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Neil Dudgeon takes our Grown-up Test

31 December 2015

Neil Dudgeon is best known for his role as DCI John Barnaby in the hit series Midsomer Murders. He turns 55 this month, but how old is he in his head?

Neil Dudgeon © Paul Stuart / Saga Magazine
Neil Dudgeon © Paul Stuart / Saga Magazine

Still keeping up your New Year resolutions? I make the same ones each year! I came across my To Do lists from last year and the year before – I still need to get a new shed. The old one is now completely rotten - it’s a mouse palace in there!

Related: Enter our shed competition

What did turning 50 mean to you? Unless I make treble figures, half my life is behind me.  But with a bit of reverse accounting I started thinking I didn’t have much say in what happened to me until the age of about 18, so if I don’t count the first 20 years, and then live to 80, I’m only actually 30 years into my own self-governing life!

What single thing would make getting old easier? Extreme good health. I’ve started running. My son has started doing it. He’s 12, and he can run for days. I’ve found to my joy and my disappointment that I quite like it. My knee hurts, my hip hurts, my foot hurts, but it’s starting to get a bit easier.

Medicine or alternative therapies? Medicine. You always know someone who says, ‘Oh they said there was no hope and then I drank pea juice and now I’m cured’. But given the choice, I would probably go for the drugs.

How do you relax? Reading, listening to music, running, shopping cooking – anything that doesn’t involve learning loads and loads of character names and plots.

Book or e-reader? Book. Although anyone I know who has been a book person always says, ‘Oh yes, I thought that and then I got one given to me and it’s the best thing that’s every happened to me’, so I fully expect I’ll end up the same.

Twitter. Yes, no or what? I sort of follow Twitter, but I don’t trust myself to engage because I’d get all worked up about something and get caught up in the terrible mob frenzy.

Train or car? Car mostly, although I like train journeys.

Name two people you’d like to sit next to at dinner? Somerset Maugham and my dad. He’s been gone for many, many years but it would nice to have dinner with him again. They are an unlikely pair so I’m not sure they’d have much to say to each other.

Biggest break? I’ve been very, very lucky. Within eight months of leaving drama school I got a part in a play at the Royal Court in London called Road. It was a big hit and it opened doors for me.

What did your parents teach you? You can do anything that you want to do. There are no boundaries and there are no limits.

When was your first kiss and who with? On a bridge after a youth club disco with a girl called Suzanne.

When and where were you happiest? Apart from now, when I was 17. I was very fortunate when I was 17 – everything was going okay. I liked school, I was doing well, I had some great mates and the world was becoming possible.

School prefect or school terror? School prefect. I was kind of cheeky and a bit of smart aleck, really.

What was your childhood nickname and do you still have it? Dudge. I was called it at school and university. When I meet someone new now they call me Neil, but then, after a while, they start saying Dudge as if they’ve invented it.

Do you have a bad habit you can’t break? I tend to hum to myself quite a lot. I don’t think it’s a bad habit but it does annoy other people – especially my sister.

What is your greatest regret? I regret a number of plays I haven’t done. I started off doing a lot of theatre but it’s badly paid and quite a young man’s game. As you get older and have kids, working in the evenings is not compatible with family life.  If I’d known how things were going to pan out I’d have devoted more time to the stage earlier.

Home or away? Home, as I have just finished filming. I’ve gone very ‘nesty’ and domestic, making cake for the kids and pestering them about their homework. Ask me in a couple of weeks, though, I’ll probably say I want a job in Sydney!

First car? My grandparents, bless them, bought me an Austin 1100 at 17.

What gets you on the dance floor? About seven pints. We had a bit of a wrap party a couple of weeks ago at the end of filming Midsomer Murders and I was dragged onto the dance floor. It’s not a pretty sight, it never has been but now it’s worse than ever now.

Favourite tipple? A nice pint of bitter. When I was a young and first came to London you couldn’t get a pint that was worth having, so I started drinking lager. It wasn’t particularly nice, but it was consistently not very nice, so you knew what you were going to get. Now you can get loads of fantastic beers all over the place – which I try to do!

Related: Top 8 historical pubs in London

When did you last drink too much? Last year, at my friend’s wedding. There were lots of actors I hadn’t seen for a while and, making no excuses, it was all lovely and my glass kept being topped up. Before you know it… it was just awful, awful. I apologised but the groom said it was hilarious as I looked like a man walking into a 90-mile-an-hour gale.

Can you still remember the lyrics to the first record you bought? Yes, America by Simon and Garfunkel on the Bookends album. ‘They’ve all come to look for America…’

Greatest love? The family, my wife and kids.

What are the two main lessons life has taught you? If you are talented it helps, but it’s about other things too. I think you have to believe that you can do what you want to do and be what you want to be.

Our verdict: Anyone who can still stand, let alone dance, after seven pints would easily pass for a feisty forty-something.

A version of this article was published in the January 2016 issue of Saga Magazine. To make sure you don't miss out on interviews with your favourite stars, plus articles about money, health, gardening and much more, subscribe 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.

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