Book Review: Life’s What You Make It by Phillip Schofield

I feel like Phillip Schofield has been part of almost my entire life. In fact, my declaration of love for him as a teenager was recently uncovered written on the wall at my parents’ house, it had been under wall paper since the late 80s! It’s been papered over again now – but will be there forever on a wall in suburban Birmingham. I watched Phillip in the broom cupboard after school each day, then onto Going Live on a Saturday morning. In the summer of 1992 we went to see him in Joseph as the last family city break before I went off to University – my parents (when clearing out their loft last year) passed the programme from that day on to me! I’ve watched the various game shows and events he’s hosted – and clearly now it’s This Morning and Dancing On Ice when I get chance.

My Mum recently announced she’d just finished reading Phillip’s autobiography – so I borrowed it. Here’s the blurb:

“For forty years we’ve watched Phillip on our tellies, from children’s TV to This Morning and Dancing on Ice, but what is it like on set and who is he when the camera’s off?
In Life’s What You Make It Philip for the first time takes us behind the scenes of his remarkable career.
From his idyllic childhood in Cornwall, where for years he pestered the BBC for a job, eventually landing a prize position in the Broom Cupboard with mischievous sidekick Gordon the Gopher, through hosting Going Live!, starring in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and finally finding his on-screen home and presenting-partner Holly Willoughby on This Morning, Phillip takes us on the highs and lows of his extraordinary life.
‘For a long time, I felt that I couldn’t write this book. At first, I didn’t think I’d lived enough, then life got busy and filled with distractions. In more recent years, there was always a very painful consideration – I knew where it would eventually have to go.
‘I have recently decided that the truth is the only thing that can set me free. The truth has taken a long time to make itself clear to me, but now is the right time to share it, all of it.
‘Television and broadcasting has been a part of my DNA for as long as I can remember. As a young boy I would make model TV sets out of cardboard boxes, while spending long summers at home, barefoot on Cornwall’s golden beaches. Landing a job at the ice-cream kiosk, I would enviously look on as my presenting heroes took to the stage of Radio 1’s Roadshow, an unforgettable event when it came to town.
‘In Life’s What You Make It I look back with nostalgic delight on my life, from being a young boy endlessly writing letters to the BBC in pursuit of a job in broadcasting, to making it on to the Broom Cupboard, with my infamous sidekick Gordon the Gopher, to being on Going Live and starring as the lead in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. It has taken four decades to get here but I feel lucky to have called the sets of Talking Telephone Numbers, The Cube, Dancing on Ice and of course, This Morning, home.
‘I’m going to take you behind the scenes of my television home at ITV, into my career and my dangerously funny relationship with Holly Willoughby. I’m going to introduce you to my loving and remarkable family, and I hope most of all to tell you that life, it seems, is what you make it. Take it from someone who has sat on the very edge and looked over, it’s all about the people that love you, and after that anything is possible. So, finally, here we go, this is the real me.’

The book starts with Phillip growing up in Newquay in Cornwall. This is an area really close to my husband’s heart as his family spent a lot of time down there in his youth – and when we went to visit the beach at Crantock where his Mum’s ashes are scattered, one of the local landmarks he pointed out was where Phillip’s family lived back in the day. It was interesting reading Phillip’s exploits as a child (and my husband agrees you couldn’t beat a Matthew’s pasty!)

It then moves through Philip’s professional, personal and family life in chronological order – with the occasional addition of a more recent story. The amount and detail that Phillip remembers is amazing (aided by the diaries he kept – one of which had ‘Life’s What You Make It’ written on the front.) I am a naturally nosey person – so I really enjoyed this. I knew that he’d moved to New Zealand for a while – but reading all about that was very interesting. And as lots of the radio and TV Phillip has done I remember watching at the time (the caller who swore at Five Star on Going Live anyone?!) it was a really memory jogger for me too.

In another similarity with my husband, when Phillip is stressed he cleans – which is exactly what Mr P does in this house too. Maybe it was something in the Cornish water in the 1970s and 80s?!

The book does kind of build to ‘the event’ – when Phillip came out in February 2020 (just before the entire world went to pot – although I don’t think the two are connected!) Phillip says he could never have written this book without being honest – and so that had to have happened before it was written. It’s strange – but like I’ve blogged before – there aren’t many times where you can remember exactly where you were when something happened – for me 9/11 and when Princess Diana died – but now I can add ‘when Phillip Schofield came out’ to that list. I was having a pedicure! First the ‘news alert ‘ flashed up on my phone – and then my beauty therapist and I watched the interview Phillip did with Holly on This Morning on a Friday whilst she sorted my trotters out!

Due to the nature of social media nowadays, there is nothing in this book that’s a shock or unknown – but it was still a good read as it charted my television viewing history. I think it would be pointless reading it if you’re not a Phillip fan – but if you are then it pads out lots of the things you already know about him – and there are lots of behind the scenes photos. I wouldn’t say it sets the world alight as a work of literary genius – and it’s very placatory (for example it claims Phillip doesn’t know why Fern Britton suddenly decided she didn’t like him – although she did text Steph (Phil’s wife) after he came out) and there’s no mud slung at all – but it was interesting none the less.

Thanks, Mum, for letting me borrow it. My husband is now pleased he doesn’t have to look at Phillip’s slightly awkward, smug face at the side of the bed or the toilet any more!!