Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Konnie Huq, former Blue Peter presenter
'I bluffed the economics question'
Thursday 24 April 2008
Konnie Huq, 32, left Blue Peter in January after appearing on the BBC children's programme for 10 years, longer than any previous female presenter. After a protester snatched the torch she was carrying in the London leg of the Olympic relay, she spoke out against China's "terrible track record" on human rights.
I think I had a happy childhood at my playgroup and schools. I was good at Montpelier Primary School in Ealing, west London, but I do remember being scared I would be told off when I rubbed out a bit that wasn't right on a picture of an apple I'd drawn and ripped the page. No, I wasn't told off. I can remember an absolutely massive silver climbing frame, like a spaceship, scary; going back later, it was tiny. I also remember a boy saying, "You're from India," and I said, "No, I'm not, I'm from Bangladesh." And I remember that when Charles and Diana got married, we had a re-enactment of the royal wedding.
At eight or nine I passed the exam for Notting Hill and Ealing High, a private school. I had an assisted place; I was always the one who, for financial reasons, didn't go on the skiing trip or whatever.
We had a "wormery" and my friend and I were in charge of the "snailery" with about five snails. I loved drama and was in The Crucible. I was on Blue Peter at 14 with the National Youth Music Theatre – I sang a solo. When I was in the sixth form I presented a cable and satellite programme about music, television and video. I used to do public speaking competitions. There were teams of three. It sounds so middle-class!
In sport, you had to do an option, such as golf or horse-riding; I got grades 1 and 2 in fencing, which was very easy. No, I didn't do any running. With the Olympic torch, you don't really run that far, as your torch is soon switched to the next person.
I did well at GCSEs and got nine. My A-levels were physics, chemistry and maths. Science is fascinating but I wouldn't say I have used it since then. I decided to do economics. "Don't ask me anything about economics – haven't done any!" I remember thinking this when I was interviewed for an economics degree at Robinson College, Cambridge. They did ask me one economics question and I bluffed it.
Economics is a good degree to have but the subject is very theoretical at Cambridge and I found it frustrating that you can't apply a lot of the models to particular circumstances. I enjoyed being at Robinson, which is not so steeped in tradition as some colleges where formal halls can feel like an event at a strange Freemason-type society.
Robinson is built in tiers and you have French windows with balconies, so that you can walk along someone's balcony and bang on the windows. The college had a very good lay-out for "Assassin", a game played during Rag Week. You were all given the name of someone in the college, who you would spy on and shoot with a water pistol.
I was the Rag Week co-ordinator, and also on the committee for the May Ball, when we hired the Abba tribute band, Bjorn Again. During the vacations of my first year I presented on GMTV a quiz slot called Eat Your Words.
I got a 2:1. Our tutors had to recommend high-flying students to the Bank of England; our director of studies recommended me. The two people I met at the Bank were both wearing suits: brown, not grey or black. It turned out to be dress-down day. I remember thinking, "If this is dress-down day, what are the ordinary days like?" There was an aptitude test; I did it really badly.
For years after that they used to write to me at Robinson College, addressing me as "Dr Huq" and asking me to recommend students for interview. The paperwork had obviously got mixed up.
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