Celeb star swaps jungle for Whitby

Lembit Opik and Merrily McGivern visit Stakesby School so Lembit can talk to the children about Africa''w110511a   Picture: Ceri Oakes  01/02/11
Lembit Opik and Merrily McGivern visit Stakesby School so Lembit can talk to the children about Africa''w110511a Picture: Ceri Oakes 01/02/11

WHEN a Whitby school teacher invited an I’m A Celebrity star to speak to his pupils about life in the Australian jungle, he never dreamed they would snap up his invite.

But on Tuesday, Lembit Opik – who is in a relationship with Hinderwell politics and drama student Merily McGivern – brought the subject alive at Stakesby School when he took over lessons for their project on Around the World in 80 days.

The visit was arranged by year six teacher Scott Grayson, who went to Caedmon and Whitby Community College with Merily and jokingly sent her a text asking them to come to school so Lembit (45), who was voted out second in the show, could do a talk on Australia.

But he never thought they really would accept.

Ex-MP Lembit and Merily (21), had been staying in Whitby since Saturday at her family’s holiday cottage in Fishburn Park and she only sprung their visit to school on him the day before.

Lembit, who almost became a teacher himself, told the Whitby Gazette he enjoyed his visit to Stakesby.

“I love this school,” he said.

“It’s so uplifting. You can feel the warmth and positivity.

“These children will have a brilliant start.”

The loved-up couple, who live together in London, were treated to a tour of the school, school dinners with the children and were swamped for autographs by youngsters at breaktime.

The afternoon finished with Lembit giving a power point presentation on Australia to years five and six pupils, with help from his girlfriend and also spoke of his time on the reality TV show, which raised plenty of laughs with the kids who quizzed him on a range of topics.

Merily even bumped into her old primary school teacher in the staff room.

He said they both read the Whitby Gazette’s front page story when Merily jetted out to Australia to support him in his bid to be crowned King of the Jungle late last year.

“I loved the article, he said.

“It was really nice what you did about Merily and me.

“Merily’s only celebrity ambition is to appear in the Whitby Gazette,” he joked.

Lembit is currently writing a book about what it means to be human and said he has found Whitby the perfect inspiration.

He said: “Whitby has got a wonderful atmosphere.

“It’s very peaceful. I’ve written pages and pages of words over the weekend just by being up here.

“I’ve been here lots of times, my brother Endel was a goth and was well known on the goth scene.

“He was a regular visitor to goth weekend. He died at the age of 37 from pneumonia in 2005. A viking funeral was held in Whitby Harbour for him in 2006.

“Whitby has got a special place in my heart. Lots of people lined the harbour when it happened.

“I really like coming here. It’s a great place to live.”

The pair, who will be appearing on a Romanian television chat show together next week before heading off on a cruise ship to French Polynesia and Bora Bora where Lembit is doing talks, cooked Sunday dinner for Merily’s family in Hinderwell and also dined out together at newly opened restaurant Kam Thai in Church Street.

The ex-MP, who is still sporting his scar from a snake bite in the jungle, said he has made some firm friends in Gazza’s ex Cheryl Gascoigne, Shaun Ryder, Aggro, Linford Christie and Gillian McKeith.

“Gilian was surprised at how she was portrayed,” he said.

“Shaun and I just hit it off from the start. We got very close.

“When I was voted out of the show I was really sad. I felt I would have liked to have been there longer.

“When I came out me and Merily had a nice time in Australia.

“I was there for two-and-a-half weeks in the jungle.

“It’s far more real life than on the television. There were 300 cameras in there.

“It’s impossible to say how damp it is. I had a towel that was wet for 16 days.”

The pair, who last visited Whitby at Christmas, hope to come back to town for April’s goth weekend with Lembit’s sister-in-law Claire and her new partner Wesley and plan to dress up in goth gear to get into the spirit.

So has Merily tamed the ladies’ man?

She said they have no plans to marry just yet and are concentrating on enjoying life.

“He’s like a nine-year-old,” she said of Lembit, who plans to run for Lord Mayor of London later this year.

“He’s so fun-loving.

“My family get on with him really well and I get on with his family really well.”

Her relationship with Lembit, who she has been dating since last July, is still a secret to many of her fellow politics students who do not watch reality TV.

“At uni I’m really quiet, nobody really notices me, then I’m there with Shaun Ryder and all these different people, it’s different worlds.

“I signed my first autographs at school today,” she said.

“It’s kind of strange. I haven’t saved the world or anything.

“I just started going out with a guy I fell in love with.”