Fay Weldon has experienced the afterlife twice during near-death experiences while under general anaesthetic, she has claimed.

The 81-year-old author has converted to Christianity after 70 years living as an atheist.

In an interview in June's issue of The Oldie magazine, Weldon said life after death seemed much like normal life.

Speaking about her near-death experiences, both of which took place while in hospital following heart problems, Weldon said: "In one I saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and there was certainly an extraordinary sense of warmth, communality and progress.

"The other time I saw pearly gates in garish Hindu-temple colours. They were double glazed and when they were pushed back I got a rather convincing glimpse of the other side ... It was just more of the same - hard work, two steps forward, one step back."

Speaking about the aging process, Weldon said our society "behaves as if we're going to stay young and live forever".

She said: "We ignore the fact that we are temporary. I'm long past my three score years and ten, which I reckon is probably all one can adequately deal with."

However, Weldon, who now lives with her third husband in Dorset, said there are certain advantages to getting older, such as being able to speak at length at parties: "Once upon a time you'd go away thinking, 'Oh my God, did I make any sense?'

"Nowadays you know it doesn't make sense, but it doesn't matter. I don't feel any different but the world looks at you differently."

Fay Weldon
Weldon in 1992 (Reuters)

Weldon also noted that people are too worried about feeling insecure: "I don't think I was ever uncomfortable. I'm always baffled by people trying to find their 'true self' - there isn't one.

"We're a bundle of opinions and experiences which add up to a person recognisable to others, and that's all you can hope for."

Asked if she has become wiser with age, Weldon said: "Yes, if only because you know what's going to happen next in as much as something like it has happened before. Some people think it makes you cynical, but you're not."

The author also explained that she thinks more about death now that she is older: "Yes! Roll on. I don't fear it but I know what it is to fear it - my mother did. I was with her when she died aged 94.

"She was too brave to say anything but we knew from her expression that she was frightened of the unknown."

In terms of how Britain has changed during her lifetime, the author said there is no longer a feeling of "hope and change" with people "working together to survive".

Instead, she gave a more negative outlook of the country