My mum Kathleen’s death from a heart attack in July 2012. She was 89 and I miss her more than I can say.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To sing at the Royal Opera House. Three lines in a great opera would be enough.      

The order of service at your funeral... I’m not religious but my kids can do whatever is right for them. I’d prefer to be cremated and for my ashes to be scattered in my garden. 

The way you want to be remembered... As a good mother, a loving wife and a bit of a laugh.

The Plug... See Caroline in Noël Coward’s Relative Values at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London, until 21 June. Visit www.atgtickets.com.

 

Actress Caroline Quentin

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Published: 29 March 2014

Fashion designer David Emanuel:

‘People think I’m posh but I’m anything but posh!’

 

Every week we ask a celebrity a set of probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: I’m A Celebrity runner-up David Emanuel

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My health. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2012. A month later I went in for surgery. I was lucky it was caught so soon and I was given the all-clear in February last year.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That my mother Beti is not alive to see my children Oliver, now 34, and Eloise, 33, grown up. She died from an aneurism in 1988 when she was 63.

The film you can watch time and time again... My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. It’s the ultimate makeover movie!

The temptation you wish you could resist... An ice-cold pint of Stella Artois on a hot English summer’s day. 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Five On A Treasure Island, the first of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. I grew up in Wales with plenty of open-air adventures so those books echo my childhood.The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d sit in on a private clothes fitting for the Queen.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Bad language.

The person who has influenced you most... The late Welsh opera singer Sir Geraint Evans. I met him when I was 15 and told him about my dream to go into fashion. His encouragement inspired me to take on new challenges, which was valuable when I faced big opportunities later, like being asked to design Princess Diana’s wedding dress in 1981.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... I’d love to drag Marie Antoinette into a pub in her finest gowns and wig to talk to her about her passion for fashion. 

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Be honest and never lie.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m fascinated by technology. I’m 61 now and came to it very late, but I love it all now. 

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... The innocent excitement of my youth.

The unending quest that drives you on... To take on new challenges. Doing I’m A Celebrity was amazing and I’d go back into the jungle tomorrow. 

The poem that touches your soul... Death Is Nothing At All by Henry Scott Holland. I’ve read it at a few funerals and it always moves me hugely.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m posh and grand. My dad, John, was a steelworker and my mum was a nurse and they had 11 children. I’m anything but posh. 

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin the day alone in Bali, with a massage on the beach followed by a breakfast of exotic fruits. Then I’d spend all morning skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, with my children. We’d stop for lunch at a chalet in the mountains. I’d have onion soup, a platter of cold meats and some gluhwein to warm me up. In the afternoon I’d go for a walk on Southerndown Beach in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, where I was brought up. I’d be joined by all my siblings – I’ve got nine brothers and one sister – and our dad, who’s 86. Later, I’d go for afternoon tea at Claridge’s with the kids. I’d have to stay off the pastries as I’m watching my weight. In the evening, I’d meet friends at the Palm Court bar of the Plaza Hotel in New York for a champagne cocktail, then we’d see a musical on Broadway. I’d host a dinner party at Doyles restaurant in Sydney, beginning with oysters, then a platter of fruit de mer with gallons of chilled Pinot Grigio white wine.

The song that means most to you... I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. I remember it being pumped out in Studio 54 (the New York nightclub) in the 80s. I remember dancing like crazy.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Life’s too short to waste time dithering.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting accepted for Cardiff School of Art and Design. It changed my life and set me on the way to a career that I still love.  

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal Air Force One. I hate airports and it’s got to be the best private jet in the world.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... The day on 4 February 2013 when I got the blood results that showed I was clear of cancer. I was greatly relieved and delighted.

The saddest time that shook your world... When my mum died. She was my biggest supporter and I miss her.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To play a really nasty James Bond villain. 

The order of service at your funeral... I’d want a church service with people dressed in black. I want Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere played, then Mozart’s Requiem. I’d want everyone to raise a glass of Dom Perignon champagne, then for my children to scatter my ashes – half in my garden in Windsor and half on Southerndown Beach. I don’t want a gravestone or a memorial plaque. 

The way you want to be remembered... As a caring person who loved beautiful things. 

The Plug... David’s Spring/Summer collection is available at Bonmarché. www.bonmarche.co.uk.

 

Fashion Designer David Emanuel

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Published: 22 March 2014

TV interviewer Lorraine Kelly:

‘Covering the Dunblane shooting shook my world. Pam Ross, whose five-year-old daughter Joanna was killed, invited me into their home and I saw Joanna in her coffin. It was heartbreaking’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s presenter Lorraine Kelly’s turn

 

The prized possession you value above all others... An amazing album of photos with little stories and lovely messages given to me by my daughter Rosie, who’s 19 now, on Mother’s Day four years ago. It’s totally irreplaceable.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not learning another language. I’d love to speak Chinese – I wish I could take a pill and be fluent because at the age of 54 I haven’t a hope of learning it.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Bigotry. I can’t stand people who always think they’re right and refuse to accept another person’s viewpoint.

The film you can watch time and time again... All About Eve with Bette Davis is the most perfect film with brilliant acting and the dialogue crackles.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Greenvoe by the late George Mackay Brown. It’s set on Orkney – a place I love – and is full of fascinating island characters and lyrical language. His writing is like poetry.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d go into the Irn-Bru drinks factory and find out its secret recipe. It’s great for hangovers!

The temptation you wish you could resist... If I open a packet of HobNobs, or a box of Roses, I keep going until I’ve eaten the lot.

The person who has influenced you most... My mum, who’s 72. She taught me to want to be the best I can be.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The polar explorer Ernest Shackleton is my absolute hero. He was such an inspiring man. I’d love to talk to him about his tenacity and leadership and what drove him.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Don’t waste your time worrying about small things. There’s too much needless angst in the young.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Astronomy. My dad, John, was into it and I got my first telescope aged five – I even had a model of the solar system in my bedroom. The passion has never left me and I love going to the Dundee observatory.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A silver charm bracelet I was given by my mum when I was 12. It went missing a few years later during a house move.

The unending quest that drives you on... To get better at everything I do.

The poem that touches your soul... Robert Burns’ A Man’s A Man For A’ That. No matter who you are or what you have, we’re all equal.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I will be the life and soul at a party. Because of my job, people think I’ll be the one entertaining everyone. I’m quite shy and more of a listener. My husband Steve’s the one who’ll be up dancing.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... The Lockerbie disaster in 1988. I was the Scotland correspondent for TV.am at the time. I was just 29 and I’d been in the job for two years. That story was so shocking and chilling to report that it made me grow up.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it.. I’d break into the secret US archives and find out who was really behind JFK’s death.

The song that means most to you...Careful, by Scottish pop singer Horse McDonald, is the most beautiful love song. She’s a good friend of mine and she turned up at my house a few years ago and serenaded me with it after I’d fallen off a horse!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... After my daughter’s birth, it’s getting my OBE for services to charity from the Queen at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh in 2012. I cried.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d have the best sushi and tempura vegetables for breakfast in Tokyo with Rosie and Steve, then we’d wander around looking at the young people and their amazing fashion sense. We’d go on safari in Tanzania, with a picnic lunch deep in the bush. I’d have a tennis lesson with Andy Murray on Centre Court at Wimbledon – with strawberries and cream for the warm down! Later I’d go for a walk on the beautiful white sands on the Isle of Barra, in the Outer Hebrides. It would be 80º and I’d cook a fantastic barbecue for all the family, including Mum and Dad and my brother Graham. We’d have cold Cava, which I actually prefer to expensive champagne, and dance on the beach. I’d end the day watching the Southern Lights at the South Pole, then sleep under a dome there with the amazing night sky above me.

The saddest time that shook your world... Covering the Dunblane shooting. Pam Ross, whose five-year-old daughter Joanna was killed, invited me into their home and I saw Joanna in her coffin. It was heartbreaking.  

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To go into space.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Squeeze every last drop of happiness out of every day.

The order of service at your funeral... I want a humanist ceremony conducted by someone who knew me. I’d like a piper playing a lament or two and to finish with a ceilidh dance. I’d like my ashes scattered in the Outer Hebrides.

The way you want to be remembered... As a good mum and a loyal friend.
The Plug... Lorraine Kelly’s book Scotland is published by Bantam Press in hardback, £18.99. Visit www. lorrainekelly.tv.

TV Interviewer Lorraine Kelly

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Published: 15 March 2014

Former Westlife singer Kian Egan:

‘My biggest regret? Telling Simon Cowell he was wrong!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: former Westlife singer Kian Egan

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My home in Sligo, Ireland. My wife Jodi [singer Jodi Albert] and I designed it and it’s our dream house.

The temptation you wish you could resist... I’m a control freak, so it would be good to let go of a few things.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m really into photographing nature. I like getting up before dawn to photograph the sunrise.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... I’d hang out with Jimi Hendrix at his peak to get a flavour of that crazy rock star life.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Telling Simon Cowell he was wrong! He said it would be a mistake for Westlife to release Hey Whatever in 2003. I fought so hard that he let us do it, but it only got to No.4, our lowest chart position. After that he said, ‘From now on you do exactly what I tell you!’

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d love to follow President Obama around to see if he really does hold the power, or if he’s controlled by a group of shadowy people.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Bullying.

The film you can watch time and time again... The Endless Summer, about surfers travelling the world. I love its sense of freedom and adventure.

The person who has influenced you most... My dad, Kevin. He died in 2009 from a brain tumour, and it’s only since I had my son Koa, who’s two, that I really appreciate how much he influenced me. He always had a smile on his face

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Life is all about finding the right balance.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A black electric guitar which went missing on one of Westlife’s tours. I’d glued a shattered mirror onto it so it would look great in the stage lights. It was probably stolen.

The unending quest that drives you on... To keep trying to surprise myself.

The poem that touches your soul...Tom’s Bomb by David Hornsby. I entered  lots of poetry-reciting competitions as a child and I always performed that poem. I won about 15 competitions with it.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Art Of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler. It taught me how to find happiness in the simpler things in life.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... People think I’m really harsh because I’m a straight-talking judge on The Voice in Ireland. I’m an easy-going guy.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... My dad’s death made me focus on life and what it means. He was only 64.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d wipe out the criminals who traffic children.

The song that means most to you... I’m Ready by Bryan Adams. Jodi and I were friends for five years before we started going out. I remember playing her that song in 2003 and then we got together. It’s become our song.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Playing Croke Park in Dublin for Westlife’s 10th anniversary in 2008. I got the whole crowd to sing Happy Birthday to my dad.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin at home with Jodi, Koa, and our Maltese terrier Prince. I’d have a full Irish breakfast with three sausages and white pudding, and a skinny latte. Then I’d go surfing with buddies at Blue Rock nearby. But on this day it’d be blazing sunshine. I’d put Koa on my surfboard so he can feel the waves, then I’d cook a barbecue for my friends and family on Coney Island, which is just off the coast. In the afternoon I’d crash out at the Coral Reef Club on the west coast of Barbados, then take out some paddle boards with Jodi. Then we’d zoom over to Paris and go to the Pont de l’Archevêché bridge to fasten a padlock then throw the key in the Seine as a symbol of our love. Dinner would be at Nobu in Waikiki, Hawaii. I’d have black cod, popcorn shrimp, ragù of beef and Japanese beer. Later we’d hang out at a surfers’ shack bar I love in Barbados and drink Mount Gay Extra Old rum on the rocks. I’d sleep at home in Ireland.

The saddest time that shook your world... When my dad died. It breaks my heart that he never saw my son. 

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To catch a barrel -that’s when the water totally folds over as you surf a wave. One day…

The philosophy that underpins your life... Be thankful for what you have.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have a Catholic service at Sligo Cathedral with a string quartet and uilleann pipes [Irish bagpipes] and an acoustic version of the Foo Fighters’ song My Hero. I may want to rest alongside my dad in a cemetery in Sligo, or I may have my ashes scattered at sea.

