Education: passed/failed Melvyn Bragg

Melvyn Bragg, 58, is the editor and presenter of `Start the Week' on Radio 4 and `The South Bank Show' on ITV. His latest novel is `The Credo' and he has written biographies of Richard Burton and Lawrence Olivier. His film scripts include `Isadora' and `Jesus Christ Superstar'.

New Boy? It was a spanking new school built in 1938 - called The New School. My mother took me there the first day; I told her that I didn't want her near the place after that. Here was this four-year-old walking three-quarters of a mile through the back alleys of Wigton, pottering around near the rivers. These days we'd have been reported to the police.

Toy Boy? I was absolutely knocked out by the toys in the first-year classroom. I'd never seen anything like the rocking horse. When they cut the grass, we piled it over the bushes and made massive caves. There was an awful lot of learning by rote, with the sort of education you could have got from a Victorian "Board" school in 1846. We used to sing our times tables and I've been very sound on elementary - but only elementary - maths ever since. Two years before 11-plus, I went to what we called The National School, which was really grim - just yards, not a blade of grass. My knees were skinned all year.

Homework Shy? At Nelson Thomlinson Grammar School I was absolutely affronted at having to do homework. I used to do it on the way to school, copied off other people. I did History, English and Latin A Levels. I got interested in work then; the teachers were very good. I played a lot of rugby and was in the first team with several schoolboy internationals; they played the game and you tagged along in their slipstream. I was rather baffled when we played against public schools. I thought, "I'm glad I'm going back to Wigton tonight and not staying in this terrible dormitory," although they had a certain glamour from school stories.

Battle Over Hastings? Mr James the history teacher said to me, "Why not have a crack at Oxford?" I said "Yes," and didn't give it a moment's thought. I got a Hastings Scholarship to Queen's. When I wrote to them to say that I had missed having to do National Service by three months and could take the place immediately, they said that I would have to wait two years. I then got an Open Scholarship to Wadham.

Long Tall Shirty? Oxford was something of a culture shock: all men, the equivalent of boarding school, with customs I'd only read about. But with a few friends, you're soon okay. I did a bit of acting. I was the star of a silent film called All Together, Boys. I wore a black shirt and looked significant; I was annoyed; it cost pounds 3 and itched like hell. There were a lot of awfully good writers at Wadham then and I kept my writing very much to myself, apart from film reviews for Cherwell, which was edited by a Peter Preston. I liked History and got a second; I took the exams in Warnford Hospital with a very violent attack of glandular fever. I was supervised by barmy vicars who kept ordering more cocoa and biscuits so they could see the nurses.

And finally? There's a lot in all this that I haven't written about, which is nice: the material is still available to me. A Tango to the Music of Time?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower