Paul O’grady: ‘Christmas is a trial to get through!’
C omedian and presenter Paul O’grady, 62, opens up about how his four-legged friends caused a near-death experience and why he’s so ‘Bah , humbug!’ about the festive season…
His series For The Love of Dogs has won him countless awards, but while Paul O’grady is putty in the hands of a pack of puppies, the former chat-show host admits he’s more like the Grinch at Christmas. Having just penned a book about his move to the country, Paul spills the beans on the pleasures and perils of rural life, and his plans for surviving the festive season.
So, you’re not really a fan of Christmas, Paul? I can’t wait for the new year, when the whole expensive palaver is over. I dread it. I put up a tree and have a big dinner, but afterwards I think, ‘Thank God it’s over!’
How are you spending it this year? I’m going to embrace it because my grandchildren are coming to stay, so my house is going to be like Santa’s grotto. I’ve got some bells and a phone app with reindeer sounds on it, so I’m going to stand outside at 11pm and rattle the bells. I might even get on the roof!
What do you like to watch on the box at Christmas? Nothing! The programmes we’re forced to watch are so sickly. And everyone’s in sweaters. They’re always asking me at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home whether I have a Christmas jumper. I say, ‘Do I look like the kind of person who’d have a Christmas jumper?’
What’s the worst present you’ve ever received? I got a bin once from Murphy [Paul’s former partner and manager]. I didn’t speak to him for three days.
Your new book is about moving to the country – do you ever regret it? Some days I think, ‘Get me out of here!’ You go a bit stir-crazy and you’ve no social skills left because all you’ve done is talk to the animals. I was there all summer, then got invited to an art exhibition in London and I could hardly walk because I hadn’t worn shoes for so long. People thought I was drunk!
What did the locals think when you moved in? Paul admits country life can When they heard drive him mad Lily Savage [Paul’s drag queen character] was coming, they locked their kids up. But I get involved in all the village activities. I’m past the age of lunacy now.
So you’re not much of a party animal these days? If you said to me, ‘You’re going clubbing on Saturday,’ I’d come up with all sorts of excuses. The last time I went clubbing was last Christmas when I went out with the dancers from the panto. They said, ‘You’re notorious, aren’t you?’ and I said, ‘No! Those days are well and truly over.’
You share your home with a lot of animals… I love them, but they cost me a fortune! I’ve got five dogs and their medicine alone costs £500 a month. Then there’s pig feed, goat feed, the sheep, the owls, the chickens... But I don’t resent a penny. If you’re going to get animals you have to look after them.
What winds you up? Animal cruelty. I was in a shop and a man outside kicked my dog. I marched out and gave him a wellaimed kick and sent him flying. I said, ‘Next time, you’ll end up in the Thames.’ It was a bit gangster movie!
What’s coming up next? I’ve just been filming in India and ended up in hospital. It’s my own fault. I was rolling around with puppies in the street, picking maggots out of their rat bites. I ended up vomiting from 5am until 10pm non-stop. I was taken to hospital and they put me on a drip. I thought I’d had it!
Will there be another series of Blind Date? Yes, but I’ve put my foot down. The set was awful. I said I’d do it again, but it’s got to be a different set; I want Mae West’s boudoir. The whole thing has got to be about love and humour.
‘I love them but they cost me a fortune!’
His dog obsession almost finished him off! He wasn’t a fan of the Blind Date set
As alter ego Lily Savage