Passed/Failed: An Education In The Life Of Tony Robinson, Actor, Author and Broadcaster
Thursday 16 December 1999
Primary School: It was a little private school with a very posh sounding name, as if it was preparing you for Winchester. In fact, it wasn't a school of "fag" and "tuck"; I later learnt that the teacher I was most terrified of - she was such a bully, with that cold contempt for children - died penniless because they hadn't paid her stamps.
My mum and dad were a working-class family who desperately wanted their son to pass the 11-plus. In my neighbourhood the exam was about shame: whether you passed or failed. It felt like a class distinction: there were people who could make it, and those who couldn't.
Secondary School: I thought that Wanstead County High was so sexy; it was a mixed grammar and the older blokes looked so cool and all the girls looked like Audrey Hepburn. I suspect that the staff were very progressive people but I was probably the worst kind of pupil. I was disruptive in class. I was in the A-stream because I was good at IQ tests but bottom of the class: I got eight out of 100 for Latin.
Last week I was sorting out my mother's papers; she had saved my reports and they were dreadful - horrible things like: "Both staff and prefects have had quite enough of Anthony's sense of humour. He seems to be getting more childish." At 11, that's such a put-down.
Half the time I was going up to London and being a child actor. I was always good at acting and what was called "elocution" - a word which does not spring much to the lips these days - and my mum and dad saw an ad in the newspaper for the original production of Oliver! with Ron Moody. After auditioning, I got in and became a marketable commodity. One day I would be carrying a plate of oranges on to a rugby field for Judy Garland and Dirk Bogarde in the film of I Could Go On Singing, and the next day I would be reading Isaac Asimov in class behind my French textbook, then going to a CND meeting in the evening.
I was a bookie at school; if somebody had threepence-ha'penny at 11-to- 4, I could tell you instantly what their winnings would be. But I was completely useless at maths. English was a doddle, not like working. And history was like football; I couldn't understand why other people didn't like it. In Woodford, which was Winston Churchill's constituency, you were forced to have a historical perspective: I remember seeing his statue on Woodford Green and people saying, "This great man" and "This great war". And my view was, "How can I know who I am if I don't know where I come from?"
I've got four O-levels - which should actually be taken away from me. I cheated. (I had played the Artful Dodger...) I took in a Robert Graves novel in case I finished early during the exams - and in faint pencil there would be written some French vocabulary.
Drama School: They said, "We want to put you into the Oxbridge set." I panicked. This would mean Latin O-level, maths O-level and three A-levels. I said, "I want to go to drama school." The Central School of Speech and Drama was the making of me. Round about the time I left there, I began to understand that working - rather than preventing me from living life to the full - could be the rocket fuel enabling me to do just that.
One of the great things about being Baldrick was that, because I was associated with glittering Oxbridge characters, everyone assumed I had three good A-levels and that I failed to get a Cambridge first only because I was too busy at the Footlights.
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Greece crisis: Alexis Tsipras accepts troika bailout proposals with conditions
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 5 Facebook rainbow profile pictures likely being tracked by social network
Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
Russian officials ban yoga because it's too much like a religious cult
Greece crisis: Alexis Tsipras accepts troika bailout proposals with conditions
German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
Britain First insist their videos aren't racist in bizarre attack on comedian Jason Manford
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...
£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...