PASSED/FAILED: David Bellamy

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The Independent Online
Professor David Bellamy, 64, is a botanist, broadcaster and environmentalist. He set up the Conservation Foundation, one of 33 organisations worldwide of which he is President or Vice-President. On Sunday he begins an eight- day train journey through Britain to meet local representatives of the Wildlife Trust Partnership.

Early observations? On my first day at school, I shared a double desk with a little girl - she wet the seat and I got the blame. It was Chatsworth Road Infants in Cheam. I went to meet the kids recently when it was renamed Cheam Fields School (after the old brick fields). I was six when the war started and we were in "Doodlebug Alley"; I did a lot of my schooling down the shelters. You went to school and one of your friends wouldn't be there because his house had been hit by a flying bomb.

Dangerous habitat? During what was the second great fire of London, I was in our front room looking with a telescope at the flames round the dome of St Paul's. I can remember seeing the French windows migrate across the room and I was knocked out.

Spilt milk? Then I went to Cheam Juniors, 300 yards away, which had a motley set of teachers who taught us well in impossible conditions. One teacher had been in the Indian Army and our best lesson was when he showed us pictures of heads chopped off and impaled by the "wicked Indians". School dinner was cooked in a big cauldron in the corner of the classroom. Milk came in a churn; I got caned for ladling it out too enthusiastically and spilling it all over the floor.

Secondary characteristics? We learnt a lot but I didn't get my 11-plus so my dad, who couldn't really afford it, paid four guineas a term for me to go to Sutton County Grammar School. He had been the first non-fee- paying - scholarship - boy, and I was the last fee-paying pupil; next year, the fees stopped. My parents desperately wanted me to be a medic but you had to have four subjects at A-level and I could never get chemistry. By the time I finally got it, I had left school and was a lab technician at Ewell County Technology College. I enjoyed this job and ran three cars.

Mating habits? There I met my wife, Rosemary, who was doing a pre-nursing course. We used to hold hands under the bench. She had two brilliant teachers: George Fluck, a cousin of Diana (Fluck) Dors, and Ned Norris. They said to her: "Come on - why don't you go to university?" She went to Queen Mary's College, London.

New life-cycle? They inspired me too: "You're a bloody fool! You've got a brain between your ears and you'll be sorry if you don't use it." Five years later I had got my degree at Chelsea College, was well on the way to my PhD at Bedford College - and was a full lecturer at Durham University, where I still am. I'm Honorary Professor of Adult and Continuing Education; they've not paid me for 20 years.

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