Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Diane Blood, fertility campaigner

'I was in love during my O-levels'
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The Independent Online

Diane Blood took the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to court, successfully, in order to bear children by her dead husband. Her book, Flesh and Blood, is out now in paperback.

With the photographers' flashes and the video-camera lights you're like a startled rabbit in the headlights: at the time of my court case, I was reminded of playing my descant recorder at the Royal Albert Hall - walking out on to the stage, you can't see the audience because of the lights.

Redlands County Primary in Worksop was dominated by the recorder band. It had virtually every girl and one or two boys: around 70 children. You got to play in the national School Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. The first bars from Handel's Water Music were played by only four of us. Anybody who wanted could join the band, but I like to think that we four were the best!

In my last year of primary school, I decided that I wanted to be a writer or a musician. At Valley Comprehensive, Worksop, I studied piano and clarinet but I didn't excel; I figured out that I wasn't going to be a musician. I was always very interested in English. I passed 11 O-levels. I also passed a few CSEs - not my own, but other people's! English CSE was based entirely on assignments; at playtimes I used to dictate these assignments for my friends. Because I could let it flow, this was more fun than my own essays, even though it took a long time to do. One person got a grade-one CSE, the equivalent of an O-level; I was quite pleased with myself!

I was a Miss Goody Two-Shoes and always would do what I was told. I was always in the library and used to get called a swot. I would have been bullied if it hadn't been for the girl who lived next-door-but-one, who had a very different temperament from me.

Louise's mother had left home and her father would have had trouble as a single parent in the Sixties if my mother hadn't signed a bit of paper saying she was responsible for his girls until he came home after work. When I was in danger at school, Louise would turn up in my defence: "Leave her alone - she's a friend!" (During the court case, her father had to warn her that this was a battle that I had to fight for myself. She might well have come to fight off the journalists: "My friend's being bullied again!")

At A-level I passed English literature with creative writing. I took maths and French, which were core subjects in general studies. I had been good at maths at O-level but was not terribly interested and our French literature teacher was away during much of the A-level course. I failed maths and French but passed general studies. I was in love, as well; I met my husband when I was 16. French was very useful when I had fertility treatment in Belgium.

I wanted to be a novelist but knew you couldn't leave school and be a novelist and make a living (I'm still waiting for the novel). Hounslow Borough College, in Middlesex, was one of only two places at the time where you could study advertising copywriting. It is very vocational and you went into one of the big agencies for them to look at your assignments. The industry has its D&AD awards - the "advertising Oscars" - for which you get a model of a pencil. I won a student award; a picture of a pencil.

After winning my case, I went to evening classes and passed A-level law at grade C. When I was taking the exam, I was just pregnant. I wanted to go to the toilet fairly soon but you were not allowed to go to the toilet in the first hour unless you told the examiners you were pregnant; I didn't tell anyone because if it had got out, all the journalists would have descended on me. They did that later.

jonty@jonathansale.com

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