“I Was Thinking About Your Husband’s Codpiece This Morning”

Graham Kibble-White interviews Tom Baker

First published June 2007

At the end of January, 2006 – with the new Doctor Who‘s second series still some months off – I was given the chance to meet Tom Baker, who’d just lent his tones to BT’s Voice Text service. And so, I rolled up to London’s Charlotte Street hotel, where the man himself lay in wait, behind a huge platter of fruit. Some parts of this interview have previously seen print, but here, for the first time, is the full unexpurgated transcript …

OTT: So, BT Voice Text. I understand it was an incredibly complicated task to put everything together. It took 11 days …

TOM BAKER: Well, it did. It took about 60-odd hours, just about 11 days, yes. Shall I pass you some strawberries?

OTT: I’m fine, thanks. Just eaten.

TOM BAKER: It did take a long time, and in many ways it could have been very boring, because a lot of the stuff was phonetic. They were looking for sounds and not the sense. A lot of the stuff was actually nonsensical, but I had to read it with aplomb. I said to this guy, “I don’t know how I can do this”. And he said, “Well, I just heard you talking a load of bollocks in the entrance. It was fantastic – just do that’. I thought, “Gosh, that’s a sharp observation”. So I just did it. I got it quite quickly.

OTT: Were you able to bring a sense of conviction to it, then, because it’s only noises, isn’t it?

TOM BAKER: It’s every sound in the language and every combination, including diphthongs and tripthongs. It was really quite involved. After a while, it didn’t make any difference, really. They were nice and they were amused by my commentary when I didn’t get it right. They were very sweet and gradually I really got going on it. It was nice. And it’s a nice job, because most of the messages that are going to go out being read by me will be rather pleasant. That’s nice, isn’t it?

OTT: I’m sure there will be the odd obscene one too.

TOM BAKER: Well, yes, that’s all right. When you say obscene there will probably be some naughty ones, but they can be funny as well. I quite like the idea … I’m looking forward to people in the street saying, “I had a call from you last night!”.

OTT: Do you think Doctor Who fans will make Tom Baker audio adventures by sending lots of texts?

TOM BAKER: Well, they might. That will be good. I quite like all that. I quite like the abuse – not abuse – the mischievous use of what’s on offer, really. I really like all that. I think it’s a good choice because here’s the voice of Little Britain, now the voice of BT – the voice of Great Britain. Yes, it’s going to be all right, I think. Might do me a bit of good!

OTT: When did you realise your voice was so – I hate to use the word – marketable?

TOM BAKER: I think I’ve got a quality of being friendly and persuasive.

OTT: You think that’s what it is?

TOM BAKER: Well, I suppose it must be. It can’t be that I’m dissuasive. It must be that I’m persuasive, I suppose. I’ve worked a lot. I’ve been doing voiceovers for a long time. I think an actor’s voice and eyes are terribly important. So … I don’t know why. I mean, I don’t go around thinking to myself, “I’ve got a fab voice”, or anything like that. Other people say it to me all the time and I go, “Oh”. But, I don’t think like that. I just have a style of approaching things which is not too serious. Although I can be serious. The other day I was doing a lovely involved thing for the BBC on a film about pigeon-fanciers, who I’ve always thought of as being barmy. You know that lovely good news … the good news, of course, is frequently about people who don’t do things that make the headlines. The good news is that there are pigeon-fanciers all over the place [Laughs] on the phone to each other and very worried about, you know, when you hear people say, “Yeah, I was just thinking the other day, I said to my wife, ‘Do you know, love?’ and she said, ‘Oh dear’, I said, ‘How does that bloody pigeon of ours, how does it get all the way back from the Channel Islands to Blackpool?’” – because that’s where they are, in Lytham St Annes. “‘How does he get back that quick? And he’s always so glad to be home.’ And she says, ‘You’re always glad when we get back from Jersey’. ‘Yeah. Oo, I don’t know’” But there’s more to pigeons than meets the eye! [Laughs] It was lovely. Sweet things like that. Sweet gentle people with their preoccupations, whether it’s stamp collecting … when you go to stamp fares as I sometimes do, you see all these men bent double. They’re always in the street like this [Gets up and stoops around the room]. They’re always like that, counting perforations.

OTT: Do people’s hobbies fascinate you?

