Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Perry is a psychotherapist, agony aunt and occasional TV presenter whose documentary, 'Sex, Lies and Love Bites: the Agony Aunt Story', will be broadcast on BBC4 later this month

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Spellcheck is a priceless invention I was dyslexic at school, so I probably shouldn't have trained as a secretary. It took me a while to realise why I couldn't keep a job: my work was full of spelling mistakes.

Working at McDonald's was brilliant I worked at a branch in Oxford Circus in London. It was like a gap year's travelling, but without leaving the country. I was class-travelling. Growing up, I hadn't met a lot of people from different ethnic backgrounds, so I found it all so interesting. I even liked the food. Especially the gherkins.

I thought I was being altruistic I studied to become a psychotherapist shortly after working for the Samaritans in the 1980s. At first I thought it was because I wanted to help people. But what I really wanted to do was explore feelings. I had come from quite a stiff upper-lipped background where feelings were stifled. I wanted to set them free.

Psychiatrists give help because they need help You would not be working in mental health if you didn't have a curiosity about how the mind works. If everything in life was going like clockwork, you perhaps wouldn't be quite so interested in the subject.

Agony aunts are our friends They've been around since about 1691, and remain a rich part of our culture. And with good reason: you can air your problems anonymously, and those problems you think you suffer from alone actually resonate with so many of us.

The sexual revolution posed more questions than it answered And that's another reason why, pre-internet, we needed agony aunts. We had all this sex to enjoy, but very little understanding of it. We needed the advice of a kindly, trusted soul… Then Google came along, and now we are all deluged with information on genital warts at a click.

Evening courses can sometimes bag you a husband I met Grayson on a course for creative writing. He caught my eye.

Because of my fella, we get asked to a lot of nice parties – but it can be awkward If people want to talk to him, they come and interrupt my conversation to ask if it's OK to interrupt his. I wonder why they feel my conversation is less valuable, and therefore easier to interrupt, than his.

I do get asked the transvestite question But if you want to know about being a transvestite, ask Grayson, not me. You cannot know the mind of another; you have to get that direct from the horse's mouth.

Frame your face; it's a work of art I have had fancy glasses since the 1980s. I do like a statement frame. I see it as face jewellery. I have many different colours to complement whatever I happen to be wearing.

The line between high and low culture is invisible I'm as fond of Jane Austen as I am Gogglebox. I know some people say they like only country walks and Edwardian literature, but I'm just as happy with Facebook and reality TV. Have you seen 24 Hours in A&E on Channel 4? Everyone should. It's wonderful!

When I was 15, I used to look out of my window across the field at the motorways and crave to get on them I wanted to know what was going to happen to me, what my life would be like. I had curiosity then; I have curiosity now…

Philippa Perry, 57, is a psychotherapist, agony aunt and occasional TV presenter married to the artist Grayson Perry. Her documentary, 'Sex, Lies and Love Bites: the Agony Aunt Story', will be broadcast on BBC4 later this month