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"Some of the things I've done, I do feel sorry for the kids"

Back with a new series of Freddie Fries Again, Freddie Flintoff tells Ella Walker about embarrassing his kids, kissing seals ... and an unexpected new career move

You wouldn't think Freddie Flintoff would be a morning person. Formerly cricket's most notorious cheeky chappie, the Lancashire-born dad-of-three is actually in fine shape at 9am on a Monday morning when we meet, sweeping two apple cores out of the way - "It's me breakfast" - and folding himself into a chair that's too small for his burly limbs.

A decade ago, he would more likely have rolled up under the influence of a hefty hangover. Not so anymore; he's been teetotal for months.

"It's been a while now since I had a drink," he says jovially. "I'm fitter, life's less complicated without it and I don't miss bad heads and hangovers. I don't even miss going out and having a drink.

"I still go out with me mates, but I think a lot of the time, people have a drink to enjoy yourself, and I enjoy meself anyway.

"If I feel the need to have a drink with people, then why am I going out with them? Why bother?"

These days, the 38-year-old's more focused on his fitness and trains every morning: "It kick-starts your day, I do it for me head as much as me body."

His current love of cycling he puts down largely to the influence of Rob Penn, his sidekick on Sky 1 show Freddie Fries Again, the follow-up to 2015's Lord of the Fries.

The pair met cycling the Amazon for another Sky show several years ago, and now, when they're not trundling up and down the country in a chip van for telly, they go cycling in Wales' Black Mountains together.

"I'm not built for it, I'm big and I'm heavy. And going up hills, I always get up 'em, but with no pace, whereas he rides a bike every day of his life and loves it," says Flintoff, adding wryly: "I beat him on the way back down."

They're an odd pair: the hulking, tattooed ex-cricketer and the petite wildlife broadcaster.

"I was a bit worried about it," recalls Flintoff, remembering how he felt before the first series. "Rob sounded a bit boring. He's into the environment, he rides his bike, he writes books, but we got on really well.

"The thing about Robbo, I find him interesting, and I sit in me van driving along, he doesn't think I'm listening to a lot of his stuff, but I am, and I learn quite a few things."

They swim with seals in the new series, in the North Sea near Lindisfarne.

"They've got big teeth! So you think, 'is this all right?' But then you're looking in their eyes, and they've got such loving eyes that you just go with it. It was an amazing thing to do," buzzes Flintoff.

"You'd never have thought you could swim with seals an hour from Newcastle. I was a bit sceptical about it to begin with - one kissed me on the head."

The scepticism could also be thanks to getting seasick on the boat beforehand. Did it bring back memories of the drunken pedalo incident, which saw him lose his England vice-captaincy in 2007?

"With the pedalo, I never got on it," Flintoff practically shouts. "That's something I try to forget, that were a long time ago, but it keeps rearing its head."

Talking of embarrassing moments, he's got into a habit of stripping off on TV, from skinny-dipping with 100 Irish women for Freddie Fries Again, to performing with The Chippendales on the recent League of Their Own US Road Trip.

"I think my embarrassment threshold has disappeared," he admits. "Some of the things I've done, and with the cricket, was a good grounding. I used to embarrass myself a lot in front of a lot of people. I'm really not bothered now.

"Not sure the wife's particularly proud; it's the kids you've got to feel sorry for. They're at an age now - my daughter especially, she were 12 this year - where now I'm not a cool dad. Where the boys can still laugh, my daughter pulls me up.

"They're a bit confused, as well. They see other parents in suits going to work, then they'll put something on telly - they don't really watch League of Their Own, because of the language, but the fish and chips, they've seen me doing that and doing dodgy adverts for Morrisons."

Filming for series 11 of the sporting panel show starts at the end of June.

"Series 11 sounds crazy. I remember when we first did it, thinking, 'this is not going anywhere'."

He and his co-panellists - comedians James Corden and Jack Whitehall and ex-footballer Jamie Redknapp - are heading back to America for another road trip later this year and Flintoff reckons it works because they all genuinely get on.

"Jamie's lovely," he says. "And you talk about old couples ... me and Jack!"

He reckons Corden's leap to America to host The Late Late Show hasn't changed anything: "He's always been too big for his boots, hasn't he? He's always been quite showbiz, James."

Corden hasn't asked the gang to do a Carpool Karaoke skit with him yet: "No! He's got like Stevie Wonder in his car, he doesn't want us - and he sang louder than Stevie Wonder!

"I think, out of the four of us, Jack's probably the one to watch. He's 15 years younger than us - well, not me, Jamie - and he's just starting. He fills out arenas on his tours, he's doing movies."

As for his next move, Flintoff says in all seriousness: "I wouldn't mind having a go at acting."

Well, they are looking for a new Bond ...

"I'm not into James Bond, I don't get it, it's just a bloke, isn't it? He don't do 'owt but struts around in a suit and drinks - I'd struggle with that," he says with a shrug. "I'd be asking for a sparkling water!

"But I do think the world is ready for a Northern Bond ..."

You never know, perhaps Flintoff can be persuaded.

Freddie Fries Again, Sky 1, Tuesday, 8pm

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