TOM BAKER: Well they do. People’s passions absolutely amaze me. People’s religious beliefs. I’ve got such a sense of how wonderful nonsense is, because I was brought up an Irish Roman Catholic. And the Irish Roman Catholics, of course, are the world’s expects on utter nonsense. Ahh! It’s fantastic. A swift answer to everything! Ha ha! That was one of the answers if they couldn’t think of anything: “Ha ha ha ha! You’ll know, you’ll know!” I got going as a liar in Liverpool going to confession a lot. We started going to confession in those days – I’m 72, so I’m talking about 1940, I was six. And so at six I was making my first confession. So I had to admit, I’m sure lively things were happening in Liverpool, but not to six-year-olds. You couldn’t go early on and say, “Pray father give me your blessing for I have sinned. It is a week since my last confession and since then” – semi-colon – and produce a bloody litany of sins. You couldn’t say, “I haven’t committed a single sin”. He’d say, “Pride, that’s one. That’s a mortal sin! Two decades of the rosary. Now get back to school on your hands and knees!”.

OTT: Did you worry you would disappoint him if you didn’t have anything sufficiently meaty to confess?

TOM BAKER: Of course. I thought that was part of it. The point is, you see, I knew from a very early age … the other reptilian Roman Catholics who by that time had discovered puberty, they used to enjoy the kind of perverse thing of – and they were quick-witted here – “Jesus didn’t die for you [who's] going to confession every week. He died for us, because we’re sinners”. [Laughs] They were buggers! So I ended up being a liar, because I wanted to be a sinner, because, if you’re a sinner … You see it’s an amazing thing, if you’re good no-one takes any notice of you, but if you’re a sinner … It’s a bit like our society now. I mean, the police don’t call criminals criminals anymore – well they get suspended if they do! – they’re called “clients”. [Laughs]

OTT: With the amount of voiceover work you’ve done, how often does your voice come back at you in unexpected places?

TOM BAKER: Ah, well, almost never because I live in France, so I never hear it. But people ring up my wife or send me an email saying, “I heard you”, doing something I’ve forgotten about. Quite often actors do voiceovers and you get the fee and you don’t know – because your agent deals with it – whether in fact it’s going to air. So suddenly someone says, “I heard you doing a thing about Jack Russell fox terriers”. Really?

OTT: You mentioned Little Britain. You have quite an authorative-sounding voice. Did it delight you getting to talk such nonsense?

TOM BAKER: Well no, not really. You already must have realised I’m talking nonsense, but, no it didn’t, because the boys … I’m mostly employed now by the children who watched me in Doctor Who. And Matt and David chose me on the radio. This was seven years ago. And it gradually evolved, this idea of some kind of warm-hearted, harmless, rather pompous guy, who says the most appalling things, totally unaware that he’s saying appalling things. That was a good idea. The way appalling people are. Well they are! Suppose, for example, you were black and I said, “Tell me, are you black all over?”. Or, “Is it very hot where you come from?” and you say, “Well, no. Liverpool is quite cold”. [Laughs]. So that’s the kind of part I’m playing in Little Britain, who’s so succinct and right down the middle.

OTT: Do you think it’s an acting job?

TOM BAKER: I think it is an acting job, yes. But I think, actually, for me, getting from here to that door is an acting job.

OTT: Everything is?

TOM BAKER: Everything’s an acting job.

OTT: Why is that? Because you always want to amuse?

TOM BAKER: Yes, I think so, yes. I want to divert and to … yeah, that’s right, it’s to kind of to break the monotony. In the village where I live the sun was shining in my eyes the first morning I went in [to the local shop] and I hit the wrong side of a door, a push door. And I was feeling my way in like that, and in no time at all, the two women thought I was partially-sighted, you know. And I could hear them saying, “Such a shame, he’s such a nice man”. And I’m always holding out my hand like that [proffers hand], so they’ll touch my hand, and then discover to their horror I’m feeling their pulse! [Laughs] And then that makes them laugh. When I go into the shops to buy my baguette, I’m still making the same scene. Baguette means several things. Ordinarily it means a long loaf, but braguette, which is quite near, means a codpiece – your flies. So I often say in the baker shop, “I was thinking about your husband’s codpiece this morning, first thing”. When I’m going in there, if there are some old women in there, about my age, I can see the woman whispering to the other, “He’s going to say something about my husband’s codpiece”. So they all look around when I come in there and I ask for a codpiece.

OTT: Because of your reputation, do people assume you’re going to behave in a certain way?