The way you want to be remembered... As a caring son, husband and father.  

The Plug... Kian’s debut solo album Home is out on Monday. For more information visit www.kianegan.tv.

 

Former Westlife Singer Kian Egan

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Published: 8 March 2014

Former England rugby captain Matt Dawson:

‘I regret publishing my diary of the British and Irish Lions tour in 2001. I criticised the head coach Graham Henry in it and upset the whole team’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of fiendish questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: former England rugby captain Matt Dawson…

 

The prized possession you value above all others...My World Cup winner’s medal from 2003. It’s the ultimate in rugby and the realisation of my dream.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Publishing my diary of the British and Irish Lions tour in 2001.  I criticised the head coach Graham Henry in it and upset the whole team.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Sir Francis Drake. I’d love to set sail with him. I’m in awe of people who’ve faced real fear and uncertainty.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... I’m not a big reader but I’ve recently enjoyed David Walliams’ autobiography Camp David.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d go to MI6 to find out what the spies are up to.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... People dropping litter. I give it back and say, ‘I think this is yours!’

The temptation you wish you could resist... Cheese of all kinds – currently I love Tome de Provence.

The film you can watch time and time again... The Shawshank Re-demption is brilliantly done with such superb acting and so many clever sub-plots.

The person who has influenced you most... Sir Ian McGeechan, my coach at Northampton and at the British and Irish Lions. He helped me progress to the highest level.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Champions don’t want to win, they need to win.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m fascinated by the mechanics of big business. There are many connections to sport, above all, team work.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A Rolex watch given to me for my testimonial in 2003. It was engraved with the name of a friend, Mick Owen, who died from cancer, and had irreplaceable sentimental value. It was stolen in a burglary at my home.

The unending quest that drives you on... To provide security for my family.

The poem that touches your soul... The hymn Jerusalem. When you heard the fans sing that during a match it would give you extra drive.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m arrogant and cocky. People have that impression from my playing days. I’m actually a very respectful, humble guy.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting married and having a family. I’m 41 now and I only got married in 2011. For years I was totally focused on rugby, but now I have different priorities.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d park wherever I wanted in London.

The song that means most to you... The National Anthem. It reminds me of standing on a pitch and looking up and seeing my dad in the stands. 

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I’d wake up early at home in west London with my wife Carolin and our son Alex, who’s nearly two, and our baby Sam, who was born in January. We’d go to Mauritius to watch the sun come up. I’d have a breakfast of tropical fruits then a chilled morning on the beach. There’d be a golf range, so I’d warm up my swing before playing the Masters course at Augusta with a bunch of mates and Jack Nicklaus. Lunch would be with Carolin at Nobu in London for Japanese food, then we’d go to Seaworld in Florida for the kids – they’re way too young but I love those places! Carolin and I would have a drink at the W hotel in the Maldives. I’d choose a nice cold pint of Heineken. We’d have dinner at The Waterside Inn at Bray where I’d have the lobster followed by roast chicken to share, plus a bottle of Dom Perignon. By this time we’d be shattered and need to get home, ready for another early start!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Winning the World Cup in Sydney in the dying seconds. I remember falling to the floor in total disbelief. All the hard times and extreme lows were suddenly worth it.

The saddest time that shook your world... Seeing my grandfather Sam die of cancer when I was 14. He was the first person close to me to die.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To learn to speak German. Carolin is German and it drives me mad when we go on holiday there and I sit around like a lemon while everyone is chatting away.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Tackle everything in life full on, but always play fair.     

The order of service at your funeral...I’m not religious but I’d be happy for my loved ones to decide what works for them. I’d like everyone to sing Jerusalem and Abide With Me. And I’d like my ashes kept in an urn on the mantelpiece so I can keep an eye on people!

The way you want to be remembered... As a loving son, a decent brother, a good husband and a great dad.

The Plug... Matt Dawson’s Bioglan superfood range is available at Holland & Barrett. From £8.99, www. hollandandbarrett.com.

Former England Rugby Captain Matt Dawson

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Published: 1 March 2014

Comedian Omid Djalili:

"The saddest time that shook my world? Watching 9/11. I noticed a change of attitude towards me because of my Middle-Eastern appearance"

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s comedian Omid Djalili’s turn

The prized possession you value above all others... My gold wedding ring. Annabel and I got married in 1992, but a year later I lost the ring. I replaced it in 2009 and now I never take it off. 

The temptation you wish you could resist... Late night eating in the car after a gig. If it’s gone well I’ll have a Big Mac. If it’s been a disaster I have a Double Whopper from Burger King.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... The moment David Beckham scored that last goal against Greece that meant England qualified for the 2002 World Cup. I was so excited I passed out.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. The ending had me sobbing when I read it.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d hang around the Comedy Store changing rooms to see what other comedians say about me.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Being interrupted. 

The film you can watch time and time again... The Graduate. I saw it when I was 13 and really connected with Dustin Hoffman’s character – the goofy  underdog who had to fight to get the girl.

The person who has influenced you most... Professor Soheil Bushrui, a Middle Eastern master of literature. He taught me about truth and beauty when I was 17. He’s in his eighties now and we’re still in touch.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Mahatma Gandhi – he wouldn’t want a pie or a pint, so I’d get more nosh while he droned on about world peace.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Be yourself. 

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My Panini football sticker albums for the 1974 and 1978 World Cups. I filled them when I was a kid but in 1995, I gave them to a friend. I want them back!

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Giving up playing football when I was 22. I used to play left midfield in a good amateur league. I was lean and fit but then I packed it in – that’s why I’m fat!

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Air crash investigation documentaries. I believe I will crash one day so I watch them and absorb any information that might help me survive.

The unending quest that drives you on... Striving for excellence.

The poem that touches your soul... Rabbit by Anonymous. It’s about a rabbit that gets its leg caught in a trap. I came across it during A-level English.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m tall and really fat. I’m 5ft 6in and 103kg so I’m short and only quite fat!

The song that means most to you... Simon And Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair. It’s a beautiful reminder of that moment in The Graduate when he gets the girl against the odds.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin the day with Annabel and our three children [aged 15-21] at the Atlantis hotel in the Bahamas. The kids and I would go to the water park and do the Leap Of Faith slide, a 60ft drop into a lagoon surrounded by sharks behind glass. Lunch would be at The Dome in Edinburgh. I’d start with haggis then have the fish of the day and a cranberry juice – I don’t drink.

I’d then go skiing at the indoor mountain in Dubai. Later, I’d have a gondola ride with Annabel in Venice before dinner at the Beverly Montage hotel in LA. Then we’d go to Broadway to watch my favourite show, The Producers. I’d end the day at home in south west London watching England win the World Cup in Brazil!

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting spinal meningitis when I was 13. It was touch and go that I would make it. Having a brush with death makes you appreciate life. 

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d be a vigilante on the streets slapping burglars and muggers who attack old people.

The saddest time that shook your world... Watching 9/11. I noticed a change of attitude towards me because of my Middle-Eastern appearance.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To play in a big pro-celebrity football match and dazzle everyone with a winning performance. 

The philosophy that underpins your life... Only do things that are of service to your fellow human beings. 

The order of service at your funeral... I’d want a cheerful ceremony with them playing Santana’s Smooth – because my life has been anything but smooth. At the party people can tell a few jokes about me. I’d make sure that everyone gets a slice of stuffed crust pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut.

The way you want to be remembered... He tried his damnedest. 

The Plug... Omid’s Live tour is on now. Visit www.omidnoagenda.com.

 

Comedian Omid Djalili

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Published: 22 February 2014

Veteran film critic Barry Norman:

‘My wife died of heart failure in her sleep. We were married for 53 years and the pain was overwhelming’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: legendary film critic Barry Norman

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A wall tapestry my late wife Diana commissioned about 25 years ago. It’s embroidered with our initials, along with those of our two daughters Samantha, 50, and Emma, 48.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I didn’t witness Samantha’s birth. It was a home delivery and just at the last moment the midwife ordered me to boil more water. By the time I got back the baby had arrived.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin with a full English breakfast at The Savoy. Then I’d head to Lord’s for the opening day of an Ashes Test. I’d score a century, then bowl out the Aussie side. Lunch would be with friends at the best fish restaurant in the world, wherever that is. I’d have Beluga caviar and lobster and Burgundy wine. Then I’d go to Venice, stopping at St Mark’s Square before exploring the backstreets. I’d end the day at Treasure Beach hotel in Barbados with my daughters and three grandsons – Bertie, 20, Harry, 18, and Charlie, 16. I’d just manage a couple of rum punches and steak and chips.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... William Shakespeare. He was a pure genius.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Cheddar cheese. I have to ration myself because of my cholesterol. 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Right Ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse. I was 15 when I came across it and it made me want to earn my living from writing.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d watch over a Cabinet meeting and find out what politicians are really up to.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... The use of the word ‘incredible’ to describe things that are just ‘good’.

The film you can watch time and time again... I refuse to answer this. I’ve seen 12 to 15,000 films. Anybody who says there is one great film is an idiot.

The person who has influenced you most... My father Leslie. He left school at 14 and worked his way up to become a distinguished film director and producer. He taught me anything is possible. We had a wonderful relationship and I loved him deeply. He died aged 81 in 1993. 

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... To thine own self be true.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Cooking. I make a mean Christmas pudding from my mother Elizabeth’s recipe and I’ve been cooking them for 40 years. I’ll usually have three in the freezer ready for Christmas each year.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... The elasticity of my body. There was a time when I could run and jump but I’m 80 now and I just land with a thud.

The unending quest that drives you on... To do everything better than I did it the last time.

The poem that touches your soul... If by Rudyard Kipling is inspirational. 

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... People assume I can only talk about films. I have lots of opinions on other subjects.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Being made redundant by the Daily Mail in 1971. I’d been the showbusiness editor for 12 years. It turned out for the best because within a year I was presenting the BBC’s Film programme.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal a piece of Tutankhamun’s gold treasure from the museum in Cairo. It’s beautiful.

The song that means most to you... Diana liked I Love You Samantha, sung by Bing Crosby in High Society, so much we named our daughter Samantha.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... A night in Paris in the 90s when Diana and I were having dinner. We were both reading and it looked like we’d run out of things to say. But it was quite the contrary. That moment typified our companionship.

The saddest time that shook your world... Diana’s sudden death at the age of 77 on 27 January 2011. She died of heart failure in her sleep. We were married for 53 years and the pain was overwhelming.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To speak French. 

The philosophy that underpins your life... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have a service at All Saints in Datchworth, Hertfordshire. I’d like the hymn Lord Of The Dance to cheer people up and Abide With Me because we had that at Diana’s funeral. I’d be buried there alongside Diana. 

The way you want to be remembered... As a good husband, father and grandfather who was not bad at his job. 
The Plug...
My memoir See You In The Morning is out now published by Black Swan.  

 

Veteran Film Critic Barry Norman

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Published: 15 February 2014

Broadcaster Joan Bakewell:

‘My mother took a lot of things out on me and we had unresolved issues, but I wept for six months after she died’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s broadcaster Joan Bakewell’s turn

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My Victorian house in north London. I bought it in 1963 for £12,000 and it’s probably worth £4m now, but I have no intention of leaving. My children [Harriet, 52, and Matthew, 49] grew up here – it’s where I’ve nested.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Never learning to sing. I’ve belonged to many choirs over the years but have been told to keep quiet during certain songs because I’m out of tune.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d start with poached egg, croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee at the Wolseley in London, where I’d probably bump into old friends. Then I’d swim in crystal-clear waters at a stunning island hotel in the Maldives, and have lots of fresh seafood for lunch, followed by a snooze on the beach. In the afternoon I’d visit Florence and look at Botticelli’s painting La Primavera, before escaping to the hills overlooking the city for a chocolate ice cream. Later I’d fly to Kyoto in Japan with my children and six grandchildren [aged 14-22] for a huge Japanese meal with lots of local beer and sake. Then I’d watch Eugene Onegin at London’s Royal Opera House, with a glass of Bollinger in the interval, before ending the day catching up with the BBC news.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Dark chocolate in all its forms.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. It’s an inspirational story that every woman should read.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... The planners and developers destroying London’s skyline, especially around St Paul’s Cathedral. 

