Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - Yourviews -

I King – one half of TV’s most fa­mous cook­ing duo The Hairy Bik­ers – is known for his cheery, jokey on-screen per­sona, but, un­til re­cently, that hid the per­sonal pain of sev­eral years of emo­tional tur­moil.

By 2014, he’d reached break­ing point. Liv­ing alone – as he’d sep­a­rated from Jane, his wife of 27 years a cou­ple of years ear­lier – he lost his mother, Stella, and shortly af­ter­wards, nearly lost his own life when he suf­fered a brain aneurysm. He has ad­mit­ted un­der­go­ing a mid-life cri­sis, say­ing pre­vi­ously, “I com­pletely lost it... I didn’t know who I was any more”.

Two years on, the charis­matic Ge­ordie reveals for the first time that he’s un­der­gone a re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion thanks to his new-found love for a fel­low chef.

Talk­ing can­didly about their ro­mance and how she’s com­pletely ban­ished the self-doubt and un­hap­pi­ness of the past, he de­clares: “With­out a shadow of a doubt, I’m the hap­pi­est I’ve ever been. I have a won­der­ful new part­ner. I’m re­ally, re­ally happy and feel­ing in­cred­i­bly lucky that I’ve got a sec­ond bite of the cherry.”

The 50-year-old, who’s back on screen with his cook­ing part­ner Dave My­ers, in their lat­est BBC1 se­ries The Hairy Bik­ers’ Com­fort Food, con­fides his new love is Aus­tralian, called Michelle and is a pro­fes­sional cook. “We first met years and years ago in South Africa when we were both work­ing out there and be­came friends. When we met again, our cir­cum­stances had changed (he and his wife Jane di­vorced last Oc­to­ber) and it just kind of came to­gether. It was pretty amaz­ing.”

Clearly head-over-heels in love, they fly thou­sands of miles each month ‘com­mut­ing’ be­tween each other’s homes – Michelle, also 50, lives and works in Syd­ney, while he lives in Bri­tain out­side New­cas­tle-upon-Tyne – so they can spend pre­cious time to­gether.

“Michelle’s such a good hu­man be­ing with good en­ergy to be around and is very lov­ing. She’s a very in­ter­est­ing woman who’s had a big life. We’re so scar­ily alike it’s bizarre. We have so much in com­mon – food, mu­sic, art, pol­i­tics – ev­ery­thing. We share ev­ery­thing,” he says.

“We have what we call our ‘cui­sine dance’, where she has this very light hand and touch, whereas I’m all about big flavours and all that sort of stuff. So when we’re giv­ing a party to­gether, it’s al­ways a bit of a laugh, be­cause you can def­i­nitely tell who has cooked what. We to­tally bal­ance each other in food and ev­ery­thing, re­ally.”

Si, who has pre­vi­ously blamed the pres­sures of his TV ca­reer and lengthy ab­sences from home trav­el­ling the world film­ing The Hairy Bik­ers for his mar­riage break­down (“We lost each other... Jane was fo­cused on the fam­ily and I was fo­cused on work”), is de­ter­mined not to risk pro­longed pe­ri­ods away from his new part­ner.

“I’m def­i­nitely not go­ing to let ab­sences ruin this relationship or be an is­sue be­cause I want to make it work prop­erly. I travel to Aus­tralia around once a month and spend as much time as I pos­si­bly can there. It’s im­por­tant that I do, be­cause I miss her,” says the chef who first found na­tion­wide fame with fel­low North­erner Dave My­ers 12 years ago with their show, The Hairy Bik­ers’ Cook­book. The pair have starred in a host of hit TV shows, writ­ten 18 cook­ery books, and be­come na­tional trea­sures along the way.

The fa­ther-of-three – he has three sons from his mar­riage, Alex, 27, James, 24, and Dy­lan, 16 – says: “This year will be ex­cit­ing be­cause there are some de­ci­sions to be made about where I’ll live even­tu­ally.

“I prob­a­bly won’t re­set­tle in Aus­tralia be­cause I want to stay near my chil­dren. Me and my boys – who are all bril­liant cooks – are very close My­ers Si with his TV part­ner Dave and I don’t want to af­fect that, so it’s a bal­anc­ing act that’s got to be worked out. We’re all in a bit of a learn­ing curve at the mo­ment.”

The cou­ple spent Christ­mas in Bri­tain be­fore fly­ing back to Aus­tralia to­gether. He says: “The boys like her, of course they do, be­cause there’s noth­ing not to like about her. She’s one of those sun­shine-y, happy, pos­i­tive peo­ple. She’s the per­fect bal­ance for me.”

His part­ner, Dave My­ers, 58, who he first met 20 years ago and to whom he turned while he re­cu­per­ated from the “hor­ri­bly scary” brain haem­or­rhage and life-sav­ing surgery, as well as dur­ing his mar­i­tal dif­fi­cul­ties is, he says, “happy I’m set­tled”.

He de­scribes Dave as “my best friend and such a great mate”.

“We’re like two old slip­pers – we fit to­gether. It’s like a mar­riage. We hardly ever ar­gue. He’s been so bril­liant in get­ting me through the tough times with my op­er­a­tion and ev­ery­thing else. I also had won­der­ful sup­port from my ex-wife and the boys.

“Af­ter the aneurysm... I didn’t have an epiphany mo­ment, but you re­alise you have to have the courage to make dif­fer­ent choices, some of which may be un­com­fort­able, and to evoke change if you need to evoke it.”

Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly fol­low­ing the challenges he’s faced per­son­ally and health-wise, he took his mile­stone 50th birth­day last Oc­to­ber in his stride. “Let’s face it, I’m a very priv­i­leged, lucky man to have come through my health prob­lem, so I was just chuffed to bloody bits to be here. Af­ter all that’s hap­pened, I thought, ‘Re­ally, what more havoc can I cause than that?’ so I was like, ‘50 - get in!”’

He’s delighted about the new TV se­ries be­cause “it’s cosy, fun and back to the ba­sics of what Dave and I do best – an unashamedly ‘chop and chat’ show. It’s lush. We’ve had the most amaz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties do­ing the Bik­ers – go­ing around the world four times, meet­ing amaz­ing peo­ple and see­ing amaz­ing things”, he en­thuses.

“My life cer­tainly hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would, not by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion. Nor did I think I would be as happy as I am now. It must mean I’ve done some­thing right in my life to de­serve this.

“I have a few re­grets, of course, doesn’t ev­ery­body? But I try not to be­cause, at the end of the day, it’s all about the ta­pes­try of your own ex­pe­ri­ence. I never want to get to my deathbed and think, ‘I wish I’d done this or that’ or ‘If only...’ These days I’m try­ing very hard to work on not hav­ing any ‘If onlys’!” ■ The Hairy Bik­ers’ Com­fort Food is on BBC1 at 3.45pm, week days. Learn­ing to play an in­stru­ment is good for the brain

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