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…

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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

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