The film you can watch time and time again... Some Like It Hot. It’s such a clever screenplay with a plot within a plot, and it has a really brilliant cast.

The person who has influenced you most... My father Jack. He gave me endless encouragement, and knew the women of my generation would make a difference. He died of throat cancer about 20 years ago.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d go to the savannahs of Africa and wander among the great beasts such as giraffes, lions and wildebeests.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Adam Smith [the 18th-century economist and philosopher]. He helped found capitalism – I’d like him to know what ruin it’s brought to people.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Do no harm. 

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m interested in the life of Johnny Cash – his music, drugs and demons. He was a fascinating man.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My grandmother Charlotte’s Victorian gold watch. I lost it while hiking on Dartmoor in the 50s and was distraught.

The unending quest that drives you on... To lose half a stone!

The poem that touches your soul... Ithaca by Constantine P Cavafy. It reminds me that daily life, not what may be at the end of it, is the reward.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m somehow BBC property. I was only there for two years in the 50s and I’ve worked for all the major broadcasters ever since as a freelancer.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Gaining a scholarship to Newham College, Cambridge in 1951. I owe it everything.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I would steal Las Meninas [The Maids Of Honour] by Velázquez from Madrid’s Prado museum. It’s one of the world’s most intriguing paintings.

The song that means most to you... Jerusalem. I love it because I can actually sing it in tune!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Climbing The Old Man of Coniston fell in the Lake District when I was 14. The view from the top was so awesome it felt like a spiritual moment.

The saddest time that shook your world... The death of my mother Rose from leukaemia when she was 58 and I was 28. She took a lot of things out on me and we had unresolved issues, but I wept for six months after she died.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To study English literature to degree level.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Take each day as it comes and don’t waste it.

The order of service at your funeral...I’d like some poems read and a piece played from Rossini’s opera Stabat Mater, then for everyone to sing Jerusalem. I’d like my family to go punting in Cambridge and have a lovely picnic by the river, then scatter my ashes on the water.

The way you want to be remembered... As a terrific granny!

The Plug... My novel She’s Leaving Home is available now published by Virago.

 

 

Broadcaster Joan Bakewell

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Published: 8 February 2014

Culture Club singer Boy George:

‘Hearing David Bowie’s Quicksand when I was ten was life-changing’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s singer Boy George’s turn…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My house in Hampstead. I bought it in 1984 for £400,000 and it’s worth around £5m now. 

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not getting in touch with my dad before he died. We didn’t speak for two years after he left my mum, but he phoned me on the day of 9/11. I promised to call him back but I never did, then he died of a heart attack in 2004.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’m single at the moment, so I’d start the day with a gang of friends in New York. We’d have breakfast at the Four Seasons hotel there, then pile into a private jet and hang out in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I’d also rent out GoldenEye [the home once owned by James Bond creator Ian Fleming]. We’d party with a load of locals who’d cook jerk chicken. I don’t drink alcohol, so I’d have a virgin Pina Colada. Afterwards, we’d all go to Vrindavan in India, the birthplace of Krishna, and visit the Kusum Sarovara monument. I’d buy some beautiful fabrics in the markets then stop off in Vietnam because I’ve never been there. We’d end the day in Rio de Janeiro. We’d have dinner at a ‘raw’ restaurant – I’m a ‘raw vegan’, I eat mainly raw food and vegetable juices – then we’d go to a club and dance the night away. I feel a bit redundant in a club these days if I don’t do a DJ set, so I’d play some music before crashing out at the Copacabana Palace hotel.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Bread. I try to be gluten-free, but I do love a nice thick slice of toast. The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I came across it just as I got sober in 2008 and it had a massively positive effect on my life.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d pop into Parliament to see what our MPs are really up to. I’m appalled at how they waste so much of our money.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... People using their mobile phones in shops. It’s rude and ignorant.   

The film you can watch time and time again... Imitation Of Life from 1959 with Lana Turner. I’m into soppy films and they don’t get better than that.

The person who has influenced you most... David Bowie. I’ve loved him since I was ten. I had dinner with him in 2005, at Mr Chow in New York. We talked about everything from politics to Russian movies to EastEnders.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Diana Vreeland. She was the editor of Vogue in the 60s. Her gossip would be the best imaginable.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Respect your parents. 

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Rugby! I watch it even though I haven’t a clue what’s going on. I see a cute player, then Google him! 

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A hat with jewelled horns that was stolen in Mexico eight years ago. I often imagine some Mexican in a shack wearing it!
The unending quest that drives you on... To keep feeling good. I’ve gone from 19 stone to 14 stone since 2006. Raw food is the new rock ‘n’ roll.

The poem that touches your soul... Song Of Peace by George Bernard Shaw. It parallels eating animals with war.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m vain. I dress up because it’s fun, but I don’t sit around admiring myself.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Becoming famous. Since Culture Club appeared on Top Of The Pops in 1982 I’ve never had a day’s peace.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d break into Tony Blair’s office and find out why he got Britain into the Iraq war.

The song that means most to you... David Bowie’s Quicksand. Hearing it when I was ten was life-changing.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... My friend Amanda’s wedding day in May 2008. I’d got sober two months earlier and to be there in a decent state of mind was special.

The saddest time that shook your world... The day my dad died. 

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To sing with David Bowie, but I can’t see it happening. 

The philosophy that underpins your life... Remember you’re a Womble! I say it whenever I’m feeling down. 

The order of service at your funeral... I’d like a party with everyone dressed in plenty of colour and I’d want my ashes scattered on Hampstead Heath. 

The way you want to be remembered... As someone who helped change people’s attitudes towards sexuality.

The Plug... Boy George’s new single My God/Video Games from his album This Is What I Do is out now. Visit www.boygeorgeuk.com.

 

 

Culture Club Singer Boy George

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Published: 1 February 2014

Dynasty diva Joan Collins:

‘I’ll continue to have the lifestyle to which I have grown accustomed. I never intend to stop working’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s actress and author Joan Collins

 The prized possession you value above all others... A gold charm necklace I’ve had for more than 30 years. It’s got about 40 mementos on it given to me by loved ones – it’s full of memories.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Never learning French.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up at home in the South of France with Percy [Gibson, her fifth husband] and we’d have orange juice, croissants, jam and coffee. Later, I’d travel to Acapulco and go water-skiing, followed by a Margarita on the beach. Lunch would be at Club 55 in St Tropez with all the family – my three children [Tara, Sacha, and Katy] and my three grandchildren [aged nine-15]. I always have a salad Niçoise and the onion tart and we’d all have lashings of the local rosé. After that I’d go shopping in Paris, then nip into Selfridges on Oxford Street. I’d then have tea and cucumber sandwiches at Claridge’s. Strong tea for me. The evening would begin with a Cosmopolitan cocktail in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Dinner would be back in 19th-century Paris at Maxim’s, preferably at a fancy dress party so I can wear a wonderful gown. I’d go dancing at Loulou’s in Mayfair and then sleep at my London flat.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Watching old movies in the daytime. If I see a film with one of the greats like Barbara Stanwyck is on TV I have to watch it.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Oliver Twist. I read it by torchlight under the bed covers when I was 12. I love the detail in Dickens’ writing. You feel as if you’re there.  

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d eavesdrop on a meeting of casting directors as they decide why I won’t get a part.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Rudeness and arrogance.

The film you can watch time and time again... The Fabulous Baker Boys. When Michelle Pfeiffer sings while writhing on top of that piano, it’s probably the sexiest scene ever. 
The person who has influenced you most... My father Joe, who taught me that you make your own destiny.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Marie Antoinette. She could tell me who made her dresses!

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Eat life or life will eat you. Do not waste it by being a victim.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... People watching. I write novels and I love to sit in cafes observing how people interact.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A suitcase packed with my life’s memorabilia. It went missing in 1987 during my divorce from Peter Holm. It had all my diaries, photos and letters, including some from Warren Beatty when he was my fiancé.

The unending quest that drives you on... To continue to have the lifestyle to which I have grown accustomed. I never intend to stop working.

The poem that touches your soul... Desiderata by American writer Max Ehrmann. It contains all the wisdom you need to guide you in life.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m like my Dynasty character Alexis Carrington. She was cunning, devious, sexually predatory, and very cruel. I’m none of those things.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting the role of Alexis changed my life because it gave me international superstardom. 

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d rob the big banks and re-distribute the money.

The song that means most to you... The Way You Look Tonight – the version by Steve Tyrell. It was played at my wedding to Percy in 2002.  

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... My wedding to Percy. We had a reception at Claridge’s with everyone who matters to us. It was fabulous.

The saddest time that shook your world... When my youngest daughter [Katy] was hit by a car in 1980. She was in a coma for seven weeks. I thought I was going to lose her.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To own a private jet. It really is the only way to fly.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death. 

The order of service at your funeral... I will be happy for others to take care of the arrangements so long as there’s plenty to drink and lots of dancing.  

The way you want to be remembered... As someone who entertained people. 

The Plug... One Night With Joan is at Leicester Square Theatre until 9 February. www.leicestersquaretheatre.com. Her memoir Passion For Life and her eBooks are on sale now.

 

 

Dynasty Diva Joan Collins

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Published: 25 January 2014

Bestselling crime writer Patricia Cornwell:

‘I had four books rejected before I got accepted. There seems to be a feeling it was a breeze for me and it all comes easily. It doesn’t!’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s novelist Patricia Cornwell’s turn

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A poem I wrote when I was eight about Abraham Lincoln. It’s the only piece of memorabilia I have from my childhood, so it’s precious.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I didn’t study languages.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions..I’d wake up at my home in Miami with Staci [her wife, Staci Ann Gruber] and we’d watch the sunrise over the ocean from the balcony. I’d have two fried eggs with buttered white toast, crispy bacon and a glass of fresh orange juice. Then I’d fly us in a twin-engine Eurocopter over the sea to Key West. We’d be joined by a bunch of friends and scuba-dive. We’d have lunch back at Key West – I’d have steak with a baked potato. We’d spend the rest of the day in London. I’d check into a suite overlooking the Thames at The Savoy, then head to the V&A for an exhibition. We’d wander through the city looking in old bookshops before heading back to the hotel at sunset. I’d begin the evening with a cold gin and tonic in the American Bar. Dinner would be at The Savoy Grill, then we’d see a play in the West End. The day would end relaxing in the room with our British bulldog Tram in his own luxury Savoy basket! 

The temptation you wish you could resist... Fine wine and champagne, like a great Montrachet or Cristal.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. He describes what it’s like to be a writer so well.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d hang out in the locker rooms at Wimbledon to see how the great tennis players behave before a match.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Cruelty to animals in any form.

The film you can watch time and time again... A Fish Called Wanda. I never tire of laughing at it. It’s a great romp and I love its absurdity.

The person who has influenced you most... Billie Jean King. She was a hero of mine when I was growing up and I’m lucky to have been her friend for 20 years. I started to talk publicly about my relationship with Staci because of her amazing example.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Agatha Christie. I’d be fascinated to talk about her writing process.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... You’ll never be good at anything unless you’re bad at it first.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... The Cat In The Hat author Dr Seuss. I love his whimsy and have a wall full of his drawings.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... Some hand-sewn books I made from the age of five containing my first short stories. They got thrown out when we moved house when I was 17 and I was heartbroken.

The unending quest that drives you on...To get better at what I do.

