WISE WORDS: Chris Tarrant On His Unstable Youth, The Joy Of Fishing And Why He Always Felt Infallible

In the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they've learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to Chris Tarrant.


Chris has been one of most familiar faces on TV, and voices on radio, for the past four decades. As well as helming the Capital Breakfast Show for 17 years, he changed game shows forever with his bountiful game show 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'.

Chris Tarrant says his stroke has revolutionised his attitude to balancing his life

But the last year has been marked by recovery from a stroke he suffered on a flight from Bangkok to London last year, a big fright that has made sure he pays more attention to his health than previously. At the time, he was filming his series 'Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railway Journeys', and the second series starts tonight.

This time around, he visits the Andes Mountains in Bolivia and Chile, the jungles of Thailand and Myanmar, the Siberian Arctic, Cuba, Canadian wilderness and Japan. He's enjoying his travels as much as ever but, as he tells HuffPostUK in the latest of our series, he no longer takes anything for granted...

What do you do to switch off from the world?

I spend thousands of my life fishing. When I was four years old, I found fishing and it has been my base ever since. When I was doing the breakfast show, I used to get up at 3 o'clock in the morning and go fishing before doing the show. Sometimes, I'd stop the car on the way home after filming 'Millionaire', and fish for a while in the dark.

I never keep them, they always go back in the water. It's a hobby, first and foremost, a completely solitary occupation as a balance to the rest of my life. You have to have something that takes you away, and I'm very good at being on my own.

How do you deal with negativity?

I’m very self contained, so I just go into my shell. If something happens, I make sure I don't get quoted, I make no remarks. I put a button on it. I'm not a cryer. Men don't cry, my dad told me. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve.

On the occasions when I've been hounded, I actually love going to work. People might ask what I'm doing there, but for me, it's a bunker, where no one can get to me.

And I always remind myself that it doesn't matter, not in the long run. And it's something I try to remind my kids. When my daughter was heartbroken, I told her, that man you're crying over...you won't remember his name in a few years, and I apply the same to myself.

When and where are you happiest?

When I’m with my kids. They frustrate me endlessly because they can be so silly, but they make me laugh. I love being with my kids.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t forget to smell the flowers. We all get so busy, but you have to stop, look at sunsets, talk to the people you love.

What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?

That you can only burn the candle at both ends for so long before you end up in hospital. Before my stroke, I thought I was infallible, because I was physically strong, and could do these endless hours with no effects, whatsoever. But sooner or later, we all hit a wall.

What would you tell your 13-year-old self?

When I was 13, I was an Irreverent, boisterous, talkative young thing and that was fine, but it went on a bit too long. I would have told him, don’t behave like that between the years 17 to 25. Because looking back, I was actually completely unstable. My university studies were a joke. For a few years, I was a complete waster.

What 3 things are at the top of your bucket list?

I want to go to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia - a place steeped in history, and incredible fishing.

I want to visit Rio de Janeiro.

And I'd like to play a serial killer on screen, and be one of those people who slowly turns. I like to believe they'd never guess it was me.

What do you think happens when we die?

I think our souls are around for a while, before they slowly fade away. I've felt that presence on a few occasions with people I've lost. My mother used to talk to me, but I haven't heard from her for a while. Perhaps they're around until their business is completed. I like to think that's the case.

When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?

When I stand out at night on a clear night, and you realise how arrogant it would be to suppose we’re on our own. Also, when I think about the human body. It's just so clever… and the way the world works, there must be other beings monitoring the whole thing from an upper plane.

What do you try to bring to your relationships?

I try to be kind. I am basically, my mum and dad were very kind, and I try to emulate them. I think kindness is underrated, I rate it above other qualities more as I get older.

What keeps you grounded?

I’ve never seen what I do as particularly important. My dad always told me, it’s not a proper job. Never seeing my job as a big deal. And my kids are never impressed with anything I do.

What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?

A really good friend of mine, I’ve known for 40 years, rang me out of the blue, not for any particular reason, but just to check in and ask, are you ok? There was no other reason for the phone call. We had a great chat for a while, and I'll probably talk to him again in a few months. How nice is that?

'Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railway Journeys' airs on Thursdays at 9pm on Channel 5.

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