TOM BAKER: I don’t think so in France, because nobody knows me there, except as this old English man. There’s no-one to speak to in that village, because the older people speak a kind of oxytone patois. And I don’t speak in the bar, I never speak in the bar, and I always order two coffees and leave an enormous tip, which causes a sensation and allows them to have their pulses felt.

OTT: This need to amuse or please, does that make you easy or difficult to live with?

TOM BAKER: Oh, I think it’s a kind of natural exploitation of my own inadequacies. People have to live with their own inadequacies. Some people have a more interesting problem of living with their strengths. People who are very bossy have got to temper that slightly. But someone who is inadequate, who’s a bit like a kind of nervous waiter … A desire to please is part of my upbringing. It’s part of my Catholic upbringing which is to despise oneself. You see the awful, pernicious, horrible, immoral thing about Christianity is that it’s rooted in self-loathing, which is called – smart phrase – Original Sin. And so when you’re brought up, us little boys and girls chanting in Latin, and my mother said, “Why did you do that?”, I used to say, “It’s because I’m not worthy”. And she would say, “Get out! Go on, get out!” She’d say to people, “Why does he talk like that?”. I gradually began to think – because I wasn’t worth anything – that I didn’t really have any responsibilities. Which is very simple, you know, when you just loathe yourself. It’s a terrible way to be brought up, actually thinking that you’re nothing. And that’s what Original Sin means. Of course, it’s been reinterpreted now, but it’s too late for me.

You know I was very tense. Because I was taught that God was everywhere when I was very little, I knew about the omnipresence of God before I knew about cornflakes. And so the omnipresence of God, he was everywhere, and then you’ve got your fucking guardian angel on your left shoulder … I was a shy boy, it was very difficult for a shy boy going to the lavatory. It made me very tense in there. Not only was there a big queue outside, with people saying, “Are you going to get on with it, for Christ’s sake?”, there was God in there with me. It was really packed! In fact I’m still a bit shy. Now I have to wait for my wife to leave the country before visiting the toilet – and I live in a big house. So it’s part of that abject belief that I’m nothing except a kind of fool, you know, not to be grand about that, but as in the old days a man might have a fool, or a dwarf, or a monkey, or a dog. I’m somebody’s dog. That’s right. That’s what I am. I’m there to be so utterly silly that people feel lucky. And why I think people are fond of me is that everyone, naturally, feels superior to me. They think, “Well it could be worse”.

OTT: Surely your relationship with your wife must be very different?

TOM BAKER: I think she must be very odd. [Laughs]. Yeah. I think she must be. She absolutely adores me.

OTT: Does she entertain your whims, or cut you short?

TOM BAKER: She looks after me. She shields me. She indulges this terrible fear I have of reality by shielding me. My wife is fearless, I couldn’t exist without my wife.

OTT: We were talking about Little Britain – the amount of times the press describe that as a “comeback” for you …

TOM BAKER: Yes, but I never went away. Yeah, It’s a very strange way with the press … but the press have to speak in those reassuring clichés. I never went away because the people who employed me are the people who watched me. My time in Doctor Who turned out to be a terrific investment. I did a voiceover [for Little Britain] and I went into this office, and the woman said, “Matthew’s in there” and I went into this office – actually, it was a bit like a room you sometimes see in commercial offices, or studios. They’re rather like rooms in the morning where they give you toast and Marmite – it’s domestic in some way. So I went into this room where Matthew [Matt Lucas] was supposed to be, and there was no Matthew in there. And I shouted out, “Oi! Matthew!”, because, you know, I can give the impression that I’m not frightened. And out of the back of a fucking settee came Matthew! [Laughs] Naturally I laughed. He said, “I’ve wanted to do this all my life”. I said, “Matthew, you’re paying me £400!”. He said, “I know, and you’re not right for the job either!” [Laughs]. So the press are wrong, I’ve never been away.

OTT: Has Little Britain had an impact on you?

