In the Hotseat - Timothy Spall

Timothy Spall changing an oil filter aboard his boat Princess Matilda''w113103b
Timothy Spall changing an oil filter aboard his boat Princess Matilda''w113103b

ACTOR Timothy Spall can currently be seen on cinema screens as Wormtail in the final Harry Potter instalment, but at the moment he’s sailing down the east coast of the UK with wife Shane, filming the third series of his programme, Somewhere at Sea.

The couple spent a few days berthed in Whitby Harbour and in the latest edition of In the Hotseat he took time away from tweaking the engine of his Dutch barge, The Princess Matilda, and smelling “like a real man” to chat to reporter Karl Hansell.

1. What are your first memories of Whitby?

Coming here eight or nine years ago when we revived Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. I think that was the first time, and I really liked it.

My wife went in the Dracula Experience and got frightened to death to the extent that I had to ask the guy to go away.

2. What makes Whitby special to you?

Timothy pulled a silver-topped walking cane from a side shelf and said: “In more than any other way this cane does.

It’s a Bram Stoker cane given to me by Daniel Farson of the Picture Post before he died. He was Bram’s great-nephew.

It was given to Bram by the crew of the USS Chicago, where he used to sit and drink with the great Henry Irving, so we’ve brought it home.”

3. Life’s highlight?

Having my three kids, two grandchildren, and not dying of leukaemia 15 years ago.

4. Biggest regret?

I haven’t got my biggest one yet, I’m waiting for it to come.

5. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

I had four rich tea biscuits and two cups of tea.

6. What is your favourite eating place?

We’ve had two nice meals while we’ve been here.

We had an Indian, at Whitby Tandoori, and went to Hadley’s for lunch.

There’s also a new place which has opened up where the steam bus stops which was very good.

7. What is your favourite pub?

When it’s busy I tend to give them a swerve because it isn’t conducive to relaxation and sometimes I keep my head down. My favourite is the French House on Dean Street in London.

8. Where are the best fish and chips?

There’s one down the bottom of our street called Wilson’s Chinese fish and chip shop.

But you’re spoiled for choice here, it’s got to be the fish and chip capital of the world. You get great mushy peas here too, not that powdery stuff.

The only problem is I try and limit to twice a year to stay at three stone overweight instead of 10 stone overweight.

9. What is your worst habit?

Worrying unnecessarily.

The last time I worried was when we came out of Hartlepool and nearly got turned over, but that was reasonable worry.

The engine has been a worry too but I just worry about everything, I think it’s a way of apprehending things that may go wrong.

10. Where was your last holiday?

This is it, we don’t go on holiday because I film a lot abroad. We have just been abroad filming so the last thing you want to do is get on a plane.

This is a bus man’s holiday as we don’t do anything we wouldn’t do normally, and nothing’s contrived.

11. When was the last time you cried?

Yesterday - it’s usually every day. As my mum said, ‘I would cry to see a pot thing crawl’, although I don’t know what it means.

I’m always blubbing, sometimes out of joy, sometimes sympathy.

I find a lot every day is quite touching, probably because I’m a soppy actor.

12. What would be your ideal day in Whitby?

Spending the day fixing my engine wouldn’t be it, although it’s an integral part of being here. We might have only stayed on night and these things we take and turn into positives, so the fact we have been stuck here three days means we have been able to see more of the town.

13. What was your first job?

My first job I worked in Battersea funfair at a weekend.

I knocked the cans down and knocked the hats off.

14. What is your favourite film?

It changes quite a lot but I would say it’s between Fargo and David Lean’s Oliver Twist.

There’s also Mary Poppins and A Matter of Life and Death, but there’s thousands of them and they change quite a lot.

15. What is your favourite book?

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

I read all of Dickens while I was ill and it was the first that took me out of myself when I was concerned about what was happening to me, it took me to another world.

16. If you won the Lottery, what would you do with it?

I would distribute it among my family, give some of it away, and get an extraordinary boat built.

Well, this one is extraordinary, I mean extraordinary in a more expensive way.

17. Dracula or Captain Cook?

Cook obviously because he was real, Dracula’s a fictional character.

I’ve played the man who wrote the first ever novel call The Vampyre, Dr Polidori. I’ve had a little bit of a go at that, so I would have to have a go at playing Cook. He was an amazing seafarer, to do what he did, to go into uncharted seas and to log them, some of his charts are still used today.

He was also a great leader, imagine being in command of your crew while sailing straight into a storm.

18. What is your signature dish?

My wife is a great cook, so her roast dinners are fantastic.

We were given two live lobsters the other day, which I had to execute and dissect. We boiled a crab once and it woke up halfway through.

You have to put them in fresh water and they go to sleep and then you put them in a freezer and it anaesthetises them.

It sounds cruel but until you have tasted a lobster that’s that fresh it’s different, unbelievable.

19. What is your favourite drink?

Chablis, followed by Becks beer. You have to go through the Becks into the Chablis.

20. What would be your epitaph?

He was a pretty good actor and a nice bloke as well. Everybody liked him, except one person.

Or I could steal Alfred Hitchcock’s – ‘This is what happens to you when you are a naughty boy’.

My favourite last words are ‘I feel better now’.