PASSED/FAILED: John Humphrys - Profiles - People - The Independent

PASSED/FAILED: John Humphrys

John Humphrys, 53, is a newsreader and presenter of 'Today' and 'On the Ropes' on Radio 4, and BBC1's 'On the Record'

But first? When I was four I went to a nursery school. In the break we war babies were given a spoonful of disgusting castor oil and some orange juice to wash it down. Then we were made to lie down for half an hour on the floor of the gym to go to sleep.

And next? Splott Primary School, named after a district of Cardiff. On one of my first days there, I can remember not knowing where the loos were and not liking to ask - with the resultant disaster when I failed to reach the safety of my home. My mother was very sympathetic. It had very, very old desks which ponged of old polish and sweat; very few of the kids would have had a bathroom, just an outside privy.

But then? After a couple of years I went to Moorland Road Primary School, which was purpose-built and quite different. It was much further away but I still walked there and back - going home for lunch as well. In drama, I remember being Boadicea, which was wonderful as I was dragged around in a cart and ordered people around. I don't know why one of the little girls didn't take that part. I enjoyed primary school.

Watch your grammar? I sat the 11-plus. It really did dominate your life: a watershed. If you passed, you got a decent education. If not, you didn't. I did. You got into Cardiff High School by not only passing, but coming top. It was regarded as the best in Cardiff, if not Wales. It was academically brilliant and certainly the most snobbish. In my uniform and cap, I was the only one in my area to go there; it was not easy. There were not many working-class boys; I was acutely aware that the fathers of the other boys in my class were white-collar, while my father was - and is - a French polisher.

Premiere classe? I was in the B stream most of the time. I couldn't understand why people couldn't do French. There was also the odd English essay I did quite well. I took 10 O-levels, which was fairly normal. I sailed through French and scraped through maths with 51 per cent and German with 502/3 per cent. I failed woodwork.

And after? I remember the headmaster telling my parents I ought to stay on, but nobody in the family had gone to university. I had the idea of being a glamorous reporter - Clark Kent turning into Superman. I spent many years of my life resenting all those kids who wore university scarves.

And finally? I was given an honorary degree - a doctorate of letters - at Dundee University a couple of years ago. I have a picture of myself in a mortar-board, feeling fraudulent. Cardiff High once asked me to go back but I said: "Do you really want me to stand up and say how much I hated it?"n

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