If you’re at a loose end, you can catch me on the quiz show House of Games every weekday on BBC2 at 6pm.
I hold the host Richard Osman in such high esteem that I dearly hoped he would be lovely and I’m happy to report he is.
There are some celebs who aren’t what they seem in real life, but in the case of Richard Osman, what you see is what you get.
His versatility astounds me.
He helped to create and shape TV shows, including Deal or No Deal and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, before moving in front of the camera on Pointless.
There his intellect shines through, but he shares it in as humble and gentle a way as you could imagine.
More recently he has turned his hand to creative writing and his novel, The Thursday Murder Club, zoomed to number one in the bestsellers chart. No wonder – it’s a delight to read.
This is a man who wears his intelligence lightly and I reckon only a couple of celebs like him come along in a decade.
I’ll be on the M1 but YOU can watch it at 6pm on BBC2 #houseofgames today and every weekday with @richardosman (yes he is everything one would hope for) – as, of course, were @alexberesfordTV @mfhorne @ChloePetts – go team! pic.twitter.com/MQHUGE8dID
— Martel Maxwell (@MartelMaxwell) April 11, 2022
I wanted to tell him all of the above, but I feared I’d come across as a bit of a… well a mad fan girl.
So I’m telling you instead.
I’m happy to report Richard Osman was charming – with a touch of melancholy at times – and meeting him just made me like him even more.
From fan-girling over Richard Osman to marvelling at pensioner power
This week, in a hotel in Nottingham, I met an unexpected guest – a gorgeous cat called Bollinger.
His owner Jim had booked a room for him and ‘Bolly’ who bobbed along the corridors behind him like a loyal pal.
When Bolly wanted to go outside, Jim told me he would put his lead on and take him for a walk.
“Bolly’s so handsome,” he told me, “someone might steal him if he went out alone.”
When I remarked how unusual It was to see a cat in a hotel, Jim, from Kent, explained he was with a group of 15 friends – some couples, some singles – and two more had brought their cats.
Aged between 67 and 86, the humans had decided over lockdowns that when they could travel together again, they absolutely would.
They had always talked of spending a few nights away, but if the curtailing of freedom and choice had taught them anything, it was to make plans and carry them out.
One of Jim’s friends, a lady called Maggie, stopped in the corridor and said: “We’re going to come away as a big group twice a year.
“We’ve worked hard and now we’re retired,” she added. “So why not have a few days where everything’s done for you?
“The food is cooked and the beds are made, it’s bliss.”
A tenner a week and a money-saving tip
Jim says he and his pals put aside £10 each week. On a pension, he doesn’t have vast amounts to spare but he doesn’t miss a tenner.
And when they’ve all gathered enough for two nights away he and the gang start hatching plans.
The trick, he explains with a wink, is to look for a deal that offers three nights for the price of two.
With age comes wisdom right enough.
I was delighted for this group of pals.
Watching them at dinner, they were a picture of joy – faces beaming, heads thrown back laughing at each other’s jokes.
They were making up for lost time and I loved their attitude.
This is their time – why shouldn’t they kick back, relax and treat themselves?
Where next for the merry band? Dundee of course
At breakfast, they beckoned me to their table (retirement brings more time to watch daytime TV and Homes Under The Hammer is a firm favourite) to ask a question.
Seeing as I travel the length and breadth of the country so regularly for work, did I have any recommendations for their next trip?
Well you know what I said, of course – Dundee.
While I waxed lyrical about V&A Dundee, the McManus Gallery, Verdant Works, all the bars and restaurants and the Ferry, they looked interested.
Then came the clincher. I started listing surrounding golf courses within easy reach – from the Old Course to Carnoustie – and Jim and his pal Bill lit up like Christmas trees.
“That’s it. We’re going to Dundee,” said Jim with a thump of his first on the table.
And I believe him.
A bit like his cat Bolly, Jim and pals are living their best lives.
Their Scotland trip is planned for this autumn and those £10 notes are being stashed away as we speak.
So lock up your grandmothers Dundee, there’s a party of pensioners heading our way and they can teach the rest of us a lot when it comes to enjoying ourselves.
Dundee Airport – perfect for a quick getwaway
By adding a couple of new routes to their London and Belfast options – say somewhere in Spain or Portugal – they could bill themselves as the small airport with no fuss.
Imagine a gateway that offered hassle-free travel with no queues.
They’d be booked up all day, every day throughout the summer.
And it would make life very easy for all of us locals to enjoy our summer escapes.