Rob McGibbon

Writer


Felicity Kendal, 75, spent much of her childhood in India on tour with her father’s repertory company. She shot to fame playing Barbara in the BBC sitcom The Good Life in 1975. She is about to tour in Michael Frayn’s farce Noises Offand is writing the follow-up to her 1998 bestselling memoir, White Cargo.

First stage play I saw
My family’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream — but I was nine months old, so does that count? I was the Changeling Boy to my mother’s Titania and my view was from a basket. My childhood was spent watching Shakespeare plays from the wings or performing in them all over India. The first play I saw that was not ours was a school production of Richard II at the Doon, a posh boys school in Dehradun, in the north. It was an open air production with a forest as the backdrop. My sister Jennifer, who was 13 years older than me, played Queen Anne and King Richard made his first entrance on a real stallion. Fabulous!

First film I saw at the cinema
This will date me. The original Walt Disney Peter Pan from 1953 when I was about seven. My aunt Mary took me to see it in Bangalore. I loved Captain Hook and his wicked smile and Tiger Lily, but I thought Tinker Bell was a pain in the arse. One of my very few regrets in life is that I turned down the Peter role in a great production at the Coliseum in 1976 because I was having problems in my love life. Damn. Whoever that boyfriend was, he wasn’t worth it.

First actor I admired
Paul Scofield
playing Timon in Timon of Athens at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1965 when I was 19. I went on my own and sat up in the gods. Paul was mesmerising. He was physically beautiful and I remember him striding the stage like a panther, his voice filling the theatre. He had such charisma that he commanded concentration from the audience. I went again the following week, even though I had so little money.

His performance gave me the determination to fight to get into the business. I went on to work with him three times — in Amadeus, Othello at the National and in Heartbreak House. He was very special and I loved him dearly. I flatter myself that, as much of a recluse that he was, I became one of the few who could claim to be his friend.

First TV show I never missed
I was never that interested in television when I was young because I saw it as second class compared to theatre or films. Plus, there weren’t many televisions on tour in India. Back in England, I first lived with my mother’s family in Solihull and they watched TV every evening after supper. It was me and my three cousins, my aunt and uncle, all crammed into a tiny front room. The Avengersand The Man from U.N.C.L.E were firm favourites — but if there was anything remotely sexual my uncle felt so uncomfortable that he’d get up and go to his study.

First sitcom that made me laugh
Dad’s Army
was unmissable. All the cast were fantastic, the scripts were to die for, and the comic timing was blissful. They made it all look so effortless. My favourite was John Le Mesurier as Wilson. I called him Eeyore because he was always the gloomy one. Comedy is all about timing and great scripts, which is what we had in The Good Life. I have done a lot of comedy over the years because it is fun and lifts my spirits. That’s why I’m doing Noises Off.

First book I loved
A thrilling biography about Mary Queen of Scots, simply called The Queen of Scots by Stefan Zweig. I remember reading it in my early teens on a voyage from Bombay to Singapore. Our theatre company always travelled in the cheapest cabins and I could not wait to crawl on to my top bunk, open the book and disappear to the 1500s. It was a total escape.

First album I bought
We only had a very basic portable gramophone in India and we had very little money, but when I was about 14 my sister Jennifer gave me an LP of Albinoni’s Adagio for Strings in G minor. I listened to it endlessly and I still love it. It is haunting and beautiful and it takes me straight back to those years. Jennifer died of cancer in 1984 when she was only 50, which was awful. She was the star of our family and that piece of music always reminds me of her, so it is particularly moving. It makes me want to cry.

First famous person I met
Nehru
[the Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru] when I was about six. He came to our production of The Merchant of Venice in Delhi. He always invited my dad to lunch whenever we were in Delhi. I also met the Maharani of Jaipur — Gayatri Devi — when I was 12. She invited our company to tea. She wafted into the room on a cloud of glorious jasmine perfume. To this day, she is still the most beautiful person I have ever seen. I didn’t know at the time that she was famous, but I was stage struck.

First time I cried at the cinema
The first film that made me cry as an adult was Brief Encounter with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. They gave such subtle, beautiful performances — a masterclass in the lesson that less is more when acting in films. Being real is what works, not hamming it up.

Felicity Kendal is in the 40th anniversary production of Noises Off, opening at Theatre Royal Bath on Sep 22, then touring until Oct 29

Felicity Kendal – My Cultural Firsts, Sunday Times. Writer’s Cut

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Sir Richard Branson – Sixty Seconds, Metro

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How to make yourself feel slim: (Photo Copyright: Rob McGibbon)


Cyprus’ Got Talent – Absolutely Kensington & Chelsea

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The McBeatles Tour – Escape, Daily Mail

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Chantal Coady – Tips From The Top, Metro

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Sir Richard Branson – My Cup of Tea, Waitrose

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Tips From The Top



Sir Richard Branson – Tips From The Top, Metro

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The Legend of Wembley 1999 meets the coaching staff. Clearly, a big moment for them

Top of the League – Cyprus travel feature, Daily Mail

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Virgin Limited Edition, Richard Branson, The Great House, Necker Island, 2018

Rob McGibbon was the only journalist invited onto Virgin Voyages’ first ship – Scarlet Lady. After a tour, McGibbon sat down to interview Richard and VV CEO Tom McAlpin

Legendary entrepreneur Rob McGibbon on Scarlet Lady with an old deck hand



Sir Richard Branson interview: Daily Express

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The Sunday Times Magazine. Click to read the interview

Mick Hucknall interview – The Sunday Times Magazine

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Dame Joan Bakewell has been a leading broadcaster, journalist and author since the 1960s, when comedian Frank Muir dubbed her “the thinking man’s crumpet”. Now 86, she was awarded a life peerage in 2011 and took the title Baroness Bakewell of Stockport to reflect her Northern upbringing. She has been married twice and famously had an eight-year affair from 1962 with playwright Harold Pinter, which inspired his 1978 play Betrayal. Bakewell lives alone in Primrose Hill, North London, and has two children from her first marriage, Harriet, 59, and Matthew, 57 and six grandchildren, aged 18-26. 

My day begins with a rigid routine that gradually gets ragged as the day continues. The alarm goes off at 6.50am, which gives me time to fetch a cup of tea and come back to bed to listen to the Radio 4 news at 7am. I have Earl Grey – always decaffeinated because I have a lot of adrenaline of my own. I’ve not had caffein for at least ten years, so if I ever have it these days without knowing I’m as high as a kite. 

I never listen to the Today program after the news because there’s far too much testosterone for me at that time of the morning. I have The Guardian delivered, so instead I read that cover to cover, except for the sport and pop music. 

I am very much a morning person and wake up with lots of energy and buzzing with ideas – well, probably more attitude, than ideas. I go on Twitter and send out a few tweets in response to the news, as a way of getting any irritation out of me. I also respond to any comments from friends on Twitter, as a way of staying on touch.

Just before Christmas, I moved into my new home after living in the same big house for 55 years in Primrose Hill. Moving was a great trauma and a lot of stress, but it is important to make the move at my age before it’s too late. I had moved into the old house with my husband Michael in 1963 when the area was really shabby and unfashionable. The house cost us £12,500, which was a lot of money then and we needed a mortgage, but I will not say what I sold it for.

I have downsized to a very large former artist’s studio, which is just a ten minute walk from where I used to live. It is far easier to organise and manage, so I’m loving it. I have even prepared a small bedsit in the attic area for a carer, should I ever need one. It’s best to think ahead.

I take three pills each morning: two supplements – Omega 3 and Glycocyamine for my bones – and Statins to stop me having heart trouble. For years, breakfast was marmalade on toast, but recently I started having granola with fresh fruits, honey and yoghurt. I spend most mornings working from two desks I have on a mezzanine level overlooking the main room – a large one for general work, such as writing book reviews or speeches, and the smaller one for household bills and Thank You notes.

As you get older, you have to rely on people to help. My housekeeper and friend Frances turns up every weekday at 10.30am. She has been with me for 20 years and sorts me out. I work from a MacBook Air laptop, but I’m not particularly techie, so I have a man called The Mac Doctor who is a delight. If something goes wrong, I scream down the phone and he comes round and saves me.

Two mornings a week, from 8-9am, I go to the same pilates class I have been doing for 25 years at a studio a short drive away in Belsize Park. This has kept me agile and my posture in good shape. There are six of us in the class and we have become good friends. 

I usually have something light and simple  for lunch at home – a bowl of homemade soup, avocado with smoked salmon, or some cheese and biscuits. Quite often I will fry up leftovers from another meal. I was a war child, so I hate to throw anything away. I always listen to the World at One with Sarah Montague – and then it is time for my daily snooze!

I have been having an afternoon nap ever since doctors advised me to rest during the day when I was pregnant with Harriet in 1959. These days, I even have one whenever I’m on location filming for television. Storyvault Films, the production company I work for, really look after me and always fix up a local hotel room for my nap. If there isn’t one nearby, they bring a fold out bed, with sheets and pillows, which they put up in a Winnebago. I have a mediative technic that helps me neutralise my brain and sleep for 20 minutes. I believe in the great merit of a snooze because I come out bouncing and refreshed and will keep working happily long into the evening when everyone else is flagging.

My afternoons on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 2.30pm are spent at the House of Lords. I drive there in my red Mini Cooper, which is an extension of home. I crawl through the traffic thinking, listening to the radio and working. I park at the House where the Mini looks a bit lonely alongside all the big Audis and Lexus’s. 

I was invited to be a working peer by Ed Miliband and I was more frightened when I was giving my first speech than I had ever been when broadcasting to millions. You are talking to an extremely learned lot who are very authoritative, but is a collegiate atmosphere and I enjoy dealing with ideas and engaging with interesting people. I get a sense of fulfilment going there.

I chose my title Baroness Bakewell of Stockport because I felt that it was important to go back to my roots. Initially, I thought of using Camden Town or Primrose Hill, but that would hardly authenticate any views I wanted to express about the great Northern Powerhouse! Besides, my roots are important to me.

My younger sister Susan and I were brought up on a new plot of houses on the outskirts of Stockport that had been built on the road to Macclesfield. The development remained unfinished for years because of the war, so we could turn left out of our house and within a matter of yards be in fields and then the countryside. It was a wonderful place to grow up. Susan died from breast cancer when she was 58 in 1997.

Joan with her little sister Susan

I had a complicated relationship with my mother Rose. She was a highly intelligent woman, but she had married young, as they did in those days, and felt completely unfulfilled in her life. She was depressed, although no one described it as that then. I just thought she was being difficult. She died from leukemia, also at 58, when I was 28.

