OF all the things I thought I would be doing on a Monday afternoon, I never thought one of them would be helping Timothy Spall carry his Tesco shopping down a pontoon at Scarborough harbour.
After offering to lend a hand, photographer Andrew and I were welcomed aboard and treated like old friends by the actor and his wife of 30 years, Shane.
Over tea and cake, the Harry Potter and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet star told us how he and Shane had been moored up in the harbour for over a week due to bad weather.
They are currently on a mission to circumnavigate Britain in their 30ft Dutch barge, lovingly named The Princess Matilda after their granddaughter.
Having set off from London in 2005, the journey has been punctuated with bouts of Tim going away to work, then returning to resume the epic journey.
He said: “Our original intention was to go to the South coast then go up the French canals.
“But at the end of the Thames we decided to turn right and discover our own country.”
Tim added that the barge has now become their second home and that he feels like wherever he goes, he takes his home with him “like a tortoise”.
He says that although they never intended to stay in Scarborough for over a week, the rough seas and high winds had given them the perfect opportunity to explore the town.
Tim said: “When you’re working in a place it feels different, it rather spoils it in a weird way.
“When we’re on our own like we are now we integrate more. It’s my third visit and I like the town very much.”
The pair have enjoyed walking round the Marine Drive, playing on the slot machines, visiting the castle and having a pint in the Golden Ball.
They also ventured to Tesco and the Pound Shop, where Tim was mobbed by fans, many of whom still call him “Barry” after his character in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
He said: “I get lots of people shouting ‘Hello Barry!’ and when I was in America, I got ‘Hey, are you the rat dude?’
“My part in Harry Potter is one of the smallest I’ve played, but it’s the one that’s given me the most international fame.”
Tim, who went to RADA before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company, was also delighted to be in Scarborough as he counts Charles Laughton and Alan Ayckbourn among his heroes.
He said: “Scarborough should really advertise the fact more that Charles Laughton was born here. Whitby never stops talking about Dracula and he didn’t even exist.”
Tim is also full of praise for Ayckbourn, who he says is a “genius”, adding: “Some of his plays are just joyous. His contribution to British theatre is second to none.”
The couple are now on their way down the east coast and will soon be stopping at Grimsby, via Bridlngton.
Filming as they go, the second series of Timothy Spall: Somewhere at Sea will be on our screens in May. Shane’s book, The Voyages of The Princess Matilda, will be out in March.