Passed/Failed; Carole Boyd

Carole Boyd, who plays Lynda Snell in The Archers, appeared in the Bodger and Badger children's TV series. She provides the female voices in Postman Pat. The audio cassette of her book, Lynda Snell's Heritage of Ambridge, is out now
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Nasty habits: My mother was a Catholic of Irish descent, and my father called himself a "free thinker".

There was a lot of feuding and fighting when I went to St Angela's Providence Convent in Palmer's Green, run by a French order of nuns called the Daughters of Providence.

At Catholic schools you work damn hard, because you're frightened. I was anxious and frightened, and I'm not prepared to say I wasn't. The mother superior was a little bit too superior. The nuns were bullies; they used to pinch you when you were little and at the convent's grammar school (where they couldn't hit you) they were sarcastic. They were not good at giving credit; if you were clever, it was a gift of God. In drama, no one said: "Well done, Carole!" It was: "Well, it's the only thing she's good at."

Badger gets a head start: Yet it was a good education and I had a good grounding in the subject I loved, which was English. Of the three Rs, I was absolutely hopeless at arithmetic; but I shone at drama. In Toad of Toad Hall I played Badger, with a wonderful black-and-white papier- mache head. My badger was much more benevolent than the one in Bodger and Badger, who is usually up to no good. I had a good singing voice and we went in for lots of music festivals.

Don't put your daughter in the stage school: I did eight O-levels and two A-levels, with a distinction in English. You had four choices: university or (Catholic) teacher training college, the Bank of England or Woolworths as a terrible threat. For me, that meant university. I really wanted to act, but no one - that is, neither parents nor school - would take me seriously. I secretly applied to Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, I secretly got accepted and I secretly forged my father's signature on the application form. But when I had an offer from Sheffield University to read English, I had to take it. I wrote to Rose Bruford, who demanded a term's fee. My father was responsible for this money (which he hadn't got) and he was livid.

Where's the logic? I went to Sheffield University for a year and hated it. I passed English and French but you had to do subsidiary subjects such as philosophy and logic and metaphysics and I failed the exams. I got a job at WH Smith in Fleet Street for a year and then applied to Birmingham School of Speech and Drama.

The council wouldn't give me another grant but I had a rich boyfriend at that time - sugar daddy would be the word, though it was terribly innocent - and he gave me an allowance for the first two years. In the third year I got a grant from Birmingham Council. In my final term I won the BBC's Carleton Hobbs award, which involved a six-month contract with the BBC Radio Drama Company.

Sweet Snell of success: Lynda Snell was a late developer. Maybe she failed her 11-plus and had to go to a secondary modern - and never quite got over it. She took as many exams as she could in subjects like shorthand, typing and book-keeping. Knowing that her creative bent would come out later, she got a job as a secretary, which was when she met Robert.

Interview by Jonathan Sale