TOM BAKER: Oh, I’m sure it’s had an impact. I’m sure. An enormous effect. When I was in Monarch of the Glen, I met some school children in Forres, which is a lovely little Highland town – it’s the first name in Macbeth, isn’t is, “How far is’t call’d to Forres?” – and their teachers recognised me in the museum. The children were all looking at this old man, thinking, “Who’s he?” and they said, “He also does the voice of Little Britain“. The children cried, “He doesn’t!”. So I went into the voice of Little Britain, and they all started fucking capering around, crying out, “I’m the only gay in the village!” [Laughs]. And they were all only about 10. Isn’t it funny? So, I never did go away, really. I was probably just waiting – like all actors are waiting. Like journalists are waiting. We’re all freelance. We’re always hoping the phone will go, and I’ve got this terrible problem. I have a very modern mobile telephone and the voice keeps going, saying, “You have 18 messages” – but I don’t know how to retrieve them. So I want someone to tell me how to leave a message saying, “This is Tom Baker here, please don’t leave a message – I can’t retrieve it” [Laughs]. It doesn’t worry me that I can’t retrieve them because sometimes my wife, who does these things for me, discovers that the 17 messages are from Vodafone saying I have a message. So there are 16 reminders and one message. Erm … So … That’s a long way around, isn’t it? It’s a desire to please. All actors have that, I think. Lots of people have it in different degrees, don’t they? When I was a nurse in the Army medical corps it was a profession I would have been very good at at a low level because I loved looking after people and I’m not embarrassed by it – or I wasn’t then – about people’s needs and functions and everything. I was really well trained. So, yes, it’s a desire to please.

OTT: Is it true you sent David Tennant a good luck card?

TOM BAKER: I did send him one, because one of the girls who was a great fan of his was with me on Monarch of the Glen and told me that he was very devoted to my performance as he saw it, so I sent him this good luck message and told him I hoped he would enjoy it as much as I had and that it would bring him happiness. Actors are quite nice about this, word came back – he didn’t write me a note – but word came back that he was terribly thrilled about it and was showing it to people.

OTT: Have you ever been tempted to tune in and see how he’s getting on?

TOM BAKER: No. Well, I don’t really watch television in France. I’m terribly stuck – pretending to be blind has actually stayed with me now! [Laughs] In fact, the other day I had to walk around the village for about 25 minutes because these two women were standing near my car [Laughs] and I thought, “If they see me get into my bloody Berlingo they’ll call the gendarmes”. [Laughs] So that’s what happens if you pretend to be blind. Although I’ve often wanted to do … you know, when I was in Doctor Who, because I could drive, I wanted to drive madly, or have a stuntman driving, jumping lights and swerving and everything and then a man get out with a white stick [Laughs] and instantly trip over something obvious. I love those silly jokes.

OTT: Has the success of the show’s revival touched you?

TOM BAKER: Well, it’s bound to have touched me, because it means that the fans are revitalised. The thing about fandom, especially fandom on a long-running series, they actually believe – rather like we believe – in the resurrection of the dead. We’re all fans of someone. So if I see three famous old cricket players or three people from the World Cup of 1966, I don’t think to myself, “He’s gone bald, or he’s got no teeth, or he’s limping”. When I see the three of them there, the power of nostalgia is all to do with when you were young and able to do things you can no longer do, I think. And that’s why it’s translated there, to when you were young and they were tigers, you know. Fans don’t say, “God he’s so old now”. So when I go occasionally to a memorabilia thing, it doesn’t matter that I’m next to Nicholas Courtney or another old Doctor Who – whatever it is. They don’t care. Fan love, in that sense, is superior to human love. It’s very sweet. I was on a train one morning, going somewhere boring, like Maidstone, and there was a very pretty woman opposite me. Very pretty. She actually kind of yawned at one point. I’ve got quite sharp vision for my age, she didn’t have any fillings at all, and lovely little sharp teeth. And I suddenly had a desire for her to bite me, you know. But I didn’t say anything about it, of course. I’m confessing now, in the hope that you’ll forgive me. Anyway, as she got off the train at Maidstone East or somewhere like that – Faversham – she said to me, “I’ve loved you all my life”. And she was gone. And this git next to me, he said, “What did she say?”. I said modestly, as though it was happening every minute of the day, I said, “She said, ‘I’ve loved you all my life’.”. He said, “I thought she said that”. I said, “She did”. He looked down the platform and couldn’t see her, then he looked at me and looked me up and down. He said, “Christ, she must be off her fucking head!” [Laughs]. So it was a terrible putdown. He might have said, “Well, gosh, there’s no accounting for taste,” but, no, he really sorted it out. “Ah well, she must be off her fucking head, mustn’t she?”, as if, “How could anyone possibly love you?”.

OTT: Are you aware that Elizabeth Sladen and K9 have been brought back?

