This blog is for English actress, cakemaker and writer Jane Asher, with many pictures and accurate information of one of the most beautiful rock muses from the 20th century.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Mike Daines shot, 1997

Fall 1997 - Jane Asher, famous actress, cake-maker, author and TV presenter on location at Arley Hall, Cheshire, filming Christmas episodes of her show Good Living. Photos by Mike Daines. From Hello! Magazine, December 6, 1997. 



 Jane Asher is, as we all know, just like Mary Poppins - "practically perfect in every 
way". Perfectly groomed, making perfectly lovely confectionery and appearing word-
perfect on her current BBC series Good Living, as she lets us into the secrets of making 
perfect everything from jam roly-poly to Christmas crackers. She's even got designs on 
recycling our rubbish - perfectly, of course. Author, cake-maker supreme, actress and 
television presenter, there's nothing she can't do.

Fortunately for the self-esteem of the rest of us, however, there is also another Jane. 
Better known round her way as Mrs Scarfe, wife of brilliant cartoonist Gerald and a 
mother-of-three, this Jane sometimes gets her dates mixed up, agonises about deadlines, 
leaves things till the last minute then rushes about in a panic, and sometimes gives 
her family instant meals from Sainsbury's.

"Jane Scarfe is the real person. Jane Asher is a sort of commodity now," she laughs, at 
ease with both her private and public persona.

She had her Jane Asher face firmly in place for out shoot at Arley Hall in Cheshire, 
where she is filming her current series of Good Living for the run-up to Christmas. 
In the flesh Jane looks just as fragile as she appears on television. At 51, she's as 
slender as she was in her twenties, but off-screen she wears very little make-up and 
her apricot-coloured hair is scraped up in an untidy knot with wisps hanging around 
her intelligent, elfin face.

She's full of enthusiasm for the show, which is designed to make life easier for the 
busy woman who believes, like Shirley Conran, that life's too short to stuff a mushroom.

"I don't know whether it's an illusion that we are much busier than our mothers. I'm 
always looking through magazines for things that I can do quickly and easily," she says. 
"It doesn't take much to transform a cheap cracker with a bit of lace and ribbon. 
Everyone cheats a bit. I seldom make my own mince pies from scratch, for example. If 
I can't get somebody else to do them, I buy deluxe mincemeat and frozen pastry to make 
up - but usually my sister's mother-in-law makes them for our family Christmas because 
she does them so much better."

Better than the woman dubbed The Queen of Fondant Icing? Now there's a compliment, 
and it' not even her own mother-in-law.

Christmas at the Scarfe's big old town house in Chelsea is a traditional one, but Jane 
is determined not to get so stressed out that she can't enjoy it. "My mum used to get 
very wound up and I do make an effort, but everyone enjoys it better if I'm relaxed.

"We used to go really over the top with the decorations, hanging brightly coloured 
paper chains in every room. The house is like a cross between Harrods and the local 
pub at Christmas but it does dress up beautifully. We always have a ten-foot tree, which 
I buy from my local greengrocer. I love the smell of pine needles, even if I'm sweeping 
them up for months later."

Jane twines fairy lights around garlands and ties them to the bannisters and arranges 
holly and mistletoe over pictures and clocks.

As well as Gerald and the children - Katie, 23, Alexander, 15, and Rory, 13 - she 
invites her mother, her brother Peter, his wife Wendy and their 13-year-old daughter 
Victoria, her sister Clare Gillies, husband John and their daughters Helen, 17, and 
Sarah, 19, John's mother and often three or four friends. Sometimes, there are 20 people 
for Christmas dinner.

"It's the one day when we should be welcoming. We always have turkey because we all 
love it, especially pulling the bits off the carcass when it's cold. I'll probably 
cook two medium sized turkeys - they are much easier to cook right through - and we'll 
have roast ham and sprouts with a few chestnuts and bacon thrown in to make them more 

"Jane and Gerald met at a party given by Private Eye and have been married 27 years*, 
but they have been careful to keep their children out of the limelight. "If you're in 
this sort of business you have to keep a balance. We made a conscious decision to work 
in two different areas of showbusiness, but the children didn't."
(*Jane and Gerald met in 1971 - 26 years earlier than the publication of this article. 
Jane has not revealed their marriage date, but they couldn't have been married 27 years 
as of 1997.)

While not the least bit secretive, Jane has a natural British reserve about her private 
life and deftly fends off the inevitable questions about her highly publicised romance 
and engagement to Beatle Paul McCartney.

"I don't like people talking about their love lives. It's tempting but it's dangerous. 
It was a minute amount of time in my life. Having had a long, happy marriage, it's 
insulting to Gerald to talk about old boyfriends."

Although she doesn't think of it as a sacrifice, Jane deliberately tailored her career 
around her family. She thinks of herself as an actress first and foremost - she's been 
doing it since she was five - but when the children came along she developed her 
cake-making into an art form, because it was something she could do at home.

She has written 13 books on cake-making, decoration and entertaining and last year 
published her first novel, The Longing, about a couple whose neat middle-class lives 
are shaken by their inability to have a child. Her second novel is due to be delivered 
by Christmas - the thought of which sends Jane into a mild panic.

"Oh don't! I will have finished it by the end of December. I will. I will. I will," she 
tells herself firmly. "The basic theme is revenge. It's about a woman who discovers 
that her husband has had another life for 20 yeas and has a mistress and a child."

Neither of her books are in any way autobiographical, but Jane had talked to people 
who have been in similar situations. "I started with the ending and had to find a way 
working up to it. Writing novels puts me into state of fear and panic, although I love 
having achieved it."

Next year will see her back on stage at London's Gielgud Theatre in a new Alan Ayckbourn 
play called Things We Do For Love. She plays a single woman whose ordered, tidy life 
is suddenly blasted by passion. "It's about the extraordiary effect that an unexpected 
passion can have."

It's a chance to get back to what she loves best, although she would never encourage 
her children to take to the boards. "I wouldn't like my daughter to be an actress because 
there are so many out of work at any one time. All that auditioning and rejection is 
humiliating, hanging about being told you are too fat or too thin or too boring. I 
would rather they did something that guaranteed them work."

Katie has already got a BA degree in philosophy and sociology, is doing an MA in 
English Literature and doesn't seem destined for the stage. The boys are still at school 
and Alexander is already a talented artist.

Jane has clearly excelled as both a mother and a wife. So what's her recipe for a 
successful marriage? "We do have a similar sense of humour," she says. "It's a combination 
of all sorts of things. You just have to be grateful that things work."



Pictures and information from Lady Jane group at yahoo!

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