My Secret Life: Jane Asher, actress & cook

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The Independent Online

Jane Asher was born on 5 April 1946 in London. Afilm and television actress, she is also well-known for her books on cake-making. She first appeared as a child actress in Mandy (1952), and dated Paul McCartney for five years after interviewing the Beatles in 1963. She met her current husband, the illustrator Gerald Scarfe, in 1971. They have three children and live together in Chelsea. Jane Asher’s new Home Collection is available in stores now.

I drive/ride: A Vauxhall Corsa. From the days of Volvo Estates when we had young children and dogs, I moved to a very cool Lexus IS200, which was stolen last year. I now own the Nissan; it's wonderfully nippy, easy to park in London and Tardis-like in its interior.

If I have time to myself I: Always listen to the Archers omnibus. No one is allowed to speak to me between 10 and 11.15 on Sundays, as I put on the kitchen radio and immerse myself in the dramas of Ambridge as I bake a cake or cook a stew.

You may not know it but I'm no good at: Making puff or flaky pastry – far too time consuming and tricky, and the ready made versions are terrific.

A book that changed me: I read while working on The Brothers Karamazov for BBC TV in Glasgow when I was 18. I shared a flat with fellow actress Judith Stott, and she gave me Edna O'Brien's Girl with Green Eyes. At that time, after an early love of works of Frances Hodgson Burnett and Lewis Carroll, I had abandoned reading and this was the first book that seemed to be speaking directly to me.

Movie heaven: As a great film fan, it's easier to say what isn't in my heaven: cowboy films, gangster movies, car chases, and action films in general. Give me a classic like Brief Encounter, a cheesy Hollywood girly rom-com, a tense thriller (if classy and layered - like Michael Haneke's 'Hidden' – so much the better.

Comfort eating is: Working my way through an entire pack of Munchies, if I've stopped at a garage for petrol; or a whole bag of Revels if I'm at the cinema.

When I was a child I wanted to be: I often wonder what I would have done if I hadn't been acting from the age of 5. It's an addictive profession and I never considered anything else. If you can simply behave reasonably naturally and remember the lines, everyone thinks you're brilliant. It's later on that the doubts and problems creep in, as you realise just how much more to it there is.

I wish I'd never worn: A puffball dress in the 80s: always a mistake for me to try and be too up to the minute – I looked like a snake who'd got a goat stuck halfway down.

All my money goes on: Good food, wine and clothes, selfishly; and less so on autism, Parkinson's disease and Arthritis Care.

At night I dream of: The classic anxiety dream of actors – being on stage without a clue as to what play I'm in or what I say next (and yes, of course, I'm usually naked)

My favourite building: I do love the Gherkin, as they call it; a great use of modern technology to work out the maths of all those stunning diamonds of glass, and a terrific addition to London's skyline.

My biggest regret is: Never thinking of those witty retorts, particularly during my school days, until in bed at night and far too late.

It's not fashionable but I like: Being called an 'actress' rather than 'actor' and – illogically – being a 'chairman' not a 'chairwoman' or 'chair'

If I wasn't me I'd like to be: A baby – just so I could try it all over again

The shop I can't walk past: Sally Parsons in Bute Street, South Kensington. She brings in a fantastic selection of clothes from all over Europe – always something there that I can't resist, and she, together with the wonderful Jenny and Marina, know just what will suit me (so no puff balls...).

My favourite work of art: Apart of course from any one of my husband's brilliant drawings, I'd like a Rothko please; he produces an unspeakable emotion that hits me right where it counts.

The soundtrack to my life: Mozart, Mozart, Mozart.

The best invention ever: Not exactly an invention, but the discovery and implementation of penicillin – it's so easy to take the magic of antibiotics for granted.