PASSED/FAILED: Jennifer Paterson
Thursday 21 August 1997
Hors d'oeuvre? When we came back from China, where I spent the first four years of my life, I was sent to a funny little school in Turkeycock Lane, Rye, with, I think, only one lady teaching. I can remember her giving us those terrible little sweets which looked like letters, to help us read.
First course? Then at about six, I went to a convent with my older brother. The nuns were very nice.
Main course? At about seven, I went to a tiny boarding school with only about 60 pupils, the Convent of the Assumption, which was in Ramsgate, evacuated during the War to Hereford. We did French and Latin, and "deportment": how to come through a door properly. We always had to curtsy - give a little bob - to the Reverend Mother when we passed her in the passage. I learnt "illumination", which meant those big capital letters with gold rubbed in and a picture inside.
Could I ask you to leave, madam? I was expelled at 15. They said that if I left, the school might settle down. I tended to be a rowdy; I would question things and wouldn't conform. I was an exhibitionist. They used to put my table in the middle of the refectory with a screen round it and I would climb over the top, which would cause screams. Reverend Mother Rita of the Resurrection (she couldn't pronounce her Rs) had a wooden arm with a hand covered by a sort of chamois leather; she used to take your hand, put it on top of hers and pat it. She took me for a walk and said: "I'm afraid we've decided you'd do better somewhere else." She used to call me "Chick-a-biddy-bee".
Afters? I was meant to go to the local [private] day school for my School Certificate, but at 16 became an assistant stage manager at Windsor Theatre for six months. I wanted to go to drama school but I think my family disapproved of acting, so I was sent to Kingston Art School. Then we went to join Father in Germany after the War.
My compliments to the examiners: Clarissa [Dickson Wright] is academic; she's very bright; she was a barrister. The only thing I ever passed, apart from the motorbike test, was the Royal Academy of Art exam which we took every year: it was still life and life drawing, which was usually of one of the girls - not naked, but dressed in a vest and bloomers.
Movable feast? I passed the motorbike test in about 1965 but I discovered much later that they had given me the wrong licence - for cars and heavy articulated lorries. I had to take the test again for the television programme, otherwise they wouldn't insure me on the series. Clarissa is perfectly happy in the sidecar and settles down, usually with a book - even though in the pilot film, when I'd never before driven with a sidecar (which is very difficult - it pulls) I lost control and hit a camera
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