‘Si­mon gives me framed pho­tos of him­self!’

Pre­sen­ter Der­mot O’leary on Christ­mas gifts, his cat and his favourite X Fac­tor mo­ment

Prima (UK) - - Contents -

He’s been Mr Satur­day Night En­ter­tain­ment for 10 years, yet what you might not know is that Der­mot, 45, is also a suc­cess­ful au­thor. Hav­ing just pub­lished his sec­ond chil­dren’s book, the pre­sen­ter – who lives in Lon­don with his wife, Dee, 39, a TV pro­ducer and di­rec­tor – chats to Prima about his writ­ing, five-day cook­ing fests and why he hates a Christ­mas party…


Al­though my cat, Toto, was born blind, she has a really good life. She has in­cred­i­ble re­ac­tions, and knows her way around the house. Dee and I started mak­ing up a story that she has a dou­ble life, go­ing out at night and solv­ing crimes, and thought it would be a fun idea for my first kids’ book. Ev­ery­one will be get­ting the new one for Christ­mas – even the adults!


I write in the morn­ing, be­cause I’m use­less for hours af­ter lunch if I’m at home. It’s not as if I have a par­tic­u­larly in­dul­gent lunch, like kid­neys, but my brain shuts down post-food. I like to fin­ish about 6pm, then make din­ner and have the rest of the evening to de­com­press

or go out. Writ­ing a book is to­tally dif­fer­ent to live TV and ra­dio – you find out who you are cre­atively.


Christ­mas as a child was bril­liant. We’d get up and go straight to Mass. I was an al­tar boy so it was one of the big glam­our gigs of the year! Back home, we’d have break­fast, open a few presents and then go for a walk along the nearby beach [Der­mot was born to Ir­ish par­ents in Colch­ester, Es­sex]. Christ­mas din­ner would be later in the af­ter­noon. On Boxing Day – or St Stephen’s Day as my par­ents would call it – we’d go to the races or visit fam­ily. Now, I travel a lot at Christ­mas. Mum and Dad are back in Wex­ford, Ire­land, while my in-laws are in Nor­way and Broad­stairs, Kent. They’re all very beau­ti­ful places, but they’re all spread out! Broad­stairs is lovely be­cause you can go for walks by the sea, and Nor­way’s stun­ning. Alpine coun­tries are tai­lor-made for Christ­mas – you can go to­bog­gan­ing, drink hot choco­late and eat lots of waf­fles. And, ob­vi­ously, Ire­land is fun all year round.


I do love be­ing in Lon­don for Christ­mas, as it feels quite Dick­en­sian. Last year, we hosted and I was like a gal­ley slave for five days – I got up, saw day­light for three hours and just cooked and roasted meat. I lit­er­ally didn’t stop. I en­joy cook­ing, but I was ex­hausted by the time ev­ery­one went home!


I’m not in a great place to ask for much this year when it comes to presents – my wife bought me Bruce Spring­steen tick­ets for my birth­day back in May, so Christ­mas came early for me. We went to see him in New York, and it was the best con­cert I’ve ever been to in my life.


While the Christ­mas jumper look is not really on-brand for me, the Scan­dis do a great alpine jumper – none of that itchy polyester stuff. I’ve got a cou­ple of nice big cardi­gans and a lovely grey one I wear in Jan­uary.


I’m not a mas­sive fan of work Christ­mas par­ties and en­forced fun. In­stead, I do a sup­per club with my friends. We have four a year, and there’s a Christ­mas one, which is really fun. I love watch­ing old films over the fes­tive break. I’m a fan of mu­si­cals, so I’ll put on Oliver!, Bugsy Malone, Fid­dler On The Roof… all the old clas­sics. And go­ing to watch Arse­nal play on Boxing Day is a foot­ball fix­ture that I don’t want to miss if I’m in Lon­don.


Si­mon Cow­ell’s son, Eric, is an ab­so­lute leg­end. He comes on set with us and he’s such a sweet­heart. He’s four now and a good lit­tle boy.

I’ll be giv­ing him a copy of my new book, of course. He en­joyed the last one – well, his daddy said he did. I don’t ex­pect Si­mon to read it to him

– I think his bed­time story is be­fore Si­mon gets up! It’s hard to buy Si­mon a Christ­mas present. He gives me non­sense things, like pic­tures of him­self set in beau­ti­ful sil­ver frames. I have two of them up at home, but when we had a dec­o­ra­tor round, Dee was like, ‘Take Si­mon down! Do you have any idea how that looks if peo­ple don’t know it’s a joke?’ It’s like when my sis­ter, Ni­cola, was sell­ing her house a few years ago. A lovely cou­ple, who were view­ing it, were a bit con­fused as to why she had pic­tures of her­self with Der­mot O’leary on her man­tel­piece!

‘Ev­ery­one will be get­ting my new book for Christ­mas – even the adults!’

Toto The Ninja Cat And The In­cred­i­ble Cheese Heist by Der­mot O’leary, il­lus­trated by Nick East (Hod­der Chil­dren’s Books), is out now

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