The poem that touches your soul... The Waste Land by T S Eliot. It has a naked truth about the world.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I was an overnight success. I had four books rejected before I got accepted. There seems to be a feeling it was a breeze for me and it all comes easily. It doesn’t!

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Winning the John Creasy Memorial Award for Best First Crime Novel in 1990 for Postmortem – my career took off instantly. 

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d murder evil dictators and terrorists.

The song that means most to you... Pachelbel’s Canon. It touches my soul.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Meeting Staci in 2004. She was a neuroscientist at Harvard who was helping me with research. The moment she walked into the room I knew I had to get to know her. 

The saddest time that shook your world... I vividly remember the Christmas Day when I was five when I knew my father was leaving. I was all set to open my presents when there was an altercation between Mum, who’s 87 now, and Dad. Then I saw him with suitcases. I wrapped myself around his legs and screamed, "Daddy don’t go!" but he shook me loose and left.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To have movies made of my books.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Never abuse your power.

The order of service at your funeral... I wouldn’t want a formal church service, I’d want something relaxed. I’d like them to play Pachelbel’s Canon and Funeral For A Friend by Elton John.

The way you want to be remembered... As a decent person, and the author who created the forensic thriller genre.   

The Plug... Patricia’s new novel Dust is out now. Twitter @1pcornwell, www.patriciacornwell.com.  

 

Bestselling Crime Writer Patricia Cornwell

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Published: 18 January 2014

TV & radio presenter Nicholas Parsons:

‘I wish I kept tap dancing. I learnt it when I was 22 and I loved the freedom and spirit of it’

 

 We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: comedy legend Nicholas Parsons.

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A 19th-century French clock my father gave me when I was 17. It began a long-held love of clocks.

 The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I didn’t keep up tap dancing. I learnt it when I was 22 and I loved the freedom and spirit of it.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... My wife Annie and I would have breakfast on the Orient Express and enjoy the scenic journey to Venice. We’d have coffee in St Mark’s Square, then go to the Four Seasons hotel at Kuda Huraa in the Maldives. As this is my fantasy day I’d go water skiing – I loved it when I was younger, but I was 90 last October and my legs aren’t what they used to be! We’d be joined for a big lunch of Thai food by our four children [two each from previous marriages] and nine grandchildren, aged seven to 23. Annie and I would have afternoon tea at the Taj Mahal in India, then arrive at the La Mamounia hotel in Marrakech. I’d have a Campari and soda on the terrace then a delicious dinner of local delicacies. I’d end the day at home with a malt whisky.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Nuts, particularly macadamias. It’s not wise to eat too many.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee is so evocative of life in Britain after the First World War.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d see how my young grandchildren behave when they’re not being watched. 

 The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... American slang. Why do people use the word ‘kids’? It makes children sound like small goats!

The film you can watch time and time again... Casablanca. It has such drama, humour and pathos.

The person who has influenced you most... The Scottish actor Duncan Macrae. I met him when I was a teenager and he taught me how to interpret a role and how to project your voice.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Sir Francis Drake. I’d love to hear about his explorations in uncharted seas.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Work hard and be kind and forgiving. Remember that success is a journey, not a destination.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’ve loved repairing and restoring clocks since I was a teenager. I’m fascinated by the way the internal mechanics engage with one another to give you an accurate time. I find clocks quite beautiful.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A 19th-century bracket clock I restored when I was a teenager. It was stolen in 1956. I loved that clock and I still think about it.

The unending quest that drives you on... To keep working.

The poem that touches your soul... The Dong With A Luminous Nose by Edward Lear. It’s nonsense verse for children but has sadness buried within.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... People only know me as a presenter but I’ve been an actor for 68 years and had many successful years in the West End.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... When my parents sent me to do an engineering apprenticeship when I was 16. I was a lad from a public school thrown into a tough world. But it was great experience.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I don’t want to commit a crime. There’s a joy in achieving things legitimately.

The song that means most to you... Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You. I often call Annie to say just that but I spare her the singing!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... My 90th birthday party on 8 October. We had 200 guests to a party at a hotel in London. There was so much warmth and happiness, as well as some marvellous speeches.

The saddest time that shook your world... When my four-year-old daughter Suzy had a terrible skiing accident in 1962. It’s sheer horror to see your child slumped in the snow motionless. It still upsets me and I haven’t skied since.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To direct a film.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Try to get along with everyone.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d love to have the service at St Paul’s in Covent Garden, which is the actor’s church. I will want Jerusalem and I Vow To Thee My Country.

The way you want to be remembered... As a loving husband and a devoted father and grandfather.

The Plug... Just A Minute returns to Radio 4 on 10 February at 6.30pm. Visit www.nicholasparsons.co.uk for details of his Edinburgh tour.

 

 

 

TV & Radio Presenter Nicholas Parsons

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Published: 11 January 2014

Strictly dancer Anton du Beke:

 

‘I’m not gay!’ Anton du Beke on the misapprehension he wishes he could erase

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s Strictly dancer Anton du Beke

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My girlfriend Hannah. She’s a top marketing expert and we’ve been together since April 2012. I love her above all things.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... I wish I’d become a professional dancer sooner. I did other jobs – like baking – while dancing part-time, and didn’t commit until I was 29.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up at the Hotel de Paris in Monte-Carlo with Hannah and have breakfast in bed: muesli, poached eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. I’d play golf at Augusta, in Georgia, with my mate Jeff, Gary Player, Tiger Woods and Bruce Forsyth. For lunch, I’d go to Muxía in Spain where my mum, Ascension, is from. We’d be with my brother and sister – Stephen and Veronica – and our aunt would cook for all the family. In the afternoon I’d snorkel in the Seychelles with Hannah. Then I’d perform with my partner Erin Boag at the Albert Hall. I’d have dinner at The Ritz with Hannah and her family. I’d have the rack of lamb and a tonic water because I don’t drink, but everyone else can have the best wine. I’d end the day at home in Buckinghamshire with Hannah and Obi, our dachshund.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Spending. I go through money like a bloke with three arms. 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Fred Astaire’s autobiography Steps In Time. He’s a hero.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d be a fly on the wall in the dressing room during the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles this year.   

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise..Arrogance.

The film you can watch time and time again... The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse from 1953. Watching them dance inspired me.

The person who has influenced you most... John Del-Roy, my first serious dance coach when I was 17, who gave me confidence. He died two years ago.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Henry VIII. Can you imagine the stories that fella could tell?

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... The advice I got from John and from my mum. He said, ‘Get better’, and Mum said, ‘Keep going’.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Baking bread. I love doing it because it’s a real skill.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My youth. I’m 47 now and have a real fear of getting old and losing my faculties.

The unending quest that drives you on... To get better at everything I do. Top of the list is dancing, then golf. I normally play to a six handicap but I’d love to play off scratch.

The poem that touches your soul... The Charge Of The Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I came across it when I was a teenager and found it so harrowing, how these men were doomed to be slaughtered.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting the job on Strictly in 2004. Bruce Forsyth is my hero and the thought that I’d be in a TV show with him was incredible.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m gay! Hannah laughs at that one and even Erin thought I was a flopsy when we met. It might be because I mince about, but a little mince never does any harm!

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal a dance with the Queen. 

The song that means most to you... Me And My Shadow. Bruce and I danced to it on Strictly a few years ago, which was amazing.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Meeting Hannah in 2012. She is so beautiful, bright and funny. Maybe marriage is on the cards, but I should speak to her about that first!

The saddest time that shook your world... Not having a relationship with my father, Antal. He was an alcoholic and there was an argument on Boxing Day when I was 22. He left the house and I never saw or spoke to him again.  

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I wish Erin and I had won the World Ballroom Dance Championship. We came third once. 

The philosophy that underpins your life... Be polite and do the right thing. 

The order of service at your funeral... I’m a Catholic, so it would be in a church and everyone would come in to If My Friends Could See Me Now by Sammy Davis Jr. I’d like a tomb with a dressing room door and a sign saying, ‘Do Not Disturb’!

The way you want to be remembered... As a lovely fella and a great dancer.

The Plug...Anton is currently on tour in Ballroom To Broadway. Visit www.antonanderin.com.  

 

Strictly Dancer Anton Du Beke

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Published: 4 January 2014

TV chef Phil Vickery:

‘I’d pour a bucket of pig slurry over a couple of paparazzi who gave Fern a hard time when she left This Morning in 2009’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of chef Phil Vickery…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... Denver, my black Labrador. He goes everywhere with me.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I never learnt a language. At school I just wanted to cook.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d spend the day with Fern [his wife, TV presenter Fern Britton], starting with croissants and coffee at the quayside in St Tropez. Then we’d arrive at Buttermilk mountain in Aspen to ski with our kids [their daughter Winnie, 12, and – from Fern’s first marriage – twins Jack and Harry, 20, and Grace, 16]. Just the two of us would then have a romantic lunch at a restaurant on the island of Torcello across the lagoon in Venice. I’d have risotto primavera with lovely spring vegetables and a cold bottle of pinot grigio. In the afternoon, we’d go for a walk along Constantine Bay in Cornwall with Denver, then we’d have a few margaritas in the Elephant Bar at Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. For dinner we’d have a slap-up Indian meal at the Oberoi Hotel in Delhi. I’d have a few Tiger beers and end the day at home in Buckinghamshire with the family asleep upstairs while I watch Match Of The Day.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream on scones. It’s 60 per cent fat!

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Warne’s Everyday Cookery from 1936. I was 11 when the caretaker at school gave me a copy. That book put me on the path to my catering career. I still have it.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d help the goalkeeper at White Hart Lane and Tottenham would beat Arsenal 6-0. 

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... People not saying thank you. 

The film you can watch time and time again... The Magnificent Seven. Steve McQueen is so cool in it.

The person who has influenced you most... The chef Keith Floyd. I met him when I was 31 and he gave me two bits of advice, ‘If you’re on TV and you start thinking it’s real, you’re in trouble,’ and ‘You don’t get the sack in TV – they just stop calling you.’

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... The 19th-century French chef Alexis Soyer, who was the first celebrity chef. He was drafted in to feed the British Army during the Crimean War and he transformed how it was done and made soldiers proper food. 

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Life’s like a bank account. You can only take out what you put in.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Cutting the grass in the fields at our home. I love nothing more than getting on the tractor mower with Denver and keeping it nice. It’s a bit sad.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A pair of red ‘board’ shorts I bought in Australia when I was 23 – I learnt to surf in them. 

The unending quest that drives you on... To never be bored.  

The poem that touches your soul.. If by Rudyard Kipling is a classic.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... I hate being labelled a ‘celebrity chef’ because it’s often used by people who don’t think you can actually cook.  

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Suing a business partner in 1999. It was stressful, but I had to stand up for myself. I won.  

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d pour a bucket of pig slurry over a couple of paparazzi who gave Fern a hard time when she left This Morning in 2009.  

The song that means most to you... Living In The Past by Jethro Tull. Hearing that for the first time was the moment I discovered music.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When Fern kidnapped me in 1998! One Friday after filming Ready Steady Cook, she pulled up in her car and said, ‘Get in!’ She drove me to her house and we had a fantastic weekend. 

The saddest time that shook your world... The day in 2007 my brother Mike told me he had skin cancer. Thankfully he’s now got the all-clear. 

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I’m not driven by ambitions and never plan anything. 

The philosophy that underpins your life... Work hard, be nice to people and be happy with your lot.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d want a relaxed affair, with no one in black. I’d leave £500 behind the bar because some of my friends are quite tight. They can have one drink on me!

The way you want to be remembered... As a nice bloke who could cook a bit.

The Plug... Phil is working with Breville Creative Kitchen to encourage the nation to get creative with cooking. See www.brevillecreativekitchen.co.uk.

 

TV Chef Phil Vickery

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Published: 28 December 2013

Actress Amanda Burton:

‘I’m not a cold, serious person like many of the characters I’ve played. I’m actually a complete clown and quite a good laugh’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s actress Amanda Burton’s turn.

