The Jump and ex-Eastenders star Joe Swash is the first in a series of celebrities to take Green Flag’s Scenic Route. The series of adventures around the UK and Europe has been designed to celebrate the freedom of driving and encourage drivers to take the road less travelled. In this Joe Swash exclusive interview, the London lad talks about his life and how important motoring has been.
Why did you leave it so late to learn to drive?
“I lived in central London and public transport is amazing there. You can get round so much easier and quicker than in a car. Also I started doing Eastenders when I was 20 and we were ferried around by drivers all the time so I got lazy. Then before I knew it, I was in my 30s and still couldn’t drive. But I had my boy and I couldn’t keep on picking him up from school by cab…”
How does Joe Swash describe his driving?
“I wouldn’t describe myself as the perfect driver. But I’m a safe driver. I’d say it’s like my personality: a bit erratic sometimes, maybe a bit all over the place, but fairly sound.”
What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you in a car?
“I only passed my test in July 2015 and since then I’ve been out of the country a lot. I guess the best moment was when I got back from Australia. (He presents I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here NOW.) I was doing Cinderella in panto and it was great to be able to drive over to Weston-Super-Mare and then get back to London for Christmas. A few times I’ve been doing panto and I’ve been stranded away from home over Christmas because the trains don’t run.”
If you were going on a drive for pleasure, who would you take?
“I’d take the Mrs: Stacey (Solomon, the singer). She doesn’t really like driving so I do all the driving when we go anywhere together. And I like that. Driving is still a novelty for me so I always want to get behind the wheel. I’m sure that will wear off at some point. I also really love my time in the car with my little boy. It’s amazing what kids come out with sometimes, and of course they can’t run away!”
Do you ever go for a drive for the sake of it?
“Sometimes I do. But only really when I need to clear my head. Driving is brilliant for doing that. And the sensation of freedom. The first time you drive on your own, that feeling is amazing. There’s also that little thought: ‘Have I blagged my way through the test, or can I really drive?’ Now I’ve got over that, I love it.”
“After doing The Jump I’ve got really into skiing so I’d probably go somewhere like Austria. I was driving around in Austria for The Jump and the views were amazing so I’d like to explore it a bit more.”
What car do you have at the moment?
“Nothing too silly because I’m a new driver. I’ve got an Audi A1. I haven’t got a clue what engine it’s got other than it’s a petrol! I think I’ll upgrade it this summer.”
If you had unlimited funds, what car would you buy?
“I’ve never been massively into cars. But I’d like something that isn’t too flashy. Perhaps a Range Rover. I’m not really a speed freak; it’s comfort over going quickly every time for me. And they’re made by the same people who make the little old Land Rover I’m driving at the moment. I like that. It’s got real character.”
“I’m not in the slightest bit mechanically minded. Plus you open your bonnet on a modern car and everything’s covered up. Some geezer waved me down the other day and asked me to jump him. I thought what?! I had my little boy in the back and he wanted to get home but I thought I’d better help this fella. Anyway, it took me ages to find out how to do it. I was in the car for about 20 minutes before I’d figured out which battery terminal was which. So I jumped him – helped out a fellow driver. I’ve joined the club now!”
What’s your first motoring memory?
“My dad passed away when I was 12. Before that we used to go on holiday to the south of France. We’d hook up the caravan and do a two or three day drive down there. Me, my two sisters and my mum and dad. My dad was pretty good like that. We broke down a couple of times but he always had it covered with breakdown services and so on. I remember they were really good times.”