PASSED/FAILED; Fay Weldon

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The Independent Online
Fay Weldon, 65, is writing a Channel 4 screenplay about the history of feminism. Wicked Women, her collection of short stories, is out as a Flamingo paperback this week

School of hard knocks? I remember getting slapped because I couldn't do my five times table. I went to 13 schools in New Zealand before I was 13.

Merit marks? I stayed at the last one, Christchurch Girls' High School, for two years. You got "gold bars" - pieces of fabric with the name of the subject at which you had done well - which hung from your gym-slipped, and well-developed, bosom. But I never got one; I was slightly relieved, because they looked rather odd.

Glittering prizes? I won a scholarship but didn't receive the money because I wasn't a farmer's daughter, which you had to be. We went to take the exam at what was called the "normal" school, which made me wonder what the other sort were.

Luncheon vouchers? I came to England when I was 14 and for three years went to South Hampstead School for Girls. I realise now that this girls' public day school was extremely selective but I just wrote an essay and gave them an interview. I was one of the "free" girls; the state paid our fees.

And lunches? We had our names on a board for those but I can't say I felt humiliated but instead rather grand.

Dead cert? In those days, instead of O-levels you took School Cert; you had to get all the subjects or you didn't pass at all. I did best at English language, Latin and history. I also got French and maths. And English literature, at which I was always very bad; it wasn't a subject we did in New Zealand.

Next level? I matriculated at 16 in English, Latin and French and went to St Andrews. The university took me in because they thought I was a boy - my Christian name is Franklin - and there was a quota of only 20 per cent for women. They found out when I applied for a women's hall of residence and said, `You can't come.' My mother persuaded them it wasn't fair.

Subject matter? I picked economics and psychology at random from a list. I got a First in economics and a RBS or something in psychology. After 30 years, they sent me a letter pointing out that I hadn't collected my degree (at the time you had to come down to London and you had to pay your train fare back) so I stood in line with the young people who were graduating that year. The next year they gave me an honorary degree. I am also DLitt at Bath University.

Next chapter? My first job was in the Foreign Office, writing reports on Eastern Europe and sending them up to Winston Churchill. They came back ticked with `vg' written on them.

Good egg? I worked in advertising before the days when people in this country handed out prizes but the Japanese were always giving me awards by post for my Go To Work On An Egg campaign. When I started radio and television dramas, the Writers' Guild gave me very heavy prizes in the form of replicas of the Rosetta Stone in bronze.

Glittering Booker Prizes? My last novel, Worst Fears, is shortlisted for the Whitbread. I was shortlisted for the Booker ages ago and I've been chairperson of the committee. I don't win literary prizes - I judge them!

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