September 9, 2011 7:33 pm

The Inventory: Jane Asher

My mentor was my father – the first man to describe Munchausen’s syndrome

Jane Asher, 65, has appeared in many stage, film and television roles and is also well known for her cake and sugarcraft company.

What was your earliest ambition?

I was offered a small part in a film called Mandy at the age of five and became immediately addicted to acting. As a child, I wanted to marry a farmer, but no doubt the reality would have been very different to the idyll in my head.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Small, “posh” private girls’ school. Although the ratio of teachers to pupils was fantastic and I loved English and maths, I still resent the lack of science. I left after O-levels at 15 and continued to act.

Who was your mentor?

My father, Richard Asher: a brilliant consultant endocrinologist who also wrote beautifully and inspired countless of his students, including Jonathan Miller and Oliver Sacks. He also first described and gave a name to Munchausen’s syndrome – typical of him not to call it after himself.

How physically fit are you?

Pretty good – it’s part of the job. Doing eight shows a week can be quite tiring. I swim more or less every day.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

I’d have to say, reluctantly, that ambition is the key, if you have enough of it.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

Not since I was about seven, when I was given a Matrix test, for fun. My parents looked quite smug, so I think I did OK.

How politically committed are you?

Privately, I take an intense interest, but I’m wary of actors espousing a cause unless they really know what they’re talking about.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Yes, but not as much as I should.

Do you have more than one home?

No.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

Jane Asher seal

As a crossword addict, I’d like it a bit mysterious, so some obscure symbols signifying my family, acting, writing, cookery and the three charities I represent – all beautifully gilded and decorated

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

An iPad. I covet one desperately.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Food – both eating in restaurants and to cook at home – and clothes.

In what place are you happiest?

At home in London after a hard day’s work, slumped on the sofa, watching a good film with my husband and a glass of wine.

What ambitions do you still have?

To do another Open University course. I did my first this year.

What drives you on?

The fun of doing something new.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

The corny but true answer is: having produced three charming, talented new human beings. Apart from that, the work I do with the three charities of which I’m president: the National Autistic Society, Arthritis Care and Parkinson’s UK.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

I started confirmation lessons and quickly realised that none of my questions was getting anything like a satisfactory answer. It struck me that the whole thing was a load of nonsense. I’ve never looked back.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

“A cake shop?”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Take every job offered and try to keep smiling.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes, but it’s almost impossible to legislate for it satisfactorily.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

No.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

How could I say less than 10, when you think of the lives the majority of those on the planet cope with?

Jane Asher stars in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘Farewell to the Theatre’ at The Rose Theatre, Kingston, from September 22 to October 30

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