This guy bounced in wearing a brown leather safari jacket and black mohair jumper. He announced himself as Phil Taylor and said he was our new English teacher

11th February 2005 at 00:00
Without Phil Taylor I wouldn't have stayed at Woolverstone Hall in Suffolk.

It was a real Jennings, Winker Watson-style school in the most beautiful setting on the River Orwell. By a strange quirk it was owned by the Inner London Education Authority, so it was a fee-paying comprehensive. In the 1980s, when the class police asked me where I went to school, I could say comprehensive, but it was a traditional English boys' boarding school.

I wasn't doing very well at Hassenbrook comprehensive, my local school in Stanford Le Hope, Essex, so my mum decided I should apply for Woolverstone in my second year. There were scholarships for underprivileged kids and I got in because Mum was a single parent and I had cousins there. I wasn't prepared for the severe effect of emotional separation; I was homesick and miserable. I didn't belong or respond to this totally male environment. I cried myself to sleep every night, periodically bursting into tears during the day. Most of the teachers were dry, crusty old men with suits and ties; even the art teacher wore a tie. Many of them were bullies who sided with the sporty and brainy lads. Being a fat kid, I got picked on by several teachers, as well as boys.

At my first English lesson, this vivacious, lanky guy bounced into the room wearing a brown leather safari jacket and a black mohair jumper, with a feathered hair cut and a beard. He looked like a rock star. He announced himself as Phil Taylor and said he would be our new English teacher. He insisted we call him Phil, which was unusual in those days, especially at a place like Woolverstone.

He started by getting us to write a poem about anything we wanted. I wrote this fake epic poem called "Kenny's Coracle", about a Celt building a coracle and sailing around. He wouldn't shut up about my poem; he made me read it in front of the class. Everyone was treated the same. The cool kids and the workers wanted to impress him. It was a no-lose situation. He could even pull the quiet boys out of themselves. I thought he was amazing. If a teacher treats you as an equal, you want to work for them. Everyone's creative writing exploded. It was two-way traffic with his thoughts and our ideas. We all got great reports from Phil.

One Sunday night - I think my mum must have spoken to him - he took me into his study and sat me down and made me tea. He asked me how I felt and what it was like being here and chatted to me as an equal. To a 12-year-old it was a revelation.

That first term, attending Phil's lessons was like being at school in Narnia, a fantasy land. Then he reined everything in a bit, and got less friendly. I think he was pulled into line by the head and the governors.

All the grades dipped, too. Nevertheless, he was the first person to respond to the show-off in me and I was always in plays for him. He totally inspired me.

I saw a photo of Phil in a paper a few years ago with an article about him teaching English in Blackpool. He's probably in his mid-50s, but he looked exactly the same. I wrote a letter to him, just thanking him, and he replied, but I haven't got his address now. I've been on tour up north and I'm sure I've been near where he is. I'd love to take him out to dinner. He was everything a teacher should be; he put a human face on what for me was an isolating experience. Often teachers deal in one-way information streams, pumping knowledge in and then testing what's been absorbed. With Phil, we'd talk and he'd listen. I never had a teacher who listened to me as much as he did.

I hated boarding school so much that I left after I got five O-levels. I wasn't expected to get any. I went to Palmers college and I did some more O-levels. I just wanted to have an enjoyable time at a school with girls in it.

Comedian and broadcaster Phill Jupitus was talking to Judy Parkinson

The story so far

1962 Born Newport, Isle of Wight

1967-77 Attends Horndon-on-the-Hill primary, Stanford Le Hope, Essex; Stanford Le Hope junior school; Hassenbrook comprehensive, Stanford Le Hope; Woolverstone Hall, Ipswich, Suffolk

1977 Palmers college, Grays, Essex

1984 Performs punk poetry, supporting the Style Council and the Housemartins

1994 Voted Time Out's Comic of The Year

1996-present Team captain on BBC2's Never Mind The Buzzcocks

2002-present Hosts breakfast show on BBC Radio's 6 Music channel

2004 Celebrity advocate for Dad's Army on Britain's Best Sitcom for the BBC January 2005 Sixteenth series of Never Mind the Buzzcocks

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