At about 4pm I need a sugar rush, so I go to the River Restaurant at the House and have a cup of tea and a scone with cream and jam, or a piece of chocolate cake. Work there usually finishes at 6.30pm, unless there’s a debate, and then I creep home. Often I go out to dinner with friends, either locally or in the West End. I will have a glass of white wine, but don’t drink much these days. I also go to the theatre a lot and enjoy the opera. One of my great indulgences is using taxis. I either hail a black taxi in the street, or book one with the same local radio cab company I have been using for years.

House of Lords restaurant

I’m a news junkie, so my day ends with watching the headlines and the newspaper review on the BBC News Channel, and then I’m in bed by 11.15pm. I always have a couple of books on the go, so I will read for a while before nodding off. I’m a good sleeper, so I will be out until the alarm goes. I used to like a small brandy as a nightcap, but I have stopped that because, like most old people, I do not want to get up in the night.

Joan Bakewell – A Day in the Life, The Sunday Times Magazine. Writer’s Cut

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“I’m not someone who looks back. 90210 opened some doors and I don’t regret doing it, nor do I have any illusions that the interest in it will go away”


A note on the text from Rob McGibbon: This interview with Luke was conducted during lunch on the last day of filming of The Beat Beneath My Feet in October 2013. It was written for The Independent, which commissioned it, then spiked it.

I was an Associate Producer on the movie, which had a screenplay by Michael Mueller and produced by Scoop Films. I had fluked into the film a few months earlier after an impromptu social meeting with Raj Sharma, the founder and owner of Scoop. He told me that he had just green lit a new film, but was really struggling to cast the lead role. I asked him to summarise the plot. After he had finished, straight off the bat, I said: “You need an American, someone who was really hot in the 1990s. What about Luke Perry?” It would prove to be a moment of divine casting inspiration – as well as deep relief that all those pointless years in showbiz journalism had not been entirely wasted. Raj was intrigued by the idea. Three weeks later, he took me to dinner and announced with a shrill of excitement: “You won’t believe this, but we have signed Luke Perry!” From that moment on I was heavily involved in the film. This included interviewing Luke, and, quite unbelievably, “starring” in the last scene of the film “with” him. My quote marks.

Gifted Guitar Wrangler

The director John Williams was in desperate need of a new extra for the final scene, but it was getting late. We had about an hour left to shoot before the film had to wrap and John wasn’t happy with the member of the crew who had been lined up for the part. He scoped around the school hall where we were filming and suddenly his eyes alighted upon me. He came over and scanned my blue Geox bomber jacket and my two-tone burgundy brogues. He then muttered a sentence that had never been directed at me before, nor since. “You have a great look.” I instinctively looked behind me. He then explained what I had to do in the scene. He noticed my alarmed look, then asked pointedly: “Are you up to that?” Er, yeah sure. I was to be Luke Perry’s guitar wrangler, backstage at a big rock concert. The scene involved Luke walking towards me, followed by the steady cam. I would shake his hand, wish him good luck, and pass him his electric guitar. Easy. Well, until a loud, beefy bloke aggressively shouts “Action”. Luke very kindly did a rehearsal with me before the camera started rolling. “You just do it anyway you feel is right, my friend,” he said. I immersed myself in character and impressed him with my natural talent in passing an object to another human being. It is fair to say that I nailed it. Well, I didn’t cock it up. In the final cut of this scene, my right elbow and hand get star billing. At least I can say, without any sense of hype, that I worked on a film with Luke Perry and that he was great to work with.

In all seriousnesses, he was. Luke was a generous actor, who was encouraging and kind to all the cast, most notably Nicholas Galitzine who was making his first film. But, beyond that, Luke also brought a vast amount of support to the production team, many of whom were very new to the business. He had no airs and graces and happily put up with his “luxury Winnebago” for the shoot, which was a particularly decrepit camper van. He was a shy and intense character who preferred to keep a distance, but he was also quick to muck in and help when help was needed. Once the film wrapped, we took over an upstairs room of the pub where we had been filming and Luke got straight behind the bar. He served drinks to all the crew for many hours. I had a brief chat with him before I left and he gave me a quick hug and thanked me for suggesting him for the part. He was a good guy with a big heart.

Rob McGibbon meeting Luke for the first time on set in South London


Poster for the film from 2014

Interview by Rob McGibbon at The Bedford, Balham, London, October 2013.

It’s one of the last places you’d expect to find Luke Perry, the cool dude from Beverly Hills, but here he is high on the roof of a vast and fetid pub called The Bedford in Balham. 

The sunny glamour of the 90210 zip code is replaced by the grey urban reality of SW12 9HD, but he’s gamely climbing sloping slate tiles during a photo shoot so the distant London skyline can fill the background. To his credit, Perry doesn’t even flinch when the photographer shouts, a touch gauchely, “G’on, gimme a mean James Dean look.” This was the impossible celluloid comparison he was saddled with twenty-five years ago. Evidently, it still shadows him. 

Numerous moody scowls later, Perry squeezes in opposite me on an abandoned old picnic bench table and begins constructing a roll-up with Golden Virginia. A screen of pub tea-towels flutter on the washing line near us and trains from the station below clatter by. It begins to drizzle. Surely, that James Dean tag gets on your nerves?

“Hey, I’m easy, man,” he says in a husky drawl, with an insouciant smile. “There ain’t nothin’ new under the sun for me with that kind of stuff. I maintain a relaxed line.”

Perry’s resigned calmness is understandable. He lived through the mayhem of teen heartthrob fame and has the wardrobe of white crew neck T-shirts to prove it. And his face bears testament to that. The James Dean quiff has thinned and receded noticeably since those pin-up days, while the frown lines in his forehead are deeply etched. 

He is also craggy around the eyes but, for 47 (soon to be 48), Perry has worn pretty well.  The face is still angular and he remains lean, toned and handsome, not to mention, inescapably cool. He is affable and likeable, but is instinctively guarded and wilfully remote. 

Throughout the 1990s Perry played rebellious Dylan McKay in that seminal teen series with Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty. He chalked up 199 episodes and posters of him papered the homes of besotted girls around the world. Fans often besieged his parents’ home in the mid-West hoping he’d turn up.

The years since then have been mixed, both professionally and personally. There has been no stellar Hollywood movie career that many predicted, but unlike some of his fictional classmates he has never stopped working, which is no mean feat considering the typecasting inflicted by such a huge TV series. 

American TV series and made-for-TV movies have been his staple out-put, as well stage work, including The Rocky Horror Show on Broadway and When Harry Met Sally in the West End in 2004. Life away from the screen has had its challenges, too, not least when his ten-year marriage to Minnie Sharp ended in divorce a decade ago. They have two teenage children – Jack, 17, and Sophie, 13.

You sense that bringing out the ashes of Beverley Hills 90210 could be a touchy subject with Perry, but he bats it away easily. “I look back on those days fondly,” he says. “I love those people. Jason [Priestley] is still a dear friend and we hang out a lot. We even vacation together with our kids. I’ve lost touch with most of the other guys, but hey it’s a long time ago, we’re all busy getting on with life.

“Any of the negative stuff that came from the show is far surpassed by the positive. I learnt so much about acting and filming and it changed everything for me. It was quite a ride and the association with such a big series has hardly been unkind. A lot of people watched it and loved it. Who I am to complain?”

But how about the pretty boy label, surely that has been a pain and hard to escape? “I don’t know how to answer that. If I had a succinct response, I would share it with you. I don’t think about those things because it seems you’re talking about someone else. I’m an actor. It’s as simple as that.

Luke with Nicholas Galitzine and DJ-turned-actor Christian O’Connell

“Besides, I don’t really see the downside and, if there is one, I don’t concentrate on it. I’m not someone who looks back. 90210 opened some doors and I don’t regret doing it, nor do I have any illusions that the interest in it will go away. I mean, we’re talking about it now, even though it has nothing to do with what I’m doing here.”

Fair point. So what brings him to the dubious delights of Balham? Perry is here playing the lead amongst a group of unknown actors in The Beat Beneath My Feet, his first foray into a low budget British independent film. 

The Beat Beneath My Feet is a comedy drama with Perry as a broken down American rock guitarist called Max Stone, who has faked his death after tragedy and financial ruin destroyed his life. Stone re-surfaces in South London, where he is recognised and blackmailed by an obsessive teenager called Tom, played by newcomer Nick Galitzine. 

Tom is hell-bent on becoming a guitarist and their unlikely friendship makes for a moving and entertaining story that has been receiving a positive reaction on the independent film circuit. The movie launches at London’s Raindance Film Festival later this month.

But what on earth draws a star like Luke Perry to such a small movie and how does he swap Beverley Hills for Balham?

“I’m very comfortable in places like this,” he says, gazing across the rooftops. “I come from a very working class, blue-collar area in Ohio, so these smells and inner city vibes are as familiar to me as a place like Beverly Hills. Besides, I have a real love for all aspects of London. After-all, my ex-wife is British.

“And me doing this film always comes down to the same thing: Am I moved by the story? I read the script and it moved me. There have been moments on this where I have felt this character flowing through me and that has touched me deeply. I have felt overcome with emotion and those fleeting moments are the best you can hope for as an actor. 

“Sure, it would be great to have an extra 50,000 dollars to spend on certain things, but that won’t necessarily make the scene any better. The only down side to this movie has been the food – it’s not been great!”

Clearly Perry has been doing well enough to indulge in projects that creatively appeal, so how are things looking for his career in general? He is predictably laid back: 

“I’m somewhere between my last job and my next one. That is always the way I have looked at this business. My last job is behind me, my next job is out there somewhere in front of me. I just keep going like that and I’m lucky to be able to do things that interest me. 

“I choose how much and what I do, but that doesn’t mean I get the pick of everything. Maybe Tom Hanks gets that trip, but any actor who says otherwise is full of sh*t. I just keep on going.

“As far as I can see, no movie can make your career and no movie can break your career. It’s all just one after the next. As long as people watch this and see something they haven’t seen before, then I’m happy. If the movie also makes some money, well, no-one is ever p*ssed when that happens.”

And, with that, Perry runs a hand through his hair and heads back for filming in the pub below. He hunches into the collar of his coat and ambles off looking, it has to be said, very much like James Dean.


Following a stroke, Luke Perry died in hospital in Los Angeles on 4th March 2019. He was 52.


How I fluked into movies, thanks to Luke Perry…

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Photo by Charlie Alcock for The Sunday Times Magazine (December 2018)

In 2002, writer Rob McGibbon was unexpectedly hit by gout. Years of secret suffering has followed, but here he explains how he turned the agony into a catalyst for positive change…

I have a painful secret: I get gout. 

I will save the pain until later, but first I need to explain why I have kept this god-awful affliction quiet.

