'If I have nothing to do I'm dangerous' - Jane McDonald ahead of Leeds Christmas show and travel series return

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She released her autobiography last month, is preparing for two Christmas arena gigs, has a UK tour planned for 2020 and now her travel series is making a return. It’s all go for Wakefield-born presenter and performer Jane McDonald.

But she doesn’t seem fazed. “I have got bundles and bundles of energy,” she says. “If I’ve got nothing to do, I’m dangerous. And I’ve already planned next year – next year is already full.

In her latest travels, Jane McDonald cruises up the Great Lakes and stops at Niagara Falls. Picture: PA Photo/Channel 5/Viacom Studios UK.

In her latest travels, Jane McDonald cruises up the Great Lakes and stops at Niagara Falls. Picture: PA Photo/Channel 5/Viacom Studios UK.

“I don’t give myself time to be ill or poorly or think, ‘I can’t do that’. I’m just thinking, ‘I’ve got all that next year, how fantastic is that’.”

The 56-year-old, who emerged as a household name in 1998 when she first appeared on our screens in the BBC 1 docusoap The Cruise, is working right up to Christmas with arena shows in Birmingham and Leeds on December 20 and 21.

My Yorkshire: Jane McDonald
And she says she has no plans to stop, despite friends and family telling her to slow down.

“But then they’ll say, ‘Can I have tickets? Can I come and join you?’ I’ve always been quite lively, and I’m a workaholic without a doubt,” she admits. “And while I’ve got the energy to do it, why am I going to stop?”

Cruising with Jane McDonald returns to TV screens on Friday. Photo: PA Photo/Channel 5/Viacom Studios UK

Cruising with Jane McDonald returns to TV screens on Friday. Photo: PA Photo/Channel 5/Viacom Studios UK

She calls partner Eddie Rothe, a former drummer of 60s band The Searchers, her silent assassin. “He is the one who sits down and works out my year with me. He’s very much a part of every contract that I sign – we sit and discuss absolutely everything. So, if people think, ‘God she’s leaving him again’, actually he’s part of my business.

“He’s the one that says, ‘Go off and do it while you can!’, because he did – he did it for 35 years. Now he’s enjoying his time at home, and he’ll say, ‘This is your time now, go out and enjoy it’. And that’s what it’s all about.”

In new episodes of Cruising with Jane McDonald, the star has certainly enjoyed some adventures, from the Mediterranean Riviera to the Balkans.

“This is Europe at its best. Rome, Florence, Pisa, Monte Carlo,” she says of the former. “Places we’ve all heard of, but then having a private guide now and again, to show you places that you would never, ever have dreamt of.

At Home With Jane McDonald
“And this was a foodie cruise, on Oceania – oh my! That is the first cruise I’ve put on about 8lb.”

A highlight for McDonald was a sail through the Iron Gates, a gorge on the River Danube between Serbia and Romania, at 6am.

“For me to get up at 5am – never heard of. But I’m really glad I did it, and honestly, I’ve got no make up on, I’m in my dressing gown – I look shocking.

“But it doesn’t matter, because that view, and the fact that people have also got up with no make up on, in their dressing gowns... Having a cup of tea, on the top of a river cruise, at 6am watching the sun come up – I mean, wow! Things like that don’t happen.”

McDonald also explores the Great Lakes of America and Canada and takes a thrilling zip-wire across the Niagara Falls.

“It is the most exhilarating thing you’ll ever do, not the most fabulous landing you’ll ever see me do, but you’ve got to have your comedy moments.”

Jane opens her eyes to a new life
She doesn’t worry about looking silly on camera though – and that’s something, she says, that comes with age.

“The older you get, the less you care what you look like or what people see you doing. And I love that!”

It’s fair, she agrees, to say she is living the dream. “Basically, that is my life right now. Tired doesn’t come into it, really, because I’m that excited about everything that I’m doing.

“And on Jane and Friends (her variety series), I work with the band and all my mates. We spend half a year on a tour bus, we’re all very close. So, to actually be in a TV studio with these people and having a really good old time... You can see the chemistry.”

Cruising With Jane McDonald returns to Channel 5 from Friday, November 29.