My Secret Life: Julia Donaldson, writer, 60

'I never forgave the teacher who made me stand in the corner. I hate it when children are humiliated'
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The Independent Online

My parents were ... understanding and supportive. My father was wheelchair-bound through polio but that didn't stop him playing cello and driving right across London to work. My mother loved singing and was good at languages.

The house/flat I grew up in ... was a tall Victorian house near Hampstead Heath, which we shared with my granny, aunt and uncle.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... Aged five, it was a poet, but a few years later on I became stage-struck.

If I could change one thing about myself ... it would be my poor hearing. I hate it when I miss jokes in a film or at the theatre.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... identifying wildflowers (and not bad at fungi either).

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... any kind of sport, or remembering how to get the petrol cap off the car.

At night I dream of ... having to go onstage and act in a play which I have never rehearsed. I do occasionally have lovely dreams about flying, or rather bouncing about weightlessly as if on the moon.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... I only ever do so very sneakily, creeping up on it sideways, as I prefer to live with my illusions. I sometimes wish mirrors had never been invented and that we just had ponds.

My favourite item of clothing ... is my purple woolly 'Gruffalo jacket' which I bought in Orkney.

I drive ... a Peugeot 406 estate, usually loaded up with props and books.

My house is ... solid and Victorian, full of nooks and cupboards.

My favourite work of art ... Alfred Sisley's 'Les Petits Prés au printemps' ('The Small Meadows in Spring') in the National Gallery. I love the blue sky and dress and the atmosphere of budding spring.

My favourite building ... is Grittleton House in Wiltshire, where I spent childhood holidays exploring secret passages and staircases.

A book that changed me ... 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding shook me out of my cosy childhood.

Movie heaven ... Going to the Glasgow Film Theatre with my husband to watch a slow-moving French film.

The last album I bought ... Chopin and Rachmaninov cello sonatas played by Natalie Clein.

My secret crush ... Roger Federer, though I've slightly gone off him since he started parading his own designer clothes all the time.

My greatest regret ... I don't go in for regrets, feeling that if you removed one brick lots of others would tumble down with it (though, talking of bricks, I do sometimes regret the invention of concrete).

My real-life villain ... I've never forgiven the teacher who made me stand in the corner. I hate it when adults humiliate children.

The person who really makes me laugh ... My son Alastair when he does his impression of a posh person looking exaggeratedly surprised.

The last time I cried ... I shed a few tears once or twice a week, but my last major cry was in the summer when my cat Gizmo died.

My five-year plan ... For my husband to take early retirement and travel round with me putting on children's shows. What's the point? Friends, love, animals, trees, hills, rivers, music, books, laughter.

My life in six words ... Despite sadness I feel very fulfilled.

A life in brief

Julia Donaldson is a children's author who started off as a busker and went on to write songs for children's television and to record two CDs of 'grown-up' songs, 'First Fourteen' and 'Second Fourteen'. She lives in Glasgow with her husband Malcolm. An animation based on her book 'The Gruffalo' will be shown on BBC1 on Christmas Day, and the stage show of 'The Gruffalo' is on at the Apollo, London W1, until 17 January 2010.