The problem with gout is that it makes people snigger. It’s hard to think of another serious condition that encourages such mirth, but it’s true, you get mocked. I vividly remember when this first happened to me, early on in my 16 long years of intermittent hell. I had to interview a celebrity, who should remain nameless – but won’t because it’s so annoying when people say that: it was Nigel Pivaro, Terry Duckworth from Coronation Street. 

I limped into our meeting and naively told the truth about my condition, as my left foot throbbed inside a loosely-laced trainer. He laughed throatily, then lapsed into a pantomime skit of a bonkers, cheeky-puffing old General: “What-ho, Brigadier, have you been attacking that orful port at the club?” I’m all for heartless laddish banter, but I was a touch taken aback.

Nigel was not alone. That same week, I mentioned gout to one or two friends and they all reacted flippantly. As I cancelled golf, a mate started chuckling and cut away from the phone to yell this hilarious breaking news to his wife. Ha ha. It was clear that gout is for lightweights. 

This early reaction made me feel embarrassed, so I decided to keep it private, except for those closest to me. Whenever I have had to venture out with obvious signs – crutches, or a severe limp are a giveaway – I have fudged the reason or reluctantly lied. Michael Barrymore was impressed I got crocked doing the Iron Man and my neighbours must think I’m more injury-prone than Frank Spencer.

To be fair, the jokes from friends have eased, but the disparaging ignorance of others is widespread. My most recent gout attack was last November. I told a friend – 35 and working in the shallows of showbiz – why I was really cancelling dinner. “Gout?” he replied, genuinely challenged. “I thought people got that in Victorian times, or during the plague”. It was time to break cover.

Gout has a PR problem. For starters, it’s such an odd, blunt word that actually sounds silly and light. It might help if it was re-branded to something longer and more medical. Things certainly aren’t helped when newspapers insist on using Henry VIII to illustrate every gout article. It is often described as the “disease of kings”, so mad Henry is our poster boy. Heck, even the current (edition of Tatler has gout in its 32 things that define what you need in 2019 to be upper class. Terribly funny.

The unavoidable reason why gout sufferers are ribbed is its age-old association with port-nosed boozers and gluttonous high living. Mea culpa – I’m pretty certain they’re the main reasons why I suffer, but it isn’t necessarily quite so simplistic. I have had four gout attacks brought on by strenuous exercise, such as football or long bike rides. Here comes the science bit. Concentrate… 

Gout is inflammatory arthritis, the super-max kind with extra wincing on the side. It’s not the achy stuff that makes old folk grumble. It is caused when your blood is over-run with uric acid, which is generated when the body breaks down purines. Purines are a protein that is contained in a sweeping array of foods and certain lines of delicious alcohol – especially beer, red wine, and good ol’ port. 

Uric acid settles around a joint and turns into urate crystals, which creates a gout attack. Trust me, it is horrendous. The big toe is the most famous location, but it also hits knees, elbows, even fingers. Ankles are popular. Gout particularly loves my left one. 

Now for the pain: mine often begins suddenly across the top of a foot and panic sets in as it gradually spreads to the toes. Within five or six hours, the entire foot and ankle is transformed into a hot, bloated, pulsating red sausage of agony. 

Traditionally, the fierce grip of gout finally arrives in the dead of night. My wife will hear me dragging a foot across the floorboards and mutter “Oh, nooo”, but she’s used to it. I was on crutches with gout when I proposed in Paris in 2006. Our celebratory ascent to Sacre-Coeur did wonders for my upper body definition. A year ago I dragged a gouty foot around Athens and a party-heavy New Year trip to New York in 2015 saw me convulsed in discomfort throughout the entire flight home. I thought my foot would explode. I needed the beeping golf cart transfer from the gate at Heathrow. Humiliating.

Forget sleeping with gout. You must lie there as motionless as possible, watching the dawn arrive with a foot dangling off the end of the bed to cool it down. Nothing must touch it. I mostly spend the first two days forcing the foot as often as I dare into a washing up bowl of icy water. It twitches as if hitting an electrical charge. 

I have a set of crutches are on standby and if I’m lucky, this acute phase lasts 48 hours and then I can get around with a limp. All trace is gone within a week-10 days. The trouble is, at the same time you are also hit with flu-like symptoms and fever because your system is all mashed. 

My gout nadir was in 2011 when it holidayed in my left knee. The entire joint ballooned. I couldn’t bend it, or put weight on it, and the slightest wrong movement left me hugging the kitchen island or a bannister, eyes closed, panting through gritted teeth. No pain killer was strong enough. I was on crutches for two weeks and unable to walk comfortably for close to two months. I finally emerged back onto my modest social scene to gushing praise for my leaner, detoxed glow. Gout boot camp. Don’t ever try it.

I have had 24 attacks since 2002, mostly in my ankles. I know all this because I have kept a gout diary – my contribution to “misery lit”. The first doctor to see me in A&E said with certainty that it was “cellulitis”. The next attack came three years later and again there was confusion with the diagnosis. Following five more attacks spread over the next number of years, my GP finally agreed with what I already knew.

A private consultant later explained that I have a genetic pre-disposition to gout that renders my kidneys unable to flush out uric aside fast enough. At times my body is like a cup of tea that cannot absorb any more teaspoons of sugar – except it’s acid. That metaphor cost me £250. Feel free to pass it on.

When you join the gout club, you get a watchlist of foods that have varying levels of purines. It is shockingly long. Red zone: offal, game, oily fish, seafood, yeast. Amber: all meat and poultry, spinach, asparagus, peas, beans, cauliflower, mushrooms, fizzy sweet drinks. It goes on and bloody on. You wonder what’s left. Salad, yoghurt, fruit, pasta, eggs and veg, that’s what. Super. Then it gets to the contraband that really matter, at least to me: beer and wine. And, of course, port, which I hate anyway. Spirits are fine, but I don’t drink those.

It’s all a bit depressing at first. You think you will never demolish a steak with a bottle of claret again, or a seafood platter served over ice in a sunny harbour. And how on earth can you pad up with your mates for a glorious day at Lord’s, the Home of All-Day Drinking. Alarm bells ring in your head just as things are getting merry. Anything north of three pints these days and I start to worry and stop. In the grand schemes of things, this is hardly the greatest burden, but the daft old ways of getting legless now take on a sinister reality, which can be a bore.  

You soon learn to keep out of the red zone of food and alcohol except on rare occasions and staying dry for at least a few days a week is vital. Conversely, being hydrated (buckets of water) is essential. But there are plenty of upsides to all this and, bizarrely, gout has had a positive impact on my health. 

My GP says that I am in decent shape for 53, so I should be OK in later life, when my hard-drinking pals will probably be dropping like addled flies. That said, gout has chewed arthritis into my left ankle, which means I’m unlikely to enjoy golf and tennis in my 80s. I’ll worry about that if I get that far. 

These days, I get one attack a year, two if I’m desperately unlucky, or stupid. I reluctantly started taking the drug Allopurinol in 2010, after finally accepting that lifestyle change was simply not enough. Two little white 100mg pills a day helps neutralise the uric acid, but it is no panacea. I have tried endless supplements to reduce the acid, from sodium bicarbonate, to concentrated cherry juice, cranberries and Vitamin C. These days I just have a nip of apple cider vinegar each morning out of a tequila shot glass.

Medical research on gout seems to be sketchy and largely out of date, but all indicators suggest it is on the rise. Apparently, one in 40 people in the UK get it, mostly men. I find this extraordinary, especially given the amount of inveterate boozers I know, because I have yet to meet a fellow sufferer. Maybe they’re all keeping it secret. Hopefully, they won’t feel the need any longer.

As for the image of gout, I hope it can change. Maybe you can avoid the crass jokes. Simply say: “Ooh, you poor soldier. When you’re up and about let’s have a beer.” That little hope of a better day will ease the pain.

Copyright Rob McGibbon. Please do not use any of the above article or photos without proper permissions. 2019

How it feels to…. get gout – The Sunday Times Magazine. Writer’s Cut

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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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This is an extended version of my interview published on 17  June 2017

 

“My unfulfilled ambition? I want to live until I am 120 and then get shot by a jealous husband”

The prized possession you value above all others…I would be lost without my whimsical mind and imagination, so they are incredibly precious. In terms of objects, I love my book collection. I have about 50,000, which includes countless editions on comedy, comedians, clowns and showbusiness. I am a performer at heart and these books feed my mind and soul. We are having an extension built to our house [he shares with his fiancée Anne Jones] in Knotty Ash, outside Liverpool, that will become my library. The books are symbols of my passion for entertainment.

The biggest regret you wish you could amendI wish I had learnt more about the use of the English language, so I could write coherently like leading authors such as Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. I was very bright when I was a kid and I did well at school, but to write creatively is a great skill. I am a prolific note taker, but that’s about it. I have notebooks going back 20 years and I find it fascinating to read what I was thinking decades ago.

The temptation you wish you could resist…All kinds of sweets, especially Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles. I always have a family-size packet on the go in the car. I’m up and down the motorway like a yoyo, so I eat far too many sweets. I also love ice cream – vanilla or strawberry.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance…The Coral Island by R.M Ballantyne, which I read when I was about six. It’s about three boys shipwrecked on an island in the South Pacific and it took me off into another world. Like any boy I craved adventure and I wanted to be heroic like those boys. I was lucky because God blessed me with the ability to read from a very young age. I was four when I started consuming books. 

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day…I’d go to the Office for National Statistics to verify how they work things out. One day they’re saying something is bad for you, then three weeks later they say it’s fine. I never know what to believe.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise…Bullying driving on the motorways. I do about 30,000 miles a year – it used to be well over 100,000 – and I see some terrible, reckless driving. There’s always some daft Hooray Henry driving too close making you pull over. Motorways should be a safe and speedy way to travel, but some drivers make it dangerous.

The film you can watch time and time again…The Producers with Mel Brooks is beautifully acted and always makes me laugh. Brooks is a truly great humorist and one of the giants of comedy.

The person who has influenced you most…My parents – Arthur and Sarah. My dad was a very funny man who loved variety theatre. He would come home after a show and sing the songs or tell the jokes to me and my brother and sister. He made us laugh so much. My mother was also very special. She always said, “Kenny, I don’t care what you get upto, so long as you wear a clean shirt.” I have never forgotten that – and I always have a clean shirt.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint…William Shakespeare. His plays are full of poetry and imagery, with words that are like little miracles. He gives such a wonderful insight into the world and the human spirit. I’d ask him if he really wrote them all.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child…Always follow your dream. If you work hard and do everything with enthusiasm, it will come true. The secret of happiness is to plant a seed and watch it grow. Plant the seed of your dream and cultivate it.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity…Philosophy. During the past couple of years, I have enjoyed reading the great philosophers. I have been trying to understand what “it” is all about, the meaning of life and such like.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again…The ability to swim with confidence. I was terrified of water when I was kid and hated putting my head under water because it was too claustrophobic. I got over it with lessons in the 1980s, but now the fear has come back.

