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1. I am a consummate underachiever.

2. Because they said I was destined for Oxford, the stage and a villa in Ramatuelle.

3. The headmaster at Reigate Priory Middle School, however, considered me a malign influence and said I would come to nothing.

4. Ole Pricey’s prediction was most probably based on his low opinion of my parents, left-wing hedonists in a right-wing mock Tudor toytown.

5. For this was the homeland of The Monday Club.

6. And my dad canvassed for the Labour party. 

7. He usually took me with him.

8. My family’s communal living arrangements - with another couple and their son in a house bought at auction – went down in town like a rat sandwich.

9. My folks couldn’t give a monkey’s about this…..

10. That I was allowed to pass the 11+ as a borderliner was probably a conspiracy between the authorities to get me out of the school, rather than stay on a year for the secondary modern.

11. I have three sisters.

12. I was the wrong sister.

13. Evidentally.

14. I was sent out of town, to Dorking Grammar School. Which swiftly went comprehensive.

15. Probably because of my malign influence.

16. I wanted to be an actress but missed the auditions for every single school play because we were always on holiday during term time.

17. I did do amateur dramatics after school and belonged to the Thorndike Young Stagers. I should have been doing my homework.

18. The vast Head of Drama at Ashcombe (as it became known) Mrs Tyrrell did recognise a sort of talent though, and recommended I try for the National Youth Theatre.

19. I failed.

20. Wasn’t Arnold Wesker’s fault.

21. My English teacher told my parents that she had no idea that my intention was to read English at university and, moreover, couldn’t ever invisage that happening.

22. I recently found an old school book with an essay called About Me written for a homework assignment. There were five pages of carefully crafted nuance, with correct grammar and form throughout, sophisticated and neat beyond my fifteen years.

23. She had written underneath in red:

Couldn’t possibly mark this – too personal.

24. There was one subject in which I was allowed to excel and out of the entire year of six classes, only three of us got an A. Me, Jimmy Ford (sorry James, for never replying to your kind Friends ReU email – I’m a rubbish joiner-in-er) and Evan Davis.

25. The subject was Economics.

26. I also got an A for English Literature.

27. Which was nice.

28. Fast forward thirty years and I live with Jon. He did get into the NYT.

29. We gave birth to three kids and a bookshop.

30. So I am an expert on nits.

31. Now I teach swimming for a living because the shop can’t support me.

32. So much for the Economics O level.

33. I never went to university, let alone Oxford.

34. I never owned a villa in Ramatuelle (though I did stay in a caravan just outside St Tropez).

35. Ole Pricey must have had a crystal ball. As well as a slap head.


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