If her screen persona is anything to go by, Samantha Bond seems to be one of those eminently practical women who always manage to keep their emotions entirely in check.

Witness her forbidding portrayal of Miss Moneypenny, a PA for the new millennium in four Bond films, and it is clear that 007 can no longer rely on a doting secretary on the MI5 payroll. For beneath her bristling, sensible facade and cut-glass vowels, it's clear that here is a woman still distressed by the death of her mother, Pat Sandys, from bowel cancer nearly ten years ago. 'I don't miss Mum any less than I did when she first died.

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My father Philip was an actor and appeared in everything from The Onedin Line to Hedda Gabler with Dame Diana Rigg.

'As a child, I always remember our home, which was a flat just on the Barnes side of Hammersmith Bridge in London, buzzing with actors such as Patrick Mc Gee and Peter Bowles.

'It transpired that Mum had a series of polyps round the bowel, some benign and some malignant. I was the middle child, but we protected each other. 'I remember going up to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on the day of the operation where the play was running and telling Maggie and the company manager.

An understudy was prepared to take over from me, but somehow the show went on.' Initial surgery at the London Hospital was successful and there followed four years in which Pat enjoyed good health.

'In the letter, Mum told me that she had been offered six months of chemotherapy but did not know if she wanted to do that as she was not sure what difference it would make.

'I jumped in the car and drove to Putney where we had a strong cup of coffee and a long chat.When the cancer returned, and not wishing to worry her daughter, Pat wrote Samantha a letter explaining what had happened.'I was appearing in Memory Of Water in the West End, playing a middle child whose mother died.There are different forms of hereditary cancer and in Pat's case it seems she had developed a form called MYH-associated polyposis (MAP).Dr Fairclough explains that MAP is inherited cancer which causes multiple polyps to form in the colon.'It was all quite matter-of-fact but I knew what she was saying.