Monday 19 February 2018

Whenever I leave Ireland, I always wish I could stay - Norton

Graham Norton
Graham Norton

Ralph Riegel and Bryony Gordon

Graham Norton has admitted his dream is to retire to his beloved west Cork - but he isn't putting any time frame on a move back from London.

The BBC star said he adored his regular breaks in his native county, where he has a holiday home in Ahakista.

The 52-year-old was the star of the show last night as he featured in one of the highlight events of the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry - being interviewed on stage by his old friend, the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton.

Dr Colton is no stranger to celebrity events himself, having famously married David Beckham and Victoria Adams in 1999.

The bishop and the TV star have been friends since the 1980s through mutual contacts in Bandon and University College Cork.

For Norton, it has been a dizzying decade of success with his BBC chat show setting viewing records in the UK and his debut book proving a bestseller.

The Bandon-born star also admitted that he has been taken aback by the changes in Ireland - not least the overwhelming support for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage equality referendum last May.

"Well, what's weird and wonderful is that this is a conversation we can have. That's the thing that kind of blows my mind.

"To a lot of older gay people, they'd made sense of not being able to get married. And I did agree to an extent. But now that we can, it just seems lovely.

"Love outweighs the politics. And you never say never to those kinds of things."


He admitted he comes back to Ireland a lot, and "whenever I leave, I always want to stay".

Following the success of his debut book, he is now working on a follow-up. He is writing a novel, a 'whodunnit' with a sprinkling of romance in it, which is due for release next autumn.

"Maybe if the novels took off, then that would be a really good place to put your head down and do that."

But his debut book did make him think about alcohol.

"I see how 52 years of booze stories back to back does look… when I finished that chapter, I did think 'Jesus, this is not a good look'.

"I don't mind talking about this because I find people who think you drink too much fairly annoying. But my new rule is I don't drink alone.

"Now, if I'm home by myself, I don't have that bottle of wine or that bottle and a half of wine that I used to have."

As for retirement, he is keeping his options firmly open.

"It's a very difficult one. What am I? 52? So if I retired at 55, say?

"But then I think, if I live until I'm 85, that's 30 years.

"I think I need to think about this very carefully, because once you get off the bus, you're not getting back on it.

"I mean, there are things you can do, like a daytime quiz or something. They're quite lucrative. Maybe I'll do that."

Central to his decision is the fact that his BBC show has proved such an overwhelming success.

As well as the fact that he's not single any more.

He has been seeing Andrew Smith, a record company executive, for "seven or eight months", but he doesn't want to be drawn on the subject too much.

"He doesn't do my job. He will not be doing an interview on the other side of town where he can give his side of our relationship," he points out.

"And I just think it's really unfair… I know it's annoying, but I would prefer to annoy you than him."

But the TV host admitted that he was happy in his own skin.

"I really like my own company. I have to work quite hard at not isolating myself. When I do things, it's normally because people have instigated it."


Perhaps this is why he enjoys giving advice to lonely souls (his newspaper column, he says, is his "dream job").

Coupled with the fact that, despite common misconceptions, he doesn't hang out with his A-list guests.

"Yeah, I thought that too. But I don't hang out with [them] at all. That's the odd thing about being a chat-show host, because your name is in the title, on that level, you're high status.

"But, in reality, you play low status, because you've got to imagine these people are fascinating and that a half-baked anecdote is funny. You really do have to be a kiss-ass groveller."

The star admitted he is still revelling in the success of his book 'The Life and Loves of a He-Devil'.

"Yes. In fact, I had to put a chapter in at the end about the things I love to hate [loud sneezing, grapefruit, beach holidays] because it [the book] made me appear too nice, I felt.

"I suppose I'm surprised I've become as positive and gung-ho in life as I am."

And he says he doesn't get depressed.

"I think that word gets bandied around by some people. It's a debilitating thing, it's awful. You're just a bit blue, so shut up! So no, I don't suffer from depression, but I have been down about things."

Irish Independent

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