Passed/failed: JULIAN PETTIFER

Julian Pettifer, 62, is a television and radio reporter whose work has ranged from the Vietnam war to the environment. His TV documentaries include `Diamonds in the Sky', `Automania' and `Missionaries'; `El Nino is Innocent' will be transmitted later this year. His Radio 4 series `Crossing Continents' goes out on Thursday mornings. He has been Bafta reporter of the year and has also received awards from Unicef and the Royal Geographical Society.

Thundering canon? I grew up in a small village in Wiltshire called Crudwell, where my dad was the local vet, and went to the Church of England mixed infants. We were taught the three Rs by rote and scripture was frightfully important. The village rector, Canon Sole, who had black gaiters, a frock coat and an extremely stern demeanour, would test us every term on the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments. I had a broad Wiltshire accent.

Nethers Walloped? At nine I was whisked out of the village school over the road, to a traditional English prep school in Cirencester. Now an upmarket housing estate, it was Dickensian, a really tough school. Major Letts was the headmaster and Mrs Letts was a formidable lady who felt responsible for our moral welfare and table manners: "Pettifer, don't hold your table-knife like a housemaid." There was lots of beating - for anything. On Saturday mornings you had a terrifying review of your work and if it was not up to scratch, you were beaten. If you were "slacking" you were beaten. Fortunately I was pretty extrovert and enjoyed fighting - a ghastly child! - and games.

Too much of a fag? I passed the Common Entrance and got into Marlborough, which was heaven. Tom Heywood, the headmaster appointed when under 30, abolished fagging. I had a remarkable amount of freedom; we got on our bikes and roamed around the countryside. I played a lot of rugby, did some running, and was in the swimming team. Mr Barton, the art teacher always known as "Art-Barty", directed the school plays. I played Richard II, and Rafe in The Knight of the Burning Pestle, a most absurd play by Beaumont. I remember taking a an awful lot of School Certificates [GCSEs].

All vets are off? The next big crisis was my Higher Certificates [A- levels]. The idea was that I should follow in my father's footsteps and get into veterinary college, so I started science Highers. Then Dick Knight, my housemaster, said, "You might not make it." With just over a year to go, I switched to history, English literature and the general paper.

At your National Service? After my prep school, the army was a doddle - I'm serious! Basic training was in the Rifle Brigade in Winchester, where everybody else had been born within the sound of Bow Bells. I got a commission and was sent to Korea; the shooting war had finished but it was still active service. I certainly fired my rifle, but not in anger.

Falling foul of the law? At St John's, Cambridge, I started off reading law part I, then decided I didn't want to be a lawyer and read part II moral sciences; I got a 2.1. I was in the Marlowe Society and played Orlando in As You Like It, which went on tour to Holland and Germany. In my last year I played Troilus in Troilus and Cressida, with Daniel Massey, Bamber Gascoigne and John Bird; I think Peter Cook carried a spear.

Come back to Marlborough County? I did go back to Marlborough once to speak to the six form, which is now mixed. I found them utterly intimidating and so much more confident, and their knowledge of the world was so much broader. We were kids. They stopped being kids some time ago.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower