Education: Passed/Failed Craig Charles

The actor, writer, `Red Dwarf' comedian and Renaissance man reflects on his experiences in the education system
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The Independent Online
CRAIG CHARLES, 34, plays the last human in Red Dwarf, which starts a new BBC2 series next Thursday (18 February). He presents Robot Wars on Fridays and Sundays, and tonight he reaches Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh on his "Still Life Tour". Books include The Log - A Dwarfer's Guide to Everything and No Other Blue, a collection of poetry.

Big Bang theory: At junior school, my headmistress was having an affair with the deputy head, who was married to the music teacher. When I was sent to her to be caned, her hair was all over the place and he was red in the face. When we came back from holiday, she had the same name as the deputy head - and the music mistress was missing.

Bully for him: I didn't want to take the 11-plus, because I wanted to go to the same school as my brother, West Derby Comprehensive (it's nowhere near Derby, but an area of Liverpool). They made me take it and I passed but I still chose West Derby. It was a very good school. It had good streams - and bad streams and loads of bullies.

There was one bully who had lessons on his own; he had killed all the other kids and eaten the teacher. As I put it in my stand-up act on my schooldays: "The class intellectual was Jean-Paul O'Grady, the only one of us who could fart "Frere Jacques" right the way through, including the low notes."

Black humour: Apart from my brother, I was the only black kid in a school of 1,000 white kids. My autobiography, coming out in October, is called No Irish, No Niggers. I was one of the better performers in the class, and when the school play was Oliver!, I wanted to play the Artful Dodger; but the drama teacher said: "You can't play the Artful Dodger, Craig, you're black." I was in the chorus and sang "Food, glorious food".

We did The Royal Hunt of the Sun and I fitted in because I was of a brown hue! But the lead part, the King, was given to a white guy who was blacked up.

High noun: The drama teacher's husband was the English teacher - and he was brilliant. He really made it fun. Even when we were doing adjectives and nouns, he would make it interesting: "He crossed the room with the sly grace of a dried thistle-head."

He got me into writing poetry and put one of my poems in for a competition run by The Guardian. It won. It was called "I want to feel your bum". I didn't get the prize; I think the school was sent some books. I used to get commissioned by TV programmes to write ditties; when I was 19, I did witty lines on Wogan about the week's news.

The last of the New Romantics: I passed about six O-levels. You could take nine; perhaps I forgot to turn up. I did A-levels in History, Government & Politics, English Literature and General Studies. I was kicked out of the sixth form in the first year for breaking the dress code. "New Romantics" were in, and I was wearing baggy red pants and Chinese slippers. I went to Childwall Hall College to finish my education; you could wear what you wanted.

Egg pie all over my face: I left school a year before it ever got a computer. I'm now doing a computer course and trying to become Internet- friendly. A friend comes round for half a day per week and gets me up to speed. I couldn't go to evening class because I would be too much of a distraction. It's awful in supermarkets; people follow me around to see what I buy. They say things like: "Veal-and-egg pie? That's not very healthy!"