PAUL Chahidi, looks back fondly at his time growing up in north Oxford.

The actor, who found phenomenal fame as the affable Cotswold vicar in cult comedy This Country, is spending lockdown with his wife and son at home in London, but admits to missing leafy Summertown, where he was raised.
“ I’m a real Oxford boy,” he laughs.

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“I was born in Iran. My father was Iranian, and my mother, who is 84, still – I am sure she won’t mind me saying – lives in her and my father’s house in Summertown, just off Banbury Road. She has lived in that house for about 50 years now.
“I’m pretty sure my mum is the longest resident living on that road.
“I come back to Oxford less frequently now, but I still make sure I come to see my mum. 

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“I’ve also got an aunt and cousin who live in Didcot so we really have family all over Oxfordshire really, and I know the county pretty well. And of course, coming back to film This Country, on the Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire border, meant I was in Oxfordshire a lot.”

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This Country is a perfectly crafted ‘mockumentary’ BBC comedy series charting the lives of two cousins in a fictional Cotswold village. Filmed on location in Northleach and the surrounding countryside, it deals with rural eccentricity and the boredom and social isolation felt by young people in rural areas.
Paul plays the mild-mannered vicar, a mentor to screen cousins Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe – played by real-life siblings Daisy May and Charlie Cooper. 
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Other members of their family play relatives in the show.
“It was very nice to come back to this part of the world,” says Paul.
“I definitely had a familiarity and a deep affection for the Cotswolds and its extraordinary surroundings. I’m sure that helped in some way. I felt very at home filming in Northleach.”

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Paul reminisces about his time as a teen going to see plays at the Oxford Playhouse and expressed concern over the future of theatre, where he began his own career.
“You know my industry is in real trouble, like many other industries, but particularly theatre, which is how I started,” he says. 
“Unfortunately theatre is one of those things that will probably open last of all, until something is brought in with tracking and tracing or a vaccine.
“But theatre has survived plagues before, war and famine - and it will survive this. 
“We just want as little damage to be done as possible in the process.” 

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He has recently been filming a comedy series in America, which was finished in August.
“I was in Portland, Oregon, in March when coronavirus started taking off, and I was flown back very quickly,” he says.
“We weren’t sure whether it was going to go ahead or not, but fortunately, they decided to finish in August.
“I went back there, quarantined for two weeks on my own, finished filming, and then came back and quarantined for two more weeks here.”
He laughs: “I really had a sense of what it felt like to be a prisoner.”
Over lockdown, however, Paul kept himself busy, particularly with a role that has brought him back to Oxfordshire. At the beginning of this year, he became an ambassador for Sobell House hospice at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.
The hospice has a very special place in his heart; his father spent his last two weeks at the hospice before he died in 2015.
“I was asked to be an ambassador because I had been on Twitter and social media for a while, following them, and I think they had noticed I had been retweeting things, and making comments, so they must have put two and two together, which was just lovely. 
“I am absolutely delighted to be involved because my experience with Sobell House is very personal.
“It really opened my eyes on a very personal level to the amazing work they do there, the professionalism and the compassion they show, not just the patients, by giving them dignity and quality of life right up until the end, but also the families.
“They work at any given time with 500 patients and, in a given year, 3,000 patients and family across Oxfordshire.
“It was a lifeline for us in a very difficult time. It was just brilliant and it gave my father some quality of life, some care and some comfort right at the end. They were amazing. 
“So anything I can do to help them I am delighted to do.”

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Paul helped out by getting involved with the Sobell House cookbook, ‘Food and Kindness’, which features recipes from celebrities, including himself, and well-known pubs and restaurants around Oxfordshire.
He said: “The cookbook is absolutely beautiful. It is £15 and all the money goes to Sobell House hospice.
“It is the type of book that you go ‘hmmm... what do I get my aunt for Christmas?’
“It has got lovely recipes from chefs and restaurants across Oxfordshire, with beautiful photos inside of food and the places they are coming from. 
“You realise how many amazing pubs and chefs there are in Oxfordshire. I think we are very blessed in Oxfordshire to have these brilliant people and their pubs.”
“You have also got recipes from people like Stephen Fry with his houmous recipe, Sue Perkins with her vegan jackfruit raps, and Mary Berry’s chocolate cake recipe. Oh, and my Mediterranean pork meatballs.
“We hope it will be a big seller.

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“About 30 per cent of the income for Sobell House comes from fundraising, which equates to nearly £2m that they have to raise through fundraising, and I’d say about a quarter of a million pounds has gone because of Covid.
“Events have been cancelled, fun runs and marathons are not happening, so we are having to come up with creative ways to make money and raise awareness. So hopefully this is spreading a bit of joy and raising money for a good cause at the same time.” 
Food & Kindness – The Sobell House Cook Book, is £15 from Amazon or direct from the hospice charity at