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O'Grady remembers formidable mother

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Paul O'Grady on stage at the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Powys

Paul O'Grady on stage at the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Powys

Paul O'Grady on stage at the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Powys

Comedian and broadcaster Paul O'Grady has spoken fondly of his mother while promoting the second volume of his memoirs, The Devil Rides Out.

O'Grady was speaking at the Hay Festival, in Hay-on-Wye, Powys.

In the book O'Grady describes his mother, Mary, as "Eleanor of Aquitaine with a chip pan".

"She spoke her mind, that's to say the least," he told the audience. "She was absolutely gardening mad. She had so many hobbies my mother and before she died she had a paper round. You'd see her on this bike with two big sacks, 72. What the hell is she doing? 'I'm going to get myself a little cleaning job', she'd say.

"She was interested in everything. She was the only person I knew who could knit, read a library book, listen to my conversation upstairs on the phone, watch TV and listen to the radio and keep an eye out for the cats in her garden."

O'Grady, who was brought up in a strict Roman Catholic household in Birkenhead, explained how the title of the book had come from a phrase his mother used to say to him.

"I'd get ready on a Saturday night ironing my jeans wet, as usual, and take them up to the launderette and see if the woman would let you use the spin dryer," he said. "I'd have the T-shirt and the red hair reeking of Aqua Manda and she used to say 'the devil rides out tonight'."

O'Grady also said that as child he could not be bothered to walk to the health food shop and instead bought his mother's oats at the pet shop.

"My mother had had a heart attack and she'd read all these books and realised that oats were good for the heart," he told the audience. "So there was one health food shop in Birkenhead, miles away. And there was a pet shop on Church Road. And I thought 'oats are oats' whether they are for a rabbit or a human, so I used to go and get these bags of oats for her.

"One day they'd changed the bag and there was a picture of a jolly rabbit on the front and three years later my mother suddenly twigged. She went mad."

PA