Graham Norton - behind the red chair

Graham Norton (Getty)
Graham Norton (Getty)

The offer was to meet Graham Norton - but no cameras.

I was intrigued. Who else will be there? They didn't know. What am I asking him about? His new show.

I love Graham Norton, his shows and his books. I am the man for this job. But I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

The first concern: what to wear. Dress up or dress down?

I settled on a jacket and shirt with an extra button undone. It was hot today. And I wanted Graham Norton to notice me.

I arrive early, sweat gripping the back of my white shirt.

"Sit there" says the receptionist.

"Who else is coming?" I ask.

She counts.

"There will be fifteen of you," she says. "Journalists".

I sit next to one of them, who's also early.

"I'm Jesse" I say to her.

"I know," she says. She used to work for The Nation.

Eventually, 15 journalists of all shapes and sizes have gathered and we shuffle into lifts with our visitor passes.

We end up sitting around a long boardroom table. This is a very bland room.

The journalists are all laughing, talking amongst themselves. I am fidgety and nervous and pretend to enjoy the view from the 14th floor.

The boy next to me pours me a water.

Then, without any fanfare, in walks Graham Norton: tanned, sweaty, bicycle helmet in hand. He's early.

I shouldn't have purposely sat opposite him. It's all a bit much. I want to melt into the floor.

Graham Norton - behind the red chair

Graham Norton and Jesse Peach (Jesse Peach)

Like me, Graham Norton wears three bangles on his right wrist. But he is a lot more relaxed.

This is all very intimate stuff. It's a simple, casual, two-hour uninterrupted chat. We ask questions, in turn.

"How important was the Edinburgh Festival for you?" asks the man from Scotland. "Very," he replies.

"Are you refreshed from your holiday?" asks a man from a Dutch newspaper. "Very," he replies.

"How do you keep the show fresh over all these years?" asks the man who'd flown in from Belgium. It keeps changing – the scale of it changes, he replies.

Then, oh my God, it's my turn. I look at my blank notepad and blurt out, "How does it change? The scale?"

Graham Norton answers with Graham Norton charm, wit and style - laughing and shrugging. I find it hard to take in what he's saying because my heart is in my throat. He's saying that his new show – which is the latest series of The Graham Norton Show – has more pressure on it than ever because they've already had guests like Madonna and Tom Cruise. So where do you go from there?

I take another sip of water, even though I need to pee.

My next question begins in a rambling way. I've relaxed a bit. I explain to him how my parents sit in their living room in New Zealand with the rain pelting against the window, watching him on Friday nights, feeling like they know him.

Does he realise what an affinity New Zealanders have with him, and does he has any affinity with New Zealand whatsoever?

Again, as he answers, but I'm in a whirlwind, unable to write anything down, stuck in his bright headlights. I'm completely star-struck.

"I've even been recognised in Ethiopia", he says.

I think the thing that rocked me is that up close, Graham Norton is even more charming. His energy and sense of fun is certainly not an act - he oozes with it, and it sort of caught me like a possum in headlights.

"What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?" asks a journalist who'd flown in from Mexico.

"You have more time than you think you have. You've got more time to fail than you think".

I think the world of this man.

I also need to wee so badly. After some photos and a fleeting, desperate last attempt to stand out from the gaggle of journalists, I left, desperate to find a bathroom.

Then as I was walking home I recognised the black helmet of a cyclist at the traffic lights. I turned and gave a wave so strong my arm nearly fell off.

"Small world" said Graham Norton.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"Out east" he said. "But I have to cycle around there to get out there".

"Oh" I said.

Then he cycled away.