How we met: Krishnan Guru-Murthy & John Nicolson

Maria Cantacuzino
Saturday 25 September 1999 23:02

The newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy, 29, grew up in Lancashire. At the age of 18 he became the youngest presenter of 'Open to Question'. While in his third year at Oxford University, he joined 'Newsround', and went on to work as a reporter on 'Newsnight'. Last summer he left the BBC to join Channel 4 News. He lives in Notting Hill Gate

The newsreader John Nicolson, 36, grew up in Glasgow. His first job was as a speech writer in Washington. In 1987 he joined the BBC, and has worked on programmes including 'Newsnight' and 'Panorama'. In 1998 he became the presenter of BBC Breakfast News. He lives with his partner, Luis, in an 18th-century house in Spitalfields, east London

JOHN NICOLSON: I know it's pretty unsophisticated to talk about best friends but that's what Krishnan is. I guess it's because he's one of the first two or three people in the world I'd turn to if I was ever in trouble, and one of the people in the world I'd miss most if he wasn't around, and one of the people in the world who most like me.

We met when I was presenting Open to Question for the BBC in Glasgow, a programme in which a group of sixth-formers would come into the studio to question politicians. He was only 15, but he asked such sharp and perceptive questions that we invited him back several times. A couple of years later he came and did work experience on the programme, and it was then that we really got to know each other. During long car journeys across Scotland we'd talk about politics, our families and work. I remember on one occasion Krishnan decided there and then that, despite his parents' disappointment, he was going to change from reading medicine to PPE.

For the first few years of our friendship we would talk about everything except relationships. Eventually there came a point when I thought: this is stupid. I was by now in my first serious relationship with a man and I'd arrived at a point in my life when I wanted to be open about my sexuality. Krishnan was one of the first people I told. I remember we were sitting in a bar in Portobello Road and I told him I was going out with someone. "Who is she?" he asked. "What makes you think it's a woman?" I said. I suppose I was a little bit worried about his reaction, as his parents hold very conservative views. But he was very relaxed about it.

Krishnan gets on very well with my partner, Luis, although I think they each probably think the other is a bit possessive of me. He's had longer to get to know Luis than I've had to get to know any of his girlfriends, as there have been four of them in the time that I've been with Luis. He and Luis had a row the other day about whether gay people should adopt children. Luis was arguing that they should, whereas Krishnan was arguing they should be able to by law but not by choice, as life would be too difficult for the children. I think that's a little like saying Asians shouldn't have children in case they face racial prejudice.

Krishnan is a great conversationalist and we'll talk on the phone for hours and hours. We've also spent many holidays together. We like going to the cinema and eating out, and before I had to work such unsociable hours we used to go out clubbing. People would often assume he was gay and I was straight, perhaps because he's very clothes-conscious and has this gesture when he holds a drink which could be considered slightly suspicious!

He's endlessly engaging and good company. Although he comes across as quite serious initially, you can be ill with laughter when you're with him. He's also very ambitious and finds it difficult to unwind - I'm very good at it. I think he should switch off more and concentrate on being happy rather than on where he'll be in three years time, because he's fantastically talented and a very natural and authoritative broadcaster.

As I've got to know him more I've found things out about him which you only find out about over a long period of time. He is immensely loyal and very kind. He even forgave me for flogging him an old car which in a short space of time cost him in repairs three times the amount he'd given me for it. I still feel guilty to this day.

KRISHNAN GURU-MURTHY: For the first couple of years of our friendship John was definitely a kind of mentor figure to me, in some ways like a big brother. I was young and starting out, and John was always very encouraging and helpful - he had so much more experience in this weird world of television. I think we clicked because, although we come from extremely different backgrounds (mine Indian immigrant, his Scottish Presbyterian), our sense of propriety, morality and our beliefs in right and wrong are very similar. Even though I went to Oxford after a year of working in television with John we remained good friends. I'd go down to London or he'd visit me in Oxford. We'd spend a lot of time talking about politics, books, our families and friends. Sexuality and relationships never came into the conversation because we were too busy exploring London, discovering clothes shops and finding nice restaurants. Also, given my Indian background, I was fairly reticent about these things, and also rather a late developer in terms of my own romantic life, so I didn't have a huge amount to talk about.

Now that John has to go to bed at nine o'clock we meet for breakfasts and lunches. Sometimes we've talked for hours and hours about our personal lives or our own professional turmoil. If I've had a fight or been splitting up with a girlfriend he's never been too busy to talk.

It was about three years into our friendship that John told me he was gay. It wasn't a big dramatic coming-out and I'd kind of worked it out for myself anyway. We were talking over a long boozy lunch about a girl I was involved with. I think I was fishing - I said something like "How about you?" It wasn't a big deal and he seemed pretty much at ease with it.

John is my only gay friend so in that respect I've got quite a lot out of the friendship, in a learning sense. I come from a sheltered middle- class northern background, and knowing John has been a very eye-opening experience. Coming out has been a gradual process over the last few years and he's now very open with everyone he knows. At first it was a big thing and there was a fear that if he was open about his sexuality he might suffer prejudice at work and elsewhere. But it certainly hasn't affected his work. His career has taken off since he started presenting Breakfast News. The programme has given him a chance to display his intellect and humour, and it's no surprise that it's now the top-rated morning TV show.

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