Interview by Caroline Rees – The Sunday Times
Robson Green on vacuuming naked and playing guitar in his pants. The actor talks about the impact of flooding on his home, and hoovering habits, plus why he had to take an axe to his own back door.
My career has allowed me to travel to 130 countries. Now I’ve found myself back in the place I was born: Hexham, in Northumberland. In 2012, I moved to a 250-year-old ferryman’s cottage at a place called Watersmeet, where the North Tyne and the South Tyne converge. I can see the Cheviot Hills and the river is perfect for fishing. Travel has been life-affirming and educational, but I also crave the space and tranquillity of Northumberland. I think I’ve got the balance right now.
How would you describe your style?
Rustic and minimal. In my living room, I have a log-burning fire, three sofas, pictures by local artists and an enormous television with a fantastic sound system. My nearest neighbour is 650ft away, so I can play Hotel California on my guitar in my underpants. I used to vacuum naked, but now there’s nothing to vacuum because we had terrible floods in 2015. Instead of carpet, the floor is now all Northumberland stone.
How damaging were the floods?
The river came up 16ft and 7ft of it went through my home. There wasn’t only salmon in the Tyne, my three-piece suite was in there as well. I had to be rescued. The house is strong, with walls about a metre thick, but it was a year and a half before I could move back in.
What’s your daily routine?
I get up at 5am, then I’m straight onto the Nespresso machine. To keep fit I have a five-minute freezing cold shower and I do a 45-minute stretch routine with Coach Kozak on YouTube because I had a back injury two years ago. Then I’m either picked up for work or I’ll go for a two-mile walk along the river. The Tyne is 5ft from my garden. If I have spare time, my partner, Zoila, and I will put on our waders and cast a line for trout or salmon. Other than that, I read a lot and overdose on TV dramas such as Breaking Bad and Schitt’s Creek.
Are you a good cook?
I love cooking and I eat some of the fish I catch. You cannot beat wild Atlantic salmon. But Zoila, who’s from the Philippines, is a much better cook than me. She does a lamb stew in carrot juice that is just off the scale. I’ve got an open-plan kitchen that’s bigger than the house I grew up in, with handmade oak cupboards, utensils hanging from the ceiling and four fridges.
Where did you grow up?
In a small terraced house in the mining village of Dudley, in Northumberland, which was surrounded by five pits. My father was a miner and would wash outside in a tin bath. The house was about 50ft from the London to Edinburgh railway line and there was something incredibly reassuring about the sound of that train going by.
Are you keen on DIY?
I got A-levels in design and technology, metalwork and engineering drawing. But once the desire to put on make-up and ponce about in front of the camera entered my head, that all went down the Swanee. I managed to get those skills back, but recently I put a new back door on my house and forgot that wood expands and contracts with temperature so it jammed. I had to take an axe to it.
What’s your favourite part of the house?
The conservatory, which I’ve added on. It has a 270-degree window that overlooks the river. I can see salmon leaping, kingfishers, otters, deer, kestrels. I’ve got resident hedgehogs and stoats. It’s spectacular to see them. I also have a telescope because I love gazing into the night sky. In Northumberland we have some of the darkest skies in Europe.
And your most treasured possessions?
I have a beautiful picture by Nick Potter, a local artist, of a shiel, a small stone building on Skye that I stayed in when I did [the ITV show] Tales from the Coast. I also have a map that someone painted for me, showing places I’ve visited on Extreme Fishing [on Channel 5], and what I’ve caught there. Looking at that fills me with joy.
Are you green-fingered?
I am. Indoors, I’ve got a lot of cacti. Outdoors, I’ve got three acres. I have a vegetable garden, a little orchard with pear, plum and apple trees, a herb garden for cooking and an eclectic mix of flowers. I also like sitting on a lawnmower and driving round.
Do you have a man cave?
I have a room that is basically my fishing museum, with hundreds of rods and reels and thousands of fishing flies. For instance, I have a handmade limited-edition Hardy reel, which is worth an incredible amount, but it’s still in the wrapper because the thought of putting it in water fills me with dread. I’ve also got old reels from the 1920s. My latest fly is called Old Sock. It was designed by Eric Clapton and given to me by his gillie.
What music do you play loudly?
Jethro Tull and Meat Loaf. I’ve got speakers in the ceiling that you can’t see. I also play guitar and sing John Denver, Eagles and Don McLean songs at the top of my voice, with the amplifiers turned up to 11.
Robson Green appears in Novels That Shaped Our World: The Empire Writes Back, available on BBC iPlayer (UK)