Phil with England in 1993
One night in Jersey in 2004, a grand piano in Phil Tufnell’s hotel tripped along a corridor and fell down a flight of stairs. It made a noise so loud it could be heard on the nearby Channel Islands.
Phil was filming the short lived ITV style gameshow, but the best part. Many of the tall animals were already there after each show, with people from the performance sliding down bannisters and running around the hotel in their underpants.
And the former England winner and recent Im A Celebrity winner – who returned for his 23rd series – certainly won the Bonhomie too.
But the piano incident was more serious and Phil spent the rest of his time in Jersey hiding from the hotel management who, for some reason, recognized him as the prime suspect.
“I don’t quite remember what happened with the piano, but I don’t think I had anything to do with it,” he says now, his usual chuckle in his voice. “Nothing was ever created. I think the brakes may have come off the piano by mistake and there was a slight tilt in the path. “
It wasn’t the first time Phil found himself in an awkward situation while away from home, and it certainly won’t be the last. In his new book, The Tourist, he describes a life of frequent trips abroad, from 11 years on the road with England to the South African desert in I’m A Celebrity. It is marked by fun, occasional chaos and frequent alcohol consumption.
Phil, 57, from North London, got his first taste of overseas adventure as a young lad on family trips to Benidorm. He liked the color and the warmth, and the sense of freedom of running on sandy beaches. “I still got a picture of me, with blonde hair, a lemon short-sleeved shirt, and long white socks on the steps of our hotel, standing there with my mother and brother,” he says, speaking to me from his home in Surrey, in between watching India v Pakistan on TV in the Cricket World Cup. “It makes me quite emotional.”
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King of the Jungle: Phil celebrates being a famous hit in 2003
Phil added a more dramatic edge to his Spanish memories when he went to Benidorm with some friends, aged 16. They got into a scuffle with some other boys on the first night, were thrown out of the hotel and were sleeping on the beach.
But the travel bug was well and truly there.
In his late teens, Phil was signed by Middlesex County Cricket Club and selected for England’s U19 tour to Barbados. Certainly, almost above any cricket ambitions, to get a good tan, Phil and some of his mates went to the beach, defying any instructions to wear hats or sun cream. They were severely affected by sunstroke and received medical attention for several days.
“We tried really hard to be professional and focus on our cricket during the visit but a few things got in the way – the sun, the sea and the rum,” said Phil. Fortunately, his love of a good time matched his striking ability and he was called up to the full England team, completing several tours during the nineties.
“India was very emotional for a young man,” said Phil. “As soon as the hotel lift opened every morning, you’d be hit with this huge noise that would follow you all into the stadium. Everything from screaming fans to cars, motorbikes and street vendors. You want to go back to the hotel, in the evening, close your bedroom door and go ‘Jesus!’.
“Mickey was constantly taking, some close to the bone, during the Australian Aces Series. When we arrived at our hotel, for one trip, the doorman said, ‘Welcome Mr. Tufnell.’ Then, as I walked, he said, ‘You’re going to get your bloody ass. [Australian fast bowler] Glenn McGrath is going to knock your bloody head off. ‘”
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Phil for the jump in 2016
Even the team’s coach driver in the Caribbean made jokes. “Every morning he would say ‘Lara will find you, today. Curtly is coming for you! ”” Phil remembers. “This was on the bloody England bus on the way to the ground! But it was all pleasant, in a funny way. I accepted it a bit. “
Phil admits he can’t remember a single evening he stayed in his hotel room while on tour. “You can’t have room service and
Watch TV till 9.30pm every night,” he says. He once found himself drunkenly performing “(I can’t get no satisfaction) by the Rolling Stones while dancing with a mannequin in a smart Melbourne restaurant. He was very embarrassed, but Phil feels he may have influenced senior England players such as Ian Botham and David Gower, as they started inviting him on.
The trips to high-class vineyards they came on days off.
