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6 things you probably didn’t know about Michael Portillo

Great British Railways star Michael Portillo is 68 today. To celebrate his birthday, we discover 6 things you probably didn’t know about him.

Many of his clothes are made by a tailor in London

Michael Portillo is famously known for his bright trousers and jackets which make a great impact on the small screen. ‘I like to buy as I travel. If I see something outrageous, I’ll buy it. I also have clothes made by Volpe in Denbigh Street in London. This is just one of the six things you probably didn’t know about him.

He is half-Spanish

Michael’s mother was Scottish and his father was Spanish. ‘I’ve no doubt at all that the thing I am most is English,’ he says. ‘I was brought up in England and strongly influenced by that sense of being English – and British.

‘I’ve regarded being half-Spanish as really just a great privilege,’ he adds. ‘You know, an eye on a different society, the opportunity to speak another language, and an enormous family out in Spain.’

He enjoys ‘Portillo moments’

As an ex Minister, Michael was used to giving speeches and as you will see from his popular railway shows, he finds it easy to speak to anybody and is naturally good-natured and funny. ‘Some people call it the ‘Portillo Moment’ he says and I am keen to hang on to that. It’s always been necessary in politics to have a few jokes up your sleeve and that helps me with the shows.’

He is not to be trusted with the Victorian Bradshaw’s Guide

Just before he filmed the first show for BBC’s Great British Railway Journeys, Michael managed to drop The Victorian Bradshaw’s Guide in Paddington Station. ‘Since that moment I’m not trusted with the book. A member of the team carries it now. And because it fits perfectly, it is carried in a Thomas the Tank Engine child’s lunch box.’

He once made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

Writing for the Observer newspaper, he walked the famous Santiago de Compostela route in Spain. ‘It’s a very moving experience,’ says Michael. ‘It’s an experience that changes you. It certainly made me more observant of nature.’

As a teenager, he had a picture of Harold Wilson on his bedroom wall

‘I think I was rebelling against my parents at that point but eventually reached a different position and a different view.’