Archie had an amazing technique of teaching with colours. He would show us geometry using chalks of red, yellow, green, blue and purple

1st September 2006 at 01:00
When I was 10 years old, my mother divorced my father and married a man living in Nicosia, Cyprus. My family had been quite poor and for a year after the divorce my mother worked as a seamstress, while I lived in a kibbutz in Israel. I had to move country and change schools, which came as a shock.

When my mother first brought her new husband-to-be to meet me on the kibbutz, he was wearing a strange piece of cloth around his neck. I had never seen a neck tie before. The other children made fun of me because of his appearance, as well as for the fact my mother was wearing lipstick. I had led something of a sheltered life.

It was 1957 and there was no TV in your house unless you were very rich. I believed that as Jews we should avoid looking at the crucifix and avoid churches altogether, almost as if they could do harm. It was a fear that had been instilled in me by my parents, and was wrong of course.

So it was a huge shock to arrive in Cyprus and learn that my stepfather wanted me to attend Terra Santa college. It was the best school on the island but was Catholic, with priests and nuns for teachers.

When I arrived for my first day, I found that the entrance to the school was a huge cross-shaped hole cut out from the garden hedge. I panicked as soon as I saw it and thought, "My God, I am being taken to some kind of hellish prison." There were Christian signs all over the place.

The headmaster, a man called Father Camillo, saw the fear in my eyes and took me to his chamber. He unbuttoned his collar and pulled out a necklace with many different trinkets and charms on it. He had a cross, a St Christopher medallion, a St Mary and then, popping out from behind them all, I saw a tiny Star of David.

I said, "Father Camillo, why are you wearing a Jewish emblem?" He looked at me and said, "Because there's only one God." That answer melted all the fear in me.

I enjoyed my time there, although it was a strict school. I remember Father Bernard would hit us on the back of our knuckles with a ruler if he thought we weren't trying hard enough. But the school had an aura of mystery about it.

It was built on a hill and there were caves around it, which we would sometimes explore. They were dangerous and could go deep in the ground; a child died in them the year before I came. But if we were determined to sneak out and explore, they couldn't stop us.

As a child, I was a great storyteller with a terrific imagination. I would stand on a little podium in the classroom in English lessons and tell stories of astronauts flying through outer space to land on different planets. I loved English, but hated maths, even though my favourite teacher taught us geometry and algebra.

Father Archibald, who we all called Archie, was our geometry teacher. He wasn't harsh like many of the others; he was soft, kind and understanding.

He was a perfectionist, almost Germanic and pedantic in his mannerisms, but he was also a person who listened when you had a problem.

Archie had the most amazing technique of teaching with colours. I am sure his methods were well ahead of his time. He would show us geometry using chalks of different colours: red, yellow, green, blue and purple. Doing it that way made it easier for us to absorb what he was teaching.

Everybody in the school liked Archie. One of the things that impressed me about him was that he was always impeccably dressed, in a suit and tie, like a real Englishman. It always reminded me of when my stepfather had come to visit me on the kibbutz that day.

When I left the school at the age of 17, I went back to Israel to join the paratroopers and did three years of military service. After that I became a male model and started demonstrating my psychic powers to friends.

One day a photographer was so astonished by what I could do that he invited me to demonstrate to a group of friends at his home. That was when I realised I could entertain people with it.

Years later, I was sent some letters from a nun who had taught at the school. She had passed away, but not before giving her neighbour a file with all kinds of letters and brochures from the school. Inside was a letter she had written to the News of the World in 1972, saying she remembered me at school bending spoons and moving the hands of the clocks on the walls. That was a nice validation for me.

Uri Geller was talking to Mark Anstead

The story so far

1946 Born in Tel Aviv

1952 Attends primary school in Tel Aviv

1956 Educated for one year in a kibbutz

1957 Attends Terra Santa college, Cyprus

1964 Leaves to join the Israeli army

1971 Career takes off after an endorsement from Israeli Prime Minster Golda Meir on radio

1973 Fails to perform on the Johnny Carson show when presented with spoons pre-selected by magicians

1974-79 Carries on building his reputation amid controversy and challenges

1983 Settles in Berkshire, England, to write books and newspaper columns and support political causes. Continues forging friendships with celebrities

1980s and 1990s Builds a self-help motivational seminar business

1998 Magician David Blaine's success ignites new media interest in Geller

2001 Renews his marital vows with his wife Hannah at his home, with Michael Jackson as best man

2002-06 Continues with media appearances, charity work and motivational speaking

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