Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Julia Bradbury, TV journalist

'Numbers are not my friends'
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The Independent Online

Julia Bradbury presents Watchdog on BBC1, and is currently working on a forthcoming consumer-affairs series, Are We Being Served?. She has been the Los Angeles correspondent for GMTV, and presenter of Wish You Were Here. She is also an ambassador for Marie Curie Cancer Care's Great Daffodil Appeal, which, throughout March, is asking for donations for its home-care nurses

At primary school in Edith Weston, a small village in Rutland, I remember being very bad at maths. I have a hatred of numbers. Numbers are not my friends.

Then my family moved to Sheffield and I went to King Edward VII School, which had just turned into a mixed comprehensive. My father worked in the steel industry, hence Sheffield, and my mother, who was in the fashion business, opened her first shop. It was a good school, and I wouldn't say I was unhappy as I did have friends, but school was not a good time for me. My father was Cambridge-educated and literary; my mother was a self-taught businesswoman who had left school early. I had two prime examples of systems that worked, and I chose my mother's: self-teaching.

History didn't float my boat, so I'm bad at dates: they're numbers! But I liked English. Mrs Balby had a very memorable voice, with rounded vowels, and I found her quite comedic, in a nice way. I'm a great reader - my dad taught me the joys of reading, from crappy Harold Robbins to Shakespeare. My toilet is stacked with books, floor to ceiling.

Originally, we did have a school uniform. There is very little you can do with a tie, but the fashionistas would have a big fat one or a very skinny one, and I would copy them. Then the rules changed and we could wear our own clothes. We had the Prince Purple Rain look, and the Fame look - stonewashed drainpipe jeans and Adidas trainers. And don't forget the legwarmers, they were big!

My worst hairdo was when I was 14 or so. My best friend dyed my hair blond but it came out in streaks and spots, like a leopard, so I dyed them red. Then my mother came back from a weekend away and dyed my hair back to its natural colour. Having an olive complexion - my mother is Welsh-Greek - blond is definitely not my colour, but as a teenager, I thought it was.

I got five or six GCSEs, just scraping through the soft subjects, I guess: geography, English - and drama. I was Tallulah in a school production of Bugsy Malone, and the grandfather in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was also a mermaid in a professional production of Peter Pan at the Crucible, with Paula Wilcox as Peter Pan and Joanne Whalley as Wendy.

I overlooked the power of education. I am aware of the gaps in my knowledge, but the wonderful thing about education is that it goes on until you die. At 16, I had a hunger to work. My first job was at an ad agency, as receptionist/runner/tea girl. I then joined my mother and sister in the family business, as advertising manager. My mother is now an interior designer, but she's a great seamstress and makes the clothes I wear on Watchdog. I can't sew to save my life - when I sew a button on, it looks like a squashed spider!