A Life in the Day

JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH (aka GRAHAM FELLOWS, actor), 56, singer-songwriter, lives in Sheffield with his wife, Mary, 53, and children, Darren, 20, and Karen, 17. Interviewed by Ria Higgins. Photograph: John Angerson


"I read Exchange & Mart in bed. Or Mary gets out the Argos Catalogue and we'll look at the sovereign rings together"

I get up at 7 - 7.05 if I'm feeling groggy. I wash down to the waist and put on my fawn polyester slacks and a polo-neck sweater - maybe a leisure shirt, weather permitting.

My wife, Mary, likes to have a lie-in and watch Kilroy, so I'll take her up a cup of tea and a muffin. She's gone a bit cosmopolitan of late, a bit Sophia Loren. She even wears a baggy T-shirt in bed with a quirky motif.

I have a bowl of cereal - sometimes two. It's just that Karen and Darren abandon the cereal boxes when they get near to the end, so there's a pile-up in the back of the cupboard. I'm ploughing through Frosties and Ricicles that expired in 2001.

Once I've cleared all surfaces, I take Kirsty for her walk. She's meant to be a guard dog, but she doesn't bark when someone's at the door - she raises her eyebrows. If she's got her back to you, you haven't got a clue what's going on.

When we get back, Karen's left for college and Mary's up. I'll make us a coffee. We had one of those cafetieres, but I cracked it, so we're back to Mellow Birds. I might have a Tracker bar. Or a Club. I once ate an entire seven-pack of Orange Clubs, and then fell asleep on the lay-by. I wouldn't mind but I nearly missed tea.

At 9.30, I listen to Ken Bruce's Pop Master show on Radio 2. I get frustrated when people don't know the answers. The other day, it was Lay Your Love on Me, by Racey - an all-time classic. Then it's Sally Traffic. I'd love to ring up and say: "There's a car parked badly at the end of my street - try to avoid the area if possible".

Mary leaves for school at 10.45 - 10.46 if she's running late. She's a dinner lady. Her job is to break up scuffles in the dinner queue. I know her dream is to move to mixed veg, but her friend Joan Chitty works on that section. It's a prime spot - between the potatoes and the gravy.

Darren, who does the late shift at Victoria Wine, will still be in bed, so it's an ideal time to stand on the landing and listen for dripping taps. I'm also keen on home security; my latest show [at the Edinburgh Fringe, August 21-25] is about that. It was supposed to be called Pillar of the Community, but it came out Pillock of the Community and we couldn't afford a reprint.

I have lunch at the breakfast bar. I made the bar myself, but I positioned it too close to the cabinets. The view's dreadful. I'm facing up to my mistakes - literally. I'll prepare a bap, maybe a tuna mayo. The other day, I didn't see the margarine tub, so I foolishly opened another one. To rectify the situation, I wanted to take some from the first, put it in the second, smooth it off and reseal it. But Mary said: "No, let's have two on the go at once." It's crazy. It keeps me awake at night.

Sometimes Ken Worthington, my next-door neighbour and sole agent, treats me to a pasta bake at the garden centre. We were there the other day trying out the acoustics in the shed section. Then I popped into the charity shop and bought a Rubettes LP - Sugar Baby Love. Hearing it again has given me the confidence to attempt falsetto.

When I get back, at say 3, 3.04, I might do a bit of songwriting. I've written a rap song. It's taken me in a new direction. Ideally, at this stage of my career, I'd like to be making more headway in the pop world. I mean, I get gigs at the old folk's home, but it's just petrol money. And as it's next door, there's no petrol. Occasionally I perform at the library - reference section only - but I have to play quietly, which can be frustrating when it's a falsetto number.

Sometimes I'll pop down to the supermarket. Cashiers are obliged to say hello now. But the other day I make the mistake of saying hello too soon, and it threw her completely. She ended up blanking me. There was no banter, no: "Have you got a points card?" I was humiliated.

We have tea at around 5. It used to be quarter past, but as you get older, it moves forward. If Mary's not at her step class with Joan, she cooks. I might spin a lettuce for her.

After tea I'll watch the first half of Bergerac on UK Gold, and then at 7.30, 7.33, I take Kirsty out. We've got students in the house across the road and they've got no net curtains up. They sit down to a meal with candles. It looks like Santa's grotto in there.

Later, I might help Mary change a pillowcase or pump up the duvet. I read Exchange & Mart in bed. Or, if Mary's finished her TV Quick, she'll get out the Argos catalogue and we'll look at the sovereign rings together.

I'm relatively happy with life, but admittedly, I am still waiting for my big break. So, if I have a motto in life it would be: if opportunity knocks, don't pretend you're in the bath.

The Sunday Times Magazine, 17th August 2003. © Times Newspapers Limited, 2003