Michael Rosen is a journalist’s dream. You ask him the briefest of questions and he’s off, reeling off half a dozen memories and funny stories for each one, giving you enough material to fill several features, nevermind one.

We start off in Harrow, where the children’s author and poet and former Children’s Laureate was born and grew up.

“I was born just behind Harrow on the Hill station, in Roxborough Park,” says the 67-year-old, “in a nursing home, as they used to be known, called The Firs, and then spent the first 17 years of my life living in Love Lane in Pinner, above what used to be Norman & Buxby estate agents and then became Babette Baby Clothes.”

Listening to him talk, you’re struck by just how much detail Michael remembers from his childhood 50, 60 years ago – details about his nursery, Tyneholme in Wealdstone, and primary schools, Pinner Wood and West Lodge; arts and writing competitions he took part in at Harrow Weald County Grammar School, and some of the teachers there; go-karting and breaking his teeth in Pinner Memorial Park.

“It’s all still very clear to me,” he says. “There are loads and loads of poems about Pinner and growing up there in my books, like Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here and You Wait Till I’m Older Than You.

“There’s one about Pinner station, about waiting for my mum to come back from teaching at Harvey Road Primary School in Croxley Green.

"I used to come out of school and there was this little gap between the time school ended and the time she got back, so I used to wait at the station. I used to sit there and talk to the lady in the sweetie booth and she’d sometimes give me a quick Mars bar or something. And then my mum would come back on the ten to five train, she was always on that train.”

It was while Michael was a pupil at Harrow Weald County Grammar School that he first began writing stories and poems, when he was 14.

“It was a very liberal school in the sense that they were very keen on drama and writing,” Michael remembers. “They had a lovely reading and poetry competition they used to do every year, and there was a lot of art and music going on. I doubt whether any grammar school at the time had quite as much of this kind of thing going on.”

One teacher in particular stands out in Michael’s memory (although, of course, he remembers most of them) – drama teacher Barry Brown.

“He was a breath of fresh air, he was quite young and outgoing, and he got me acting in the local drama groups, the Pinner and Hatch End Players. He got me coming on as the Prince of Morocco’s assistant in The Merchant of Venice. I had a little fan I had to fan the prince with, I loved that.”

Michael left the college just before sixth form because his family moved to Rickmansworth Road in Northwood and he transferred to Watford Grammar School for Boys, which he attended for two years.

Michael loved English and writing, but went to Middlesex Hospital Medical School to study to be a doctor, after being instilled with a love of biology and zoology by his science teacher at Harrow Weald, Miss Pope. But he quickly realised he ‘wasn’t very good at it’ and ended up going to Oxford to study English instead.

Firmly back on the artistic side of things, Michael says he didn’t originally intend to write for children.

“I was writing poems that I thought were poems about my childhood but for adults,” he says, “but then I found out that people didn’t really want to publish those, they thought they were naïve, I don’t know.

"But a couple of people suggested that I should try children’s publishers and, through a combination of friends and family, we found a publisher who was interested. I was a bit amazed really.

“So I put together this group of poems, Mind Your Own Business, illustrated by Quentin Blake, and they came out in 1974, and suddenly the children’s book world welcomed me in and said ‘Ooh look, lovely new poems about modern children’. That was what started it – the fact that people were so enthusiastic.”

Since then Michael has written getting on for 150 books, and has also been writing articles for newspapers and magazines, talking and performing at schools, libraries, theatres, making radio and TV documentaries mainly about words, language and books, and teaching and running workshops.

“This is the dream – no, beyond the dream job,” he laughs. “I’m a kind of one-man talkie show, I do a mixture of poems and anecdotes, I can ad lib, I can improvise. If I could have imagined myself, at 15, doing this in 50 years’ time, I would have said ‘How would I get from here to there because that’s a dream?’”

It does sound like the stuff of dreams but Michael is keen to show children that language can open the same sorts of doors for them.

“I notice that many young children at school have the notion that language is something that they have to ‘get right’ and you have to learn how to make it right – so, as a child, you’re almost always in the position of being ‘wrong’.

“But the wonderful thing about poetry is that you don’t have to worry about that. You can find voices, another poem, and swap things round, like parody – think of Lewis Caroll and Edward Lear – and you can find phrases and repeat them.

"When you show children that language is yours and yours to play with, it gives them a different attitude to this thing called language. It gives them a strength and power for themselves – you discover that language is yours.”

  • Lifelines with Michael Rosen takes place at Burgh House, New End Square, Hampstead on Thursday, October 10 at 7pm. Details: 020 7431 0144, burghhouse.org.uk