Mrs Squires had steel grey hair piled up and fixed solid with hairspray, and wore amazing four-inch stilettos. The only connection we had was a shared passion for poetry and Shakespeare

4th February 2005 at 00:00
7My dad was the verger at the village church in Somerset where I grew up. We were a church-going family, but I never dreamed I'd end up a priest. I left school at 15 with no qualifications to work in a baker's shop. That was in 1970 and there were no women in the ministry then. It just wasn't a career option.

I had a pretty sheltered childhood and was a shy child - a bit of a daydreamer really. When we moved to Birmingham and I went to secondary school, I thought it was really exciting to learn a foreign language. Mr Hooper, who taught French at Moseley school of art, was my favourite teacher. I thought he was terribly exotic and was convinced he was French because he spoke the language so well. I was quite disappointed when I discovered he came from Devon.

To me back then, France was a distant land and I loved learning about another culture, a whole different way of life and different people, as well as enjoying the musicality of the language. Mr Hooper talked to us about France, told us the French ate snails and frogs' legs and all that sort of stuff, but classes were quite formal, based on textbooks.

I'd passed the 11-plus and could have gone to the more academic King Edward VI high school for girls, but I was adamant I wanted to go to the art school where my older sister and a cousin were pupils. I liked drawing and painting, though I didn't have their talent. I enjoyed pottery best, and Mr Dalgleish, my pottery teacher, was a flamboyant, colourful character. He had a very upright bearing and was slightly eccentric. Under his black gown he'd wear red trousers and brightly coloured shirts. He loved purple particularly, and would wear what seemed to me odd colours together, like purple and red and mustard yellow and green.

My best subject right though school, though, was English, and in my wildest dreams I would have liked to be a writer. I loved poetry and was good at writing essays, in spite of the English teacher, Mrs Squires (affectionately known as "Ma"), who frightened the life out of me. She was a tall, fearsome woman who stood no nonsense. She was in her fifties with steel grey hair piled up and fixed solid with hairspray, and amazing four-inch stiletto heels. The only connection we had was a shared passion for poetry and Shakespeare.

In those days, mini skirts were very much in fashion and we girls would turn our skirts over several times at the waistband to shorten them. Ma Squires would stand on guard in the entrance hall, and if anyone had forgotten to lengthen their skirt as they came into school, she would pounce, yanking the skirt back down to mid-calf and giving out lines or detention.

Had I stayed on at school I probably would have gone on to read English at university, but circumstances at home were such that I had to leave and get a job.

Returning to education after a big gap bringing up my daughters and doing a variety of part-time jobs was exciting, but I was lacking in confidence.

Luckily, I had some marvellous tutors, especially David Hewlett, who was the principal of the south-west ministry training course and my personal tutor. He was always gently encouraging.

I was divorced with three teenage daughters I'd been bringing up on my own for 10 years and David was aware of the pressures. I think he saw my abilities, which I clearly didn't, and he constantly encouraged me to speak out in debates and to take part in discussions, which at first I found difficult. He slowly brought me out so I was able to contribute, and that helped me grow in confidence. I'd never really understood the joy of studying until then. David was the most influential teacher of all.

Rev Christine Musser was talking to Pamela Coleman

The story so far

1955 Born Batcombe, Somerset

1960 Batcome village primary school

1964 Colmore primary, Birmingham

1966-70 Molesey school of art, Birmingham

1990 Moves to Cornwall following break-up of marriage

1995 Begins studying theology while working as church caretaker and special needs assistant

1998 Begins part-time degree course in theology with philosophy, Plymouth

2000 Ordained deacon

2001 Priested

2003 Appointed priest in charge of Boscastle with Davidstow, Cornwall

2004 Appears in A Seaside Parish on BBC TV

2005 Second series of A Seaside Parish on BBC2, Mondays, 8pm until February 14

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