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A print of the 1914 photo Young Farmers by German August Sander. I love the image of three hard-working young men dressed up for a night out. There’s a sense of expectancy for what the night might bring.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I was such a grumpy cow in my 40s! I was juggling so many things I think I lost my sense of humour. I’m 57 now and feel full of laughter.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up in a chalet with a view of Mont Blanc and have pancakes and hot fruit salad. Then I’d take a magic carpet ride with my boyfriend Tim to an Indian Ocean island. We’d go sailing with my daughters – Phoebe, 24, and Brid, 22 – and friends and loved ones. Lunch would be at The Wolseley in Piccadilly – I’d have pink champagne and chicken with tarragon – and I’d spend the afternoon shopping in Paris. I’d have a mint tea beside the Bosphorus in Istanbul, a Turkish massage, then go horse riding with the girls on the beaches of Donegal with my whippets, Dashiell and Flora, running behind us. I’d end the day at home in west London with a glass of Benromach whisky.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Eating sweets, especially Liquorice Allsorts and Jelly Babies.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a grim book about the end of the world yet so calmly written.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d sit among a pack of wolves in the Canadian wilderness. They’re fascinating and mysterious creatures.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Listening to people chew, particularly popcorn eaters in the cinema.

The film you can watch time and time again... Fargo is wonderfully dark yet funny, and Frances McDormand is one of my favourite actresses.

The person who has influenced you most... Irish writer and director Brian Friel. I grew up reading his plays and seeing them in Derry at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It inspired me to choose acting as a career.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Jane Austen, because she was such an amazing woman and writer.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Be a good listener.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... The sky at night. When I was growing up I always used to be looking at it through my grandfather’s telescope, so I know it pretty well.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A box of birds’ eggs my father gave me when I was eight. He’d collected them as a boy. A few hours after I got the box I balanced it on a banister, but it fell off and every egg shattered. I was heartbroken.

The unending quest that drives you on... To love and to be loved.

The poem that touches your soul... Digging by Seamus Heaney.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m a cold, serious person like many of the characters I’ve played. I’m actually a complete clown and quite a good laugh.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... My divorce eight years ago [from photographer Sven Arnstein, following his affair]. We had been together for 20 years and my life fell apart. But I found myself in a way I really hold onto now. 

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d spring criminals from death row and offer them life jail sentences instead.

The song that means most to you...Danny Boy. It always gets to my heart and makes me cry. Also, Phoebe played it on the violin at my dad’s funeral.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... My parents giving me a 10 shilling note on my tenth birthday. We went to a high street full of little gift shops. I bought trinkets and was even allowed a Babycham in the pub.

The saddest time that shook your world... The death of my parents – my mum 12 years ago, aged 76, and Dad two years later aged 89. They had such a strong presence in my life.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To live self-sufficiently on a farm. It’s in the pipeline.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Keep your spirit light and go with the flow.

The order of service at your funeral... I expect my daughters will throw a great party. Maybe Phoebe can play Danny Boy on the violin, while Brid sings.

The way you want to be remembered... As a good mum.

The Plug... The final episode of Amanda Burton’s Killer Forensics is repeated on Monday at 9pm on Investigation Discovery (Sky 522 and Virgin 214).

 

Actress Amanda Burton

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Published: 14 December 2013

Zoologist and polymath Desmond Morris:

‘Because I’ve studied human body language people think I can’t be relaxed and natural’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s zoologist Desmond Morris…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My great-grandfather’s Victorian brass microscope, which I found in the attic when I was ten. It started my fascination with nature.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not being multilingual. I can speak a bit of French and Spanish, but I’m 85 now and I’ve given up hope of speaking anything else fluently.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... My wife Ramona and I would wake up at a game lodge in Maralal, Kenya, and watch the zebra stallions arguing over their females. I’d have a full English breakfast, then we’d go to the Prado museum in Madrid to enjoy Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden Of Earthly Delights.

We’d have lunch at Bofinger in Paris: a seafood platter with a glass of white wine, then go snorkelling over the coral reefs off the island of Embudu Village in the Maldives. We’d be joined by our son Jason, his wife Annie, and our four grandchildren, aged nine to 16. In the evening Ramona and I would go to Raffles Hotel in Singapore for a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar before dining on Argentine beef at the Esquina Carlos Gardel Theatre in Buenos Aires while watching an Argentinian tango. At midnight we’d go to a jazz club in New Orleans.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Fox’s Glacier mints. They have replaced cigarettes for me. I smoked for 30 years but gave up in 1982. I’m sure the mints are doing me some damage  but at my age I don’t care.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Disasters Of War by the painter Francisco Goya. I found these horrific images of torture and death in the school library when I was 16. It confirmed my youthful suspicion that humans were, as I wrote in a school essay, ‘monkeys with diseased brains’.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d enjoy not being able to see my ageing body.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Action movies with levels of violence that numb the brain.

The film you can watch time and time again... Laurel And Hardy’s The Music Box from 1932. I used to laugh myself sick at it when I was a child.

The person who has influenced you most... Ian Hamilton, my school biology teacher. He taught me to seek out unanswered questions.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Charlie Darwin. His concept of evolution has dominated my thinking since I started studying animals in 1949.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Ignore adults’ wisdom!

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Drumming. I played drums when I was 16 and I still have one of my tom-toms from that era.   

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A batch of paintings I made when I was 19. I put them on the roof of my car while loading it up then forgot about them and drove off. I often wonder if they were ever discovered and kept by someone.

The unending quest that drives you on... To visit every country in the world.

The poem that touches your soul... Snake by DH Lawrence because it shows a man discovering the wonder of a creature he is supposed to fear.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m always examining people. Because I’ve studied human body language people think I can’t be relaxed and natural. 

The event that altered the course of your life and character... My father Harry’s death when I was 14. He died at 48 because his lungs were ruined by gas in WWI. It gave me a hatred of war.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d drive at 100mph along a deserted motorway. I used to do a ‘ton on the one’ when the M1 opened in 1959 with no speed limit.

The song that means most to you... Imagine by John Lennon. His lyrics contain a very important message.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... When my book The Naked Ape became a bestseller in 1967.      

The saddest time that shook your world... The death of a tame Chinese water deer called Psyche in 1977. She had crippling arthritis and I held her while the vet gave her the injection. Her look haunts me to this day.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To paint one perfect picture and to write one perfect book.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Never stop asking questions.  

The order of service at your funeral... I won’t be there, so I couldn’t care less. 

The way you want to be remembered... He tried to tell the truth about human and animal behaviour. And as an artist.

The Plug... My new book The Artistic Ape – Three Million Years Of Art is published by Red Lemon Press, £30. Visit www.redlemonpress.com

 

Zoologist And Polymath Desmond Morris

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Published: 9 December 2013

Footballer manager Harry Redknapp:

‘I’m a compulsive bird feeder! I won’t leave for work until I’ve fed them – I hate to think of them going hungry. Bit mad, innit?’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: football manager Harry Redknapp 

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My bulldog Lulu (pictured). I’m a real softie and love going for a walk with her. That’s how I unwind.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Not convincing my parents, Harry and Violet, to move from their flat in the East End of London to our house in Dorset for their last years. Their flat in Stepney was covered in security bars. Mum died eight years ago after a series of strokes and Dad died two years later from cancer, at 82.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin the day with my wife Sandra at the Caruso hotel in Ravello, Italy. I’d have a full English on the terrace while looking at the Amalfi Coast, then walk into the town for a coffee. I’d take our grandchildren – I’ve got seven aged four to 14 – to Disney World in Florida. Lunch would be double pie and mash with liquor [parsley sauce] at Kelly’s in Bethnal Green. Then I’d have jellied eels at two legendary stalls in Aldgate – one is owned by Tubby and the other by Barney. I’d have spicy lobster pasta for dinner at Pitrizza hotel in Sardinia with red wine. I’d end the day in Lapland with the grandkids going on a sleigh ride to meet Father Christmas.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Buying racehorses. I’ve got nine and it’s very expensive, but I love it. 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Bobby Charlton’s autobiography. He’s an icon of football.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d hang around the dressing room at QPR to hear what the players say about me.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... People running down Britain. This country is a fantastic place.

The film you can watch time and time again... The Godfather. I love that gangster stuff, which is probably a throwback to growing up in the East End. 

The person who has influenced you most... My dad. He was a docker but he was also passionate about sport. He taught me to be fair and honest.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Muhammad Ali. He was The Greatest and was poetry in motion.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Manners maketh man.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m a compulsive bird feeder! You’ll see me out in the dead of winter at 5am, filling up our bird feeders and tables. We have about 30 and I can easily spend 80 quid on bird food a fortnight in the pet shop. I won’t leave for work until I’ve fed them – I hate to think of them going hungry. Bit mad, innit?

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A gold Omega watch I was given when I won the Junior World Cup with England in 1963. I was in a crash in Italy in 1990 and the watch was gone when I woke up in hospital.

The unending quest that drives you on... For my grandchildren to grow up into clean-cut, good-natured adults.

The poem that touches your soul... I’d be lying if I said I read poetry.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m a jack-the-lad wheeler-dealer. I’ve been saddled with that because I have a cockney accent but I’m straight and honest.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... That car crash during the World Cup in 1990. Our minibus was hit by another car. My friend [former footballer] Brian Tiler died and I had a fractured skull. It was horrific and taught me to value every day.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d rob anyone who is cruel to animals of their savings and give it to animal charities.

The song that means most to you... Barry White’s Just The Way You Are reminds me of Sandra. We’ve been married for 47 years. When thinking of me, she’ll probably relate to the line ‘I don’t want clever conversation!’

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Meeting Sandra at a disco at the Two Puddings in Stratford in 1963 when I was 16. I’d be lost without her.

The saddest time that shook your world... When Sandra’s sister Pat [mother of footballer Frank Lampard] died from pneumonia in 2008. It was awful to see the kids so heartbroken.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To lead a football team to the Premiership title. 

The philosophy that underpins your life... Be nice to people on the way up because you might meet them again on the way down. 

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have a church service with Abide With Me because it reminds me of the FA Cup final. I want my ashes laid to rest overlooking the sea near Bournemouth.

The way you want to be remembered... As someone who had time for everyone. 

The Plug... Always Managing by Harry Redknapp, Ebury Press, £20.  

 

 

Footballer Manager Harry Redknapp

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Published: 30 November 2013

TV chef Lorraine Pascale:

 

‘My unending quest? To be at peace in myself. I’ve had challenges which brought insecurities like fear of rejection, abandonment, and never feeling worthy.’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s TV cook Lorraine Pascale’s turn… 

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My teddy bear Gosy. I’ve had him since I was eight. I was adopted when I was 18 months old and then fostered when I was eight [after her adoptive mother became ill. She later returned to her]. I had ups and downs, but Gosy was my constant companion.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I didn’t go to university after school. I made up for it last year though with a first-class honours degree in Culinary Arts Management.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin with a swim in the ocean off Byron Bay, Australia, then I’d join my daughter Ella, 17, for breakfast by the beach with my partner Neil and his three children. I’d have pancakes with bacon, blueberries and maple syrup. Later I’d go for a walk in the Cotswolds, near where I was raised in Oxfordshire, and have scampi and chips with ketchup and tartare sauce and a glass of dry white wine in a country pub. In the afternoon I’d hang out in the old quarter of Barcelona, eating tapas, people-watching and drinking rosé. I wouldn’t drink too much because I’m way gone after two glasses! Dinner would be fillet steak with peppercorn sauce followed by cheesecake and the apple tarte tatin at Le Gavroche in London. I’d end the day at home in west London with friends, watching a DVD.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Soft blue cheese, especially Saint Agur from M&S.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s a remarkable account about surviving Auschwitz, which I’ve read at least ten times.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d watch Albert Roux cook lunch and Michel Roux Jr cook dinner at Le Gavroche. They are the masters of cooking.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... People who don’t say thank you!

