Sister Agatha was last sighted running down the road with her hair flying...

Pamela Coleman

..., wearing white stilettos

I spent all my school life at St Francis' college, Letchworth, where I was a day girl. I remember my schooldays as happy, but my 12-year-old daughter was recently reading my old diaries and tells me I had written how much I hated school. I remember that the workload was great and I was very conscientious, working fantastically hard. I didn't like being told off so was hideously well behaved. It is a matter of embarrassment to me that I never got a detention or a conduct mark.

Most of the teachers were nuns so it was very refreshing when I got to O-levels to have a lay English teacher who dressed rather sexily. Mrs Cherry had hennaed hair and a gravelly, smoky voice, and we could see her legs under her gown. She was of the school of thought that I came across later at university: that books are fine, but are a means of making you think. But the most illuminating thing I remember her saying was that we'd know when we were really in love with a man because we wouldn't mind sharing his toothbrush.

Another teacher I remember well is Sister Christophane, who taught biology. She was completely batty. She would spend most of the lesson feeding her stick insects, saying to them in a shrill voice: "This is for youI and this is for you." She made us cut up frogs and things, which I loathed, and took us on nature walks, and would wax lyrical about cow parsley. I liked her scatty approach to life, being quite light-hearted myself. Sadly, she fell off a bus and died shortly after I left school.

Sister Agatha, who was Irish, taught Latin, and was a bit of a rebel. I found Latin boring, but she managed to make me interested in the readings of Cicero and helped me to understand the logic of the language. One day when I turned up for a lesson, she wasn't there. She had been last sighted running down the road outside the convent with her hair flying and wearing white stilettos, never to be seen again.

Miss Wilson, the maths mistress, was a tiny lady who shouted a lot. I never enjoyed maths. I found the subject difficult and I don't think her method of teaching was helpful.

But Mrs English, who taught French, was delightful. She was gentle and interested in us and in our lives, and had a relaxed way of teaching. She inspired me and made me enjoy speaking the language. I liked working on pronunciation and enunciation. I thought I'd probably become a French teacher myself. English and French were my best subjects.

I went to Warwick University to read French and European literature, planning to teach, and as a part of the course was sent to France to work as an assistante for a year. My placement was at a lycee in Juan-les-Pins in the south of France, where I taught senior children conversational English. I only had to work eight or nine hours a week, but I was hopeless and soon learned that I could never be a teacher.

My big mistake was to say: "Call me Jennie, not Mademoiselle Bond." From then on, I had no authority and the students played me up terribly. They used to take cigarettes out of my handbag, and one of the boys would ride round the room on his bicycle. One day, I was hauled in front of the headmaster for talking to the students about Jimi Hendrix and the drug scene in England. I wasn't fired, but it was close.

When a couple of my friends went into journalism, I thought it seemed like fun, and I got a job as a cub reporter on the Richmond Herald. I had no idea I would end up as the BBC's royal correspondent. I wasn't particularly interested in the royal family as a girl. My family had a middle-class respect for the monarchy, but life didn't stop for the Queen's Christmas message.

BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond was talking to Pamela Coleman

The story so far

1950 Born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire

1955-68 St Francis' college, Letchworth

1968-72 University of Warwick

1972 First job as a cub reporter on the Richmond Herald

1975 Reporter, Evening Mail, Uxbridge, Slough and Hounslow

1977 Joins BBCradio as a sub-editor

1988-89 BBC television news reporter

1988-91 Presenter, Today, Radio 4

1989 Appointed BBCroyal correspondent

2001 Publication of Reporting Royalty

2002 Publication of Elizabeth, 50 Glorious Years, to celebrate golden jubilee

December 16-20, 2002 Five-part television series The Royal Year with Jennie Bond, BBC1, 2.10pm

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Pamela Coleman

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