Gower was one of England’s various entertaining and occasionally undisciplined characters. “He and John Morris went off during a warm-up game and, typically, hit the ground running in two Tiger moth planes,” says Phil. “They got a fine, but, Crikey, could you see the England players doing that now?” The current national team, under Captain Ben Stokes, celebrate winning “properly”, says Phil. But their busy schedules, with many internationals and T20 tournaments around the world, mean things are not as relaxed as the 1990s.
Phil now loves trips abroad with his modern day wife
In 2002, Phil retired from Cricket and, almost immediately, was cast in the 2003 series of I’m A Celebrity. “They said, “Do you want to go back to Australia and do this show? I said, ‘Are we going first class?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ So I said, ‘I’m in!’ Cricket was gone and I was looking for something else to get excited about. I was lucky to be back immediately on a trip.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode, but you just throw yourself into these things. We went into the jungle in helicopters. It was mind blowing.
“My mother used, smile on your face as long as you can, because there will be many times when it will be cut off.
“That made me want to always take opportunities. I even loved trying all the balls and testicles. However, one of the low points was fading on my cleaner regions. It was exciting. I told Dr. Bob, ‘Take the pain, but not the swelling.’ “
After I became a celebrity, Phil became a popular TV personality, along with his work as a cricket commentator for the likes of Test Match Special. But some of his overseas TV adventures since then have been well outside his comfort zone.
His colleagues suffered several injuries, including a dislocated shoulder and a broken ankle in the mountains of Austria, during the winter sports reality of the jump in 2016. For someone who hardly leaked “and that it was completely out of control of their limbs”, He was hairy. These days, he is happy to say, he can ski well.
“The biggest thing I did while traveling in New Zealand was called This This This anywhere, with Brendon McCullum, the former New Zealand player and current England coach,” he continues.
“I had to do the biggest bungee jump in the southern hemisphere or something. I was completely unhappy – throwing up and everything. I think the bloke really pushed me, and I thought on the way down. Everything in my body was screaming ‘What the bloody hell are you doing?’ “
But Phil also has great luxury on his travels. “During England’s tour of the West Indies, we were invited to Sir Paul Getty’s yacht.
It was like something out of Death on the Nile. All wood and cluster and everything. Sensational bit. The warden said ‘Ah, Mr Tufnell. Would you like a drink? ‘ I said, ‘I like the look of that champagne, then. But I hope you have a few bottles because the boys are off for a few days! “‘Would you like to follow me, Mr. Tufnell?’ he replied.
“He took me down about 16 beautiful floors, opened the door to this storage unit and there must have been 10,000 bottles of Don Pérignon in there.
“’I don’t think you, Mr. Tufnell, could go through all that!’ he said. He was right, but we gave him something. “
This year, Phil had another adventure in South Africa’s “Legends” spin-off show featuring former contestants. By now in his late fifties, Phil found trying to sleep properly in a hammock and the strange nocturnal animals from the surrounding wildlife to be his most challenging aspects.
But he does not intend to cut short his life as a tourist. Dawn, his wife of almost 20 years, changes it a bit. “Sometimes she says, ‘OK, that’s enough now. You are sodding about it. ‘ They are everywhere from Egypt to Majorca, New York and Rome.
Phil’s favorite destination was New Zealand. “Every corner we turned, I was getting out of the car, saying, ‘Look at that!’ The landscapes! Every glass of wine I had was beautiful. Each lamb chop was amazing. “
Phil hasn’t visited Indonesia in a while, so that’s now on his bucket list. “I wouldn’t remember the old Rick Stein,” he said. “Putting a barge down the canal du midi [as the chef does in his French Odyssey series] And stop by stop with a little wine and cheese. I love England and I love coming home,” he says.
“But I can remember my dad, when we were in Benidorm, saying, ‘Oh, Blimey, it’s a privilege to be here.’
“It was right. It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to get out there and see what the world has to offer. I am very lucky. “
- Phil Tufnell’s The Tourist (HarperCollins, £22) is out now. A visit express.com bookstore or call 020 3176 3832. Free P&P on orders over £25
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