The TV presenter, 66, talks about teenage car crashes, packing in smoking, how he became a journalist and why taking yourself seriously is daft

Mum was a gifted child-raiser. My happy childhood was down to her. Tiptoeing around Dad’s explosive outbursts was normal. He was loving, but short-tempered. When I wrote about our relationship, people jumped on the stories of him chasing me round the house and hitting me with a bamboo stick. I never laid a hand on my kids, and would never defend it. But in the 1960s, it wasn’t seen as abuse like today.

I had every intention of going to university. Then during my post-O-level summer I wrote to a local paper asking for work experience. In a hostile reply, the editor told me to fuck off. Then an apology came. I was invited into the office: 20 minutes after arriving, I was offered a full-time job. I dropped out of school and never looked back.

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