Mop infants: At Grenoside Junior and Infants in Sheffield I was very anxious to please, and my biggest memory is the devastation I felt when I had forgotten my handkerchief; you had to line up and show it to your teacher. In Top Infants, when I spilt my milk and couldn't find a mop, I heard my teacher say, "She is a dumb one, that Helen". I remembered those words when I got my O-levels, A-levels, degree...
There is Greenhill far away: We moved to the south of Sheffield when I was eight and I went to Greenhill school. I felt very, very new; I didn't have a leotard to do PE in because we'd always done it in vest and pants. I was assigned a friend, who remains a friend to this day.
Shock horror: She was in a different class at Jordanthorpe, now called Meadowhead, the local comprehensive which we both went on to. We weren't streamed until 13, and it was an eye-opener to arrive at a school where some people could not read. It was very good for me, an insight that some people were different, but in no way worse. In the sixth form, I used to get out of general studies lessons by doing remedial teaching.
In space no one can hear you groan: Between 13 and 18 I had a wonderful, enthusiastic maths teacher called Mr Wilson who, when I made a stupid mistake, said, "Oh, you potato-cake!" (I think it's something you buy in Sheffield fish-and-chip shops.) Much later, in space, I realised I had put some films, which were to go outside the station, the wrong way round in their frames and I said, "Sharman, you potato-cake!" Sergei, my engineer, never really understood what I meant.
Spaced-out syllabus: I was becoming more rebellious and independent. A few months before my O-levels, I was reading the biology syllabus and discovered some topics we hadn't done, so I read them up - and they came up in the exam. I got pretty much straight A grades. I did quite OK in my A-levels - maths, physics and chemistry - and went to Sheffield University to read chemistry. University was a fairly studious time; you had lectures in the morning and lab work in the afternoons and then had to write up your experiments. A lot of things in the students' union happened at lunch time, when I was grabbing a sandwich. I got a 2:1.
I'm an urban spaceperson: At Star City, near Moscow, we started off learning Russian, ballistics and astronomy. It was very back-to-school: classroom and blackboard. Then there was weightless training in a plane - the pilot does a nose-dive and you feel weightless for 23 seconds. There were also medical tests in a centrifuge where you experienced up to 8G.
Sax appeal: I want some learning in my life, where I can go and be taught something.
I'm now learning the saxophone and starting a bit of Debussy. No, I shan't be playing with the London Philharmonic just yet.
Jonathan SaleReuse content