I like people better than animals. I know lots of people would put that the other way round, but I don't think, if push really came to shove, many would take that to its logical conclusion. Some dogs are nicer than some people; I'd have to agree. But most people are fine, and many are really lovely.

Lots of dogs and cats have lived with us as pets over the years, until we found that growing older was too unkind. A dog needs a good walk twice a day, which may be good for the sedentary writer, but can be an awful bore as you age and find you simply can't manage enough exercise to make your pet happy. And when we had to move house, I decided I couldn't face even coping with a cat any more.

Dr Elizabeth Mapstone

Dr Elizabeth Mapstone

I am now eighty, and tend to spend my time reading, writing, and pottering in the garden, as well as seeing family and friends as often as I can - the nicest way to spend old age.

I really like writing – always have. I started out as a journalist on The Montreal Star in 1957 (they fired me in late 1959 for being pregnant!) and worked freelance until I returned to England after ten years, complete with three children and a determination to discard my then husband and be independent. We ended up in Brussels, before finally moving to Cornwall in 1975 where I met my late husband and lived for forty years.

A complicated life followed in fact, very difficult to summarise. Where are the years as a mature student in Oxford, for instance? And my years as Founding Editor of The Psychologist? During those years we spent term times in Oxford, but always kept our Cornish home until we both became old and increasingly decrepit, and our house and garden had to be handed over to another romantic who loved the isolation and peace.

My husband (Dr John Tyerman Williams) was an astonishing man. He was 16 years older than me, and had always felt short-changed by his brief time in Oxford at the beginning of the war, and he too came up, to read for a doctorate. He turned out to be super-brilliant, and while I plodded on, he was given dining rights at High Table in Balliol, and wrote several very funny, very clever books, including “Pooh and the Philosophers” - now out of print but well worth looking out for!

I love music, though not as a performer. I have never felt good enough. But it felt right for my key heroine (in The Porcupine's Dilemma) to be a piano player – and for her to have learned to play despite her father's disapproval. Parents can be so crucial in those early years, and I did try very hard to listen to my own children's dreams as they grew up.

My son is super-brilliant, and was accepted at Cambridge to read science at the age of 15. He is no entrepreneur, and hated being expected to sell anything. Fortunately, he has a demanding job writing super-clever programmes which only a handful of people understand for Diamond in Oxford, and a lovely lady friend of 20 years who keeps him anchored to everyday life.

My elder daughter teaches and judges horse riding, an astonishing thing to me as I find horses secretly terrifying!

My baby daughter (who has three grown-up children of her own) is the only child I produced whose current occupation I understand. She now works as a psychotherapist, though it took her a while to realize she could. Amazing really how things can work out.

The Porcupine’s Dilemma by Elizabeth Mapstone is out now.