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 SaleReuse content