Pauline McLeod- Sainsburys, September 2002/ Issue 113

I have an incredible fitness trainer called Craig Dilnot who also lives in Surrey. A month before I start filming a drama I will explain to him what the demands are going to be and we work out a fitness programme. Filming often means a six day week for two months or so, getting up at the very latest at 5.30am and not getting home until 8.30pm.

In my latest series, Wire in the Blood, I play a clinical psychologist, and when I was doing my research I met with Julian Boone, a clinical psychologist who is based in Oxford and has worked on some of the highest profile cases in the country. He was fascinating. But when I was creating the character, the only thing I stole off Julian was his dress sense: he wears the same coat, indoors and out and never takes it off, which gives you the sense that he is always about to leave.

Four weeks before starting to film, I stopped smoking and boozing completely. And four times a week, for two hours at a stretch, I would work out with Craig at my local gym. I've never understood the full-make-up-and-Lycra lot who use gyms. An old tracksuit so I can sweat, that's what I wear. Craig came out with me to Australia to see me through my fitness regime when I was shooting Blind Ambition two years ago and he's a good mate now. He is fit though and he doesn't mess about when you're training. He hates the chat and he's good for me because he pushes me. I am disciplined but I need someone with me because I don't push myself enough. I get bored and, if I had the choice, I would always rather do something else than work out. My wife, Vanya, is stunningly beautiful and we often work out together. It's great because there is a healthy level of competition between us. In relation to her body mass, she is stronger than me - she can lift the equivalent of her own body weight.

I'm teaching our two-year-old son, Taylor, to swim and I try to swim with him every other day. He's going through the 'terrible twos' right now: he's mischievous and always into things - takes after me. We have a pool at home but we also go to the local swimming baths. He still has water wings but he doesn't like them. He is learning to do the crawl and he has confidence in the water. He ducks under, comes back up and his breathing patterns are there. He is doing fantastically well.

Sometimes Vanya will bring Taylor to the set when I'm filming. He's full-on, and with me also being so busy with work for the foreseeable future, we're not making any plans to add to the family. To have another child on the way during this period would be daft. Anyway, ultimately it's the woman's decision rather than the man's.

There was a time, a while back, when publicity about me was incredibly negative and people were saying very hurtful things that I couldn't ignore. I saw this therapist, an Austrian guy. He was the best. A top man. With his help, I stopped trying to please everybody all of the time, which might sound like a small thing but it is massive - you want to come across as a nice person, to be liked. I didn't know Vanya when this was going on, but as far as emotional and mental support goes, it is now full-on with Vanya. She is an incredible woman, incredible. And gorgeous. She used to be a full-time model, although now she is a full-time mum. In fact, she stopped modelling about 20 years ago. I first met her around 1995 on a professional level, when Jerome Flynn (Soldier, Soldier co-star and some-time singing partner) and I were recording for BMG and she was PA to the label's A & R man, Simon Cow- ell (recently a Pop Idol judge). But we didn't meet on a personal level until quite a few years later.

She is glamorous and I haven't had that in my life before. When I was dating her, I was thinking, 'What's she doing with me?' She is so classy, very subtle in her dress sense. I love buying clothes for her - Selfridges is pretty good, and Harvey Nichols. And I have no problems buying lingerie for her. But forget Agent Provocateur and La Perla. Any shop that doesn't show the price tag in the window, I don't like anyway.

I was in LA last year and the attitude there towards looks is so different to that in the UK. They have no problem with vanity because looking good is just part of the entertainment industry. If you're playing a romantic hero, no one wants a fat slob.

Would I ever consider plastic surgery? No. As long as I keep up my fitness programme, I'll be OK. I have so much nervous energy, I burn fat off easily - I lose weight when I'm filming. I know many actors - I can't mention names! -who have had Botox. But it takes away the creases in the forehead, so if an actor who has had Botox wants to look confused, he can't - his face won't move.

But I care about the way I look and I care about my skin. I swear by the old 1950's method of cleansing. I wash with hot water and I don't use soap but a liquid-based product instead. I let the skin dry naturally and then refresh it with iced water and ice cubes - it's great for the circulation. I use a moisturiser ... er, Clinique. Actually, it's Vanya's. More and more men are taking care of their looks and that's not vanity, it's common sense. I never use cheap shampoos that have a lot of chemicals, only those with natural ingredients.

When I really want to unwind, I go fly fishing. There is something so relaxing about fishing and there is nothing that can match the emotional rewards - from seeing the sun rise to watching it set, noting that every year the swallows appear like clockwork (to the day!) or seeing a barn owl. No chat or interaction with a human being can provide that feeling you get from nature.

There's a huge difference between the taste of wild salmon and farmed salmon because the farmed fish has not been to the Atlantic to grow. That journey they make is amazing, and it's a very romantic notion that they will make their way back to within 10 yards of where they were born. The only way to cook a salmon is to poach it with ginger and a bit of fennel or to grill it with a squeeze of lemon.

I love to cook. I love having people round, doing a Cantonese banquet or a big Japanese feast, Malaysian or Thai. Italian cuisine is the best because of the simplicity of the recipes: pasta with a bit of butter, garlic and basil, I can guzzle bowls of it. Like fishing, cooking is a way of relaxing for me. Though I'm not calm in the kitchen - it's bedlam, absolute bedlam. I was asked to do my own TV cookery show but I couldn't do that, that would be daft.

I swear by sushi. I mean good fresh sushi, not your sandwich-shop type sushi. I can make sushi and sashimi myself now. It is really difficult to do at first but if you persevere, you'll find you suddenly get it and then it's dead easy. All the herbs I use are fresh and I usually get them from Sainsbury's. I love shopping there. The variety and the freshness is wonderful. You can find everything there. I love their fantastic range of exotic fruit: beautifully sweet grenadines, paw paws, strange star fruits... And they have lovely little rides that Taylor can play on. He loves the Postman Pat and Noddy but I do think they should install a Thomas the Tank Engine!

I lived in Newcastle as a kid, and after my parents split up and dad left, I used to do most of the cooking for the family. My mother taught me how to cook the classic Yorkshire pudding - there is a skill to it, getting the fat to the right temperature is vital - and also how to cook game.

My uncle and my father used to go out shooting and bring back ducks and rabbit and pheasant. A pheasant in a plum sauce is divine.

I'm the one who cooks at home. When Vanya and I were first dating, I sent her a note asking her if she wanted to help me prepare a meal. 'I don't cook, Robson,' she said to me, 'I kiss better than I cook.' Oh, God, yes, it's very true.

Wire in the Blood will be shown on ITV in the autumn.