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My London: Graham Norton

Lee Martin
By
23 June 2022
H

ome is… Wapping. It’s by the river, and I’m sure a whale has swum by.

What shops do you rely on? Waitrose, obviously. I mean they do sponsor my radio show, but I do actually shop there too. I met someone from Waitrose at a Bafta event and I wanged on about their products so much that they made their excuses and walked away — I had bored them rigid. Folk on Redchurch Street I like, or if I’m shopping for showbusiness then I’m probably on Bond Street doing an Etro.

Best meal you’ve ever had? I really like going to those big brasserie places like The Delaunay or The Wolseley, which I loved when I used to eat oysters. The last time I had an oyster somewhere was the night before my 50th birthday and I was so ill, I’ve never had one since. But I look at people eating them with white wine on one of those big trays in The Wolseley and I think: that’s lovely. Sadly they’re now denied to me.

What is your first memory of London? Arriving at Victoria station in about 1982. I had come from France, where I thought I could get a job in Paris, but it turns out I couldn’t. I knew some people who lived in London, so I thought I’d go find them. My main memory of that time was being on buses and coming around corners to see things like Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey and just thinking: what, this is it?! My Irish imagination had made them massive. I remember being really underwhelmed by it all.

Where was your first flat and what was it like? It would have been a squat in Camberwell, right by a railway bridge. The people who had the squat had done a very odd thing: they’d taken all of the bannisters out. It can’t have been safe. And every time a train went by you felt like the whole house was going to fall down. I didn’t stay there very long.

Where do you go to let your hair down? I don’t really let my hair down any more, but there are a couple of bars and restaurants in east London that I would go to. The Glory on Kingsland Road is the place to go.

Who is the most iconic Londoner? I’m going with Zandra Rhodes, just because I love her. She’s an icon full stop, wherever she is. She’s got that extraordinary house and the Fashion and Textile Museum up there on Bermondsey Street, and I think she kind of single-handedly turned that whole area around. It was grimsville when she arrived and so she made it a thing.

What are you up to at the moment for work? Paramount+ is just launching in the UK and Ireland, so happily a show I host called Queen of the Universe is finally getting here. It’s an international live singing competition for drag queens and it’s as fabulous as it sounds.

Ever had a run-in with a London police officer? No, I am very lucky, I am a white man living in London so I don’t encounter the police much. It’s when you listen to other peoples’ experiences that you realise, ‘Oh, I am a very white man.’

What is the best thing a cabbie has ever said to you? So, it’s not the best thing anyone has ever said to me, but the sweetest thing that has happened was that I was very drunk in the back of a taxi and the driver knew where I lived so just deposited me at my house. I stumbled out of the cab and I’m thinking, ‘This is right but not quite. What is wrong with this picture?’ It was because I didn’t live there any more — it was where I used to live.

‘Queen of the Universe’ is on Paramount+ UK now

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