The unending quest that drives you on…To keep breathing and staying alive! I’m 89 now and I want to keep spreading a bit of happiness. My energy is good and I have no intention of slowing down.

The poem that touches your soul…I love the religious quote:However black the clouds may be/In time they’ll pass away/Have faith and trust and you will see/God’s light make bright your day.’ I recited it for my first audition when I was young – before I was a teenager – and I have never forgotten it. I enjoy going to church every week and those words remind me to believe in God, the Lord and creator

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase…I am very grateful that the British people treat me well and I don’t know of any preconceived ideas they may have that are wrong. I am often mistaken for George Clooney and a woman once came up to me and said, “Hello handsome – can you tell me the way to the opticians.” 

The event that altered the course of your life and character…When my dad took all the family to my first show at the Shakespeare Theatre of Varieties in Liverpool when I was seven or eight. I sat there wide-eyed and I knew then that I wanted to be a performer. I was totally inspired.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it…At my age, any thought of crime does not appeal. I might steal a kiss from a pretty girl, but that’s about it.

The song that means most to you…My song Happiness has become my signature tune and means a lot to me. I sing it at every show and I’ve done it thousands of times, but I still love it. I love life and that song is a celebration of being alive and enjoying all the wonderful things that life can bring.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions…I have travelled all over the world in my time, but these days I prefer to be in Britain. East-West, Britain is best is my motto. So I’d be happy having a quiet morning at home. Our house was built in 1782 and I have spent most of my life there, so it’s where I’m happiest. I am a great tea drinker, so I’d have a few cups for breakfast with some Shredded Wheat. I’d then read the paper – Daily Mail, of course! – and try and find something funny to put into my show that night. Later, I’d take my black poodle Rufus for a walk. Britain has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, so I would probably head somewhere in Yorkshire. Rufus is lively and affectionate and is about the seventh black poodle I have had over the years. I’d have soup – pea or oxtail are my favourites – for lunch, then spend a few hours looking through some rare books in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. My life is ruled by my gigging diary and I am happy with that, so then I would get ready for a show. I would pack up the machine – a Mercedes – then head for the motorway. There are so many wonderful theatres across Britain, but my favourite venue is always the one I’m performing at that night. I feel blessed because I spend my life around happy people who are out for a night to have fun. I am completely in love with showbusiness, so I will enjoy myself playing a gig.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever…Being made a knight in the Queen’s Honour List this year was a huge moment. It made me feel special and I am grateful to all the people who helped make it happen. Prince William gave it to me. Now I am getting measured up for some armour and I’m getting a horse.

The saddest time that shook your world…Losing my parents was hard. They were absolutely wonderful people who gave me the most fantastic childhood and so much good advice and support. Bereavement is very personal. It was a lonely time in my life, but my faith in God helped me through.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you…I want to live until I am 120 and then get shot by a jealous husband.

The philosophy that underpins your life…The man who never made a mistake, never made anything. I tell this to young people who ask me about going into showbusiness. Never be afraid of making mistakes because that is how you learn. It is called experience.

The order of service at your funeral…You definitely won’t get me answering this one. No. No. No. I am to busy living to think of that.

The way you want to be remembered…He gave us happiness and laughter.

Sir Ken was born in Liverpool on 8th November 1927. Following being hospitalised for a chest infection, he died at his home in West London on 11th March 2018. He was 90.

RM says: Interviewing Ken for something as specific as The Definite Article was like trying to herd cats. He zipped around tangentially,  or fenced away sensitive subjects with jokes. But he was fun and a gentleman. He called my mobile on the day it was published some weeks later and left a wonderfully nuts and appreciative voice message. Such manners in showbiz are rare. We spoke later and he invited me to one of his shows. I wish I had gone, but the dates never aligned. What a character, what a legend.

Comedy Legend Sir Ken Dodd: The Definite Article – Writer’s Cut

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By Rob McGibbon

This is an extended version of my interview published on 27  June 2014

 

“I want my body laid out in my coffin on a bed of sliced truffles, then carried in by six beautiful women. I then want a big party in the foothills of Mont Blanc, where my ashes will be put into a huge firework rocket and fired into the sky”

 

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. It’s a 1950s property, not overly big, but it is in a cul de sac so it is very quiet. My garden is full of fruit. I have prunes, pears, quinces, and plums. The house is probably worth over £1m, but I do not care about such things. I live here alone and this is where I find peace and silence. It is my sanctuary.

The biggest regret you wish you could amendThat I no longer have any communication with my ex-wife Priscilla and her children and grandchildren. They were my stepchildren and such a happy part of my life for so long, but something has happened and I cannot explain what. It is hard for me to understand. My philosophy in life is never to hurt anyone, but something has happened and it makes me sad. 

The temptation you wish you could resist…Asking so many questions about everything! I believe that man’s ability for knowledge is infinite, so I am always curious to learn more. But sometimes maybe it is better to not have an answer and to enjoy a bit of mystery.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance…Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. They are such fascinating books that work on so many levels – for young people, as well as adults. They are incredibly complex and challenging to follow, but I love the fantasy and losing myself in the stories. 

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day…I would follow a traffic warden around London and cause chaos as he or she gives out tickets. I’d like to find out what goes on inside the head of a traffic warden because it seems to be the most nonsensical occupation. I cannot understand why anyone would want to do it. 

The pet-hate that makes your hackles rise…Ignorant people who have no appreciation of the world or their fellow humans. I have to take a deep breath when I came across ignorance because it makes me so angry.

The film you can watch time and time again…Il Postino is the most beautiful and touching film and it always moves me. The acting is wonderful and the story takes me back to happy times in my childhood in Northern Italy when my father was the local railway stationmaster.

The person who has influenced you most…My mother, Maria. Throughout my childhood she was so full of life. She was tender, but also very strong and always ready to defend her nest of six children. My mother gave me my values and taught me a lot about cooking. She died about 20 years ago and there are only three of us children left now.

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 1990s and he was such an interesting, intelligent man with a great sense of humour and he was an incredible mimic. He had an amazing life. I’d love to go back to the early 1950s when he was playing Nero in Quo Vadis [released in 1951]. I loved him in that film. He could speak many languages and I can speak five, so we might have fun chatting in multiple languages.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child…Think big and don’t be disappointed if things don’t go as you plan. Just try again. Everything in life is possible. I came from small beginnings and have fulfilled many dreams.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity…One of my great passions is whittling – making walking sticks. I started when I was a boy and I now have about 300 in my collection. I am even a member of the British Stickemakers Guild. I find it relaxing and satisfying to create a beautiful object with my hands and the small old knife I always use. I love the feeling of the wood and I particularly like to work with hazel because it is so straight. Another passion is searching for mushrooms. I go into the woods, with one of my favourite walking sticks, and find the most delicious mushrooms to eat.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again…A four-inch high bronze statue of a little girl holding lilies, which was given to me when I was about 18. She was like a little angel and I loved that piece, but it was stolen during a house move about forty years ago. Even though it’s so long ago, I still miss her!

The unending quest that drives you on…To totally understand food, but I think it’s an impossible quest. I also wish I could cook Chinese food. It has the most incredible spices and flavours, but I can’t do it. My friend Ken Hom is pretty good and he has taught me a bit, but I believe it has to be in your blood to do it properly.

The poem that touches your soul…I Love You So Much by the German writer and painter Joachim Ringelnatz. I lived in Vienna for three years in my 20s and I met a girl called Inge there. She was my first true love and that poem reminds me of her. All this time later, I still think of her!

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase…That I am grumpy and aggressive. My face is not entirely sympathetic and some people think I look like a Mafioso! In reality, I am a jolly and gentle person. People often meet me expecting me to be rough and they say they are happily surprised to see that I am friendly.

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 near our home. He got cramps after swimming so soon after eating. It was devastating for all the family. My mother never recovered and, in many ways, I don’t think I have ever got over it either. I ended up leaving home to escape the grief and it has affected me since on so many levels. It made me question the motivations of the Catholic Church, as well as the existence of God, so I have stopped believing in both.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it…I would organise a spectacular robbery of the secret treasures from the Vatican, then give the proceeds to the poor.

The song that means most to you…I Would Like to Kiss You. It’s an old Neapolitan song, which was recorded by Pavarotti, Bocelli and many others, but I remember it from when I was really little and my father Giovanni singing it to my mother. He was an old romantic.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions…My day would begin quietly in my garden listening to the birds. I would have some porridge and coffee then some fruit from my trees. Then I would meet up with my girlfriend Sabine and go on an adventure deep into the Amazon rainforest to meet a tribe that is lost to civilisation. I only hope they are a friendly tribe! Later I would go for a walk in my favourite woodlands in Hampshire to pick mushrooms. I cannot tell you exactly where because mushroom pickers like to keep their best locations secret! Sabine and I would spend the afternoon on a stunning island in the Caribbean. I would soak up the sun and go snorkelling to look at turtles. Lunch would be a big salad with fresh fish and tomatoes dipped in the salt water of the crystal clear sea. Delicious! After lunch I would relax in a hammock with a big Havana cigar, then have an afternoon nap. Then I would go to a small fishing village beside the Back Sea and eat my way through a kilo of Beluga caviar. Then I would watch penguins bringing fish home to their young off the coast of Australia, which is an incredible sight. Sabine and I would watch the sun go down during a safari in Africa, then arrive at a tranquil lake in Kerala in India for a spicy dinner. I don’t drink much alcohol, but I would end this day with a nice malt whisky nightcap.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever…The day in 2009 when I finally awoke from depression. I had been in a dark and difficult place and I had tried to kill myself [Antonio stabbed himself in 2008], but after going into The Priory hospital I slowly got better and the heavy cloud lifted from my life. I am a different person today. I am happy and I know how precious life is. I want to live, not die.

The saddest time that shook your world…Enrico’s death. I was like a father to him and his educator. He was so cheerful and wonderful. He followed me around and we had a really special friendship. I would practise throwing a javelin and he would run after it and bring it back to me. He would be 67 now. Sadly, 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. I must have more than 10,000 but they are all over the place, in boxes and drawers. I would love to be able to sit down and look at them in the order they were taken. I thought that was something I would do in my retirement but I am 77 now and I have no plans to retire. Maybe it will never be done!

