Education: Passed/failed - Ian Hislop

Ian Hislop, 38, alias Lord Gnome, is the editor of Private Eye. He has written scripts for Dawn French, Harry Enfield and Chums and Spitting Image and appears on Have I Got News For You. He recently presented two Channel 4 documentaries about education and the NHS, School Rules and Pennies from Bevan.

Mobile Gnome? I was entirely mobile: my father was a civil engineer and my parents lived abroad, so I went to a string of schools in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In Jeddah, I went to a school for the sons and daughters of TWA pilots, where I saluted the American flag and played baseball.

When I was seven, my father worked for a year at head office in England and I went to Lindfield Primary near Haywards Heath. Then he went to Hong Kong and I went to boarding school.

Gnome from home? I was at Ardingly College, Sussex for nine years. After the prep school, I got a scholarship to the public school. It was fairly primitive: 30 people in large dormitories with no curtains, quite spartan. Muscular Christianity but not much homosexuality. Liberal and tolerant with it. I was not a huge rebel. Like anyone with any sense, I worked the system; there is no fun in being thrown out. In fact, I was head boy, the ultimate in uncool; you got a lot of privileges - and the duties followed. There were huge amounts of administration; the amazing thing about public schools is the huge amount of work they give to prefects which you'd imagine other people would be paid to do.

A distinct lack of Chemistry? At O-levels, I did all the sciences. I was determined to be a civil engineer, probably because my dad died when I was 12, and I thought I would have to replace him. In the sixth form, I started Maths, Physics and Chemistry A-levels. After about a term, I dropped Chemistry and Physics and took up English and French. What changed my mind for me was that the chemistry teacher read out a letter in class from someone at university - hoping to inspire us - and I thought, "I couldn't possibly bear to do that!"

See me in the libel lawyer's study, Hislop! I edited the school magazine with some friends. We had a brilliant English teacher, Colin Temblett- Wood, who had been at Cambridge and in the Marlowe Society; of the same vintage as Trevor Nunn (on second thoughts it may have been Peter Hall. Same beard ...).

He suggested we put on revues. The highlight was a careers' sketch on How To Be A Bursar: join the RAF and embezzle funds. We had not heard of the laws of libel. The headmaster thought it was very funny and nearly fell off his chair.

Sorted for Es? There was a group of us who the school thought were basically lazy and not doing enough work - entirely true - so they put us in for Oxford entrance after four terms. I took a joint Maths and English paper.

I think they were rather cross when we all got in, which meant I could be even more lazy. My offer from Magdalen was two Es, although I actually got three As. I was down to do PPE and, with another brilliant change of mind, switched to English before I went up.

Shrinking Violet? While at Oxford, I won two awards, the Underhill Exhibition and the Violet Vaughan-Morgan Scholarship. The Violet Vaughan-Morgan scholarship, for which you took an exam in Jacobean literature, was worth pounds 150. I spent it on an airline ticket to California, where I had a great time, which was probably not what Violet Vaughan-Morgan had in mind.

In my Finals, I was viva-ed for a first; I looked at Professor John Bailey and thought: "You're not going to give me this, are you?" I got a Second.

Etceteras, Etceteras? I can't act, comedy is all I can do - so I put on reviews with The Etceteras, which is not a formal organisation like the Cambridge Footlights, but is basically a bank account which you could get your hands on.

I went up to the Edinburgh Festival, performing two shows which I'd written or co-written. Imogen Stubbs was the girl in the shows; she could act, which rather shocked us.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own