Paul O’Grady: ‘Grandad? I say call me Paul’
As Paul O’Grady takes his beloved show to warmer climes, he talks risking his life in India, life on his farm and the joys of being a grandad...
The deliciously down-to-earth Paul O’Grady is back on our screens with a new, heartwarming series Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs In India.
The 62-year-old Liverpudlian, who shares his sprawling Kent farm with husband Andre Portasio, 37, and a host of animals, including pigs, sheep, dogs and owls, talks to us about meditation, Mars Bars and being a wild grandad to his two grandchildren, Abel, 11, and Halo, seven. You had a near-death experience in India – what happened? I was rolling around in the gutter with puppies that had been bitten by rats. The bites had maggots in them. I must have touched my mouth with my hand and, at 5am, I started vomiting. I was still being sick at 10pm so they called a doctor. I was taken into hospital and they said I was so seriously dehydrated I was heading for renal failure!
Are you scared of death?
Not at all. It’s going to happen to us all, isn’t it? But I’d sooner it was short and sharp, in the jaws of a lion or something like that, rather than lying in bed. Murphy [Paul’s former partner] had a terrible death; I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
How do you unwind?
I like a good hobby. I’ve tried calligraphy, fishing and painting with watercolours. Meditation was another fad. I had this app and would lie down with my headphones on. The voice said I should listen to my breathing and then he didn’t speak for ages. I thought it had finished and then five minutes later he said in a loud voice, ‘And now…’ I jumped out of the bed!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
If I go to bed knowing there’s a Mars Bar or Flake downstairs, I’ll get up and eat it. I’m terrible! I bought Easter eggs for the grandkids and they’d all gone by the time they came. I had to go out and buy more!
We hear you’re a dab hand in the kitchen. What would you rustle up if we came round for dinner?
Oh, I don’t do dinner parties. Candles on the table and all that – no! I prefer having my dinner on my knee sitting watching the telly! Or I’ll eat standing up. It’s weird, isn’t it? And I never go to dinner parties; they’re so boring.
Do you like being a grandad?
Yes, although I don’t see myself wearing slippers and sucking on a Werther’s Original. Instead, I pretend to drive like a maniac in the car with them with the radio on full belt. They scream with laughter. I do the things that grandads aren’t supposed to do. When we’re at the supermarket, I say, ‘Don’t call me Grandad, call me Paul.’ I keep them entertained and they love the insanity of it.
Were you tempted to bring any dogs back home from India with you?
There was a big old black labrador with cataracts and crippled with arthritis. But they said he was so old he probably wouldn’t survive the journey and that the guy who ran the dog shelter would be broken-hearted if he left.
What else are you up to?
I’m writing a kids’ book at the moment. The first one was too long – 90,000 words. I said, ‘It’s not my fault if kids prefer shorter books.’ And you can’t mention drink – I had a pigeon who was an alcoholic in it and another who smoked. All that had to go.
Are you still a big Corrie fan?
It was about working-class life in a little street, but now it’s like Syria! There used to be these wonderful vignettes in the Rovers – a conversation over nothing. The one they write well for is Mary. She’s fantastic. She delivers some off-the-wall lines beautifully!
Are you enjoying presenting Blind Date?
I didn’t enjoy the last series – the set was lousy and it took hours to film, but this latest series is shot as live, with a brand-new set and fabulous contestants. I’m really glad I did it and I’ve exorcised the ghost of Cilla. In the first series, I was very conscious that it was her show and now I’m not, but when it all gets out of hand, I’ll say, ‘Cilla, why did you do this to me? Why did you leave me this in your will?!’
Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs In India starts on ITV, Thu 26 April, 8.30pm
Paul in 2007 with his first grandchild, Abel, and daughter, Sharyn