Area of high pressure

10th October 1997 at 01:00
MICHAEL FISH TALKS TO PAMELA COLEMAN I was a day boy at Eastbourne College and before that at Ascham, the college's preparatory school. I had to be at school from eight in the morning until nine in the evening, six days a week and had to go in twice on Sundays. I had all the advantages of being a boarder. I was able to join in activities like debating and so forth. The only thing I missed out on was being around to take regular 6am readings for the meteorological society. But I had my own little weather station in the garden at home.

Rivers Currie, a tall, hairy Scotsman who sometimes wore a kilt, taught geography at Ascham. Probably because he was such a good teacher, it became my favourite subject. He made lessons interesting by bringing in props and he was friendly, outgoing and enthusiastic. I looked forward to his classes. I suppose weather and the climate must have been part of the syllabus, but not meteorology as I know it.

Rivers Currie was less strict than some of the masters, who frightened the life out of me. In the senior school particularly, some were absolute terrors. As a result I failed certain subjects with distinction when it came to O-level and A-level. Caning was quite routine in both the junior and the senior schools. I got caned; everybody did. It's something I think should be reintroduced in schools. Then perhaps we wouldn't have the discipline and truancy problems we've got now.

At Eastbourne College, the teacher I remember best is Donald Perrins, the physics master. He was ex-RAF and was head of the RAF section of the school's Combined Cadet Force, of which I was a member. He was dark-haired, of medium build and clean-shaven.

Donald Perrins managed to keep discipline firmly but pleasantly without having to resort to the gym shoe or the cane or the flying board duster. He, too, was enthusiastic about his subject and had a way of putting things across so you remembered them.

I was interested in science and needed good A-levels in maths, physics and chemistry in order to get into university and join the Met Office which had become my goal in my early teens. I wanted to be an ordinary meteorologist and research scientist.

There were TV weather presenters in those days, but I had no plans at all to become one. I am a reluctant TV personality; I consider myself to be a civil servant. Eastbourne College has produced several illustrious old boys - Sir Hugh Casson, for example - much better-known than I am.

Donald Perrins was an inspirational teacher and without him I wouldn't have got the good A-level grades I needed to progress further. I was a keen student as far as maths and science were concerned because they were a means to an end. I didn't do very well at all really in arts subjects in which I had little interest, though I have a reasonable knowledge of French and got O-level English language. I studied physics at City University.

The only time I touched on meteorology at school was in CCF exercises when it was part of the background training, along with navigation, physics of flight and that sort of thing. I participated in a number of CCF field days and I vividly remember once flying an RAF Chipmunk and being the only one to try to loop the loop.

I bumped into Rivers Currie not long ago and I still hear of Donald Perrins because I became friendly with his daughter and her husband through my wife, Susan. He has retired now. Many of my former teachers have retired - I left Eastbourne 30 years ago - but some are still teaching. I have kept in touch with several because until recently I was heavily involved in the old boys' association. For many years I organised annual dinner dance reunions. I still keep in touch with my old prep school too, which was sold and amalgamated with another school and is known now as St Andrews.

Looking back, however, I think my school days were the worst, not the best, days of my life, so many memories have been shelved. In term time there wasn't time for anything else apart from school. We weren't allowed even to look at girls - being caught looking at or, even worse, touching a member of the opposite sex was considered a reason for a beating. One of the advantages of being a day boy was that one had more opportunities to meet girls.

Things have changed now. The school has gone co-educational. I don't approve, not because I think Eastbourne College should stay an all-boys' school, but because this takes away the cream from girls' schools.

I was an only child and I think being at a single-sex school meant that I got on with my studies because there were few distractions. We had a school uniform - a green sports jacket if I remember rightly - were l00 per cent disciplined and worked hard. We had fun, but not to extremes. We played cricket, rugby and hockey, though I was never in the premier teams.

Eastbourne College gave me a good education, confidence, an ability to speak in public and write well, several lifelong friends - and an old-boy network that is extremely useful on occasion.

Michael Fish, 53, began as a BBC weatherman on radio in 1971 and joined the television team in January 1974. Ten years ago he achieved notoriety for predicting there would be "no hurricanes" on the eve of the great storms that swept Britain on October 13

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