Breakfast in bed with Bill Turnbull

Tiffany Daneff / 26 January 2016

After BBC Breakfast, bee keeping and ballroom dancing, what's next for Bill Turnbull?



Is Sarah, your wife, looking forward to you leaving?

She is, largely because we won’t have the upheaval of half the week being devoted to Breakfast. I have to go to bed at half past nine and I have to get up at half past three. After 9.30pm we have to keep the noise levels down in the house and that sort of thing. So I think she’s looking forward to not having to deal with that.

Did the early starts make you grumpy?

Well, I don’t think so. Some of my colleagues tended to think I might be sometimes. I think I’ve mellowed.

Got any useful sleep tips?

I’ve recently discovered sage tea. Three little leaves make an infusion and you can add more hot water if you want. It tastes OK and you get a general sense of calm and wellbeing. The key to surviving breakfast television is sleep management. If you don’t sleep properly you just turn into a basket case.

Related: 10 ways to get a better night's sleep

Will you miss your on-screen ‘wife’, Louise Minchin?

Oh, ho! That’s dangerous talk! ‘On-screen wife’! Yes, of course. I’ve had 14 on-screen wifelets on Breakfast. Some are still very good friends and I’m sure Louise will fall into that category.

Have you made a bucket list?

There were one or two places I wanted to travel to, but I’ve travelled so much I don’t like long-haul flights any more.

I’d rather stay at home, to be honest. There are so many places to explore in Britain or Europe so, for instance, this summer we’re driving to Italy.

Related: Follow in Bill's footsteps with no-fly holidays from Saga

Any plans for how to spend your time?

The thing is, we haven’t really planned. I haven’t given a huge amount of thought – and perhaps I should have – to what is going to happen next. Are you supposed to? Is there such a thing as a retirement planning consultant? I don’t really think of it as retiring: I’m ‘moving on to a different phase’ of what is laughably referred to as my career.

What are you looking forward to?

To having time, actually, to not do very much. We’re hoping to move to Suffolk. [Bill and Sarah have been shuttling between Cheshire and Bucks since Breakfast relocated to Salford in 2012.] We’ve got family there and friends. We might find a bijoux little two-bedroom bungalow with an enormous field. Whatever it is, it’s got to have a little bit of land. 

Why land?

When I was young my parents had a smallholding. They kept hens, ducks, turkeys, Gloucester Old Spots – heifers from time to time. Sheep and geese, too. So we might do that.

Or I’m going for the llama idea, because I like llamas. This is a subject of some discussion in the Turnbull household. It is not meeting with unanimous approval. And I do want to spend more time with the bees [Bill has four colonies]. I’d like to get chickens again. I do like Black Rock hens but they can be difficult to get hold of. I’ve tried bantams and araucanas because of the colour of the eggs. The big challenge with hens is to keep them laying after the first year, I find.  

Related: Read Bill’s beginner’s guide to bee-keeping

And new hobbies?

I learnt to sail in my teens. I pretty much haven’t sailed since. But there are lots of lovely inlets, rivers and gentle coastline in Suffolk to explore, and my brother-in-law is an accomplished sailor, so he’ll literally show me the ropes. 

Have you got a book inside you?

I did, once upon a time, write a book [The Bad Beekeepers Club - see the foot of this article for more info]. I’m not sure how I managed to do it, to be honest. I had a deadline of three or four months, which is probably what spurred me on and it all tumbled out. I discovered that you have to sit in one place for the ideas to percolate up, and I’ve moved around so much in the past few years, so I want to be able to sit still and let the ideas come to me. I’ve got a couple of book ideas and a screenplay idea.

Is there a danger you might become too settled?

What? Become a boring old fart? I sincerely hope not. We’ve lived in a lot of different places and we’ve always looked to do interesting and exciting things.

How do you feel about turning 60?

Like a child on the inside and slightly crusty on the outside.

Will you keep Strictly fit?

I am and I will. The year I did Strictly [2005], I ran the London Marathon in a beekeeper’s suit.

I belong to a health club; do a bit of cross training, bit of weights, run on the machine – couple of miles, maybe two and a half – then a bit of rowing, then a swim, then the sauna and hot tub. It takes a couple of hours, two or three times a week.

I won’t be able to carry on with that, as the gym will be about 200 miles away, but I think I’ll get myself a cross trainer. And then we’ll run around a bit.

Did you carry on dancing after Strictly?

I like music. I used to like to boogie on down, so to speak, and my wife complains that I don’t dance with her nearly enough. We did take a couple of classes because we had to go to an event. But there’s a big difference between being on the Strictly dance floor with a big band and a world-class dancer, and being in a cold village hall with a tape of Robbie Williams.

Related: Fancy a bit of ballroom dancing? Read our guide to getting started

And your social life?

I’m not really a party animal but things tend to just happen. Tonight, I’m going back north to Salford and we’ve got a couple of friends coming round for supper. I know that’s not going to end particularly well. They’re a lot of fun and that means inevitably there’ll be a whisky at the end of the evening on top of everything else.

While I was doing Breakfast, the week was divided into two halves. From, say, Sunday to Wednesday was a monastic lifestyle, no alcohol, early bed, be a very good boy. Then Wednesday night the school gates opened and off we’d go. Party on. 

What’s your poison?

Bourbon, a proper refined one called George T Stagg, which is difficult to get hold of. It’s very strong and every bottle is hand signed.

Speaking of poison, I do have a couple of bottles of poteen in the cellar from a beekeeper in Northern Ireland – funnily enough, he doesn’t drink. And it is deadly. You think, ‘This tastes like petrol! How could anybody drink it?’ Then you get to the end of this little glass and you say, ‘Actually, this isn’t so bad at all. I don’t mind if I do have another’.

Related: Visit our drinks section

A version of this article was first published in the February 2016 issue of Saga Magazine. To make sure you don't miss out on great content like this, subscribe to our print edition or download the digital edition today,

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.