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...

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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

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