TOM BAKER: Yes I am, because Elizabeth occasionally sends me cards, although I don’t see her, she’s stayed in contact with me, very sweetly.

OTT: Are you pleased to know they’re going to have a new generation of fans?

TOM BAKER: Ah, yes. Yes, I think so. Because, I mean, the children of the older fans … It’s great for the fans to have them coming along.

OTT: Do you find the effect you have on fans humbling?

TOM BAKER: I don’t find it humbling. I find it amusing and I’m very used to it you know. But I am very aware of the accidental confusion of people with a very famous fiction. I’m still a famous fiction, so they don’t really know me. So I’m very thrilled at the effect of that effort of mine. Sometimes people – it’s rather more serious than you might think – sometimes people say funny or silly things, but a man stopped me quite recently in Oxford Street. Not much time. And he said – he couldn’t believe it – he said, “Tom Baker?!”. I said, “Yeah”. Sometimes I say to people, “Haven’t we worked together?”, that breaks the ice. “Oh,” he said. “Tom Baker?!” `and I said, “Yes!”. I wished he’d get on with it. And I could see him being catapulted back, and he said, “Do you know, when I was a kid I lived in North Wales. I was in a home, I was in care. And nobody wanted any of us, you know, and you made such a difference on Saturdays”. And I didn’t know what to say. I tried to say something, he just went like that [shush] and went. Touchingly, he went. You know, it was a very, very sweet gentle thing to say. The accident of playing a silly old – giving my version of it – but an alien, you know. Having that effect on a small child that 25 years later he would say a thing like that. It was very touching.

OTT: Do you still feel like it’s something you have to live up to?

TOM BAKER: Not with adults, or anything like that. But when I was Doctor Who I was terribly puritanical and dictatorial. I was very stroppy about the whole thing so no children were disappointed. I never stood up when children were there because they were frightened by how big I was.

OTT: What about the adults who were those children?

TOM BAKER: Ah well, that follows. It’s that wonderful thing of power, isn’t it? So, you know, three fellows are sitting around saying in a casting somewhere, “Do you know, what do we want?”. And one of them will say, “What about Tom Baker?”. And one says, “Why?”. “Well, I used to watch him when I was a kid, really”. [Laughs] And that’s why. That’s good enough, isn’t it, when you’ve got power.

I met an old lady when I was buying some raspberries in a shop the other day near Toulouse. And there was an old lady and she saw me buying three punnets of raspberries – they’re very expensive, you know. And this little old lady looked at them and I saw her looking at them – she couldn’t afford six euros – and so I offered her one, and she couldn’t believe it. Then I spoke to her in French, “Take one”. And she took it and suddenly she was – it was very sweet, actually – the place went quiet around the till, and she said, “Oh monsieur”, and she backed away from me and I could see her as a young girl. And there I was at 72, piling on the fucking flirting! [Laughs]. When were in Lewis a few weeks ago for Christmas, my wife was in a café – or a restaurant – and I couldn’t stand it, so I threw my money on the table and I said, “I’ll wait outside for you”. She’s used to that kind of awful behaviour. So while I was standing about in Lewis, which is nice little town, several women – like, two, I’m saying – spoke to me at intervals. My wife could see them talking to me and she said, “Oh no!”. And then they came closer, and my wife is at the window [flapping arms], “No! No! Don’t talk to him!” [Laughs]

OTT: What do you make of the fact that a part you played 25 years ago is still inspiring so much interest and creativity, with people writing new stories for the character you portrayed?

