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I'd rather live alone for the rest of my life than live with towels that were folded incorrectly... it's the petty things that end marriages; ALL TALK TV CHAT GURU GRAHAM ON LOVE AND RETIREMENT PLANS TV CHAT GURU GRAHAM ON LOVE AND RETIREMENT PLANS.

Byline: reporters@dailyrecord.co.uk EMMA PIETRAS

CHAT show king Graham Norton loves to surprise but his latest revelation will truly shock - he is toying with retiring.

Norton, who is only 52, is seen as the current supremo of the format, with the hottest guests and the best banter on his hit BBC show.

So why even think of quitting? It is because the perfectionist, whose fussiness has caused break-ups and heartache in his personal life, can't bear the thought of becoming second best.

He said: "You want to get out when people are still watching your show.

"You don't want it to be when people say, 'That is still on, that is still a thing?' "This is the 18th year of me doing a chat show. We've been working up to this moment of being on BBC1 on that prime Friday night slot so we've always been inching forward in those 18 years.

"The thing no one wants is the inching backwards, where you're kind of going, 'Yes, the cast of Towie can come on' That's about retiring when you're on top."

Talking with his Radio 2 show co-host Maria McErlane in front of an audience in London, ahead of the paperback publication of his memoir The Life and Loves of a He Devil, the Irishman said he'll be gone from TV well before he turns 60.

He said: "I'm not jumping tomorrow but it is in my head. You want to get out when you can still enjoy your life.

"Neighbours of mine worked and worked and they went on a trip of a lifetime around the world and they had to be airlifted three times because they were too old to do it.

"They got stuck on every hike they did. So I don't want to be them. You want to get out of work when you have still got time to enjoy your life.

"I do love my job. I might really miss it and then I will feel like an absolute fool. You can't come back.

"You could only come back to do I'm a Celebrity or Celebrity Big Brother or really awful things."

And that kind of show really wouldn't work for a man as particular as Graham when it comes to sharing his personal space.

Earlier this year he was dating music marketing consultant Andrew Smith but that seems to be over, with host Maria asking why a nice man like Graham is single.

He said: "You have your own rules as you get older. I would prefer to live alone for the rest of my life rather than live with towels that were folded incorrectly.

"Petty is important. That's why marriages break up. Marriages don't break up because of big things.

"The older you get, the less right you have to be fussy and yet the older you get the fussier you become so oddly when your standards should be dropping you find them getting higher.

"You see younger friends starting relationships and you know how that story ends. You sit and wait for the end.

"When you're young, if you meet a partner and they're cheating on someone to be with you but then they go with you, you think, 'That's great.' "But, of course, as older people we know they then cheat on you.

"I'm careful. Why do you want to be heartbroken again because if you keep being heartbroken you're a moron?" One of those who may be responsible for such heartache is his American ex-boyfriend Kristian Seeber. They split in 2006.

The New Yorker features in the book and Graham said: "After we broke up we remained friends and I went to meet him for lunch.

"I'm sitting there and he says to me: 'Have you been to this restaurant before?' And I went: 'Are you serious? This is where you dumped me.'" Despite sounding cynical Graham is positive about finding someone. He's been in love three times and added: "I hope to feel like that again."

And for now, he has his beloved dogs - a labradoodle called Bailey and Madge the terrier - to keep him company.

They help to keep him grounded while he works with celebs. He said: "At 9.30pm I was kissing Anne Hathaway and by about 10.30pm I was digging dog poo out of the floorboards."

The Graham Norton Show on BBC1 has drawn audiences of up to four million and he has interviewed stars such as Madonna, Samuel L Jackson, Hugh Jackman and Will Smith.

And while Graham makes it look easy, with high-maintenance big names that isn't always the case.

One of his most memorable guests was actor Mark Wahlberg, who was a bit worse for wear on the show in 2013.

Graham said: "He kept interrupting.

Michael Fassbender was telling a story and I sat there thinking, 'Actually we're doing OK. He's getting through his story uninterrupted' and I look over and Mark Wahlberg's asleep. That's quite relaxed, isn't it?" Another highlight was visiting Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park in Tennessee, where he and the country star sang Islands in the Stream together on rubber rings at her water park.

Graham said: "The door opens and out steps Dolly absolutely camera ready. She's wearing a wetsuit that looked like it was melted on to her body. Not a wetsuit that was ever sold in a shop. On top she had a new wet-look wig.

"We got to the edge of the water. She takes off her mules but she's still standing like that because she's worn these heels for so long that a bit of her leg had shrunk."

Mingling with A-listers is a far cry from his humble beginnings in rural Bandon, County Cork, where he still has a home. His father Billy, who died the week before he won his first Bafta in 2000, was a Guinness salesman and his mother Rhoda - to whom he dedicates his memoir - was a member of the local Mothers' Union.

Born Graham Walker, he switched to Norton - his great-gran's maiden name - at drama school to avoid a clash of names with another actor. He found fame with a bit part in Channel 4 comedy Father Ted and as a stand-up comedian, before landing his first chat show So Graham Norton on Channel 4 in 1998.

In 2007, he moved to the Beeb, starting with a Sunday night BBC2 show. He proved popular and it switched to a Friday night slot on BBC1 in 2010.

When he presented the Baftas last month, his bushy grey beard attracted attention but he insists he's not trying to be a hipster.

Graham said: "Normally when I am on a break there is some reason to shave but this year I had three weeks off and I kept it. Beards are cool now but that is so annoying. You have to do so much to the things.

"There is a whole industry now for beard oils and conditioners. There are these shops now full of beardy w****** and you sit there in these hot towels looking at other people thinking, 'Please don't think that I think I am one of you'.

"My beard is staying for now. It has its own Twitter account and it was tweeted by Jamie Dornan's beard which also has a Twitter account."

But his new look could pose problems when he's trying to get home from a boozy night out.

Graham said: "People will now think I'm homeless.

"One of the few perks of being off the telly is that taxi drivers always get me home. If they don't know, they will radio a friend.

"The only time it went wrong was when I walked up to a house with my key and realised I lived there eight years ago.

"I don't drink as much as I used to - I couldn't. I was going for gold for many years.

"When I was 50 I had a health MOT. I remember I was having the ultrasound and he came to my liver, and I thought, 'Oh some desolate wasteland...the Hiroshima of organs.' But I was fine. I obviously have a proper drinker's liver."

Graham admits he feels pressure to stay in shape because he's on TV.

He said: "Tragically I do go to the gym. I've got a personal trainer. He's so young and I'm so old I think he spends most of the hour worrying I'm going to die."

Joking aside, he reveals he can do a plank for six minutes and has "the knees of a 20-year-old".

Not bad for a man already planning his retirement. ? The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir by Graham Norton is out on paperback on July 30.

CAPTION(S):

Graham meets country star Dolly Parton. Below, their water park duet

Walkies with labradoodle Bailey and terrier Madge

Bafta winner. Right, with Kylie, Simon Pegg, Michael McIntyre and Brandon Flowers

WIT'S NEXT Graham wants to quit while he's ahead - but not yet. Picture: Getty Images Europe
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 24, 2015
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