My school days already revealed an active imagination. Neither primary tuition in German, nor French in Geneva, could curb it. I used to skip to school and eagerly soak up the lessons on which my creativity could feed. I was useless at maths. I collected funny-sounding words and told tall stories to my friends.

Barbara Kastelin

Barbara Kastelin

Being twenty in the mid-sixties saw me with a ponytail and a big hoop petticoat under my favourite gingham skirt which I swung about me. I tried to wear it every day, liking the way I looked. It felt ‘hip’ to know that Petula Clark’s new song was Downtown, and to have seen Fiddler on the Roof.

Getting married to love at first sight. He stood in the corridor of a language school, unable to bring himself to invite me for coffee, and around him was the aura of a young man who, I instinctively knew, would play an important part in my life - 42 years so far.

Being a mother, I believe, is to treat your children as equals from the word go. Apart from sympathising and guiding constructively, loyalty should be a mother’s prime duty. My two daughters also got the bonus of relentless creativity, invention and entertainment. Little did I adhere to the text when reading bedtime stories. 

My ancestors fascinate me. They never smile in their photos. I was told facts about them but have always felt the need to invent their feelings and desires. I am sorry not to be able to find out whether my guesses are right.

Reading is partly a tactile experience - turning pages. I treat the hundreds of books on my shelves like talking pets. They stand in rows, with Goethe, Dostoyevsky and Maupassant on the high shelves, and contemporary novelists at easy reach. How many adventures they tell me, how much pleasure they make me privy to!

Writing books. I used to write what I thought were noteworthy happenings in my diary. My mother once said, “You cannot even come back from posting a letter without an adventure to recount.” (Perhaps those who do not believe in magic are not allowed to enjoy it.) Now, I write short stories and novels, and my favourite word is splendid. How can one stay uninvolved when pronouncing this word?

My happiest places are two, because I was born under the sign of Gemini. I quiver with pleasure when I am in the centre of London on a sunny day, just as I do when, arms folded behind my head, I recline in a flower-studded alpine meadow and listen to the fir trees whooshing in the wind.

Finally, I have to admit that I like cheese, soft, with crusty bread and red Bordeaux.