My Secret Life: Richard Hammond, 43, TV presenter

'I'm afraid of heights'

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The Independent Online

My parents were… very supportive and encouraging in pretty much anything I chose to pursue.

The household I grew up in… was noisy. I'm the eldest of three brothers. Looking back, I feel for my mum because it was a very boyish household. There was lots of fighting between us but a lot of music as well and a lot of happiness.

When I was a child I wanted to be… In order: a writer, a painter, a television presenter, a photographer and a radio presenter. I can't say I'm any good at any of them.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… sleeping. I am a gold medal-winning, Olympic-standard sleeper.

You may not know it but I'm no good at… heights, strangely – ever since my eldest daughter was born. I used to rock climb, I fly a helicopter, but from that day I developed a fear of heights.

At night I dream of… going off walking in the Lake District. It's always been that. I set off walking from Haystacks overlooking Buttermere, then I walk up by Sheepbone Buttress and then turn right at Bleaberry Tarn and then by Scale Force down to the lake. My place to go in the night. I don't know if it's possible to have a spiritual home but if it was, that's where I'd go.

I wish I had never worn… many things. I'm hardly renowned for my dress sense.

It's not fashionable but I like… folk music – plainsong, unaccompanied.

I ride… any of a selection of old and dangerous motorcycles.

My house is… generally full of animals.

My favourite building… I'm not really a big fan of buildings. That's why I live in the country. I don't think I have a favourite. That's probably rather telling.

A book that changed me… I'm under the influence of whatever I'm reading at the time. I've just dug up another Sebastian Barry. I think he's wonderful.

My greatest regret… Time spent away from home and my daughters. I have to earn a living and this is the way I've chosen to do so. I've had to travel. But already I look back thinking, I wish I hadn't been away so much.

The person who really makes me laugh… My daughters. That sounds like one of those soppy things that a parent says, but it's true – they are bloody funny. The only time I ever really have a proper, joyous, full-hearted, head-back laugh is with them.

What's the point? Well, what's the alternative? We're blessed with consciousness and self-consciousness, we can self-examine, we can be critical, we can be creative, we can be constructive, there are many wonderful things we're blessed with being able to do and the point is getting on with doing those for as long as we're here.

A Life in Brief

Richard Hammond was born in Solihull in 1969. After graduating from art college, he worked for a succession of local radio stations before moving to Granada television in 1996. In 2002, he was picked to co-present BBC2's Top Gear. The show's global popularity made him a household name. In 2006, he suffered a brain injury after a 300mph car crash, but quickly recovered. He lives in Ross-on-Wye with his wife, Amanda, and their two daughters. His new comedy show, Secret Service, begins tonight on BBC1