Google the name “Monty Don” and the resulting list of endearingly odd questions that appears on the screen is eye-opening in terms of what it reveals about the public’s fascination with this charismatic, Cambridge-educated British gardener, writer, broadcaster and host of BBC’s Gardeners’ World.
Why does Monty Don wear red socks? What does Monty Don do during the winter? Why does Monty Don always wear a scarf? Is Monty Don a vegetarian? Is Monty Don ill? Where does Monty Don get his clothes from? What sort of shovel does Monty Don use? Why doesn’t Monty Don wear gloves? Was Monty Don really once a binman? Did Monty Don really study at the London School of Economics? Is Monty Don still married?
Reading them, one wonders if the young Monty Don had any inkling of what he was letting himself in for when he made his TV debut in 1989 as a fresh-faced young gardening expert with a weekly slot on ITV’s This Morning Show with hosts Richard and Judy. Now 68, could he ever have imagined a world where, courtesy of the internet, we often know more about the lives of public figures than we do about our closest neighbours, from the history of their relationships to the state of their health?
In the case of Monty, for example, his many fans know that he suffers sporadically from bad depression, a subject that he started speaking openly about many years before it became the norm.
“My depression, when it hits, isn’t pretty or poetic. It’s ugly, unromantic and awkward”, he says. “But thankfully it hasn’t been too bad in the last few years.”
It’s also well known that for forty years he’s been very happily married to his wife Sarah Erskine, a jewellery designer and architect whom he first met at Cambridge University where he was studying
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