TOM BAKER: I think it lies with the popular preoccupation for alternative religions and angelic … or the idea of science-fantasy, which has got religious overtones. Not science-fiction, science fantasy. Science-Fantasy is very like religion in that it transcends physics and probability. And so the idea that somewhere the whole thing of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and all the other films, is that somewhere out there is a meaning to what’s going on here. And the idea that a benevolent alien might tap on the door, which I used to, you see. When I was Doctor Who I could tap on any door. That’s the first time I’ve used that phrase. I could tap on any door, and people would … I did it, occasionally. Tapped on doors. Just as the programme was coming on. I did it once because I wanted to look at a sequence and the television shop was closed just before. I was going to watch it in a shop window. And I said to a guy from … we passed a house and I said, “I’m going to go in there”. He waited outside and I knocked on the door. A young man opened the door and I heard the music come up. And he didn’t faint, he just said, “Ohh. Come in”. And I glided into a little sitting room and two little boys were watching the telly, you know. And I slid onto a sofa right next to the father, and the two little boys were watching it. And then gradually, something happened, when the actors started to talk and the children got bored and then they looked over. And then they looked again. Then I came up on the box, and then they looked at the box, and they looked at me and they couldn’t separate it. They couldn’t take it in that I was still there. It was sweet. As I was leaving, these little boys – these interesting little children – came over. I said, “I was just passing by and I thought I’d come and see some children”. And they couldn’t believe it. They said, “But, Doctor, when we go to school on Monday, who will believe us? They won’t believe us!”. That was their first anxiety. So I said, “I’ll write a note”. So I wrote a note and then they said the man next door has a tape recorder, so I had to go and get a tape recorder from the man next door. On Monday, of course, I sent the local press down to the school. It was in Preston, I think. And so from London, when we got back, the press office rang Preston and Preston went to the school. There were cartoons in the paper: “Who called by at 132 Langdon Grove?”. So all those things couldn’t have gone on if I’d been playing a villain, or someone frightening. That intimacy with children was a privilege – it’s so easy to talk in a sentimental way – but I can never, ever recover from it, especially now when it’s all changed and now people are frightened of children, aren’t they? I would never allow myself to be alone with children. I only talk to children in the village when they’re in groups. Because we’re frightened now. We’re all in a terrible state of anxiety because … we are.

OTT: You are aware the pub across the road is where all the Doctor Who fans in London meet?

TOM BAKER: The Fitzrovia?

OTT: No, the Fitzroy Tavern.

TOM BAKER: Do they? Deary me. I should go in there and say hello.

OTT: Someone might stand you a drink.

TOM BAKER: Oh, no, I should leave some money for them to have a drink. When I was in Oxford a few months ago, I went into a tiny little pub and the guy nearly fainted. He said, “Follow me”. It was like I was in a bloody script. So I went down this narrow corridor – which was much bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside – and we went into this tiny little bar, and he pointed to a little plaque, and it said, “Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Nicholas Courtney, sat here in 1987″. [Laughs]. He said, “Look!”. I said, “I know him, you know. I saw him the other day”. He said, “Well, that’s where he sat. I wasn’t here myself, my father saw it. That’s where he sat. We keep it dusted in the hope that one day he might come back”. So I wrote this in the frontispiece of Nicolas’ book, which has just been reissued.

OTT: Does it ever irk you that there seems to be a communal desire for you to return to the role of Doctor Who – in some form?

TOM BAKER: It doesn’t irk me at all. I thought it would have been very witty of the BBC – but they probably didn’t know, or the fellow who’s doing it now – but I thought when they first did it, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be witty if they asked me to come back as the Master?”. And then we could have lots of jokes and double-takes, couldn’t we? But the idea, you know, Moriarty and Holmes. In other words, the villain and the hero just cannot exist without each other. And so after all these years, suddenly the Master looks a bit like that original Doctor Who. I think that would have been quite witty. But I’m just saying, that went through my mind while I was sitting in France somewhere. I was sitting on a French war memorial weeping tears of boredom. You get thoughts like that when you’re sitting on war memorials.

OTT: But could you ever be tempted to reprise the role, even in a small way?

TOM BAKER: Well, I don’t know. It would depend on what they … If they sent a sweet little script, or a sweet little scene or two, I might do it. Yes. Elizabeth’s been back. And the dog. So maybe I will.

OTT: Are you aware of this almost collective desire to see you back in the role?

TOM BAKER: Oh yeah. Of course, some of the smart-arses, they say, “Bill’s gone, Patrick’s gone, Jon’s gone,” and the real smart-arses, they say, “Actuarially speaking, Tom, you’re the next”.

OTT: So they want to get a last performance from you before you go?

TOM BAKER: Yeah. The whole idea is they’re trying to trick me into it, that’s right, yes. I think so. But it is true, other people hold onto the very smallest souvenir from the past. But I think people have always done that.

OTT: Are you like that?

TOM BAKER: I had lots of souvenirs, but they’ve all been begged off me by charities you know. So I’ve got nothing really left.

OTT: I read your autobiography a few years ago …

TOM BAKER: Did it make you laugh?

OTT: Very much. It was also quite melancholy, and I wondered are you a melancholy person?

