My Secret Life: Monty Don, gardener, 54


My parents were ... very strict. My father was an army officer who left the forces when I was six and never really fitted back into civilian life. My mother had five children and a mother with Alzheimer's, who lived with us, so I imagined that she had a lot to do.

The house/flat I grew up in ... was built by my great grandfather; it was a Victorian arts and craft villa in the Hampshire countryside. It was built in 1870 and was a spanking new house and by the Sixties it was deeply unfashionable.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... a writer or a woodsman. In my teens I wanted to be a rock star, I really did. At that time there was nothing I wanted more.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I would adopt the ability to sleep at will; it would make life a lot easier.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... playing the guitar moderately well.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... I cannot dance or sing at all. It's not that I have a huge sense of self-consciousness; I simply don't know how, why or what is going on; it's like everybody else knows but me. But how I would love to soar and swoop.

At night I dream of ... Last night I dreamt of a large black woman and I having sex, but then it didn't quite happen. She was not fat but generally big.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... is me, nothing exceptional. There are no surprises.

My favourite item of clothing ... I have a cotton jacket which I bought 24 years ago at a shop Paul Smith used to have off Floral Street in London. I feel more like me when I am wearing it than when I am not.

I drive/ride ... a Land Rover pick up. I hate driving, but I have a farm so I drive it there to transport logs back to my home. I live in the middle of country so I walk a lot.

My house is ... large – but rambling large as opposed to grand large. It's old: mostly Tudor with a touch of 18th-century jiggery-pokery and big rooms. It's nicely scruffy.

My favourite work of art ... is Rembrandt's portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels bathing in a stream (in the National Gallery). It is the most tender, love-saturated painting ever.

My favourite building ... is home.

A book that changed me ... 'The Goshawk' by TH White, which I read aged 16. At that point I realised that if you wanted to write you had to find the thing you wanted to write about. That moment was like a light going on.

Movie heaven ... is an Ealing comedy in bed.

The last album I bought ... Last week I bought 'The Beatles Remastered'.

My secret crush ... I think a lot of women in their seventies are incredibly beautiful.

My greatest regret ... is that I had to sell a house I loved in order to tidy up my disastrous business affairs. But I don't bitterly regret it; it was sad but not a disaster.

My real-life villain ... Tony Blair is a dreadful man; really truly dreadful.

The person who really makes me laugh ... There are lots of people who make me laugh at the moment. But the one who makes me laugh most happily is Homer Simpson.

The last time I cried ... I cry all the time, most recently two days ago, when I realised the housemartins had gone away.

My five-year plan ... Let's get through the next five days. If I had the choice, I would be living on my farm, writing a novel.

What's the point? Love.

My life in six words ... chaotic would have to be one.

A life in brief

The television presenter, gardener and writer Monty Don was born in Germany in 1955. He previously ran a costume- jewellery business with his wife, Sarah, which collapsed in the 1980s. Monty presented BBC2's 'Gardeners' World' for five years until a minor stroke in 2008 caused him to step down. He now lives with Sarah in Herefordshire, and his latest book, 'The Ivington Diaries' (published by Bloomsbury, £25), is out on Monday

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