Dom Joly: The new Cheltonian

Dom Joly and his pig Wilbur (c) Antony Thompson/TWM

Dom Joly and his pig Wilbur (c) Antony Thompson/TWM - Credit: © Thousand Word Media

‘I know Cheltenham does not have enough festivals and so I have the germ of a plan to put it on the map’

As part of my ongoing move from city to country to town I thought I might have a nostalgic look back at my chequered history in this area.

Fifteen or so years ago, I lived in Notting Hill Gate, in the heart of the London metropolitan elite. When I first moved there, I realised that I was in a street that was Ground Zero for the Notting Hill Carnival. The first year was brilliant. I had loads of people pop round and we partied all weekend. Cut to a couple of years later and we dreaded the whole thing. People who never got in touch suddenly turned up and wanted to hang out on your roof. People set up fried chicken stalls on your door and got grumpy if you wanted access. By year six I was dreading the sound of steel drums and we'd flee the city every August bank holiday weekend. So, I sold my flat to Salman Rushdie, chickened out of re-tiling my roof to say "Salman Rushdie lives here" for the next time Google Earth flew over, and moved to the Cotswolds.

I took over the position of village celeb in my first home from Anne Robinson who had moved up after her success on Weakest Link. On our first day there we got two invitations to events in the village. How nice, we thought. It was a big mistake. It's like the people you make friends with in your first couple of weeks at uni, you spend the rest of the year trying to avoid them. In our minds we thought we'd make friends with a wide variety of people but, after a lot of failure, all of my making, we resorted to hanging out with other couples who'd moved from London and felt a little at odds with traditional country life.

We started to hang out in town. At this stage I was near Cirencester and I was asked to turn on the Christmas lights and was made to feel very welcome by the place. Until… the day of the LLB coup. One morning I drove into Cirencester as usual to find that the town had been seized overnight. Every shop window had a photograph of a startled-looking shopkeeper shaking the ruffed hand of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. He had taken the town without a shotbeing fired. It was time to leave.

So, we moved to a very rural valley just over the hill from Cheltenham. Here I was in the celebrity buffer zone between Clarkson Land and Lily Allen County. I was happy. There were a couple of teething problems - I had to put my foot down at first when the local hunt assumed it could just traipse through my land without a problem. But once this sort of thing had been sorted out, I was happy where we were.

There was of course the Cameron pig incident. Wilbur, my pig, escaped and I had to go find him. This was around the time of the infamous Cameron/pigs head Oxford incident. I spotted him in a field and was in the process of dragging his grumpy self back to my Land Rover when a peloton of cyclists stopped at the top of the lane and stared. They saw Dom Joly trying to manhandle a pig into a car and obviously thought "They're all bloody at it."

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And then, as it became clear that my kids were never going to go outside, we decided to complete the circle and move back to town - to Cheltenham.

So now, I'm going to throw myself into my new life - do the full LLB. I know Cheltenham does not have enough festivals and so I have the germ of a plan to put it on the map. I appear to be the last person in the UK without my own festival… not for long.

I am also going to start campaigning for a cheaper and quicker train line to London. Nice as it is, do we really need to sit in Gloucester station for thirty minutes every time we make the trip? Surely we can make it cheaper than a return flight to New York?

Finally, who do I ask about the Christmas lights? Asking for a friend.

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