Alison Steadman: ‘I do enjoy a gin and tonic in the evening’

My earliest memory? When my grandfather was ill in bed and I was taken upstairs to see him. I was really young, maybe two or three years old. I remember him holding my hand; I think he died the next day. For months, when I went back to my grandma’s house I’d ask to go and see him. I thought he was still in bed.

I do enjoy a gin and tonic in the evening. I see it as a relaxing thing, particularly if I’ve been busy working. I look forward to that, and olives. My boys send me up rotten about the olives. They know I can’t have a drink without a bowl.

I was pretty starstruck when I worked with Tom Jones. I did a little half-hour telly with him a few years ago. We played husband and wife. I think it was the second or third day, we were doing some rehearsal, when he said: “I feel, I’m a bit out of my comfort zone doing this.” I said: “Tom, if someone gave me a microphone and told me to stand on the stage at the Palladium and sing to 2,000 people, I’d be a bit out of my comfort zone.” We both just laughed.

I used to be very scared of flying. Every time I flew, I would shake like a leaf. Then I said to myself: “If this carries on, it’s going to ruin your life.” I got myself through it – now I’m perfectly fine.

I’ve loved being a mum. I was particularly happy looking after my boys when they were little. I did work, of course – I didn’t want my career to disappear. But I would balance it. Life goes in stages. Toby is 44 and Leo is 40. It’s nice that they’ve sort of come back to wanting to be with mum a bit more.

Do I mind getting older? I’m lucky that I’ve had a healthy life. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything. I’ve got to count my blessings and every day have fun, live your life, do things. Friends of mine say I do too much. But I want to be like that.

I think I’m an optimist. Although I have to say, now I’m older, I do get days when I feel a bit down. I have to pull myself together and move forward.

I love bird watching and watching animals. You read about a creature and do a little bit of research and you think: how can a young bird fly to Africa? How? I’m someone who constantly gets lost – I have no sense of direction.

The worst thing anyone has ever said to me was when I was told that my mother had a few months to live. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I said to the consultant: “You are not to tell my mother that.” She’d have faded on the spot. My mother lived for two years.

I’d like to be remembered for my acting, and the fact that I managed to earn a living for my whole life from it, which isn’t easy. One of the teachers at Liverpool Youth Theatre, a guy called Jim Wiggins, said to me, “You should go to drama school and become an actor. I’d hate the thought of you in 20 years’ time, stirring your pan of stew, saying to yourself, “Oh, why didn’t I do it?”

Alison is an ambassador for the charity, Marie Curie (


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