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Where was your stomping ground as a youngster?
“I was born on Park Wood, which was a large council estate to the south of Maidstone. In those days it was right on the edge of the countryside. It’s been built up since, but you could literally go out of my house into fields that went on for miles. Even though it was a council estate you had the best of both worlds. Me and my friends spent a lot of time poking around in farmers’ fields where we shouldn’t have been, making rope swings off the trees. We used to go down to a quarry which I think is sealed off now. It was actually an incredibly dangerous place, but it was a great place to have fun. I went to the Holy Family Primary School, which is a Catholic school and is still there going strong.”
What are your fondest memories of family outings as a young un’?
“We never had much money but Maidstone’s handy for the coast. My parents didn’t drive so we’d get on the bus to places like Ramsgate, Margate, Broadstairs. They were very busy, thriving places because people didn’t go to the Mediterranean then. It was an adventure – I remember going to Dreamland, certainly, back in the 1970s.”
What are the aspects of Kent life that you’ve seen change over the years?
“Well, it’s great to have motorways and high-speed rail links but in the construction it tore up parts of Kent. What it gives it takes away, or what it takes away it gives. I mean, I’m the first person to use the Ashford and Ebbsfleet fast rail link into London, and think it’s an incredible service, so you have to look at the positives of it really. You can access work in London a lot quicker. When I was growing up we would play football out on the street and there were hardly any cars – you only had to stop every five minutes to let a car through. I did some filming in Park Wood for a documentary a couple of years ago, and the one thing I did notice is that now everybody’s paved over their front garden to park their second or third car, and that was quite weird when I went back.”
Apart from Kent, where else have you lived?
“I’ve always come back to Kent. I went to London to study drama at 27, and I lived in Crouch End for three years, and then I moved to St Mary Cray, Borough Green, then to Faversham and Herne Bay, which is home now. Kent’s a very special place, it’s got everything.”
What prompted you and your wife, Melanie, to make your family home in Herne Bay?
“It’s by the sea which is pleasant. You’ve got its richer neighbour down the road, Whitstable, but Herne Bay’s got potential. It has been a big neglected, but it’s got everything there from its glory days and just needs a bit of money put into it. A commuter ferry to Essex would be good, instead of going to the Dartford Crossing.”
Where do you now enjoy going for family days out?
“The kids [Sophie Mae and Joseph] are teenagers now, but when they were very young we used to take them over to Wildwood, near Herne, that was nice, but I really love Broadstairs. It’s got some great pubs and restaurants, the sand beach – it’s terrific.”
As a pub quiz man, do you have any good pub recommendations?
“The Unicorn in Canterbury is a lovely pub with a terrific landlord. I used to live in Selling, near Faversham. My old local, the White Lion, was always a lovely pub. It had a great atmosphere and old charm. The Rose and Crown in Perry Wood, which is also near Selling, had got a fantastic garden. It was a great place to sit with a pint while your children play, and surrounded by Perry Wood. You could take in both of those pubs in one hit, they’re only about half a mile apart.”
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