The philosophy that underpins your life…MOF MOF: Minimum of Fuss, Maximum of Flavour. I made that phrase up decades ago when everything in cooking seemed to be so complicated. It has been the mantra for my cooking ever since.

The order of service at your funeral…I won’t have a church service because I have stopped believing in God, but I want my body laid out in my coffin on a bed of sliced truffles, then carried into the crematorium by six beautiful women. I then want a big party in the foothills of Mont Blanc in Italy, where my ashes will be put into a huge firework rocket. During the party, this rocket will explode high in the sky and scatter me across the beautiful countryside.

The way you want to be remembered…As a jolly fellow, who was good to people and enjoyed the simple things in life.

 

Antonio was born in Salerno, Italy, on 19 April 1937. He died following a fall at his home in West London on 8th November 2017. He was 80.

Antonio was a big-hearted, passionate and sincere man, who inspired so many young chefs, not least Jamie Oliver. 

 

Chef Antonio Carluccio: The Definite Article – Writer’s Cut

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This is an extended version of my interview published on 26 September 2015, which was conducted in Michael’s study where he wrote at his home in Little Venice on 24th August


 

“I want to be remembered as a friendly person who was ready to listen. And for never missing a deadline!”

The prized possession you value above all others…The original Paddington bear toy. He is a little teddy bear that I bought for my ex-wife Brenda from Selfridge’s on Christmas Eve in 1956 as a stocking-filler present. He was sitting on a shelf all by himself and I fell in love with him. I called him Paddington and some time later I was looking at him and wondered what would happen if a real bear arrived at Paddington Station. I put a few words down on paper and it caught my fancy. That little bear was an inspiration and he changed my life. I keep him very safe.


Michael with the original cuddly bear who inspired Paddington

Michael in 1980 with Paddington merchandise



The biggest regret you wish you could amendNot buying a flat in the Montmartre area of Paris that I rented for 35 years. I was offered it about ten years ago, but decided to keep renting. I used to go there for a week every month to write and always loved it because no one bothered me. But last year the daughter of the original owners, who had died, decided to move in.

The temptation you wish you could resist…Ferrero Rocher chocolates. I love the nutty soft centre and I like to have a box on the go when I am writing. I will eat four, then make myself stop. They are very moreish.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance…It’s not a book, but a weekly magazine called I used to read it by torchlight under the bedclothes from aged about nine and it had a big impact on my life. They were such marvellous stories and great characters. It was the first time that I appreciated good story telling and it taught me the power of repetition in writing.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day…I would wander around freely listening in on people’s conversations. A piece of snatched conversation can be very good for a story and it has helped me often over the years. But it is never good to be caught eavesdropping, so this way I could relax.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise…Cold telephone calls in the evening from people trying to sell me something. They are often a foreign voice and they start off by saying, “Good evening, Mr Bond, how are you tonight?” I would be much better if you didn’t call me during my dinner!

The film you can watch time and time again…The Third Man. The screenplay by Graham Greene is excellent and Orson Wells is wonderful. You never know when someone is going to pop out of a window or a manhole. I love the Ferris wheel scene.


Michael toasts the fabulous bear in this cameo of the Paddington film


The person who has influenced you most…My grandfather, on mother’s side. He came to live with us in Reading when I was a boy after his wife died. He thought very highly of me – more than anybody else! I would wait at the window when he was due home from work and run down the road to meet him as soon as I saw him. He gave me confidence in myself. He drummed into me that you can do anything in life, if you concentrate and do it to the exclusion of anything else. I took his advice when I came to write. I gave up all sorts of things and let it take over.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint…John Logie Baird, the man who invented the television. I would love to watch a modern day TV set with him and discuss what has happened to his invention. Imagine what he might think.


The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child…Politeness costs nothing, but it can be worth an awful lot. Politeness has been thrown out the window these days. When I was small, if any elderly people came along my dad and I would move to one side, raise our hats and let them pass. I used to think, Oh good, people will do that when I am old, but they don’t. I have a walking stick, but it feels like I need it more as weapon!

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity…Bricklaying. Like Winston Churchill, I have always found it to be mentally restorative in times of stress. It is satisfying and sets the mind free.


The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again…A little toy dog my girlfriend Nora gave me when I joined the RAF aged 17. She had made it from wire and fur and I carried it around in my breast pocket for four years. It went everywhere, but one day in Cairo I sent some clothes to the laundry without taking it out and it was gone for good. I was so sad.

The unending quest that drives you on…To keep writing. I will be 90 next January but I still write every day and I hope that Paddington and my other characters will have plenty more adventures.

The poem that touches your soul…I am not very good on poems, but the French National Anthem La Marseillaise always stirs me. I am quite a Francophile at heart.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase…That writing is easy. People particularly think this of me because the Paddington books are quite short. I actually hone them down from a much longer text and re-write continuously. It is hard work, but immensely satisfying.

The event that altered the course of your life and character…Replying to an advert in the local Reading newspaper when I was 16, which was seeking someone interested in radio. I was keen on building radio sets, so I wrote off and to my amazement I got a reply from the BBC. They were setting up a transmitter in Reading and wanted someone to look after it. I met the man in charge who asked me if I knew what Ohms Law was. I told him and then he said, You have got the job! This eventually led to me working as a senior cameraman for BBC television, a job that I loved.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it…There is always a cost to pay for the smallest crime, so nothing could tempt me. When I was ten I took a half-eaten chocolate bar off the counter of my local shop and ate it. To this day, stealing it has been on my conscience!

The song that means most to you…All or Nothing at All, by Frank Sinatra. Nora bought me a vinyl disc of it because it was our favourite song and I kept it for years. That song reminds me of her.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions…I wouldn’t want an action-packed day with a magic carpet taking me to all different places. At my age, you are happy to go at a slower pace. I would simply board the first Eurostar to Paris with my wife Sue and go straight back to my old flat. My last day there was 4th December 2014, which was one of the saddest days of my life. I miss it dreadfully, but on this day it would be MINE! There would be no emails, no phone calls – and no visitors! I would spend the day reliving my life as I gaze out of the window with its vista over northern Paris. I would be happy going for lunch at my favourite fish restaurant – Le Dôme in Montparnasse. I would have the lobster salad, which his rated the best in the world, followed by tarte fine aux pommes. After that I would be happy to be back in the flat, reading and writing and looking out on Paris.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever…The day my young daughter, Karen, was made better. She was born with a dislocated hip and was in and out of hospitals having operations for her first six years. One surgeon really buggered it up and made it worse. Then a very good surgeon in Oxford put it right and she made a full recovery. It was such a relief.

The saddest time that shook your world…The death of my grandfather when I was 13. He died from a heart attack and it was the first time I had experienced a death in the family. He was a particularly nice person to me.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you…To have a lawn with a surface like a billiard table. The previous owner of our home in North London filled in the garden with lots of old bricks. We have lived here for 30 years and it has been a losing battle trying to lay a nice lawn. Bricks and holes always appear, or the foxes dig it up.

The philosophy that underpins your life…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In life, it is important to treat people well.

The order of service at your funeral…I will leave the details to my family and do as I have always done – which is to go where I am pointed!





The way you want to be remembered…As a friendly person, who was approachable and ready to listen. And for never missing a deadline!


Michael Bond, born on 13th January 1926, died on 27th June 2017 at home in London following  a short illness. He was 91.

He was a modest, kind and gentle man. He will live on through his wonderful gift to us all: Paddington Bear.

Author Michael Bond: The Definite Article – Writer’s Cut

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Helen Glover – My Haven. Weekend, Daily Mail

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Jenny Powell – My Haven. Weekend, Daily Mail

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By Rob McGibbon
Published 8 August 2014.  Interview conducted a few weeks earlier

People think I am cleverer than I really am because of the Inspector Morse plots. I know a lot, but I’m definitely not as smart as Morse

The prized possession you value above all others…

A signed first edition from 1896 of A.E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad – his cycle of 63 poems. I bought it in 1966 for £600 and it is probably worth at least £4,000 now. I started collecting first editions when I was 17 and have about 75 now, but that is the book I’d rescue if the house was burning down. I love his work.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend…

Having four operations on my ears during my 20s to cure deafness. I first started losing my hearing when I was 18, but the operations didn’t help and I wish I hadn’t put any faith in them. They caused me a lot of pain and I’d wake in the mornings with blood on the pillow. My life has been smitten by deafness, which ran in my family, and has caused me a great deal of anxiety. I would sit at dinner parties and tell people, “Don’t worry about me, talk amongst yourselves,” and I’d never hear a word of the conversation. I can only hear now with the help of hearing aids.

The temptation you wish you could resist…

Biscuits – especially Ginger Nuts. I was diagnosed with diabetes in my 40s, so I have had to watch what sweet things I eat ever since. I still find it hard to resist biscuits and I’m always getting told off for eating them by my wife Dorothy [83].

The book that holds an everlasting resonance…

Bleak House by Charles Dickens is the greatest novel in the English language. I have read it three times and its plot and characters always strike me a Masterclass in writing. It really is marvellous.

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

I would be intrigued to see what life is like for the Queen and Prince Phillip when they are in private at Buckingham Palace. I have heard that they enjoyed watching Morse for years – maybe they watch Endeavour now! It would be fun to know.

The pet-hate that makes your hackles rise…

Litter. I’m 84 now and I’m in a wheelchair, but each day Dorothy, or a kind lady who helps us, takes me for a walk along the Banbury Road in Oxford. We always pick up any litter and by the time we get home the bag is full. I find it disgusting how people litter our streets. What are they thinking?

The film you can watch time and time again…

The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. It is directly brilliantly by John Huston, but above all I love the interaction between Bogart a Hepburn. It has such tension and chemistry.

The person who has influenced you most…

My brother John. He was 18 months older than me and we were very close. Our family was so hard up that we had to share a bed for 19 years. One night, when I was about 16, he woke me up by playing Beethoven’s 7th Symphony loudly on the wireless. I told him to turn it off, but he had tears rolling down his face. I was intrigued that music could have that much power and began listening. That night, John opened the door to classical music, which has been one of the great joys in my life. Later, he began to teach me about Wagner, who is my favourite composer. 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 would love to know what really happened to the Princes in the Tower [Prince Edward and Richard, the sons of Edward IV, were imprisoned in the Tower of London by Richard III and later disappeared. Many suspect they were murdered upon his orders]. I studied the case in my teens and came to the conclusion it was not him, but he would have known what really happened. I’d also like to know where he would want to be buried now that his skeleton has been found. My vote would be for Leicester because he was originally from there!

