Miss Baveystock by Lisa Faulkner

19th September 2014 at 01:00
When the actor was a teenager struggling to cope with her mother's cancer, this religious studies teacher showed her the solace of a broader perspective

Miss Baveystock opened my mind to religion, ethics and the world around me. She taught me religious studies between the ages of 14 and 16, which was a difficult time as my mum was very ill. She died of cancer shortly after I started in the sixth form.

Even in the late 1980s, the Tiffin Girls' School in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, was a fairly strict place and the teachers were old. Miss Baveystock was a breath of fresh air. She was about 24, a bit of a hippy with curly hair who wore jangly earrings and bracelets. All of us girls fell in love with her. She was a born storyteller: although I'm not particularly religious, she was so enthused by the subject that she made it fascinating.

I'm a curious person and Miss Baveystock helped me to realise this was a good thing. She told me that every religion went up different sides of the mountain to the same thing. I loved reading about Judaism and I'd ask lots of questions. I got very into Buddhism through her. I loved the calmness, the rules and the rituals of religion.

I remember saying to Miss Baveystock that all these religions seemed so peaceful and yet they were all fighting each other. She told me that as I got older I would see this happened quite a lot. People essentially wanted the same thing but they fought; they went about it in the wrong way. She was right, of course.

I didn't enjoy school. It was state selective and very competitive. There was always someone miles better than me at everything and I was forever trying to catch up. I felt like a duck on the water with my legs flapping underneath.

Because my mum was ill, people didn't know how to cope with me or what to say. I didn't talk to anyone. If there was a teacher I was going to talk to, it would have been Miss Baveystock, but I thought I could manage on my own and I was determined to be strong. But then, I had no idea that my mum was going to die. Like most teenagers I was obsessed with my own life, and I played truant from school while she was in hospital. If I'd known, I might have stuck around a bit.

My mum was very poorly when I did my GCSEs. I got a U for maths and had to retake it. I'm sure the only reason I passed was because someone wrote a letter saying how ill she was, because I don't remember answering any questions.

When she died I ran from school. I left half a term into the sixth form and started modelling. Thanks to Miss Baveystock, I was studying religious studies at A-level as well as English and French. If things had been different, I would have stayed on and probably be working as a French teacher now. I didn't leave in a particularly friendly way, which is sad, because in retrospect some people at the school really looked after me.

I didn't keep in touch with Miss Baveystock although I do remember bumping into her in a wine bar. I can't remember if me and my friends were 16 and drinking underage or we'd turned 18, but I do recall that she came to talk to us.

I still think about the things she said, like God being a power. She made me think that some things were out of my control at a time when life was difficult, and for that I'm grateful.

Lisa Faulkner was talking to Kate Bohdanowicz. She is a supporter of Ben's Beginners, a new online cooking channel for children. To celebrate the launch, Uncle Ben's is partnering up with the Children's Food Trust, encouraging cooking clubs, schools and families to go online.

Mixed ingredients

Lisa Faulkner

Born 2 January 1973, London

Education The Tiffin Girls' School, Kingston upon Thames, and Amanda Redman's Artists Theatre School in London, where she is now a regular teacher

Career Actor, best known for her roles in Spooks and Holby City. Faulkner is also a former winner of Celebrity Masterchef and author of several cookery books

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