The film you can watch time and time again... Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. I saw it with Ella and we were blown away.

The person who has influenced you most... My adoptive mother Audrey. She taught me to believe in the impossible and the value of hard work. She’s 80 now and has dementia but she was very feisty and a real inspiration.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Ella Fitzgerald – her voice totally captivates me. My daughter was born the year she died, 1996, and was named after her.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Don’t get stuck in a job – do what you love and the rest will follow.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Cars! I’m a petrolhead and was a trainee mechanic in my early 20s so I’m pretty useful under the bonnet.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My ability to eat like a horse without putting on weight. In my 20s I could eat anything and never put on a pound. These days [she’s 41] I spend a lot of time on the treadmill.

The unending quest that drives you on... To be at peace in myself. I’ve had challenges which brought insecurities like fear of rejection, abandonment, and never feeling worthy. Life’s great now, so I’m closer to finding contentment.

The poem that touches your soul... Broken Dreams by Anonymous. It tells you to let go of a situation, then things will sort themselves out.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I don’t eat the food I make! I’m 5ft 10½in, so maybe I look slimmer than I am.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Joining a ten-week course at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London in 2005. I’d been a successful model but was unhappy. I fell in love with cooking on the course.  

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d break into Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly and eat my way round the aisles.

The song that means most to you... There Must Be An Angel by Eurythmics. It came out in 1985 when I was almost 13 and starting to feel grown up.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Ella’s birth. She was the first person I’d ever met who shared the same blood as me.

The saddest time that shook your world... Falling out with a dear friend at 21. The next day I looked in the mirror and realised it was me who was the problem. That was when I realised the impact my childhood was having on my life and decided to get counseling.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To one day have a big, normal, happy family.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Remain true to yourself and stick to your beliefs.  

The order of service at your funeral... I’d have it at a Methodist Church with Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen and Go West by the Pet Shop Boys. There’d be a ‘bring a dish’ party and I want my ashes scattered in Byron Bay – an incredible place from which to float away.

The way you want to be remembered... For my food. For loving it, sharing it and for teaching people how to cook it.

The Plug... A Lighter Way To Bake by Lorraine Pascale, HarperCollins, £20. Visit www.lorrainepascale.com.

 

 

TV Chef Lorraine Pascale

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Actor Brian Cox – Desert Island Pics. Event, Mail on Sunday

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Published: 23 November 2013

Author and Foyle’s War creator Anthony Horowitz:

‘My biggest regret? Meeting Harvey Weinstein! I found him seriously repellant and because of him there is only one Alex Rider movies instead of 10.’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Foyle’s War creator and novelist Anthony Horowitz…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... Our 100-year-old weekend retreat in Orford, Suffolk. My wife Jill [TV producer Jill Green] and I bought it in an auction in 2002 for £200,000. It’s basically an old wooden boat shed with only one bedroom, but it’s right by the sea, with amazing views.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Meeting Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein in 2005. He went on to make Stormbreaker – the film of my first book about teenage spy Alex Rider – and it wasn’t a happy experience. I found him repellent.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin with scrambled eggs at Orford with Jill and our sons Nicholas, 24, and Cassian, 22. I’d write until midday then walk along the coast, ending at Orford Castle. I’d have a dog with me to replace Lucky, our chocolate Labrador, who died two years ago. Jill and I would have grilled lobster for lunch at The Inn hotel, Antigua, then I’d swim and scuba dive. Later we’d shop in New York, then stroll through the Museum of Modern Art. We’d go riding and watch the sunset at Wadi Rum valley, Jordan. After a gin and tonic by Sydney Harbour, we’d watch Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Opera House. We’d end the day at Chez Georges bar in Agios Nikolaos, Crete, drinking Metaxa brandy, which only seems to taste nice in Greece!

The temptation you wish you could resist... Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Go-Between by LP Hartley. It’s about thwarted childhood and is everlastingly sad. I was 15 when I read it and it started me on my journey towards reading great literature. 

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d walk into Sir John Chilcot’s home and read his report into the Iraq war, then publish it for the world to see. It’s a monumental scandal that it hasn’t been published. I think the Establishment has stopped it because it finally nails Tony Blair.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Chuggers – people who collect for charity in the street. I loathe their insincerity and lack of knowledge.

The film you can watch time and time again... Cabaret. Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles is amazing, the script is wonderful and the choreography and music are absolutely astonishing.

The person who has influenced you most... My wife. We’ve been married 25 years and she’s steered me through all the trials of being a writer. She’s my mental guru and best friend.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Shakespeare. I’d like to know how he managed to write so much.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Most adults are idiots and you’re much smarter than them.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’ve studied the history of magic – it’s fascinating to know how it works. I own lots of props, but never per-form it. There’s something creepy about people who do – look at Paul Daniels!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My collection of nearly 500 Marvel comics. I had all the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man editions from No. 1 onwards. Removal men stole them when we moved when I was 17.

The unending quest that drives you on... For my next book to be better than the previous one.

The poem that touches your soul...This Is The First Thing by Philip Larkin. It has only four lines but it holds a great truth about life and death.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... Many people have pigeonholed me as either the writer of Foyle’s War or Alex Rider – I’ve written many other things.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... The birth of my first son, Nicholas, when I was 33. It shifted me up a generation and changed the way I saw the future.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I‘d blow up Maggi Hambling’s Scallop sculpture on Aldeburgh beach. It’s so trite and twee.

The song that means most to you... The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. Their music was the background to my childhood.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... The moment we won the auction to buy our Suffolk house.

The saddest time that shook your world... When my mother Joyce told me she had pancreatic cancer at 65. I was inconsolable. She lived another 18 months but died in 1990. She believed in my ideas and inspired me to write.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To have a play  performed at the National Theatre.

The philosophy that underpins your life... To try to be good and helpful. 

The order of service at your funeral... If I have my way there won’t be a funeral, but I won’t be too unhappy if I’m buried in the cemetery at St Bartholomew’s Church in Orford. That’s a decent spot!

The way you want to be remembered... As the author of the Alex Rider series, which I believe helped get a generation of children reading.

The Plug... My new Alex Rider novel, Russian Roulette, is out now published by Walker Books in hardback, digital and audio formats. Visit www.anthony horowitz.com.

 

Author And Foyle’s War Creator Anthony Horowitz

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Published: 16 November 2013

TV Property expert Sarah Beeny:

‘Going to a hen party in 2001 where a girl asked me to screen test for Property Ladder changed my life’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s TV property guru Sarah Beeny

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My photographs, especially from my childhood.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Giving up learning the piano when I was 14. These days I look on in awe and envy when I see someone playing. But I’ve just bought a ukulele.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d start with breakfast in bed with my husband, Graham, and the boys – Billy, nine, Charlie, seven, Rafferty, five,  and Laurie, three – at our home in south London. I’d have Marmite on toast, cut in squares with the crusts trimmed off! Then we’d go skiing in Austria. Graham and I would have lunch – no kids! – at Bucci’s restaurant in Balham. I’d have oysters and mussels with Chablis. Then we’d all go for a walk in the mountains in the South of France, paddling and fishing with nets. I wouldn’t mind a glass of prosecco somewhere romantic in Italy before driving to the Welsh countryside in our new Fiat Ducato motorhome. We’d go for another walk, then back to the van for a round of the card game Uno and to cook sausages and marshmallows on an open fire. I’d finish at Rise Hall [her Yorkshire stately home], which has the best sunsets ever.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Saying inappropriate things at the wrong time. People look at me and think, ‘Did she really say that?’.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss. It’s about taking opportunities and having a free spirit.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’ve got a major crush on Antonio Banderas, so I’d follow him to see what he’s like.

The pet-hate that makes your hackles rise... Petty bureaucracy. I can’t stand being told what to do.

The film you can watch time and time again... How To Train Your Dragon. It’s pure escapism and even has a happy ending, which I always prefer!

The person who has influenced you most... My husband Graham. I’m 41 and we’ve been together since I was 19. He’s fearless – he’s calm about a business failing. He says, ‘As long as we have enough to make beans on toast, we’ll be fine.’

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Elizabeth I. I’d like to know how she coped with the loneliness her power brought.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Positive things happen to positive people.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Lizards. There’s something so prehistoric about them. I want a pet iguana, but Graham won’t let me.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A silver bracelet decorated with daisies and red stones, which was given to me when I was five. It got broken at a party when I was 18.

The unending quest that drives you on... To finally be on top of everything! My inbox would be empty, all the cupboards tidied, the house sorted, the financial books organised. I’ll be dead before it happens, then it won’t matter!

The poem that touches your soul... The Highwayman by Anonymous. My mother, Ann, read it to me when I was seven and it always reminds me of her. She died from breast cancer when she was 39 and I was only ten in 1982.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m bossy. When people meet me they think I’ll start telling them what to do. But I’m quite relaxed. I’m just a busy mum, working hard and feeding my kids.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Going to a hen party in 2001 where a girl asked me to screen test for Property Ladder. I got the job and my TV career took off.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d force everyone who sends an unnecessary email to give me £1. I’d get rich quickly.

The song that means most to you... Shut Up And Kiss Me by US country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter. I sing it to my kids and it makes them giggle.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Walking into Rise Hall in February 2000. It cost £430,000 and we’d swapped a three-bed house in Battersea for it. Now it’s a thriving wedding venue business and an amazing home. 

The saddest time that shook your world... Seeing my dad Richard [now 72] crying after Mum died. We’d all gone away for a last weekend shortly before she died and Dad was crying because he hadn’t put film in his camera properly, so none of the photos we’d taken had come out. It was agonising.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To finish my children’s book. I’m determined to have it published by the end of 2014.

The philosophy that underpins your life... You regret the things you didn’t do in life, not the things you did.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d like a church service with classic hymns and the family could bury me next to Mum or wherever feels right. I’d like a champagne reception at Rise Hall.

The way you want to be remembered... As someone who was smiley and kind.

The Plug... Sarah supports Savvy Switch, LED Hut’s campaign for householders to switch to eco-friendly LED light bulbs. Visit www.ledhut.co.uk or follow @LEDHutLtd on Twitter.

TV Property Expert Sarah Beeny

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Published: 9 November 2013

Wine guru Oz Clarke:

‘I’m not just the "wine man". I was an actor and a singer for ten years in the 70s and 80s and played big parts on the West End stage, like the male lead in Evita’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s wine guru Oz Clarke’s turn…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... The prospectus for Oxford University in 2011 because the cover had a map of the city with the streets renamed after famous former students. My name is bang in the middle of the city near Sir Walter Raleigh and Oscar Wilde. To have my name among such luminaries fills me with pride.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... The years I missed not having my father, Owen, in my life. He died when he was 62 from a virus when I was in my mid-20s. It was such a tremendous shock to lose him.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d watch the sunrise from the top of the white cliffs of Dover and have breakfast in the National Trust cafe up there – fresh, local fried eggs, bacon and sausages. Then I’d arrive at Picinguaba in Brazil, a fishing village between Rio and São Paolo. It’s the most spectacular spot in the world to swim. I’d have fresh fish cooked at a local bar for lunch with a few cold Brazilian beers, like Brahma. In the afternoon I’d go to Port Willunga in South Australia for another swim. I’d then go to the nearby McLaren Vale vineyard for a bottle of d’Arenberg red. I’d end the day in a hut in the Namibian desert. You can sleep on the roof surrounded by sand dunes and the most beautiful night sky you’ll ever see.

The temptation you wish you could resist... I adore potatoes in all their cooked forms. Boiled, mashed, roasted and, of course, chunky chips fried in lard at an old-fashioned chip shop.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Hard Times by Dickens. I read it when I was ten. I had a middle-class upbringing in Canterbury, Kent, and that book opened up a different world, one of suffering and endurance.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d stand beside the conductor John Eliot Gardiner during a performance. He brings such emotion out of his musicians. I’d like to get inside his head to understand how he does it. Pure genius.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Cheating of any kind in life, but particularly in sport.