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

I’m not sure I have much wisdom to pass on! I loved teaching Classics, Latin and Greek from 1952 to 1966 and I always told my pupils to speak up and ask a question if they didn’t understand something. Asking questions is vital. That’s how you learn.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity…

I have been fascinated by Greek mythology all my life and I loved reading Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The trouble is I have forgotten much of it now – not least the names of Zeus’ 117 daughters.

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

The ability to follow to The Archers! I loved that programme for 56 years, but I finally gave up soon after the 60th anniversary. I could hear it OK with my hearing aids, but by then I could no longer distinguish between the female characters because they all talk too quickly and sound too similar. I lost the thread as to what was going on. It is such a shame because I really do miss it.

The unending quest that drives you on…

Throughout my writing career I always strived to write the best page I could. If it wasn’t good enough, I’d start again. That still applies today if I am writing a short story, but I don’t do much writing these days.

The poem that touches your soul…

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray from 1751. I learnt it by heart when I was 14 and I still know it well. It is so wonderfully lyrical that it feels like music when you read it. It is beautiful.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase…

That I am cleverer than I really am! The Inspector Morse plots made people believe that I must be very smart. I do know a lot, but not that much! And I certainly don’t know as much about opera as I could. I’m definitely not as smart as Morse.

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

Getting my first book called Liberal Studies published by in 1964. It was an academic book and I was thrilled when the publisher liked it so much he said they didn’t want to change a comma! The Morse books began with Last Bus to Woodstock in 1975, but that first book put me on the road to my writing career.

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

I would steal Vermeer’s painting The Milkmaid from the Rijksmuseum museum in Amsterdam. I love the colouration and light in that picture. I have admired it so much over the years that I put a print of it above the fireplace in Morse’s home.

The song that means most to you…

Something by The Beatles. They were the greatest when it came to words and music. It is such a beautiful song and so romantic. 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 would help to enjoy this day if I were a few years younger – so let’s say I am 50! I’d begin with a nice bowl of porridge in a comfortable hotel in the mountains of Austria, with the ringing of bells from pretty churches filling the air. After that, Dorothy – who’s a Welsh girl – and I would go for a brisk walk in the hills of mid-Wales and stop off in Machynlleth for tea. We used to love visiting there in years gone by. Then we would go for a nice drive through Florida to Fort Lauderdale to get some sun. Later, I’d have fish and chips with mushy peas for lunch at The Trout Inn by the river in Oxfordshire, where we’d be joined by Sally and our son Jeremy and his children – Thomas, 24, and James, 22. I used to love a pint of ale and any type of whiskey, but doctors warned me to give up alcohol 15 years ago, or else I wouldn’t live to old age, so I’d just have a glass of Robinsons Lemon Barley Water. After lunch, I’d a paddle in the sea at Skegness for old time’s sake. I loved going there as a boy and I remember the advertising poster said, “Skegness – it’s so bracing!” They should have written “bloody cold” – but we loved it so much. I’d then watch England beat Australia in the final overs of The Ashes series at The Oval. I would finish the day in Germany at the Bayreuth Festival in Bavaria listening to a performance of Die Walküre, which is my favourite opera in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever…

When I was given the Freedom of the City of Oxford in 2001. At the time, the only other living recipients were Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. Oxford has meant a great deal to me and this was a wonderful honour. However, I have never exercised my right to drive a flock of sheep or cows across Magdalen Bridge.

The saddest time that shook your world…

When my daughter’s King Charles Cavalier dog died. He was called Mycroft and was very poorly, so I had to call the vet over to the house. I remember it looking at me from the kitchen table as the vet prepared the needle with such deep sadness in his eyes. I have never forgotten that look. I felt like the executioner. I had to hold him as the vet gave the injection and I could hear my daughter, who was 13, weeping in the next room. It was one of the few times in my life that I have really wept.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you…

To be World Chess Champion. I was pretty good when I was at school and that was my big dream, but in truth I was never good enough.

The philosophy that underpins your life…

It comes from the Latin phrase initium est dimidium facti, which means “Once you’ve started, you’re halfway there”, or “The beginning is half of the deed”. I have always found that the beginning is the hardest part of anything, but once that is done, I am off and away. The rest is about getting your head down and doing the bloody work.

The order of service at your funeral…

I would be happy with a simple affair without too many tears, as long as they played the hymn O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, which is sublime. I do not believe in the Afterlife. I’m with Socrates, who spoke of it as being like a dreamless sleep. I’d rather be burnt than buried and for all I care you can put the ashes in the dustbin.

The way you want to be remembered…

As a good teacher. I got more pleasure from teaching than any other job in my life.

 

Colin Dexter was a modest, fun and gentle man to interview. He died aged 86  peacefully at home in Oxford on 21 March 2017

Author Colin Dexter: The Definite Article – Writer’s Cut

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Simon Reeve – My Haven. Weekend, Daily Mail

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Facebook Live interview with Katie Price in full

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Lord Michael Dobbs – My Haven. Weekend, Daily Mail

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Judy Murray – What Turns Me On. Event, Mail on Sunday

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By Rob McGibbon
Published on 3rd October 2014

My philosophy for life? KISS A TIT! It’s an acronym I made up in my 40s to help me focus on my work. It stands for: ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid, And Think It Through.’ It can be applied positively to just about anything in life.

The prized possession you value above all others…

Two steel bowls from a vintage magic trick called The Rice Bowls. They were made for the British magician Robert Harbin in the 1940s and were a present from the Irish magician Quentin Reynolds, as a thank you for helping him out early in his career. I advised him on how to look after the business side of magic and he was very grateful. The trick itself is probably worth about £2,000, but it is incredibly rare and it was a very thoughtful present. I keep it on display in a cabinet.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend…

Wasting so much money on flash cars in the 1980s and 90s. I started off with a Citroen Maserati, then a Ferrari, followed by a couple of Bentleys. I threw away hundreds of thousands of pounds in what I call a “Clarkson-syndrome”. No matter what you spend on a car, it’s still no more than a metal box with wheels. I also spent a fortune filling those things with petrol. These days, I have a 10-year-old Mercedes E Class Estate, which is a fine workhorse, and an Isuzu Trooper for pulling my boat.

The temptation you wish you could resist…

I try not to resist anything – what’s the point! But I do wish I didn’t check my Twitter and Facebook accounts every morning because I spend at least an hour responding to messages and comments when I should get on with work. It’s a big distraction, but I enjoy the interaction with people.

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The book that holds an everlasting resonance…

Greater Magic by John Northern Hilliard. I came across it in my 20s, but I only really understood it properly years later. It covers the full gamut of magic tricks, but it also deals with big subjects, not least the meaning of life and how magic fits into it all. The Prologue and Epilogue are brilliant and full of wisdom.

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

The American magician Mac King is a great friend who does a very funny skit in his Las Vegas show when he pretends to be invisible. I’d love to freak him out by being a real invisible man during that. That would be hilarious.

The pet-hate that makes your hackles rise…

My own untidiness. Every day I promise to turn over a new leaf and start putting things back in the right place, but of course I don’t. This means that Debbie [his wife, Debbie McGee] and our housekeeper always put things away, which I then struggle to find. It’s all basically my fault.

The film you can watch time and time again…

The Wizard of Oz. My dad Hughie was the projectionist and then the manager of our local cinema [in South Bank, near Middlesbrough]. I was about nine when I watched the film there and I remember being amazed as the screen turned from black and white to colour. I can still see that transformation in my mind today. Judy Garland’s voice is wonderful and it is, for me, the most beautiful movie ever made.

The person who has influenced you most…

My dad influenced me in every way. He was a lovely man, whom everybody liked. He was short, stocky and very strong and was so practical that he could do everything, from mend cars, to do the electrics in the house. We would sit down and invent things together. He was incredibly knowledgeable and he inspired me to want to know about things.

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

I’d like to sit down with Stalin and ask him why he murdered all those people. I simply want to understand what he thought gave him the right?

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

Read as much as you can, about as much you can. And always question everything you read. 

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity…

I’m in interested in everything! But I am particularly fascinated by the human memory system. I have studied it to the extent that I am now paid to coach people how to remember things.

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

The tip of the ring finger on my left hand, which I cut off when I was working with a circular saw on New Year’s Day 2012. The top phalange – as it is known – has completely gone. I had to re-train myself to do card tricks. I am fine now, but every object I touch with that finger still feels like they have a hole in them. The brain still thinks it has a fingertip there, which is a strange sensation. The surgeon pulled over the loose bit of flesh that was left to create a pad at the tip. Astonishingly, that has now started creating a new fingerprint! 

The unending quest that drives you on…

The pursuit of new knowledge. I already have a good general knowledge, but I love learning, so I won’t ever stop. They say that nobody likes a know-all, which is probably why Debbie refuses to watch Eggheads with me! 

The poem that touches your soul…

None! I don’t read poetry, although I have always been tickled by Ogden Nash’s work because of it silliness and clever play on words.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase…

That I am not 6ft 2in! For some reason, everyone, except me, thinks that I am 5ft 6in. Seriously, it is annoying that people think I perform the same on stage as I did on television. TV is a 5th rate entertainment medium because it goes through so many layers of control before it reaches the viewer – like the producer, the director, the cameraman etc. My live performances are way funnier and more entertaining than the TV shows. I’ve had people come up to me after my shows and say, “I couldn’t stand you on telly, but that was great!”

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

Reading about the Age Cards prediction magic trick when I was 11. I was trapped in a house on holiday in Yorkshire with it raining outside when I came across a Victorian book with instructions on how to do that trick. I sat down and learnt it, then did it on a few people. It was very exciting and it opened up the whole world of magic to me and changed the entire course of my life.

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

I would wipe out the people who make decisions NOT to dredge our rivers – preferably by drowning! All this flooding we have had – including our house in Berkshire – is because their bad decisions have made our rivers a lot shallower.

The song that means most to you…

Zadok The Priest, which is one of Handel’s Coronation Anthems. It was played at the end our wedding celebrations in 1988 as we fired off thousands of pounds worth of fireworks. It was a special day and that music always takes me back.

