Family values? Life was pretty hard for my parents. My father was one of 10 children and I was the youngest of four. My parents instilled into us the importance of education, but there wasn't any pressure when it came to exams.
Mad Max? I settled in quite OK at Pelham Primary School in South Wimbledon. On my first day at All Saints Junior School I had a fight with a boy called Andrew Baxter and he got a bloody nose. He turned out to be the headmaster's son.
Maximum effort? I didn't push myself. I was one of those kids who did just enough. I had a creative imagination; I would make an excuse for someone who was late, or teach them how to get away with it.
Exam scandal shock horror: I failed the 11-plus. My sister, who did extremely well at school and was a top scholastic achiever in Surrey, tells me I spent most of the exam drawing on the papers. My parents weren't very happy.
Secondary chance? I had a lot of friends at Pelham Secondary Modern, but I didn't take any of the academic opportunities. I wasn't remotely interested in being in class. It wasn't the fault of the staff; I wanted to be outside. I played football - often in midfield. That is in the thick of the battle, creating opportunities for others to score goals and get the glory. Today, 80 per cent of what I do is behind the scenes, stopping problems for major stars.
High notes? In my last year we started a little skiffle group. It was called the Dominoes, not after Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominoes - I later did PR for Cream - but after Fats Domino. I was singer and guitarist. John Burchall, the lead guitarist, became a professional and played for Cat Stevens. Martin Smith, our manager, works for the Inland Revenue; he was good with money even then. I remember being told, after we had come down from the stage, that I must stop picking my nose.
In at the deep end? I left school at 15 without taking my O-levels and worked at Ely's department store; I hated it and was bored to tears. I got my first job as a local journalist because I played water polo, which brought me into contact with the sports editor of the local paper. Then I started at the EMI press office. I had only been there a few weeks when I was given the Beatles to launch.
University of life? I've talked to students all over the country and have been in three Oxford and three Cambridge debates. My daughter, who is the academic in the family, is in her second year of a degree in communications at Bournemouth University.
My sister is a staunch Tory, but we share a sense of humour. She has a sugar plantation in South Africa, a country which has been perfect for her: slaves at your beck and callnReuse content