‘I feel like a spring chicken’
Yours favourite Alan Titchmarsh talks about turning 70, singing for his supper, stately homes and the joy of pain-free joints!
Creaky old knees are an occupational hazard for keen amateur gardeners so imagine the pressure on them when you’ve been a professional gardener for 50 years.
“I had Gardener’s Knee for years,” Alan Titchmarsh tells us. “The result of so much kneeling. I had what is known as knee arthroscopy on both my knees to investigate the reason for my knee pain. While my surgeon was doing it, he removed all my damaged tissue and cartilage, the frayed bits, rather like a hedge strimmer would. I feel very lucky that I didn’t need knee replacement surgery. My knees are fine now – fighting fit and pain-free – and I feel like a spring chicken!”
All ready for a birthday knees-up then? Alan, who turned 70 on May 2, says: “I’ve been having a few celebrations with family but there was no big surprise party and that’s fine. I had one of those when I turned 60. For this birthday, I prefer the bits we’ve been doing throughout the year. It’s just a number, isn’t it? And I don’t feel morose about being 70. It’s more like a feeling of, ‘Well, fancy that!’ I’m chuffed to have got this far and plan on staying around for a while yet.”
What with writing novels (his eleventh, The Scarlet Nightingale, is published in paperback in August), TV and radio work, Alan’s workload is as varied as ever.
“I still work a lot but I also turn loads of stuff down,” he says. “I try to pace myself, and spending time with the family – my wife Alison, our two daughters, their husbands and our four grandchildren – is very, very important.
“I do love what I do, though, and I thrive on the variety. I like the solitude of writing, but then I also enjoy the sociability of broadcasting and working with a team. Making a programme such as Secrets of The National Trust is an absolute joy because the subject matter is so glorious. The new series goes out this spring.”
Does he have any favourite properties in this coming series?
“Gosh, that’s a difficult one,” he replies. “Hmm, I love Kingston Lacy in Dorset. It’s a beautiful house that was built to resemble an Italian palace and looks out onto sweeping lawns with a bit of formal garden. I love it when house and garden sit comfortably together, like Ham House in Surrey.”
Alan’s ITV show Love Your Garden will also be back this summer. However, although we would love it, we’re unlikely to see him taking to the floor on Strictly Come Dancing in September.
“I’ve been asked three or four times, but Alison says my knees wouldn’t be able to cope with the lifts,” he laughs. “That’s not to say I won’t go out of my comfort zone. It’s why I took part in All Star Musicals earlier this year.”
And who can forget that! Alan wowed judges and viewers alike with his rendition of Some Enchanted Evening from the musical South Pacific. It was the song his dad used to sing to his mum.
“There were moments when I was involved in that when I thought, ’What am I doing? I must mad!’,” he says. “I used to sing quite a bit. I was a choir boy as a child. Alison and I met at an amateur operatic society, but I hadn’t sung for more than 30 years, and I’d never sung a romantic ballad. Singing by myself on the stage of the iconic London Palladium was nerve-racking yet exhilarating at the same time. I couldn’t believe it when the judges scored me fives. I thought it must be
In light of his success, there have been calls on social media for Alan to follow in Alexander Armstrong’s footsteps and make an album.
“Really?” he asks, aghast. “Well, I haven’t had ‘the call’ from anyone,
let’s put it that way.”
Would he be up for it if he was approached by a record company?
“Look, I got away with it once,” he laughs. “Let’s leave it at that, rather than push it! I really enjoyed it and our singing coach for the show said I should carry on and that it would be a waste not to so, yes, I do hope to carry on singing.”
To Her Majesty the Queen, perhaps, when Alan compères The Royal Pageant at the Royal Windsor Horse Show this month?
“I doubt that, but it’s likely we will have a word when I’m presented to her after the Pageant,” he says. “We’re not on first name terms – she is the Queen, after all! However, I have had the very good fortune to have met Her Majesty on several occasions and have even been seated next to her at lunch twice. She’s very easy to talk to, witty and extremely good company. You feel you can say pretty much anything to her while she holds some definite opinions. I remember thinking, ‘Goodness, really, ma’am?’ about a few things she said. But, sorry, I’m not prepared to say what – it was a private conversation,
Secrets of the National Trust
Have you been watching Alan’s latest series of Secrets of the National Trust? The second series sees Alan return to the beautiful world of the national trust, getting up close and personal with all its wonders. The 12-part journey sees Alan embark on a trip around the country to see explore a new National Trust site each episode.
Everything you need to know about Alan Titchmarsh
Born in Ilkley, West Riding of Yorkshire to Bessie, a textile mill worker and Alan Titchmarsh Senior, a plumber, he left school at 15, joining Ilkley council as an apprentice gardener. At age 18, he went to Shipley to study for a City and Guilds in Horticulture.
He then went on to study at Hertfordshire collage of agriculture and Horticulture before moving to the Royal Bontanic Gardens, Kew to study for his Diploma in Horticulture. After graduating, he stayed on at Kew, beginning as a supervisor then staff trainer. He left in 1974 to pursue a career in gardening journalism.
Is Alan Titchmarsh married?
Alan married his wife Allison in 1975. They have two daughters together, Polly (born 1979) and Camilla (born 1981).
What books has Alan Titchmarsh written?
Alan has published a number of gardening guides in his series, How To Garden. He also published a number of fiction books including The Scarlet Nightingale and The Last Lighthouse Keeper. As well as these, he has published a number of autobiographical works like Only Dad, Trowel & Error and When I Was a Nipper.
Has Alan Titchmarsh written poetry?
Not only has Alan written a catalogue of novels but he has also written poetry too, most of it dedicated to gardening. Last year, Alan teamed up with classical composer from Classic FM, Debbie Wisman to create an audio album of his poetry, paired with beautifully fitting music to complement the words perfectly.
Alan’s Gardening tips
We love this simple tip that Alan shared with viewers on This Morning!