TERRY JONES is a Welsh actor, screenwriter, director, comedian & Monty Python star. He has been a prolific & successful author & his The Saga Of Erik The Viking has just been republished.
What are you working on?
A documentary about the economy, and also a new metal rock version of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, with Jim Steinman (who wrote songs for Meat Loaf and Celine Dion). I’ve also got a film in the making called Absolutely Anything, about a man who suddenly gets magical powers but doesn’t know what to do with them.

When were you at your happiest?

What is your greatest fear?
That I might suddenly stop producing stuff. I couldn’t imagine a life in which I had nothing to say, or do. I must keep creating things, whatever they are.

What is your earliest memory?
Sitting in a pram with my brother. My mother had just bought a bust of a shepherdess, and I resented having this lady in the pram with me, so I hit her with a jam pot and chipped her nose. I just remember my mum being so angry with me.

Who has been your greatest influence?
Buster Keaton, I think, or Geoffrey Chaucer. Buster taught me that comedy could be beautiful, and Geoffrey taught me, in Caxton’s words, ‘to eschew the chaff’ – ie, to keep your words as simple as possible and avoid overcomplicated expressions.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
That I’m a goody-goody. My elder brother, Nigel, always called me that, and I suppose I have never shaken it off.

What is your most treasured possession?
My books.

What trait do you most deplore in others?

Do you have a fantasy address?
It’s where I currently live. We live right on Hampstead Heath and I can’t imagine a better address – right in the heart of London and yet living in the countryside surrounded by trees.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
That I’m getting older and my hair is possibly thinning.

What is your favourite book?
Rupert Bear – during the Alfred Bestall years. It was the only thing I read when I was younger. I think Bestall was a genius, and he was never paid for writing the stories. I made a documentary about him in the 1980s.

What is your favourite film?
Le Million by René Clair (a musical comedy from 1931).

What is your favourite record or piece of music?
Mozart’s Serenade For 13 Wind Instruments; and John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band’s Imagine.

What is your favourite meal?
My next one. I don’t mind what it is as long as it has a glass of wine along with it.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Geoffrey Chaucer, because I’d like to get to know him after all these years, but I’m sure I would be disappointed. Also Gavin Esler and Sara Sugarman, oh! and Rob Ross and all my friends.

Which historical character do you most admire?
Admiration’s not my strong point. But I suppose I sort of admire Richard II – at least I think his reputation needs rescuing from the smears of Henry IV and Archbishop Thomas Arundel.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has said to you?
‘I don’t like you.’

Do you believe in aliens?
Who wouldn’t? There are so many millions and trillions of stars out there, you’d be a fool not to believe in aliens. Also, see The Man On The Moon by Simon Bartram.

What is your secret vice?
Beer and wine. Actually not so secret, since I tell all my doctors how much I drink and usually I am seen with a glass in my hand – except when I’m working.

Do you write thank-you notes?
I write thank-you emails. I rarely use the post any more – but emails have set up their own tyranny. I struggle through them every morning – I sometimes swear I’ll not open my emails until the afternoon.

Which phrase do you most overuse?
‘Good show!’

What single thing would improve your quality of life?
A new bladder.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
‘He did his best.’

Terry Jones’s The Saga Of Erik The Viking (illustrated by Michael Foreman) is published by Pavilion Children’s Books, priced £12.99.