What’s your earliest memory?
Chucking peas with my mum in the garden at Gravesend, I must have been about 18 months old.
What do you wish they’d taught you at school, but didn’t?
Latin. I like going round old buildings and classical monuments and you can’t read what it says.
Ignore what you’re doing now – if you could do any job in the world, what would it be and why?
Archaeology. I like scrubbing round in the dirt with a little brush and a shovel. I used to do that in Cyprus.
Of all the places you’ve been in your life, which would you recommend to a stranger?
Beijing. It’s an amazing place. It has to be seen to be believed. It is vast, the culture’s different, the Forbidden City is absolutely amazing. You’ve got the summer palace, Tiananmen Square and all the rest of it. The way that the old hongs and the new buildings interact, you have these wonderful, wonderful modern glass and steel buildings, then you go round the back and it’s all loose wires and open drains. Quite amazing.
You can invite three people – living or dead, from any period – round for dinner. Who are they and why?
There are a lot of people I would have liked. I wondered about the Duke of Wellington, Karl Marx and Jane Austen. It would be interesting talking military strategy with Wellington and ideology with Marx – because I’m a Conservative, obviously. Jane Austen? Well, I love her novels.
If you were stuck on Death Row, what would you pick for your final meal?
Roast lamb with roast potatoes and spring carrots with redcurrant jelly, followed by apple pie and custard.
And if you could write your own epitaph or come up with famous last words in advance, what would you pick?
I can only think of Spike Milligan’s: ‘I told you I was ill’.
If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
To take away HIV and all that sort of stuff. To do some medical repair work.
What’s your greatest fear?
Claustrophobia. Being shut in a little space. I don’t like crowds either. I don’t like, for instance, Christmas shopping in London. I’m there for ten minutes and I want to get out.
If you had to give up something tomorrow, what would you find it hardest to live without?
My own space. My own house.
What’s the most important lesson that life has taught you so far?
Patience. There’s the old adage ‘everything comes to those who wait’. You can’t expect everything to just drop on your lap at the first time of asking.
If you could leap forward to the year 2050, what would you expect, or hope, to find there?
No more famine. No more abject poverty. But it’s not going to happen. The population is growing too fast, more dustbowls are being created and technology can’t keep up.
Favourite films of all time?
Brief Encounter, Casablanca, Pride and Prejudice. I think they’re timeless films.
Favourite books of all time Pride and Prejudice. When I go on holiday I always put it in my bag, I must have read it six or seven times.
Zerus in Bovingdon, I find that’s quite a nice place. I often have a meal at the Two Brewers in Chipperfield.
I also quite like the Chipperfield Larder.