Dame Judi Dench has spoken about domestic bliss with partner David Mills and their menagerie of guinea pigs, ducks, cats and dogs. Oh, and an invincible fish.

The 78-year-old Oscar-winner, who can soon be seen in Philomena with Steve Coogan, began dating 70-year-old wildlife park owner Mills three years ago and she told Woman & Home magazine about the dramatic effect that the conservationist has had on her life.

“It’s great to meet someone who shares your sense of humour and interests,” says Dench, whose husband, actor Michael Williams, died in 2001. “I haven’t really talked about him, but it’s jolly nice to have someone to laugh with. He draws and paints beautifully, so that’s lovely. I love to paint, but my eyesight’s not good.

“People do read scripts to me, but I’ve always loved someone to tell me the story of something rather than read it myself. It captures the imagination in a way reading the script wouldn’t, like a child being told a story.”

She also spoke about their shared love of animals. “We’ve always had lots of animals at home,” she says. “At one point, during the war, we had 17 cats.

At the moment, we have two guinea pigs, a lot of ducks, three cats, a dog, and my invincible fish, Lazarus. It’s died twice and I’ve brought it back to life by blowing into its mouth. It’s like a shark now, huge.”