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

A perfect day would be spent with all my family. My three sons – Gary, Paul and Martin – are spread over the country, so we are seldom all together at one time. So, I’d start the day with the boys and my grandchildren – Martin’s kids Lewis, 15, and Camilla, 12 – with a big breakfast at the Magic Castle Hotel in Hollywood, which is so much fun. Then we’d head to Disneyland. I love the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, so that’s a must. Then we’d go to Knott’s Berry Farm theme park, also in California, which has loads of rides and a Wild West theme. Lunch would be in a Red Lobster restaurant in LA, then we’d head north to Universal Studios. I love all things to do with movies, which harks back to my dad running a cinema. I’d stop off in the Psycho House. I’d pop back to London for my favourite snack – double eggs and chips with white bread and butter – at the Windows Restaurant at the top of the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane. I asked for it there once, even though it was not on the menu, and they were very understanding! In the evening, Debbie and I would check into The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas then go and see two spectacular shows – O by Cirque du Soleil and Mac King’s magic show. After all that, we would relax at La Chevre d’Or hotel in Eze, high up in the hills in the South of France. I rarely drink, but I’d have a glass of Sancerre on the terrace and watch the lights of the boats sparkling far off on the Mediterranean until late into the night.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever…

Pulling off a particularly difficult gig in the early 1990s in Brussels. It was a charity event to raise money for cancer but the audience was super rich bankers and European aristocracy – people not best known for being able to “belly laugh”, as we call it in Yorkshire. It was the toughest audience you can imagine, but not long into the gig I could see people crying with laughter. I really had got ’em and it felt very satisfying. Doing great shows is what drives me on. I love making people happy.

The saddest time that shook your world…

The day my father died 20 years ago when he was 73. He had suffered a series of strokes and died in hospital. I was with him when he went. I felt like I had lost my mate and it hit me really hard. I still miss him, even now, but I talk to him all the time. I will be in my workshop struggling to make something and I’ll say, “Come on now, Dad, how do I this?” And he’ll help me in some way or other.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you…

To be in a movie would be great fun. A comedy would be ideal, but I’m up for any role.

The philosophy that underpins your life…

“KISS A TIT!” It’s an acronym I made up in my 40s to help me focus on my work. It stands for: Keep It Simple Stupid And Think It Through”. It can be applied positively to just about anything in life.

The order of service at your funeral…

It will be a non-religious event because I’m not a ‘believer.’ If they’ll allow it, I’d like a service at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the West End, with a few friends getting up to tell a load of lies about how much they loved me, followed by a little party at our house on The Thames. This would end with a fireworks display and my ashes exploding from inside a rocket fired over the river. 

The way you want to be remembered…

As the only man who lived to see the end of the DFS Sale!

 

Paul Daniels died aged 77  from a brain tumour on 17 March 2016

Magician Paul Daniels: The Definite Article – Writer’s Cut

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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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Michael Flatley – My Haven. Weekend, Daily Mail

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Veteran crooner Tony Bennett

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Actor David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff

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Ran Fiennes

Adventurer Sir Ranulf Fiennes

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F1 legend Nigel Mansell

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Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond

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“I was devastated when my father died suddenly. I wanted to give up acting”

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Veteran actor Peter Bowles

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“I have never done therapy – but I guess this is what it’s like!”

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The Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde

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Flashback with Mick Hucknall – The Writer’s Cut

Mick Hucknall remembers writing songs with Motown legend Lamont Dozier, 1986…

“That Paul Smith suit was the first time I had anything made for me bespoke. I’ve still got it and I can get into it – just!”

This is me with Lamont Dozier, one of the greatest legends in pop music. He wrote and produced [with Brian and Eddie Holland] some of the biggest hits of the Motown era in the Sixties and way beyond. He worked with The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and many others and I’ve lost track of how many hits he’s had [14 No.1s in America alone]. I went to his home in Los Angeles in late 1986 for a songwriting session. I was 26 at the time and Simply Red had recently really taken off. Our first album Picture Book was already a hit and Holding Back The Years had gone to No.2 in the UK and No.1 in America a few months earlier. My life had changed dramatically, so it was an incredibly exciting time, but there was also a lot of pressure because the record company wanted a second album as fast as possible.

There was a big rush on, but there wasn’t anyone else in the band who could write to my standard, so the responsibility fell to me. It was a major burden, which was made worse because we were touring the whole time. I have always liked writing at home in my own time, so it was tough to suddenly write on the road, in hotels or on planes, when everything was always so hectic.

My manager thought it was a good idea for me to work with another songwriter to broaden my horizons, so I was put together with Lamont. I have been a Motown fan since I was a kid and I’m an aficionado. I have most of the Early and Mid catalogue on vinyl, so I knew Lamont’s work and he was a big hero. I remember sitting at the piano in his house and having some of his hits flashing through my mind – Baby Love, Stop! In The Name of Love, Going Back To My roots – and thinking, This guy wrote these!

We spent a whole morning just making a lot of noise and banging out tunes on the piano and recording it on a Walkman. There was no singing, or writing of lyrics, it was just us working out some melodies. Lamont is an ideas machine and works fast, like he’s on a production line, and I remember having to respectfully keep reining him in. I would still be trying to get the first part of a song right when he’d be on the chorus, or at the end!

It was a very convivial few hours. Lamont is such a warm, friendly guy and he was quite paternal towards me. A lot of writers from his time got ripped off, so he told me to stay sharp and not allow myself to be exploited. Advice from someone like him was a great help and over the years I became a bit of a Rottweiler to make sure I got what was rightfully mine.

After that session I went away with an ordinary audio cassette and worked out the songs on my own. Eventually I came up with Infidelity and Suffer, which both appeared on the Men and Women album the following year. Lamont was happy with them, although he thought the words to Infidelity were a bit risky – but I was just writing about how things were for me at the time!

We worked together again at his house a couple of years later and wrote two more songs – You’ve Got It and Turn It Up – for Simply Red’s third album, A New Flame. We lost touch after that, but I remember bumping into him at a wedding in the 90s and we talked about writing again together. He’s 73 now and still going strong. What he has achieved is really amazing.

I laugh when I look at this picture because of my double-breasted suit. Simply Red had just done a deal to be kitted out by Paul Smith. We were all measured up at his shop in Covent Garden and Paul made me this one for me in Prince of Wales check with a beautiful red lining. It was the first time I’d ever had anything bespoke, so it was a thrill and I was very proud of it. In fact, I still have that suit and I can still fit into it – just! Interview by Rob McGibbon

 

The new Simply Red album Big Love is out now and their UK tour begins on 28th November. Visit www.simplyred.com.

Mick Hucknall – Flashback. Saturday Magazine, Daily Telegraph

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Former England rugby captain Will Carling

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BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull

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Actress Leslie Ash

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Bargain Hunt presenter Tom Wonnacott

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Flashback with Stuart Broad – The Writer’s Cut

Stuart Broad remembers hanging out at cricket grounds with his dad, England opening batsman Chris, in 1991

This was taken when I was about five at Trent Bridge – Nottinghamshire Cricket Club’s home ground. Dad was playing for them at the time, two years after ending his England career in 1989. He had done really well with England and had been the Man of the Series when they retained The Ashes in the 1986-87 series in Australia after scoring centuries in three successive test matches.

My Mum and Dad split up when I was three, but they both lived in the Nottingham area and remained on good terms, so I spent most weekends staying with him. That’s when I first became aware Dad was a cricketer – because he had to take me to work! Trent Bridge became like a home from home with the staff looking after me while Dad did his stuff. One of my earliest memories is following him onto the pitch as he went out to bat when I was four. I thought, well if Dad’s playing, I’m going too, and I had to be grabbed by one of the members. Another time, I got way out onto the pitch in the middle of a match and had to be brought back by a fielder.

They were great times for me because I loved being around the cricketers. I went to grounds all over the country, so it was a real eye opener to the lifestyle and it was also inspirational to be in the dressing room. I got to hear all the match talk and the banter and I was allowed to mess around with the kit. I got to try on pads and gloves and play with grown-up bats. I got quite obsessed with cricket and from a young age I insisted on wearing white clothes, even when I was out playing with my mates. It was a nightmare for my Mum when it came to the washing! In this picture I am wearing a proper Nottinghamshire match jumper, which belonged to a batsman called Paul Johnson. His wife had shrunk it in the wash and because he was only 5ft 4in it nearly fitted me, so he gave it to me. That was my first bit of professional kit, so I absolutely loved that jumper!

Generally on match days, I only watched Dad bat for a bit, then I’d go off playing sport with other kids whose dads were in the teams. I remember us often using a large rubbish bin that was taller than me as stumps. And when I was seven I was playing rugby during a match at Bristol – when Dad was playing for Gloucestershire – and I broke my collarbone in a tackle. He was fielding at the time, so someone had to dash out to tell him that I was being rushed to hospital. He came off later to find me with my arm in a sling.

I was very proud of Dad when I was growing up. I used to walk about a yard behind him because it is hard to keep up with an adult’s stride when you’re a kid, so I’d see people do a double-take and say, “Hey, that was Chris Broad!” It was weird hearing people whisper about my Dad, but that’s when I knew he was sort of famous and had been successful. He was always encouraging about me following in his footsteps, but neither him, nor Mum were at all pushy. The key for them was that I had fun with sport and, even to this day, I still treat cricket as my hobby, not as a job. It’s the only way if you want to keep loving the game.

Dad and I are still really close and we live near each other in Nottingham. We enjoy sharing good dinners and nice wine, but we are really competitive, especially at golf. He is now an ICC (International Cricket Council) referee and is really proud of what I am achieving in cricket. All my life I have been called Chris Broad, but it has never bothered me. When I was starting out, kids would come up and ask, “Can I have your autograph, Chris?” and I’d say, “Of course. Do you want me to sign it Chris – or Stuart?!”

The name confusion has been a running joke between me and Dad. He used to tease me by saying, “I will only know that you have made it when I am called Stuart Broad’s dad!” Then, about 18 months ago, he was at a dinner event and he was introduced as “Stuart Broad’s dad”. It gave him a real buzz and he phoned to tell me what had happened. He said, “Well, son, it looks like you have officially made it!”

Stuart Broad is an Investec cricket ambassador. For information about Investec private banking visit investec.co.uk/pb or @InvestecCricket.

 

 

Stuart Broad – Flashback. Saturday Magazine, Daily Telegraph

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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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Author Alexander McCall Smith

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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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index‘People always think I’m really short. Maybe the name Midge creates an image that I’m tiny. I’m 5ft 8in!’

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

The prized possession you value above all others...Two chairs made by the Glasgow designer George Logan around 1900. They cost £5,000 in 1981. They’re beautiful and they have a connection to Glasgow, which was my hometown.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend...Not asking Phil Lynott to reform Thin Lizzy for Live Aid in 1985. It was a massive omission. I was in Thin Lizzy in 1979-80 and Phil was a great mate. [Lynott died aged 36 in 1986 from heart failure.]

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...The novel Perfume by Patrick Süskind. The writing is so amazing you can smell the filth of 18th-century Paris.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...I’d lock myself in a vintage guitar shop near my home in Bath and strum to my heart’s content.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Mindless idiots desecrating cities with graffiti.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Speak nicely because people will judge you by that. My mum instilled that in me.

