My best teacher

26th May 2000 at 01:00
My first school was St Catherine's convent in Twickenham, south London, where Patsy Kensit went after me and Dirk Bogarde before me. I hated the nuns. When I first met the headmistress she said: "You don't like me, do you?" And I said: "No."

Stupid, but when you're little you tell the truth. I was there from five to 11 and I became a real religious maniac. My parents weren't Catholics - they sent me there because it turned out girls who could "spik naicely". They obviously didn't know about the reputation of convent girls.

I used to spend all my pocket money on rosaries, holy pictures, and the stages of the cross. There was a likelihood of my growing up to become a nun, which really alarmed my parents.

So they took me away and sent me to this very posh school, the Lady Eleanor Holles school for girls in Hampton. They had what I suppose you'd call an "assisted place" scheme and I got some sort of scholarship. So there I was with all these girls who had horses and lived in places such as Esher.

My best teacher - the only nice one - was Miss Sturrock, the art teacher. She was Scottish, and the only one you thought was on your side.

I never knew her Christian name - I always imagined it was something like Iris. The great thing about Miss Sturrock was that she'd let you hide in the art room instead of playing lacrosse.

Lacrosse is a vicious game invented by American Indians who had anything up to five miles between goalposts. So you get some strapping girl coming at you with this lethal stick, and she can hit you as hard as she likes. Well, I wasn't going to lose my front teeth just because some lunatic girl wanted to win the game.

So we'd seek refuge with Miss Sturrock. She'd let us stay in the art room while she smoked.

I didn't think I could do art because I couldn't draw the back legs of horses like the other girls could. But I used to like painting wth very thick poster colours and Miss Sturrock encouraged that. She said I had talent, and although I never really believed her, I did pass O-level art.

I was in the choir too. The main reason I joined was because it was mixed with the boys from the school next door. It was the only way I could get to meet the opposite sex.

I was never caned - lacrosse was punishment enough. But I was certainly a rebel. In the last year we would lock the classroom door and drink cider and smoke. We thought we were being really daring.

Obviously I was never a prefect. They were the enemy. They had real silver badges on red ribbons, and they'd stand at the end of the corridor saying things like "No running", in snooty voices.

I've never been back. For years and years I think my name was swept under the carpet. A Radio 1 DJ was hardly something they'd want their "gals" to aspire to. These days, apparently, my name is mentioned in the school but I well, I'm snubbing them in return. Maybe I'm being childish, but what would I say to them?

They made me feel like a failure. But sometimes now I wonder whether it was manipulation: they make you think you're rubbish so you feel driven to prove them wrong. when we took our French O-level mocks, the teacher said:

"right, you've all failed - the whole class" - just to make us work harder.


1943 Born Twickenham, Surrey 1963 Starts journalism career on Brighton Evening Argus. Has first of two children 1964 Presents television pop series That's For Me and also appears on Ready Steady Go!

1970 Begins 30-year career at Radio 1, becoming station's first female disc jockey 1978 Presents BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test for four years 1985 Presents US segment of Live Aid concert for the BBC 1999 Publishes autobiography, Wicked Speed (Sidgwick amp; Jackson pound;15.99) Annie Nightingale was talking to James Bennett.

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