'I was in turmoil, then my wife Rachel said she and the kids loved me... that was all I needed to hear'
As Jeremy Vine opens up about some recent hard times, Hannah Stephenson catches up with the broadcaster to talk regrets, meditation... and not having any opinions
A mid-life crisis left popular broadcaster Jeremy Vine feeling burnt out and seeking the help of a string of professionals. "Like a lot of people, you get to a stage where you are working really hard. I was quite late to parenting - my first child was born when I was 39 - and unless you remind yourself what it's all for, you start asking what the point is," he says.
"I had a little bit of a difficult journey. I was a complete misery at home and everywhere for a while. I wasn't unpleasant, I just went quiet. I was in a state of some turmoil. Maybe I had a mid-life crisis.
"What they say about people who are very ambitious in their teens and their 20s, as I was, is that you are burning so much fuel that you may reach a point where you're doing it all, but wondering why you're doing it."
One psychologist suggested Vine (52) might need time off work. He responded that it was her job to keep him working.
"As a result of that kind of idiocy, I wandered around for a long time as if wearing a gigantic blob of freshly spun candyfloss on my head. Nothing, not even hearing The Smiths sing Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, gave me pleasure," he says.
He relays the crisis in his new book What I Learnt, What My Listeners Say And Why We Should Take Notice, an autobiographical montage of his life and career, with shocking and hilarious anecdotes of his Radio 2 listeners, political and personal encounters, and memorable moments of his time on Strictly Come Dancing and other TV shows.
He reveals that he spoke to seven different professionals, including counsellors and a Harley Street psychologist, about his feelings.
"Some of the key things we've learned is that you have to be in the moment. Your diary may be packed with stuff, but unless you're enjoying where you are right now, you can't enjoy any of it. It will all just be a burden."
His wife, Rachel, was extremely supportive, he says.
"She said, 'Just enjoy going out and about and enjoy the sunshine. The kids (they have two daughters, Anna and Martha) are here and we all love you'. That's all I really needed to hear.
"The crucial thing I learned was to meditate and be mindful. When I'm at Radio 2 and am totally present in the show, listening to my listeners, I've learned to enjoy it for what it is. There's only one moment and that moment is now. Gradually, I pulled clear and was joyful again."
One of the turning-points came when he went to see folk singer Maddy Prior, former lead vocalist of Steeleye Span.
"I was sitting there and I just felt joy. I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm back'," he says.
It's not the only drama he's had in the past few years, both on-air and off.
Last year, he was the victim of a road rage incident, in which a female motorist screamed abuse at him as he cycled down a narrow London road. He videoed it on a helmet camera and then posted it online.
It all ended in a court case and jail for the motorist, but Jeremy now says he regrets it.
"My friends say, 'Oh, but you were a victim of crime', but I ended up feeling I wanted to apologise to her. On the day in court, she came in with a suitcase because she was expected to be sent to prison. I would have been happy with an apology," he says.
"But in the end, it's not about me, it's about the state deciding to prosecute this person. That's a separate issue."
Earlier this year, he hit the headlines again - this time when he was named the BBC's fourth highest-paid on-air talent behind Chris Evans, Gary Lineker and Graham Norton, with earnings of between £700,000 and £750,000. The subject inevitably arose on his radio show.
"Maybe our greatest caller was Harry Jones, an ex-miner. He said we were all grossly overpaid and that he wanted answers. I hadn't actually thought what the answer was," he says.
When Harry asked Jeremy if he thought he was overpaid, he said he didn't really want to answer that, but Harry wasn't giving in and asked again. "In a funny sort of way, the most difficult moment was the best moment in my show."
So, does Jeremy think he is overpaid?
"Having had chance to think about it, yes, compared with my mother, who was a doctor's receptionist and my father who was a college lecturer, but not compared to the presenter of The Breakfast Show (Chris Evans), who is apparently on three times as much," he says.
"I do a lot of different things and you can see the logic, but I'm acutely aware of what Harry Jones thinks about it and what it must look like to my mum and dad."
He's been with the BBC for nearly 30 years and it was coming up to 25,000 calls to his Radio 2 show, which prompted the book.
"As I began to write this book and go through some of the amazing calls we've had, then a whole load of things happened in parallel," he says.
"We had the general election, then Brexit, then the Trump election - it all suggested somehow that people who had previously been sitting on a high hill throwing down tablets of stone telling us what was going on were getting everything wrong."
While callers often express their anger on air, Jeremy is not one to express either his opinion or his emotions.
"You can have values, but you can't have views," he reflects. "Obviously, if there's some terrible murder, you are allowed to express how terrible that is. I can be cross about litter; I can't take political positions.
"But it's a small price to pay for having the best job in the world."
He has, however, got into trouble a few times for expressing himself, he agrees.
"I did say that photography is not art, which apparently you can't say, because a lot of people think it is. I said Laurence Olivier was a bad actor. It's safer not to express a view," he says.
"I've got a new social media policy not to criticise anyone," he adds, after posting a Tweet saying that a jogger who pushed a woman in front of a bus was likely to be a banker (he later deleted the post).
He still meditates, which keeps him grounded, and he continues to enjoy the moment.
"I try to spend a bit of time in the zone after the morning Radio 2 meeting, because otherwise all I'm doing is tapping my smartphone or going on Twitter - and it's not that good for the soul," he adds.
What I Learnt, What My Listeners Say And Why We Should Take Notice by Jeremy Vine is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £18.99