TOM BAKER: Oh, I’m as melancholy as the next braggart. I’m slightly more melancholy as I get older, because I think old people – I’m an old man now – I think things make me cry. I weep more easily. So I can’t usually read the pop papers or whatever without bursting into tears. My wife, who reads the Daily Mail – in fact all the English people in France read the Daily Mail. They trade old copies of it. It’s very sad, really. “I’ve got a copy of the Daily Mail about the death of Princess Diana”. They say, “You haven’t?!”. “15 euros”.

OTT: What prompted the move to France?

TOM BAKER: I don’t know. I seemed like a good idea at the time.

OTT: How long have you been there?

TOM BAKER: Three years. I live in a very interesting house, which is very beautifully restored by my wife. We have a courtyard and a long patio and a studio which is huge – bigger than the lobby of this hotel. There are lovely walled courtyards and cats, so that’s wonderful, but of course, I’m often lonely, because there’s no-one there except my wife. And she can’t be with me all the time.

OTT: What happened to your headstone?

TOM BAKER: My headstone was next to the church and I asked the post office how much it would cost to send it over – they said about £27,000, because it’s quite big. So I think what I’ll do is I’ll actually just send my ashes back over. It’s still there waiting for me to …

OTT: I guess it’ll only be about £7 to send you back …

TOM BAKER: No, my wife doesn’t have to send them all back. She can just send a token amount in an envelope. [Laughs]

OTT: Will you write any more?

TOM BAKER: I might do. The Boy Who Kicked Pigs has been reissued. Yeah, it has, because somebody ordered 25,000. But I thought, “25,000, Christ I’ll be able to afford to take my wife to a French restaurant”. But it turns out it was a supermarket, so it’s at a very reduced price. But on the back of that – so there have been two reissues in the last six months – Faber have reissued in it in a very smart, shiny new edition at six quid, I think, or seven quid. Cosgrove Films in Manchester have an animation. They’re still working on it. Every now and then I get a few hundred pounds, because they kept the option going. So something might happen. I don’t know … I’d need to be inspired, rather like being inspired to take a part, because I don’t need to do that. But, I mean, in no time at all I’m messing around on my word processor, I could easily … I’m very glib and fast at that nonsense.

OTT: So you can turn it out quickly?

TOM BAKER: I can, yes.

OTT: What about your autobiography …?

TOM BAKER: I didn’t know whether I wanted to develop that, because an autobiography is actually rather difficult if you’re a soppy old thing like me, because, of course autobiographies are just selected highlights, really. Because you can’t tell the truth. In other words, the best parts of my life – the most amazing incidents in my life – I can’t write about them, because it would be unfair and unkind to hurt all the people who’ve got no chance to write back. I mean, I think that’s a very common dilemma when you’re writing one.

OTT: Would you revisit it now?

TOM BAKER: I don’t think … I mean, I could expand it now, make it probably a bit funnier or something like that. But, no, I couldn’t, because I did have a heart-breaking incident not all that long ago, when I was walking down near the Palladium, and suddenly in a lull in the traffic I heard a voice saying, “Don’t you remember me?”. And I turned round and there was this little old lady there. She was looking like, I thought, an out of work fortune-teller. So I blessed her, because I bless lots of old ladies – look, I’m wearing my bishop’s tie – and she said, “Don’t you remember me, Miriam? I was your first love”. And there was this little old lady who had been my first love. She said, “I’ve had a stroke, but I’m very happy. And I’m so glad you didn’t tell our story”. Yeah. It’s always difficult you see. As for … I’m full of regrets. When people say, “No regrets”, what a pile of shite that is. I never believe that. It’s like people saying, “I don’t believe in gossip”. I’m full of regrets. When I think of all those girls I betrayed. I mean, a lot of the women I was involved with – well quite a lot, say, eight – are still in an asylum. I should go and see them. I send flowers on their birthdays.

OTT: Do you have any ambitions left?

TOM BAKER: Well, no, I don’t. No I don’t have any professional ambitions left. I have an ambition … I get very nervous when I’m away from my wife. When I’m with my wife I can’t stand the sight of her, but the minute she goes out of the room I feel insecure. It’s very perverse that way, isn’t it? My wife is so wonderful and I’m sometimes – I’ve kind of said this – but the thought of her not being there … When you get older, you see, when you get old you’re reminded of death all the time because people keep ringing up and saying, “George died”. I say, “Did he really? How old was he?”. Richard Briers makes me laugh about it. “He was 68. Christ, he was only a boy!” [Laughs]. Yeah.