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I'm finally back in the marital bed so I'll never go back to breakfast TV; EXCLUSIVE Ben Shephard talks love, life after GMTV and why his wild partying days are behind him. By Olivia Buxton.

Byline: Olivia Buxton

We might miss his boyish good looks and cheesy smile over our morning cuppa, but Ben Shephard sure doesn't miss us.

One year on, after a decade on the GMTV sofa, the presenter says he's got his life back - and even found his way back into the marital bed.

"My alarm clock used to go off at 3.30am and sometimes I'd only had half an hour's sleep when I went on air as my youngest son Sam was a shocking sleeper," he says.

"There were often times when I slept in a separate bedroom just so I could get some kip.

It wasn't romantic, but I had to do it."

And the dad of two was on autopilot so much of the time, he says he didn't even realise just how severely the endless early mornings were impacting on his life.

"I had to nap in the day so I could catch up on sleep, and I wasn't really about to take the kids to school," he recalls.

"At the time no-one ever complained because that was all we knew.

"Now we're out the other side I realise what a commitment it was, not just for me but for my wife Annie and the boys."

But Ben says the strain of the job didn't carry over into his relationship. "Luckily, Annie was understanding," he recalls. "I wouldn't have let it drive a wedge between us either but if we didn't have a strong relationship, it could have."

And after all those years, things are finally back to normal.

"I'm back in the marital bed!" he laughs.

"I get woken up by my boys at 7am, but that's still a three and a half hour lie in for me!" So what about the rumours Ben might make a return to breakfast TV with a Daybreak l for Sky? "I've done my time getting up that early on GMTV," he rival getting says.

"The thought of it makes me shud-I could never go back to that kind of routine again."

"The der. I kind of routine again."

he prepared to leave the flagship breakfast show last July, Ben had As ITV breakfast heart to heart with his wife about t the end would mean for them, their sons Jack, six, and -year-old Sam.

a heart what and four-y He don't impact until a long wa "And He recalls: "Annie said to me 'I t think we'll realise what an impact GMTV has had on our lives until a long way down the line'.

And she was right. It took about seven months until it really hit home.

"Now I get to spend more time with the boys. I take them out to Richmond Park or we go cycling.

"Annie and I get to spend more time together. We go for romantic meals and I can stay up quite late on a week night without worrying that I'll have to get up in a few hours!" With the experience of all that behind him, Ben, 36, must feel sorry Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley who front GMTV's replacement Daybreak - especially now drian, 44, is cutting down from five ys to four.

night to get up in a fe With behind for A Bleakle ment Adrian, days to four "Ev days and it was brutal.

"Every now and again I did five ys and it was brutal.

"To was s owards the end of the week I so tired I felt jet-lagged and my skin looked transparent.

"I completely understand how knackered he is - and it's tough.

"Everyone was so fond of GMTV and people don't like change."

But he admits he doesn't watch much of the show.

"I don't often get the chance to tune in," he says.

"I put it on every now and again just to see the weather. I don't watch it enough to say why it's not working."

In the wake of the ITV cull that not only saw the back of Ben, but of other GMTV big hits like Andrew Castle, Emma Crosby and Penny Smith too, how did he feel about not being taken on as part of the new line-up? "Well I was never going to stay," he says. "It might have been exciting in the first few weeks with a new studio and a new name, but I would still have been getting up at the crack of dawn, and I'd been doing it 10 years. "Last April, my two year contract was up for renewal and they turned round and said 'We don't know what we're going to do'.

"So I said 'I'm going to make this easy, I won't renew my contract'. I let it be know I was happy to stay until the end of the summer - I actually left at the end of July - then they announced Adrian was joining and put out a statement saying I was leaving."

And since then, Ben hasn't been short of work. Just recently we've seen him having a ball on the set of the last Harry Potter film for an ITV special on the movies.

"I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and I appeared in the Half-Blood Prince movie working behind the counter of the Weasley's joke shop.

"If you look hard enough, you'll see me wearing some sunglasses and a moustache.

"I've also filmed behind the scenes documentaries for all the films and in the last but one, Julie Walters let me feel her boobs!

"She was dressed as Mrs Weasley and was telling me about all the padding she has to wear.

"As we were stood in the Great Hall of all places, she invited me to have a feel and I did.

"She quipped 'I think you've touched the real thing there Ben!' It was hilarious!" But it's not all been multi-million dollar movies for him - some work has been slightly less glamorous than that. Looking on the bright side, though, it has helped him perfect what can only be described as a pretty buff body. He's just spent eight weeks running all over the Welsh valleys to film Sky1 HD show Safebreakers.

The eight-parter follows two teams of engineering and mechanical experts as they try to build two vehicles in a challenge that tries its best to push them to their limits.

And that's all before a race to crack open a safe and pick up EUR5,700.

"It has been one of the craziest but most fun things I've ever done," grins Ben. "I loved watching these total geeks build things like a fire engine, a tank and an amphibious vehicle.

I would have been useless! But I did manage to do some training in between the filming."

Ben was getting in shape before cycling 140 miles from Tynemouth, North Tyneside to Whitehaven in Cumbria. When he got there, he turned around and ran back again over seven days to raise money for the Children's Heart Unit Fund at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

And while he likes to keep in shape now, at one stage Ben was a bit of a party animal.

"When I was at university I liked to go out clubbing all night," he recalls. "I never knew when it was time to stop and I would stay up until 3am or 4am.

"But now I don't have such mad nights because I have kids and it hurts when they jump on your head and you've not had any sleep. If I'm having a dinner at a friend's I can easily stay up all night drinking and chatting but I'd never do it if I was working the next day.

"As much as I love to think I could, my face tells every single story of what I've been doing the before.

"As good as make-up is, you can't disguise the fact you've only had 10 minutes' sleep!" !!

SafeBreakerS can Be Seen on Sky1 HD on auguSt 15tH at 8pm.

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HOSTS: Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley CHAT: Be ITV's GMTV Carla Romano en on tV with omano
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 12, 2011
Words:1348
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