Passed / failed; Celia Brayfield

Celia Brayfield, 52, is a former newspaper journalist and author of six novels. `Getting Home', which draws on her experiences campaigning against a local road scheme, is published next Thursday, and `Pearls', her first book, will be out in paperback on the same day. Her non-fiction includes `Bestseller'. She is on the management committees of the National Council for One Parent Families and the Society of Authors.

Pearls Before Little Swine? Most of the families in Wembley Park [Middlesex] didn't bother with educating their daughters, so St Christopher's Preparatory School was 75 per cent boys. In a small minority, girls were aware of being beaten up on a regular basis but it left me with some useful reflexes. My father wanted his children to follow him into dentistry and he planned my education with that in view. I won the English Prize and received the Complete Works of Shakespeare, printed on "Bible" paper, virtually tissue paper, and Fowler's Modern English Usage.

Pauline Conversion? At 11 I passed the St Paul's exam and found myself well out of my depth. It is a very tough place, the leading academic girls' school in England: a machine for producing Oxbridge deans. There was no point in being pretty, captain of netball, or original; the only value was rigorous intellectual snobbery. I'm mildly dyslexic.

That old Black Magic? My father was 50 when I was born. His patients adored him but he was very pigheaded and bad-tempered to me; it was like living with Ian Holmes's King Lear. My top three O level grades were in both the English exams and French. I said, "Look, Daddy, the teachers think that they could get me to Oxford with my English." He insisted I specialise in science - and in botany and zoology as separate A levels, plus physics and chemistry. It was immensely cruel. I did enjoy physics but chemistry was black magic; none of my experiments worked. My copper sulphate crystal fell off my string; I used to to write stories in the back of my experiment book.

A Breath of Fresh Airheads? I did bloody awfully. I failed chemistry and physics, ending up with two not very good A levels and a very angry father. He sent me to The Queen's Secretarial College in South Kensington - in the middle of Swinging London. I think I giggled solidly every day for three months. Queen's College was so full of airheaded debs that the only people in college on the day after Queen Charlotte's Ball were me and the foreign girls. For about six months I did a course in France at the University of Grenoble, which I picked for the skiing; I had a very handsome teacher and a nice bunch of fellow students.

Grammar - he's making eyes at me! I'm left with a sense of educational inferiority and so am a great taker of courses. The last was on screen- writing, given by Anthony Minghella, who directed The English Patient, and Peter Flannery, who wrote Our Friends in the North. When Pearls came out, Sebastian Faulks, the literary editor of the Independent on Sunday, gave it to Anthony Burgess, probably because it was half set in Malaya [where Burgess had taught]. Burgess said: "And her grammar is impeccable". I was so thrilled; it was the happiest I'd been since my daughter was born. I thought, That's it - I don't have to prove anything to anyone ever again. When you've been to St Paul's, you really do care about getting things right.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried