My Secret Life: Shirley Hughes, 85, author and illustrator

'Life is unfailingly interesting'

My parents were… My dad was TJ Hughes, who owned a department store of the same name in Liverpool; my mum met him when he was serving in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War.

The household I grew up in… After my dad's early death, my mum brought me and my two older sisters up, so we were an all-female household.

When I was a child I wanted to be… an illustrator, though I never dreamt I could be one professionally.

If I could change one thing about myself… it would be not to worry about things unnecessarily.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… dress-making; I make a lot of my own clothes.

At night I dream of… trying to find my way home in some hostile, crowded place. It's absolutely horrible.

I wish I had never worn… mini-skirts.

What I see when I look in the mirror… An arty old lady.

My favourite item of clothing… Hats. I have a collection of large-brimmed hats.

It's not fashionable but I like… trifle. We have it on Boxing Day. It should be fashionable. It's delicious.

I drive/ride… Nothing. I walk everywhere or take a bus or cab.

My house is… the same house in Notting Hill which I have lived in since 1954. It's full of so many memories and so much stuff that I don't know what to do with.

My favourite work of art… Rembrandt's etching, Christ Presented to the People, first version, before he wiped off the crowd of onlookers. It's in the British Museum.

My favourite building… The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. It's full of paintings I love looking at and I like the way it commands the Square.

A book that changed me… Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, because it opened my eyes and gave me the confidence to look at art.

Movie heaven… Some Like It Hot: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

My greatest regret… I don't go in for them… like Edith Piaf.

My secret crush… Jon Hamm in Mad Men. Those sharp suits, my God. Thrilling.

My real-life villains… Person or persons who a) try to make a less confident person look silly, or b) don't bother to clear up their dog's mess.

The person who really makes me laugh… My grandchildren.

My five-year plan… To do lots more stuff in my sketch book, weather permitting.

What's the point? To be a better human being.

My life in six words… Unfailingly interesting, inspired by family life.

A life in brief

Shirley Hughes was born in the Wirral in 1927. She studied at Liverpool Art School and the Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford. She married John Vulliamy, an architect, and worked as a freelance illustrator before writing and designing her own books. She has published more than 60 titles, including Dogger and the 'Alfie' series. She has three children: Ed Vulliamy, a journalist, Tom, a scientist, and Clara, an illustrator. Her book, Alfie's Shop, is one of eight £1 titles released for World Book Day on Thursday

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