An Alphabetical Autobiography
Back to Table of Contents >


My voice. I grew up in a semi detached but I sound posh-ish. I learned to speak like this as a prep school boy on a bursary surrounded by grander folk. It was an affectation, which eventually became my identity. I’ve been cast as Royal four times. One of my oldest friends, as a 14 year old, had a terrible habit of referring to people she’d never met by their first names. Often famous people. It was faintly ridiculous. Now 30 years later, as a successful film producer, she maintains the habit. Except now she actually knows them.

Time has made us authentic.


I finally got to own a very stylish bath a couple of years ago. It sits in the centre of the bathroom on a wooden floor built into a teak box with a fire place next to it. Secretly my favourite bathrooms hale from the 70s and are fully carpeted with pink ceramic toilet sets.


I have a second cousin called Christl. She is 81 and lives in Vienna. She never married. She is the last living connection to my father’s Austrian origins. I go and stay with her in the winter and we go smartly dressed to the theatre and see plays in German, which I don’t speak, or to concerts, which are easier. She is incredibly sweet. Both single, we have a sort of yearly platonic romance. We often miss the beginning of things because she has a pathological inability to be on time.


I had a girlfriend once for whom Dressing was a serious creative act each day. She’d flit around an enormous dressing room, from cupboard to cupboard, swapping and combining and changing her mind, before emerging in the outfit of the day. It was a double act she performed with her maid, who would shadow her, bending to pick up the discarded options to re-hang and fold away. The results were often magical.


My father showed us how to blow them. My sister and nieces paint them beautifully and hang them on Christmas trees.


I used to make them easily. But have been careless of many.


On the need to break wind when sharing a bed with someone you shouldn’t wake. If you gently ease one buttock away from the other, and don’t panic, the Gas emerges silently.


I took pills for about ten years to stop it falling out. It’s still there.


Recently I had to film one scene with an actress who introduced herself by saying that she had taken the small part because I had been her inspiration at drama school. 30 minutes later she was face down over a table with half her bum exposed to the camera and crew, whilst my character pretended to take hers from behind, and the director shouted ‘screw her harder!’


When I was a child I would regularly tell the following joke to impress grownups, without actually understanding it:

1st Cannibal: I don’t like my mother in law. 2nd Cannibal: Well just eat the chips.

It’s OK, I do now.


I rent a cottage in the countryside in which I have experienced some big ups and downs. I still go back there because the landscape is so beautiful.


There are lots in the cottage. I don’t mind them.


Last night a man called George who ran the chip shop opposite me for 40 years died in his sleep. For years I have watched him from my kitchen window go from his car to the shop in the morning and back again in the evening. I never spoke to him.


I go to the dentist four times a year.


(life is what happens when you are making other plans)


I was once described in The Times as ‘marching around the stage like a petulant toddler’. It was the toddler bit that really hurt, because I hadn’t intended it.


Peppery torpedoes of goodness. My mother’s father was a plant breeder. My parents are gardeners. They have worked on their twin allotments in Oxford for 35 years. Their year is bound to the seasons and could be mapped by the rituals of their shared plant life. My sister is now teaching gardening to children.


I love containing my needs to the size of a small suitcase with wheels. I love travelling. And I love the flashes of euphoria that I get with the effects of alcohol at 34,000ft.


I have too often succumbed to temptation of all sorts. I spend my life succumbing and atoning, succumbing and atoning.


Underneath my bed is the abandoned violin that I played reasonably well until I was 17. It glares at my feet with silent reproach.


I have a wooden spoon which my friend Thierry whittled recently. Its bowl has a right angle on one side on it, which is perfect for stirring into the corner of a saucepan. It’s perfect for porridge.


I have too many exes. Too many phases of life lived intensely with different people for relatively short periods. Different pieces of me all scattered among them. Strange that the people you get closest to, you have to lose. I actually have a pair of underpants that have outlasted all of them, but I only wear them on special occasions.


I was the youngest child and at my school young for my year. For some reason it always made me feel like I had a licence to be badly behaved. A habit that has died hard.


I wish I could.


'Arete is a journal as exquisite in its execution as in its intentions.'
John Updike

'Vous m’avez donné un grand plaisir … votre revue m’est très sympathique et proche.'
Milan Kundera