First Impressions: John Suchet
Broadcaster and author JOHN SUCHET presents Classic FM’s flagship morning programme, weekdays from 9am to 1pm (100-102FM, digital, classicfm.com). He lives in central London and is married to Bonnie.They have five grown-up sons and six grandchildren
What are you working on at the moment?
Selecting pictures for my new Beethoven book, Beethoven: The Man Unmasked. It's my sixth book on The Master.
When were you at your happiest?
From nought to eight, then I went to boarding school. I exchanged a warm and loving home environment in the centre of London for an appalling institution on the Kent coast.
What is your greatest fear?
Something bad happening to the children or grandchildren.
What is your earliest memory?
Treading on a cigarette end on the deck of the Windsor Castle as we steamed south to Cape Town. I was three.
Who has been your greatest influence?
As I get older, more and more my dad. Women stop me in the street to tell me what a great doctor and wonderful man he was. I just remember him always at work – my brothers and I agree he left his bedside manner there.
What do you most dislike about yourself?
I can be pretty negative, even when things are going well.
What is your most treasured possession?
My iPhone. I couldn't live without it. I would die if I lost it.
What trait do you most deplore in others?
Arrogance. The people I admire most are those who don't rate themselves. Beethoven is the exception that proves the rule. He knew how great he was.
Do you have a fantasy address?
I moved into a new flat two years ago, which is on the river in London's Docklands, a short distance from my brother, David. It had been on the market for two years with not a single viewing, never mind an offer. Every time I walk into it, I think I have died and gone to heaven.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Where do I start? Six inches taller, and hands and feet that are human, not gorilla. Mind you, I can do a pretty good gorilla face. It is my dearest wish that one of my grandchildren inherits the talent.
What is your all-time favourite book?
War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I made a group of very special friends at the University of Dundee in the 1960s. For my 21st birthday, they gave me a leather-bound copy of War And Peace. We meet every year for a reunion. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of us going up. I treasure the book. Now all I've got to do is read it.
What is your favourite film?
Cinema Paradiso. I only have to hear the music and I blub.
Your favourite record or piece of music?
Beethoven, Piano Sonata Opus 110, played on his own piano by Jörg Demus and recorded in 1969.
Your favourite meal?
Any variation of duck. For 20 years, we had an old farmhouse in Gascony in southwest France. In our local Ferme Auberge, they only served duck. Nothing else.
Who would you most like to come to dinner?
My mum and dad. To say sorry (again) for one or two youthful transgressions, and to show them the boy who achieved nothing at school has never been out of work and still does what he loves best: broadcasting.
Which historical character do you most admire?
Beethoven, for not giving up composing when he realised he was going deaf. I am also fascinated by Napoleon Bonaparte. I once sat next to a former government minister at a dinner, who told me Napoleon ranked with Hitler. Yet the French glorify him. Which is he: saint or sinner?
What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
'Suchet, you are stupid, utterly stupid'. My prep school history teacher, Mr Bonham Carter, when I called the Treaty of Utrecht the Treaty of Utrent. He made the class jeer at me. I was 10. It still makes the back of my eyeballs prick with anger.
Do you believe in aliens?
No. I believe in nothing we cannot see. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I think.
What is your secret vice?
Abba. Don't tell my boss.
Do you write thank-you notes?
No. I wouldn't want to be entertained by anybody I couldn't phone up.
Which phrase do you most overuse?
It's going to be a disaster.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Perfect Wi-Fi reception anywhere in the world.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
He was never quite as good at anything as he wanted to be.
John Suchet hosts Classic FM Live at London's Royal Albert Hall on 24 September, to celebrate the radio station's 20th birthday. For tickets: www.classicfm.com
Beethoven: The Man Revealed by John Suchet will be published by Elliott & Thompson in October.
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