Entertainer Lionel Blair on his perfect Surrey weekend
PUBLISHED: 17:25 07 January 2011 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013
Celebrating an incredible 60 years in showbiz, Lionel Blair is one of Britain's best-loved entertainers. When it gets to the weekend, the 72-year-old says he enjoys nothing morethan relaxing in his home town of Banstead, where he has lived for...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2009
Celebrating an incredible 60 years in showbiz, Lionel Blair is one of Britain's best-loved entertainers. When it gets to the weekend, the 72-year-old says he enjoys nothing more than relaxing in his home town of Banstead, where he has lived for the past six years
I simply love living in Surrey, and Banstead is perfect. It's quiet, rural and yet also very accessible. We've been here six years and it's truly one of the best places I've ever lived.
When my wife first mentioned Banstead, I said: "That's on the way to Gatwick, isn't it?" - and I thought, 'Oh God, I don't want to live there'.
Then we came to see a property, which I didn't like, but as we were driving away I saw the house we're living in now up for sale.
We sat outside and phoned the estate agent and said: "Do you think the owners would let us come in and have a look?" Apparently, the man said to the estate agent: "My God, it's not Tony Blair, is it?'" But he said: "No, it's Lionel Blair!" And he said: "What? The TV dancer?" and they said, "Yes!"
Do you know, we walked in the door and I thought, 'This is it', and we've been here for six years and couldn't be happier. I love it here. The neighbours are wonderful. I have no pressure from them; it's just one of the most delightful places I have ever lived.
You're my favourite
As a county, Surrey means a lot to me. We've also got such genuine good friends here and I think it's become a favourite part of the world to me.
I'm afraid that after the strain of being on tour doing Simply Ballroom, at home over the weekend I'm pretty much a couch potato at the moment. I just love watching television.
However, I do like to get out and about occasionally, and for me it's still a great pleasure walking in Nonsuch Park. Not many people know this, but Anne Boleyn had a palace built there before she got her head chopped off. However, it's also a very sad walk for me because I had Florence, one of my dogs, kidnapped there. But I still think it's the most wonderful park.
I'm not a golfer but I live near a golf course and I've done lots of charity events at Kingswood Golf Club for 'Stage for Age'. And that's it for me and sport in Surrey. Except, of course, a dear friend of mine lived in Chipstead - the late great George Best.
I go shopping in Kingston, and it's fantastic. In fact, you could say that it's better than going into London. Also, my dear friend and star of Strictly Come Dancing, Erin Boag, lives in Kingston and we've done charity work there also.
After 60 solid years in showbusiness, starting as a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz and working my way up ever since, I'm now putting most of my efforts into charity work.
Having received so much in my own life, I've become determined to give back as much as I can through personal contribution.
The grant-giving poverty charity Elizabeth Finn Care is a cause dear to my heart and it's a charity more people should know about. They help those who find themselves with nothing to live on despite having worked all their lives. It's frightening and can happen to anybody at any time.
It's something I can relate to from personal experience. When I was a kid, my dad, who was a barber, died. My family was lucky because all the barber shops in the area put together a collection, and that was what we lived on until I got a job and could help to support them myself.
There are people living beneath the poverty line in the 21st century through no fault of their own - to help people like that is terribly important to me.