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When Captain Corelli author was maudlin

Best-selling author Louis de Bernieres won't be taking up the Government's offer to return to teaching - and not just because he's a multi-millionaire: he says he wouldn't wish teaching on his "worst enemy's dog".

Long before Captain Corelli's Mandolin brought fame and Hollywood knocking on his door, he spent 15 miserable years trying to make ends meet as a supply teacher.

His first job was teaching a class of bottom-set 12-year-olds at a high school in Ipswich and it was here that some of his naive illusions about the profession were shattered. "I was full of a youth's idealism," Mr de Bernieres, 46, told Ipswich's Evening Star. "I believed that if you were nice to kids they would be nice to you, whih just isn't true; they will just take advantage and riot. For the first two years I was a really bad teacher. At best I was pretty incompetent, at worst I was rubbish.

"I was so poor in my first year I remember borrowing money off the head. The stress was appalling. I was worried I would end up dead of a heart attack at the age of 60."

The problem was made worse because he was never really committed to the job. "Some teachers don't want to do anything else. Others are people, itinerants like I was, who can't think what they really want to do.

"Half of the teachers I knew were trying to go somewhere else. I suppose I was that sort. I was always planning to escape by becoming a writer."

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