- There is no such thing as a career anymore
In the fields I’ve mostly worked in, broadcasting and writing, there is no such thing as a career these days. I meet lots of young people who tell me they want a career in broadcasting and I tell them there are no careers in broadcasting these days, just a series of jobs. You must do each one as well as you possibly can and hopefully that will lead to another but there’s no guarantee.
- Never become too famous
My advice to anyone starting out in the TV industry is never become too famous. People who become famous overnight seem to have very short shelf-lives. They become incredibly famous for five minutes; they’re on every page of every newspaper but it doesn’t do a lot of good in the long run. But I’ve found if you’re not that famous – like me, you just keep plodding along. It’s not the way to make a huge sum of money but it’s the way to survive in the industry.
- You must try to extract something positive from grief
My son Nicholas took his own life at the age of 23. It was awful being kicked in the stomach by the reality of what had happened, but I believe that going through grief need not be a bad thing. I decided that in Nicholas’s memory and in his honour, “Some good must come of this.” Some people set up charities for example but I chose to embark on a personal adventure. Nicholas was a keen sailor and I decided to sail solo to Cape Horn in his honour. This journey is chronicled in my book, One Wild Song.
- Sailing is your life condensed
When sailing, particularly on a long ocean voyage, your life becomes condensed to the size of your boat. That little boat, especially when you’re sailing single-handed as I did for most of that journey, is your world – that’s all there is. You become aware of your own fragility because you realise how close you can be to a terrible accident at any time.
- Try to solve problems logically
My chemistry master at High Storrs Grammar School in Sheffield, Alf Ridler, taught me the importance of solving problems logically; just thinking things through step-by-step and not jumping to conclusions. This technique has been invaluable on my sailing trips. Things always go wrong with boats so I employ a systematic approach to fault-finding. It all goes back to him.
- Villains never have curly hair
In the Eighties I was in a BBC1 show called In at the Deep End in which I would attempt to master a new skill each week. In one episode I was coached by Oliver Reed to play a villain in a film called Water opposite Michael Caine. I don’t have a nasty bone in me but Oliver knew exactly how to play a hard man. He told me that villains never have curly hair so I had to have my curly locks shaved off to make me look tougher!
- Countrywise is the best job in the world…in the summer!
Countrywise is shot entirely on location so when we do the show in the summer, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s a bit tougher in winter, though. We were filming in the Peak District in February, right at the top of Buxton which is about as high as you can get and it was bitterly, bitterly cold. And we were going gliding which made it colder still!
- What made you who you are today?
Determination. I’ve always been a very determined person; if I decide I’m going to do something then I do it. I grew up in back-street Sheffield where it was the norm to join the steel works straight from school but I was determined that I was going to work for the BBC as an engineer (I originally wanted to be an engineer rather than a broadcaster). The first time I went for an interview with the BBC they turned me down but I was utterly determined and I got in after a couple more years.
Paul is the author of One Wild Song: A Voyage in a Lost Son’s Wake (Bloomsbury), priced £16.99 hardback/ eBook
Countrywise is currently showing on ITV1 on Monday evenings