‘Simon gives me framed photos of himself!’
Presenter Dermot O’leary on Christmas gifts, his cat and his favourite X Factor moment
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!
THE WRITING PROCESS
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.
HOST WITH THE MOST
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!
PRESENT AND CORRECT
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.
STYLING IT OUT
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