The film you can watch time and time again... The Big Lebowski with Jeff Bridges. I love the way his character always stands up for honesty. The person who has influenced you most... My father. He was very religious and he taught me to be good.   

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Charles Dickens. I’m fascinated by 19th-century Britain and I’d love to hear him talk about it and for him to tell me how he found his characters. I’d insist on having a pie and pint from his time, then let him taste them from 2013. I think his would be much tastier!

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Do to others as you will have them do to you.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Railways. There was a railway line at the end of my garden when I was a boy and I’d dream of it taking me to wonderful places and it made me want to be a train driver. My dad said I’d only earn £10 a week, but I thought that sounded plenty!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... Time.

The unending quest that drives you on... To communicate with audiences.

The poem that touches your soul... The Lake Isle of Innisfree by WB Yeats always brings me a sense peace.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m just the ‘wine man’. I was an actor and a singer for ten years in the 70s and 80s and played big parts on the West End stage, like the male lead in Evita.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting into Oxford. I was released from the straightjacket of a middle-class upbringing. My mum, Kitty, wanted me to be a lawyer, but at Oxford I met other free spirits and it opened up the chance of making a living from my hobbies.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d dismantle all health and safety laws.

The song that means most to you...The Irish folk song She Moved Through The Fair. It reminds me of my mum, who was Irish. She died ten years ago in her late 80s and I sang it at her funeral.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... My wedding at Canterbury Cathedral, where I was a choir leader as a boy, in 1998. I never thought I’d get married, but I did and it was amazing.

The saddest time that shook your world... The events of 9/11 really shook my natural optimism and put an element of despair in my soul.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I’m 64 now and  just want to keep doing more – more wine, filming, writing and travelling.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Carpe diem. Fill every day.  

The order of service at your funeral...I’d like a church service with Cwm Rhondda – Bread Of Heaven – sung by a huge Welsh choir. I’d like my ashes buried next to my parents in the memorial garden at Canterbury Cathedral.

The way you want to be remembered...As a generous, fair and happy man who helped democratise wine in Britain.

The Plug... Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Book 2014 is published by Pavilion, £11.99. Visit www.ozclarke.com.

 

Wine Guru Oz Clarke

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Published: 2 November 2013

Actor and Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp:

‘I regret how Spandau Ballet finished in 1990 with us suing one another. We’d been mates since childhood so to have all those great years end in animosity was upsetting’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: actor and musician Martin Kemp…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My iPhone. I’m 52 and come from a generation that didn’t have these things, so I know how difficult the world was without them. I travel a lot and use it to keep in touch with my family. I’d be lost without it.

The unqualified regret you wish you could amend... The way Spandau Ballet finished in 1990 with us suing one another. We’d been mates since childhood so to have all those great years end in animosity was upsetting. Thankfully, we got back together in 2009 and sorted it all out.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... My wife Shirlie and I would wake up at Château Miraval in the south of France. We’d have croissants and coffee on the terrace, then get in an old Porsche 911 and drive along the coast road to San Remo in Italy for lunch.

I’d have pasta with garlic and oil. In the afternoon, we’d chill on St James beach in Barbados with the kids – our daughter Harley Moon, 24, and son Roman, 20. I’d begin the evening in Monte Carlo with some champagne, then head to a casino for a game of blackjack. I’d fly back to Barbie for dinner at The Cliff with all the family. I’d have lobster and a few glasses of decent sauvignon blanc.

The temptation you wish you could resist... I’m a pig when it comes to chocolate. Dairy Milk is my weakness. 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Self-help book The Road Less Travelled by M Scott Peck. Shirlie gave it to me when I was recovering from two brain tumours in 1995. It calmed me.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d sit in when Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger is talking to the directors. For once, I’d have inside information rather than be a typical fan surviving off rumours.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... I hate it when people go outside for a fag then come back and puff smoke from their last drag into the room.

The film you can watch time and time again... Goodfellas is the best gangster movie. Ray Liotta is outstanding and I used a lot of his performance when I played Steve Owen in EastEnders.

The person who has influenced you most... Anna Scher [the legendary drama teacher]. My mum sent me to her drama school when I was eight because I was shy. Anna gave me confidence.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Adolf Hitler. I’d simply like to look into his eyes and ask him ‘Why?’

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... The Three Ps: Professionalism, Punctuality and Preparation.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m a total geek and I love reading gadget magazines. My latest fixation is 4K TV. It’s like HD TV gone berserk – I’ve got to get one.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My red 1969 4.2 litre E-Type Jaguar. I bought it in 1988 for £12,000 and a year later sold it back to the same guy for £20,000. It’d be worth £100,000 now.

The unending quest that drives you on... Just to keep going professionally.

The poem that touches your soul... I’ve never been into poetry, but the lyrics to David Bowie’s Lady Stardust, about a pop star, are very poetic.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Discovering that I had brain tumours. My life had been going so perfectly and then, boom! Going through all that did teach me to really value the good times.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m Gary Kemp! I have had long conversations with people who think they are talking to Gary and I’ve not even bothered correcting them. I’m past explaining it and so is Gary, who is always getting called Martin!  â€¨The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal the Millennium Star diamond.  

The song that means most to you... My One Temptation by Mica Paris from 1988. When I hear it I always have an image of Shirlie in a tiny white dress on the back of a pick-up truck coming to marry me on top of a cliff in St Lucia.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... The day in 1983 when us Spandau lads found out True was No 1.

The saddest time that shook your world... The joint funeral for my mum and dad in 2009 [Eileen, 77, and Frank, 79]. They died within four days of each other from heart attacks. It was so unreal and devastating to know I’d never see either of them again.  

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To star in a perfect film that stands the test of time.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Don’t burn your bridges.

The order of service at your funeral... I’m an atheist, so don’t want anything religious. I’d like Lady Stardust, My One Temptation and to be taken out to Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. I’m sure my ashes will end up in the garden with Mum and Dad and some of our dogs.

The way you want to be remembered... As a nice guy. That’s all that matters.

The Plug... I have two films out next year – Assassin with Danny Dyer and Gary and Top Dog, which I’m directing. You can follow me on Twitter @realmartinkemp.

Actor And Spandau Ballet Star Martin Kemp

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Published: 26 October 2013

Blue Peter legend Valerie SIngleton:

‘I’m gay? It’s utter, total, stupid nonsense. I’ve always gone out with men, probably far too many. If I wrote the real story of my life it would totally shock a lot of people’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: Blue Peter legend Valerie Singleton

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A painting by the English artist Edna Bizon of a cow eating straw that I bought in the 80s for £500. I live next to a farm in Dorset, so it’s fitting. It’s very realistic and she stares back at me in my breakfast room.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I have been such a spendthrift and not saved for my old age. When I have had money in the past, I always enjoyed spending it. If I hadn’t done that, I’d be a lot richer now, but I’m still very comfortable. I am 76 and I need to keep working, but that’s fine because I feel 56 and love what I do. I enjoy working, so it’s not a problem for me. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin with a drive along Dorset’s Jurassic coast. I’d then have breakfast at the Hive Beach Cafe at Burton Bradstock. From there I’d arrive in Alaska in the depths of winter. I’d look around the art galleries and at the ice sculptures, and hopefully see some moose. I’d take a high-speed snowmobile ride across the ice – it can be scary but very exciting! After that, I’d do a whistle-stop tour of two of my favourite cities – Vancouver and Boston. I’d have a delicious dinner in Bologna with friends, then end the day back in Alaska at the Chena Hot Springs relaxing in a big outdoor Jacuzzi while watching the Northern Lights.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Designer chocolates shaped like new potatoes made by Rococo, in Chelsea. They’re divine – but not cheap! 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Prospero’s Cell by Lawrence Durrell about his time in Corfu in the late 30s. It reminds me of a holiday there in 1976 when I bumped into Lawrence and had lunch with him. Later he posted me a signed copy of the book, which I will always treasure.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day... I’d eliminate all the awful dictators.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... The way London Underground stations are organised so that everyone bumps into one another.

The film you can watch time and time again... Roman Holiday. I’ve always adored Audrey Hepburn. When I was 22 I had a nose job and asked the surgeon to make the new one just like Hepburn’s – but he said it wasn’t possible!

The person who has influenced you most... An art teacher called Albert Adams. I did a two-year History of Art course in the mid-80s and he taught me how to appreciate paintings.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Jesus Christ. On a basic level, I’d love to know what he looked like. On a bigger level, I’d ask him if he approved of all the things that have happened in his name. Just imagine the conversation!

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Have a go and do not fear failure because at the very least you will have tried.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Astronomy. I like to lie on a sun lounger looking at the stars. Recently I saw a meteor with a great spray of white. Amazing!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A rubies and pearls ring my parents gave me for my 21st birthday. It cost £12.50 – a fortune in 1958. It vanished from the Blue Peter studio.

The unending quest that drives you on... To never lose my curiosity.

The poem that touches your soul... I’m moved by this line written by a young girl that was translated from Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, ‘You did not come to the river tonight. I think you do not love me any more.’

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m gay! It’s utter, total, stupid nonsense. I’ve always gone out with men, probably far too many. If I wrote the real story of my life it would totally shock a lot of people, but I’m not brave enough.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting the job on Blue Peter in 1962 was wonderful and changed everything.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal Claude Monet’s The Magpie painting from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

The song that means most to you... What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. It makes me want to dance.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Buying my flat in Fulham in 1985. It gave me a great sense of security as well as freedom. I sold the flat in 2005 and moved to Dorset.

The saddest time that shook your world... The death of my mother Eileen. She died of septicaemia in hospital after a fall. She was 84.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To have at least one more successful romance before I die! But I only really like men who are much younger than me.

The philosophy that underpins your life... To live in the moment.

The order of service at your funeral... My body’s going to medical research but whatever’s left I’d like to be cremated. I’ve left my friends specific things in my will and they can fight over the rest. 

The way you want to be remembered... She was always great fun to be with. 

The Plug... I am a director of Simplicity Computers, which has developed software called Envelope that makes computers easier to use. Visit www.simplicitycomputers.co.uk.

 

Blue Peter Legend Valerie SIngleton

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Published: 19 October 2013

F1 commentator Murray Walker:

‘I would love to follow Bernie Ecclestone round for the day. I have known him for 50 years but I still don’t really know him. He’s an enigma’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: F1 commentator Murray Walker…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My OBE, which was presented to me by the Queen in 1996. I’m fervently patriotic, so I was very proud when I got it. When I met Her Majesty she smiled and said, ‘I seem to have been listening to you for a long time!’

The big regret you wish you could amend... That I never raced in the Isle of Man TT motorbike race. My father Graham won it in 1931. I was a good club racer on bikes but it’s a demanding race and I didn’t have the nerve.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up with Elizabeth – my wife of 53 years – at the Four Seasons Hotel overlooking Sydney Harbour. We don’t have children, so it would be just us all day. We’d have breakfast – muesli, fruit and coffee for me – looking at the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from the balcony of our room. I’d then arrive in the Scottish Highlands for a walk near Ben Nevis. I’d also like to explore Wales, which I don’t know well. We’d have lunch on a boat on the Danube in Hungary, then I’d go to Spa to watch my friend Nigel Mansell win the Belgian Grand Prix, before a cream tea at the Chewton Glen Hotel near our home in Hampshire. We’d have an aperitif somewhere classically Italian in Milan and dinner looking at Table Mountain in Cape Town with a few glasses of local shiraz red wine.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Watching too much television. I can easily watch four hours a day.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Nuvolari – the biography of the pre-war Italian racing driver Tazio Nuvolari. He made cars do things they were not intended to do.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d follow F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone around to see what he’s really like. He’s an enigma.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Being tailgated on the motorway. It’s dangerous, stupid and intolerable.

