Passed/Failed: An education in the life of broadcaster Jeremy Vine

'I wore loud shirts and wide trousers'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jeremy Vine, 44, left 'Newsnight' to take over the Jimmy Young slot on Radio 2. He is a presenter of 'Eggheads' and, also on BBC2, 'The Teaching Awards 2009' at 6pm on Sunday

When I went to Lynton Preparatory School near Epsom, I was desperate to wear glasses – as a fashion accessory. When the optician put on the first pair of lenses, I said: "I can see much better!" I then spent a lot of time peering at a blurred blackboard until I took them off and someone sat on them.

At seven I switched to Aberdour Preparatory school in Burgh Heath, Surrey. There was a big portrait of the headmaster, Mr Grange, in the dining room and his eyes would follow you around. He was Scottish and you could wear either shorts or a kilt; he used to mow the lawn in a kilt. He believed that all 10-year-olds should be able to speak Latin, but I never got on with it.

The geography teacher, Colonel Scott, had been shot in the arm and would hold it up to show the hole in it. He once lost control of a cricket game he was umpiring when the fielders discovered that someone had dumped a pile of pornographic magazines near the boundary and they disappeared to read them.

Aberdour had a form called "Shell" – I don't know why – and the aim was that every single one of us should get a scholarship: and every single one of us did. We were hot-housed. If your average marks were at the bottom of the class, you had to move your desk to the front. If you were top, you moved to the back, so half an hour a week was spent shifting desks around.

I got a scholarship to Epsom College as a day boarder. It was an amazing place but I stuck out because I was not sporty. I used to walk around carrying albums by Joy Division; I was definitely a nerd.

I was always obsessed by the media. I set up an unofficial school magazine but it was not sufficiently reverent and they confiscated all the copies. I was also on the "Young DJ" slot on Kenny Everett's show on Capital Radio. With my brother on guitar and vocals, the band was called "The Flared Generation": very, very loud shirts, wide trousers and sensible shoes. We ended up being interviewed on Danny Baker's television show.

I got ten O-levels and then two ASs. For the first time I discovered a love of poetry. The English teacher was Neil Laing, an inspirational man who was cool and he liked Shakespeare. I got an A in English, B in French and C in German. I discovered recently that the editor of The Jeremy Vine Show was a postman in my area at the time and he delivered my results.

I went to Durham university to read English and got a 2.2. I remember climbing up the scaffolding of Hatfield College on to the roof and reading the whole of Paradise Lost. Now I think that this was the perfect moment of my education.

I edited the student paper, Palatinate. In 1986 we got a scoop with Leon Brittan, just before he resigned from the Cabinet. We put up posters: "Leon Brittan talks." In fact, we got nothing out of him. I presented on Metro, a local radio station, from 2am to 5am. My very first words as a paid presenter were: "Hello everyone, this is Abba and 'Dancing Queen'." Forty-five minutes later, I accidentally played it again.

The teaching was good. The main effort was the reading of the books. Before you went to Durham, they sent you a list of 60 or 70 books by Harold Pinter, Ibsen, Brecht ... I'm still working on it.