My best teacher;Interview;Rasshied Din;Parting Shots

1st May 1998 at 01:00
For me school was a battle zone. I went to Ordsall Secondary Modern, which was in the docklands area of Salford, and there was a lot of violence and bullying. Even the teachers were beaten up.

My father was Pakistani and couldn't read or write and my mother, who was English, had had a very poor education. It was important to them that their children did well at school. There were 10 of us who survived of a total of 13 born and I was the seventh son which is supposed to be lucky. My parents ran a chip shop and my two best teachers, Miss Stevens and Mrs Taylor, went there regularly to get their lunch.

Lesley Stevens taught art, which was my favourite subject. She was a tough character - you had to be to survive at that school - but very enthusiastic. She looked a bit like Suzi Quatro. She was very attractive and wore short skirts with a man's shirt which was always covered with paint.

Quite often I would bunk off lessons to carry on with a piece of work I was doing in the art class and she would cover for me. During lunch breaks, when you were not allowed in the school, she would lock me in the stockroom so I could carry on working and she would let me work on after school.

At weekends she took me and a couple of other favoured pupils to art galleries. She was friendly with my parents and sometimes popped round for tea. She saw a talent in me and encouraged it. I was a cautious student: I didn't want to stand out by being too good or too bad, but I was ambitious. By the time I was 15 I knew I wanted to be an interior designer.

When I spoke to the school's so-called careers officer and said I wanted to do interior design his response was: "We haven't got anything like that here, lad," as he read through his list. He offered me the chance to become an electrician or a clerk in the dockyards.

When I insisted on something artistic he suggested painting and decorating and enrolled me at the local college of technology. While I was there I went into the art department and suddenly my eyes were opened. I did a foundation course at Salford Tech at the same time as O-levels and went back to Miss Stevens for help with the coursework.

Mrs Taylor taught English at Ordsall and she, too, had a fantastic sense of humour. She made English easy and great fun. She was a real Sixties woman, skinny and very stylish in her mini skirts and boots. She and Miss Stevens were like a breath of fresh air and stood out because most of the other women teachers were pretty dreary, wore support tights and heavy tweeds.

Mrs Taylor lived in Failsworth and I remember going round to help decorate her house with a couple of other pupils. She gave us lasagne, which I'd never eaten before and thought was very exotic. After that she introduced me to other new food and occasionally we would all go out to a restaurant as a treat.

When I was in my fifth year the school became a comprehensive so I didn't, as had been planned, become head boy. I won a number of prizes for art and English and was good at sport, not because I particularly enjoyed it but it was a way of not getting bullied. School was a survival course and holds few good memories.

Things were much better at Salford College of Technology and there I met Muriel Valf, who taught English literature and language. She made it all come to life and taught Shakespeare in such a way that it was a real pleasure going to her lessons. Like the other two teachers, she was quite young and attractive.

She had long blonde hair and sparkling eyes. She didn't become a friend in the way the others did, but she was great in supporting me and encouraging me to get out of Salford, and she helped me get into Birmingham Polytechnic, as it then was.

Rasshied Din is the designer of the Diana, Princess of Wales, memorial centre in the former stable block at Althorp. He is an interior designer whose work can be seen in stops such as Habitat and Next. He was talking to Pamela Coleman

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