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Michael Aspel tells us why "Mr Bland" is ready to leave The Antiques Roadshow behind.

Q Can you set the record straight and tell us if you are retiring? After all, you're 74 now and you've decided to step down from presenting The Antiques Roadshow. A You only retire when the phone stops ringing. I don't expect it to ring. It's up to the outside world. There's a nice recreation centre around the corner! I always tell myself I'm going to do the things I haven't done. A history Of art, or a fine arts course. But I doubt I will. I won't be doing an autobiography, because my memory is so bad and they would want the kind of stuff that I wouldn't want to talk about anyway.

Q You've had many career highlights in your 50 years in showbiz, man and boy, from your start with the BBC in Cardiff in 1954. What's your secret?

A I've done Crackerjack, Give Us A Clue, the chat show Aspel And Company, as well taking over from Eamonn Andrews as the host of This Is Your Life. My great secret has been - and people think I'm being facetious - blandness. It's a great quality. I worked for many years and people didn't remember who I was because they didn't remember seeing me. So they didn't get bored.

Q But in among all your achievements, is there something you are most proud of?

A Proud isn't the word I'd use with anything I've done, because I never intended to do it. Because I kind of drifted into it, you don't feel like you're fulfilling any dream. I was going to be a cartoonist, a writer, or an actor. In fact, an actor/film star with special reference to Westerns. I was going to be a cowboy. But I gave that up when I was about 48.

Q You certainly still have the looks for it, personifying the term "silver fox", if you don't mind us saying.

A You inevitably get fan mail. I got - what do you call them? - stalkers. Got a few of those. The early letters I got were not from females, because I always looked very young for my age. I was about 23 and didn't look it, and was very pretty. I got a lot of interesting mail. There are a lot of lustful ladies on the Roadshow. I've noticed that they get very physical!

Q So why finish the Roadshow now? You'll end the 30th series in February and then you'll make way for new presenter Fiona Bruce.

A It was my own decision. But I've never felt quite so sad before. I never realised how much I enjoyed it. But the travel has become a bit demanding, it takes a lot of time. I'm away from home more than I used to be.

Q Will you continue to watch the Roadshow after you leave?

A Yes, but I'll have to watch it alone, because of all the embarrassing tears! I'm also dreading my final day on camera, but not for the reason you might think. If they say, "we're having a special evening to see you off", I shall be very uneasy about that, because I just prefer to stand at the bar and say, "cheerio". Have a hug and a handshake. I'd just like to sidle away, rather than be fanfared off.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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