ENTERTAINMENT

Lionel Blair Reveals He Asked To Come Home In Disgust On First Day Of Filming 'The Real Marigold Hotel'

He went on a 'journey'.

13/02/2017 13:42 GMT | Updated 13/02/2017 13:42 GMT

When viewers tune in for the second series of ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’ on Wednesday evening, taking centre stage as usual is life and soul of the party, Mr Lionel Blair.

However, the veteran entertainer has revealed it wasn’t all sweetness and light when he first got to the residence in southern India, and he was so disgusted by the experience he initially made a bolt for home. 

“I really thought it was a shanty town when I first got there,” he tells HuffPostUK frankly. “In fact, I got into the hotel on that first day, and asked, ‘Can I have my ticket please? I want to go home. This is not me at all.’”

BBC
Lionel Blair was a happy camper in India, but he admits he initially wanted to go home

Lionel, who at 87 years old when the series was filmed last year made it clear he likes his home comforts, was persuaded to give it a few days before making up his mind. Sure enough, he was soon seduced by the beauty and atmosphere of the country. By the end of the first week, he was on a boat trip which he described as being “like the garden of Eden”. 

He says now: “I definitely went on a journey from hating it to loving it.

“Once we got into the swing of things, I realised it was quite marvellous. Every day something new happened that made it better.”

The second series of the hit travel documentary series finds Lionel sharing the experience with seven fellow celebrity pensioners, each trying out retirement in India. They include chef Rustie Lee, snooker player Dennis Taylor, actor Paul Nicholas, singer Sheila Ferguson, writer Miriam Stoppard, presenter Bill Oddie and actress Amanda Barrie.

As Lionel says: “I knew everybody. Everybody’s been on Give Us A Clue, so I knew them all.”

Inevitably, with such a bunch of entertainers, parties meant performing and for Lionel, the tap shoes came out on cue.

However, it’s not his dancing that he credits for keeping him so sharp and fit in his ninth decade.

BBC
'The Real Marigold Hotel' recruited eight more celebrity pensioners for its second series

“It’s my golden wedding anniversary this year. It’s children, grand-children, laughter, that keeps me young.”

Despite his energy, filming the show for four weeks has given him a change in attitude.

“I’ve learned I don’t have to go up to town every day, and I don’t have to go shopping every day. I don’t have to go to the Ivy every week,” he tells us.

“I’ve had so many pyjama days since then. I’ve become a couch potato, watching telly, all the soaps. My favourite programme is Big Bang Theory, it’s the cleverest show.”

What’s changed? “Before, if I didn’t go to Zara once a week to get a new jacket, it was a write-off. I’ve definitely shifted a gear.”

‘The Real Marigold Hotel’ Series 2 begins on Wednesday at 9pm on BBC One.

The Real Marigold Hotel Series 2