Down with school? A friend says that I am one of the last of the governess- educated girls - but that's inaccurate, in that I wasn't educated by them. I had two governesses, both mad. One was a German princess who put me on a small pony on a leading-rein - and whipped me and the pony, cackling with laughter. The other was a French governess who sat me on her knee with an enormous box of chocolates; she just grazed my lips with each chocolate, but never gave me any. One day she descended into an Underground station and was never seen again.
Private tuition? I also went to Miss Shepherd in Chester-le-Street, a small village in County Durham. She was a complete maiden lady, a real encapsulation of Victorian respectability, who always wore a hat and veil. In her parlour she taught me the piano; I'm sure she must have taught more than that, because I went every morning for about a year.
Top of the form? From eight to about 13 I was a border at Queens Gate School in London. For a term I was "head of the form", but this was not the same as "top of the form". I was always, always, always bottom or second bottom - except one year when I was top in scripture with 991/2.
Old girls? I can remember looking up at Vanessa Redgrave, the prefect taking prep, and thinking, "Such an ugly face! Such a cross to bear in life!"
Design for living? I still see Miss Borchardt the geography teacher, who was exactly like Joyce Grenfell. We had to collect labels off tins and I became very excited by the design on cans from all over the world. For me, she opened the roving eye and got me going.
Career take-off? After a year gallivanting about in Paris, at 17 I became a photographer. I forged a press pass from a magazine I'd invented and followed Yuri Gagarin [the Soviet cosmonaut] round Britain. My pictures were used in various newspapers.
Exams? As far as O- and A-Levels are concerned, they were not taken; so I never obtained any qualifications. I've no groundwork of knowledge: I liken every job I do to dealing with glorious cut flowers rather than flowers planted in the soil. Perry [Peregrine Worsthorne, her third husband and former Sunday Telegraph editor] has taught me grammar and punctuation, and he subbed my Alphabet.
Glittering prizes? I was given the 40 Minutes award for Best Writer- Reporter. I am president of the Beamish Open Air Museum and of the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings; I am trustee of the new Wallpaper Museum in Islington. And I was Birmingham Press Club Personality of the YearReuse content