Timothy Spall talks about the latest stage in his mini-odyssey around Britain by barge in Back at Sea (Wednesday, BBC4, 8.30pm)…

The Irish Sea is not to be trifled with, it’s unforgiving and there are moments where you see it not forgiving us… Near Liverpool I got confused by radio operators and ended up nearly going into a wind farm. Another time I missed the tidal gate so we had to anchor on the edge of a shipping lane all night, it was terrifying. Thankfully we never called out the lifeboats. We like to say ‘hello’ to them wherever we go, not ‘help’.

Our trip is about discovering our own country… This time we covered over 1000 miles and went to places we never thought we would, like Piel Island where the pub landlord and landlady are officially the king and queen of the island. We also saw dolphins jumping over the boat near Pwllheli, it was so exquisite it made us cry. Unfortunately we didn’t have a camera crew with us, but it’s on YouTube.

Our boat The Princess Matilda is like a member of the family… She’s really looked after us and we think of her as a person. They say good ships have a soul and she definitely has. She’s like a module version of our home; wherever we are, we feel like we live there.

I was chuffed the Queen wanted DVDs of our first leg… I hope they sent her ones without the swearing because there is nothing like smashing a boat into a wall to make you use a few expletives, but she does live with the Duke of Edinburgh so maybe she’s used to it.”

Ironically I’m playing The Old Man of the Sea in Sky1’s new drama Sinbad soon… Sinbad finds a ship with just this seemingly sweet old man on it, who turns out to be quite a scary character. The scope of the show is fantastic and I’ve always loved Sinbad.

I’m developing a film where I’d play Alfred Hitchcock… I love his work and he was such an interesting, contradictory man. People say I look like him but I don’t know if that’s a compliment. There’s responsibility to get it right when you play a real person though and I got stick from critics for playing Churchill in The King’s Speech, but Helena Bonham Carter who knows his nieces said I had it spot on.

I’ve got an ear in my fridge from the last Harry Potter film… I was given it as a present after filming so I hope no one thinks it’s bacon and shoves it in a roll. I wouldn’t have missed playing Peter Pettigrew for the world. I even had an American couple in a lift in New Mexico who said, ‘Are you the rat dude?’ I think I should call my autobiography that.

I’d love to work with my son Rafe again… We really enjoyed it on A Room With A View even though we were apprehensive at first, so now we are both just waiting for the right project. He was fantastic in The Shadow Line recently, he is doing incredibly well and we are utterly proud of him.”

I would have to think long and hard about going across the Atlantic in a boat… I have spoken to quite a few people who have done it and it is a big deal. They say that it can be incredibly boring but then it goes to absolutely terrifying in three seconds.”

Maurice in Secrets & Lies was one of the most special roles I have played… I was ill afterwards and then when I got better it had gone round the world and done me a lot of good and I also loved the film. I take every part on its own merit though and I try not to do anything that I don’t find interesting.”

If I hadn’t been an actor I might have gone to art school… I was torn between that and the army, but I wouldn’t have lasted long there. Aside from my CSEs I failed every exam apart from my A Level Art which I got a grade A for. I used to do mad sculptures and I think I might have done something with it.