The film you can watch time and time again...It’s A Wonderful Life with James Stewart. It’s a lesson in the importance of life and it’s beautifully acted.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Sweets. The urge never existed before I gave up drinking ten years ago, but now I’ll tuck into a family packet of Liquorice Allsorts. But it’s better than pouring flagons of Jack Daniel’s down me!

The person who has influenced you most...A teacher called Miss Gebbie. I was nine when she taught me how to draw a face and it inspired me. She was my first love!

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...The 19th-century Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He was a modernist and visionary – I’d like to know how he managed to stick to his guns and thrive.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Cooking. It’s my way of switching off from music. I’m fascinated by making flavours. It was hit and miss for a while, but now I know what goes with what.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...Naivety. I couldn’t write Vienna [his 1981 hit with Ultravox] today because I’d over-analyse it and worry what people would think.

The unending quest that drives you on...To create something better than I’ve created before.

The poem that touches your soul...A Red, Red Rose by Burns. I was ten when I sang it in front of the class and won a certificate. It was my first recognition for anything, let alone singing.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m really short! I’m 5ft 8in, which I think is fairly average. Maybe the name Midge creates an image that I’m tiny.

The event that altered the course of your life and character...When my daughter Kitty saw me getting a bottle of vodka out of the car while we were at a beach in Cornwall. It was ten years ago and I’d been in rehab, but I was still drinking. She was 11 and the look of disappointment on her face was hideous. I’ve not had a drink since that day.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d rifle through secret bank vaults in Switzerland and give the money to the poor.

The song that means most to you...My Mind’s Eye by Small Faces. They were my favourite band when I was 14 and I was besotted with that song. They were the ultimate pop band.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I travel so much that a special day for me is hanging out with my wife Sheridan and my girls [Molly 28, from his first marriage, Kitty, 21, Ruby, 18, and Flossie, 16], so I’d wake up at home in Bath. I’d have muesli with yoghurt for breakfast, plus white toast with banana, then I’d head to Rock beach in Cornwall for some boogie boarding with the family. We’d have fish and chips for lunch at Rick Stein’s restaurant in Padstow, then I’d wander around Nelson in New Zealand. I love it there because it’s so quaint and old-fashioned. I’d go into space and write a song while orbiting the Earth. After that, I’d head to the Isle of Mull and stay at Calgary Castle where Sheridan and I got married in 2003. All the family would hang out on the beach watching the sunset, then I’d have steak for dinner back at the castle – washed down with a Pepsi Max!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...My tenth birthday when Mum and Dad gave me my first guitar. Dad only earned £6 a week, but the guitar cost £3. I was ecstatic, and I still have it.

The saddest time that shook your world...The day my father Jim died in 2001 when he was 82. It gave me the excuse to feel sorry for myself and my drinking escalated. I was on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s a day and the next four years were the saddest of my life.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To have a full head of hair again!

The philosophy that underpins your life...Strive for quality.

The order of service at your funeral...I want weeping and wailing in the church, but then Crossroads by Cream will play to liven everyone up. My girls can scatter my ashes on the Clyde.

The way you want to be remembered...Despite the pressures, he never gave in.

The Plug...Midge is currently on his Breathe Again Tour and is joining the 80s Invasion tour in March 2016. Visit midgeure.co.uk or tdpromo.com.

 

Singer Midge Ure

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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 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: 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: 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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What Turns Me On – Arlene Phillips – Uncut

 

The dance judge and choreographer needs the soothing sounds of Ed Sheeran, the joyful steps of West Side Story, radio plays and the secrets of magic.

TELEVISION

I am obsessed with minimalism, so I tune in to Grand Designs hoping there will be some fantasy home that you can only dream of. I really like Kevin McCloud – he is so bright and easy going – and I love the way the programme is set up. You always think the people are going to run out of money and never get to the end of the project, so there is an element of drama that draws you in and keep you watching. The best ones are when Kevin goes back two years later and the people don’t even like the dream home they spent all that time creating. I always find that quite fascinating. My home in North London is pretty bare. It’s a 1930s house, which I had gutted and re-styled. It wasn’t exactly on a Grand Designs scale, but it was a big enough job. Now, the house is all white walls and simple stone or wood floors, with very little furniture and no clutter. If I had my way I would live in a glass box!

I have been reading Agatha Christie books for as long as I can remember, so Poirot and Miss Marple have been enjoyable evergreens in my TV viewing since they started in the 1980s. They’re wonderful, harmless escapism. I like getting my teeth into a good mystery and I prefer one that is all wrapped up in a couple of hours. I am relieved to see how loyal the shows are to the books. The characterisations are spot on and I love the locations, the homes and the costumes. More recently, I have fallen for Sherlock. How they have taken that old story and knitted it into the modern world, with all its new technology, is quite extraordinary. Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely brilliant.

THEATRE

Dance has been the constant thread throughout my life. In one way or another it has always been there and led me through the maze. A New York dance company called the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre has been a major inspiration in my career. I first saw them at Sadler’s Wells in 1970 performing Revelations – a series of dance suites about black African slaves. I was 27 at the time and it was such a powerfully moving piece that I left the theatre determined to go to New York and study with them. I saved up and did just that three years later. I used to see them dance regularly at Sadler’s Wells and I was always in the standing area at the back because that was all I could afford. They didn’t perform in London for many years, but I caught them at the London Coliseum two years ago and they are still fantastic.

Earlier this year I saw the perfect play – Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale – as a full-length ballet at the Royal Opera House and it was outstanding. I have always wondered how you could ever put a play as wordy as that into dance, with absolutely no dialogue, but it certainly succeeded. Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography was stunning and Ed Watson as Leontes was magnificent. It was the ultimate performance in a dance drama and I could hardly get up out of my seat when it was over.

MUSIC

When it comes to contemporary music, I’m really into Sam Smith. I could listen to his voice all day – it is so beautiful that I get lost in it. Another big favourite is Ed Sheeran. Funnily enough, I first came across him six years ago when I was doing the choreography on the ITV series Britannia High. Ed auditioned in Manchester, but he didn’t make it through because he needed to dance as well as sing. He played guitar and sang and right then I thought, My Goodness, this boy has got a bright future. His lyrics are very clever and I love the way he makes a story about everyday things, like in his song Lego House, which sets off a whole story in my head. It’s amazing what he has achieved, particularly in America, which is so hard to break.

Bizarrely, I generally listen to contemporary music on my computer at my desk because I see it as a part of my work. There’s a reason and a purpose to my listening, so I like to delve further into the words and understand how the music is constructed. When I am just pottering about the house I will have classical music on in the background and Mozart is a big love.

FILM

My favourite film of all-time is West Side Story. It is Romeo and Juliet taken to the limits on modern day streets with racial tensions and clashes. I first saw it when it came out in 1961 and I was blown away. It is still sensational – on stage or as a film – and I never tire of it. You have music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins doing the choreography as well as co-directing with Robert Wise. I think Robbins was the guiding light, but you just pay homage to such an incredible team.

The film I have adored recently is The Grand Hotel Budapest. It has an unbelievable cast with the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody and loads of others. It is a musical and visual feast and so gloriously strange. You wonder what on earth is going on half the time, but I love things that are odd and original. I was carried away by it and I still listen to the soundtrack a lot.

RADIO

I have been an avid fan of Just a Minute! on Radio 4 for as long as I can remember. Nicholas Parsons is extraordinary. To think, he’s 91 [on Oct 10th] and his brilliant brain is still whirring away as sharply as ever. He is such an amazing example for anyone worried about getting old. Paul Merton is wonderfully witty and quick, but I heard Sue Perkins recently and she really bowled me over. I knew she was smart, but, Wow, not that smart! After the show, I often test myself by picking a subject at random, then trying to talk for a minute on it. I sit there, by myself, talking against the clock. If anyone saw me, they’d think I had finally lost the plot!

The other staple radio regulars for me are the Today programme and Woman’s Hour and lately I have become quite fascinated by plays on 4Extra. I switch it on while I am cooking early in the evening and I become engrossed in the stories and these wonderful voices coming from the radio. It is like lighting a deliciously scented candle and letting the balm waft around the kitchen. The only problem is that I frequently don’t stick with it to the end of the play, so I have countless unfinished plays in my head!

ART

My dad was a barber, but his favourite thing to do at weekends was looking at art, so from about seven onwards I went with him to all galleries in Manchester all the time. We used to look at the Lowrys and dad would talk to me about the paintings and what to look for. The other person who taught me a lot about art is Andrew Lloyd Webber. I have known Andrew for years and he introduced me about the Pre-Raphaelites. He has a wonderful collection and his knowledge is incredible. He taught me so much about Burne-Jones and Rossetti and how Jane Morris – the wife of William Morris – became their muse. I have plenty of books on that period. That group of artists is endlessly fascinating – especially when you have someone like Andrew talking about it.

David Hockney has easily been my favourite contemporary artist since I met him in the mid-1970s. Wayne Sleep introduced me to him at a party in London and I was utterly mesmerised by hearing him talk about art. I remember him being excited about some new pens with brushes that he had just brought back from Japan. He was always looking for new ways in which to create his work – and he still is. I have gone to every one of his exhibitions in London since then, including the Blue Guitar series. I particularly loved The Bigger Picture exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2012. Those huge paintings of the woods in Yorkshire through the seasons were stunning. The colours, the leaves, the bare trees, the paths, I found it all so captivating. His energy and the way he keeps adapting is quite amazing.

BOOKS

Throughout my childhood, from as young as eight, I was consumed with books about relationships and families. I would wrap myself up in the characters of Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and Ballet Shoes. It was as if what they went through would begin to live inside me. There was often a lack of harmony in their families and their relationships and I connected with the girls who had ambitions and the courage to find their own way, whether it be to marry, to be an engineer and get educated, or to dance. I was somebody who wanted to fight against the odds to be a dancer.

I have always loved a good autobiography and I’ll consume them rapidly, whether they’re by great actors like David Niven and Steven Berkoff, or the marvellous wartime dancer Gillian Lynne. Currently by my bed is a very odd book called Sleights of Mind by Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknick, who are American neuroscience professors. It is about magicians and it reveals the science of how they trick your mind. I am fascinated by magicians like David Blaine and Dynamo and how they convince you they have made something disappear, even though you know it is not possible. This book explains how the brain works and how the illusionists change it to make you believe what they want you to believe. It is an entertaining book, but it’s also quite educational because it gives wannabe magicians like me a close-up on the secrets of magic.

 

Arlene Phillips is supporting Quit With Help, a campaign to help smokers stop for good. For a free quit plan visit www.quitwithhelp.co.uk.

Arlene Phillips – What Turns Me On. Event, Mail on Sunday

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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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