The film you can watch time and time again... Chicago with Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger. I love the music, the choreography and the zany storyline.

The person who has influenced you most... A man called Jack Wynne-Williams. I worked for his advertising agency in my mid-30s and he taught me how to work with people.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Winston Churchill. I’d be awestruck, but I’d love to talk to him about the planning of D-Day.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... The same piece of advice my father gave me when I was about 12, ‘It doesn’t matter what you know, but who you know.’ You can be a genius, but it’s of little use if you have an obnoxious personality.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... Hitler. I’ve read huge books about his life because I’m amazed how a little army corporal and a failed artist could rise to hold such power and create a world war, murder millions and destroy his country. I’m no admirer, but his story is fascinating.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A gold bracelet Elizabeth gave me in 1964, which fell off when I was walking in Scotland.

The unending quest that drives you on... To stay physically healthy. I’m 90 and in June I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – blood cancer – but luckily I don’t need chemotherapy. 

The poem that touches your soul... John Betjeman’s Slough amuses me.
The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m a nincompoop who gets things wrong. I’ve never made errors of fact in my commentary but the odd wrong word, or ‘Murrayism’ has crept in.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Joining the Army in 1942 at 19. I ended up a troop commander in charge of three tanks and I saw things that would change anyone.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... There’s far too much crime in the world!  

The song that means most to you... Rule, Britannia! always stirs me.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... I thought my career was over when the BBC lost control of Formula 1 in 1996, but the next day I was offered a job at ITV. I was euphoric!

The saddest time that shook your world... The deaths of my parents. My father died too young at 66 from a heart attack. My mother Elsie lived to 101 and despite her age, I was sad to lose her.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To walk properly again. I’ve been on crutches for four months after breaking my pelvis in a fall! 

The philosophy that underpins your life... Treat your fellow man decently.

The order of service at your funeral... I’ll have a simple humanist service. I want my ashes scattered at Jimmy Guthrie’s Memorial along the TT course on the Isle of Man. Jimmy was a famous rider and a family friend.

The way you want to be remembered... As a decent bloke.

The Plug... The staff at Salisbury Hospital, Wiltshire, are trying to raise money for a CT Scanner. Please donate at www.starsappeal.org.

 

 

F1 Commentator Murray Walker

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Published: 12 October 2013

Artist Jack Vettriano:

‘I’m intrigued by violence and evil. I’ve read several books about Fred West’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s best-selling artist Jack Vettriano’s turn…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A French mahogany Art Deco desk I bought for £6,000 at an auction in Nice eight years ago. It’s a timeless piece that’s exquisitely made.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That I didn’t see enough of my parents. My mum Catherine died in 2010 at 84 and my dad, William, died last year at 86. For decades we had a geographic separation – me in London, them in Scotland. But we were also living in other worlds, so on a deeper level we never really connected.  

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d wake up in a beautiful hotel in Positano, Italy, with my girlfriend Siobhan. I’d hire a red 1959 Mercedes 190SL convertible and cruise north along the coast road to Rome. We’d wander around the city, then arrive at Juan-les-Pins on the Côte d’Azur, France, for lunch. I’d have a salade Niçoise and a chilled glass of Sancerre, then a dip in the sea and a doze on the beach. In the afternoon, I’d go for a walk in the stunning countryside of Fife in Scotland, which I know well from my childhood. We’d go to Tate Britain in the evening to look at works by the St Ives artists and Francis Bacon. I’d have dinner at The Wolseley on Piccadilly. Recently, they’ve let me sit at Lucian Freud’s old table, which is quite an honour. I’d have whitebait, followed by a cheeseburger – without the bun. I’d end the day at my London flat watching a DVD and smoking a cigarette – or five!

The temptation you wish you could resist... Smoking. I’ve been smoking since I was 14. I’m on 30 a day now.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... A Kind Of Loving by Stan Barstow. It’s about a lad trying to break free from his mining town in Yorkshire and has parallels with my own story of moving away from Scotland.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d listen in on a conversation between Andy Murray and his coach Ivan Lendl before a major final. I’m intrigued to know how he inspires Andy. 

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Waiters who say ‘no problem’. I know it’s not a problem – I’m paying!

The film you can watch time and time again... The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover by Peter Greenaway. Helen Mirren’s great, but Michael Gambon’s incredible performance steals it. 

The person who has influenced you most... W Gordon Smith, the Scottish art critic, playwright and TV presenter. He encouraged me at the outset of my career when I was getting flak from other critics. He died in 1996.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... I’d have a wild night with Vincent van Gogh around the time he was losing his mind, so I could try and understand what he was going through.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Follow your dreams.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m intrigued by violence and evil. I’ve read several books about Fred West because I’m staggered someone can be that bad.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... A self-portrait by British artist Jenny Saville. I bought it for £300 in 1999 and sold it later for £50,000. It’d be worth £100,000 now.

The unending quest that drives you on... To keep on painting. 

The poem that touches your soul.. A Man’s A Man For A’ That by Robert Burns. It says that after the achievements of any life a man is a man, just that.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m a nightmare to live with! My girlfriend says it’s the truth, but I like to think I’m considerate and pretty OK.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... The day in 1989 when two of my paintings were accepted by the Royal Scottish Academy and sold immediately. I realised I might have a future in painting.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal Francis Bacon’s Triptych, May-June 1973. I love its haunting darkness.

The song that means most to you.. A Red, Red Rose by Burns. It tells you how deep true love can go.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... The opening of my A Contrast Of Styles show in Edinburgh in 1991. All 25 paintings sold, and suddenly I had some money and a career.

The saddest time that shook your world... The death of my father. He was a miner and there was never a person prouder of what I’d achieved. No one could step inside his house without him showing them a picture by his lad! I’m still coming to terms with his death.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... I’d love the French actress Catherine Deneuve to sit for me so I could paint her into a picture.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Always be kind. 

The order of service at your funeral..I’d want a church service in Scotland with a reading of Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss. I’d like my ashes to rest next to my parents at the crematorium in Kirkcaldy.

The way you want to be remembered... At least I tried!

The Plug... Jack Vettriano: A Retrospective, Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow until 23 Feb. www.jackvettriano.com.

 

Artist Jack Vettriano

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Published: 5 October 2013

Actor Warwick Davis:

‘I want to be remembered as the actor who just happened to be short’

 

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s actor Warwick Davis’s turn…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... My MacBook Pro laptop. I use it all the time for work and leisure, like watching TV and to make video calls to my family when I’m away.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... Giving up learning the piano when I was eight because the lure of the BMX bike was too strong. I longingly look at people who can play.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d have breakfast at home in Cambridgeshire with my wife Sam and our kids Annabel, 16, and Harrison, 10 – porridge and a slice of toast with marmalade to dip in. We’d fly to Islamorada in the Florida Keys to go out on a boat to a sand bar. The water’s shallow there and is the only place I can swim and touch the bottom [Warwick is 3ft 6in]. The whole family find [actor and TV presenter] Karl Pilkington really entertaining so we’d have lunch with him at a pie and mash shop in London. Then we’d go to the stunning Wrynose Pass in the Lake District, followed by a cream tea in Ambleside. I’d love to be able to stand on a glacier anywhere after that, before having dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in Los Angeles. I’d end the day with fresh orange juice on a terrace at Miami’s Acqualina hotel.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Chocolate. My brain tells me to eat fruit, then my emotions overrule it and I eat a bar of Dairy Milk.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Giants: The Dwarfs Of Auschwitz, about the Ovitz family of seven dwarfs who survived the death camp. It’s so powerful and inspiring.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d listen in on my agent to hear what he says about me. I’d like to know how he reacts when someone doesn’t want me for a job! The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... People throwing litter, particularly out of cars. I once saw some builders throwing fish and chip wrappers out of their van, and I threw them back in.

The film you can watch time and time again... Planes, Trains And Automobiles – a great comedy with a big heart.

The person who has influenced you most... George Lucas. He cast me as an Ewok in Return Of The Jedi when I was 11. It changed my life, and I’ve worked with him a lot since. He’s always been there to give me advice.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Hitler. I’d like to understand what his problem was with people he considered not ‘normal’, especially those with disabilities.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Don’t wish away your life.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’ve raced 1/10th scale radio-controlled cars for years, but my kids are into it now and I’ve been relegated from driver to mechanic!

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... My free time. I can’t shake off the ethos that I should take every job because it might be the last, so I end up working 52 weeks a year.

The unending quest that drives you on... To entertain people.

The poem that touches your soul... I’m not into poetry but I connect with Yoda’s words to Luke Skywalker when training him to be a Jedi: ‘Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no "try".’ It’s how I live.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That, as an actor, I earn millions of pounds!

The event that altered the course of your life and character... The day in 1981 when my grandmother Eileen heard Star Wars were looking for small people. She called my mum, who contacted the film studio, and I got the part.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d do a sophisticated heist on Barclays, because they weren’t very nice to me once!

The song that means most to you... A Groovy Kind Of Love by Phil Collins. It was the song Sam and I did the first dance to at our wedding in 1991.  

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... Scoring my one and only goal in football, when I was eight. I never used to get the ball and just stood around. But in one big match the ball bounced off me and went in the goal. The lads went nuts and lifted me up because it meant we’d won the game!

The saddest time that shook your world... The death of our son Lloyd after nine days in 1991. He’d inherited different genetic conditions of dwarfism from Sam and me, which is always a fatal combination. It was awful, but he touched many people in that short time and brought a lot of good.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To direct a big-budget action comedy film, preferably with Will Ferrell and Chevy Chase.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Enjoy everything as if it’s the last time you’ll do it.

The order of service at your funeral... I’d probably have a traditional church service. I want my ashes scattered in the Lake District so I can waft around those beautiful hills for eternity.

The way you want to be remembered... The actor who happened to be short.

The Plug... Warwick Davis appears  in Spamalot at The Playhouse Theatre, London until 19 October, for tickets visit www.spamalotwestend.co.uk.   

Actor Warwick Davis

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Published: 28 September 2013

French Masterchef Raymond Blanc:

‘My biggest regret was missing my sons growing up because I was working 18-hour days, six days a week. But things worked out well because we all have a loving bond now’

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week it’s the turn of master chef and all-round gentleman Raymond Blanc…

 

The prized possession you value above all others... A Bang & Olufsen Beogram 4000 record player from 1972. It cost me about £50, which was a fortune then. It is a design of classic beauty.

The big regret you wish you could amend... Missing my sons growing up. I hardly saw Oli, 38, and Sebastien, 31, in their early years because I was working 18-hour days, six days a week. But things worked out well because we all have a loving bond now.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d have a very early breakfast at a café in Place de l’Opéra in Paris and watch the city wake up. I’d have a triple espresso coffee and a croissant. I’d then go to the Maldives to walk on the finest white sand and scuba dive over a beautiful coral reef with my sons. It’s best to have them with me because they have saved my life many times in the water! From there, I’d visit the lemon grass fields in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. This amazing area has inspired me so much. I’d then marvel at Iguazu Falls in Brazil. For dinner, I’d go to the wonderful Japanese restaurant Zuma in London and have a feast with plenty of sake. I’d end the day back in Brazil, dancing the samba on the beach in Rio, before staying the night at the Copacabana Palace hotel.

The temptation you wish you could resist... Red pinot noir and cheese to unwind after work. I’m 63 and shouldn’t eat such things so close to midnight! 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... The Idiot by 19th-century Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It’s one of the great human dramas.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d guide the hands of world leaders from signing documents that create war and pain.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Bad eating manners. It’s disrespectful to the food and the cook.

The film you can watch time and time again... Dr Zhivago. I love its frozen landscape and the mastery of its acting. Julie Christie is incredible and Omar Sharif is my hero. I met him recently and I hugged him and told him how much I admire him.

The person who has influenced you most... My mother Maman. She’s 91 and when I was a boy she gave me a deep understanding of food, its puri