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The Goodies

Bill Oddie interview from The Telegraph (22 November 2012)
26/11/2012 21:28 GMT

Posted by lisa

An interview with Bill, with some nice photos, appeared in The Telegraph on November 22nd. The online version can be found at

Here's a cut & paste of the text:

Bill Oddie: 'My garden shed is one of the few places I feel secure'

Bill Oddie gives Stephanie Clark a tour of his beloved shed, a sanctuary away from the stresses of life, and a base to watch the wildlife that flocks to his garden.

By Stephanie Clark
1:10PM GMT 22 Nov 2012

Bill Oddie looks about his leafy, charmingly untamed garden in a quiet corner of a north London suburb and counts. “There’s blue tit, grey tit, coal tit, robin, song thrush, five, blackbird, six, wood pigeon, seven, and so it goes on. Wren. I would think – jay, magpie – that there are about 15 species there now.” That’s just how many birds the Goodie/comedy actor/writer turned wildlife conservationist can see as we wend our way to his favourite space.

On the way, we pass his idiosyncratic planting schemes. There is the extensive garden gnome border, which adds, in gardening parlance, “billows of colour”, and further along, the Buddha bed: the different styles and sizes providing plenty of architectural interest. So far, so Goodie. Then finally, our destination: Bill’s beloved green shed, which has experienced a renaissance, after 25 years of falling apart.

“The shed was here when we moved in,” he recalls, “and, let’s face it, it was on the brink of collapse several times. I managed to go through the roof several times over the years, when I tried to mend it. But I wanted to use it, I wanted it dry; at one point I might have had the only water butt that was inside.”

Three or four months ago, help arrived. A friend with a firm supplying corporate planting, whom Bill, 71, had met through his wildlife interests, offered to create a green shed roof. When Bill pointed out that the shed was in a terrible state, the friend fixed that too.

Water-tight and snug, with a lick of paint and a flourishing roof of wild flowers, it is the perfect place to sit. Does he come out most nights when there’s decent weather?

“I do, because if it’s reasonable, and warm enough, I switch on the moth trap lamp. I come out here, just as it’s getting dark, and turn that on, and often just sit out here for 10 minutes and take in the dusk.”

The shed houses Bill’s bird seed supplies; for the record, he uses Haith’s.
“I would be very happy to have some of their mixed seed with some milk on it, because it does look delicious,” he laughs.

A slightly rusty saxophone is a reminder of what Bill says is a lifelong, unsuccessful quest to learn the instrument; there are some timbales, cast-offs from his drum kit inside the house, decoy birds and a work bench.
An old cupboard in vivid purple and green has a sweet back story: the small green handprints came from Rosie, 27, his daughter from his second marriage to children’s television writer and author Laura Beaumont, and resulted from an alarmingly close encounter between a very young Rosie and a tin of gloss paint.

It’s outside where the real fun starts. The façade is adorned with memorabilia; the space in front, with its little outdoor table and two fold-up chairs, is festooned with hurricane lanterns, fairy lights and light-sensitive lanterns planted in the Buddhist corner.

“It does look very nice, the lights are always on,” says Bill, who sits out with the special bulb of his moth trap on, admiring the different species he sees. Later he will identify and carefully re-release them. “You can see it from the house and it looks lovely.”

It’s also a place to heal from bouts of bipolar depression.

“I had a really, really bad year, around three years ago now, I was in hospital a couple of times, and I was home a lot. I wouldn’t get up at all a lot of the time, but when I did manage to get up, one of the few places I could feel reasonably secure in was the garden, there’s no doubt about that.”

Recovered, his thirst for explaining the importance of wildlife preservation is undiminished. A return to comedy writing is firmly ruled out, but he still judges success or failure in comedy terms.

“I was giving this Save the Whales presentation a little while ago, and I came away thinking, 'Well that didn’t go very well, I didn’t get a laugh’.”

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