One of the boys? When I was five I went to a girls' prep school, where there was a lot of art and knitting. Kingsmead, my brother's prep school in Hoylake, the Wirral, had big playing-fields and seemed more interesting, so after a year I went there. At first there were about six girls in a school with 300 or 400 boys, so we were very much seen as special and put on a pedestal. Every year I was Mary in the Nativity play, but I often took boys' parts as well.
Prisoner, House Block H: At the age of 12, I was sent away to Cheltenham Ladies College. I went from being a heroine to being just another girl. Cheltenham was a very academic school, but I hated it. Boarding houses are spread across the town, and you weren't allowed to stop off on your way back from the main college. The school was suffering from deep paranoia that we were all going to get pregnant. After lessons and at weekends you were just left in your houses, and the girls were always ganging up on each other. In addition, we were permanently hungry. One day I came across the deputy housemistress's hiding place for the keys to the back door and we decided to go out, under cover of darkness, for fish and chips.
The great escape: After almost two years, I ran away. Once each term you were allowed out in pairs to go shopping. My plan was to go to my best friend's mother near Banbury. I took a bus towards a most obscure spot and walked towards a hiding-place in a wood. It was at the time of the Black Panther [murders] and I thought, "What do I do now? What if I get murdered? My parents will never forgive me!" I took a bus back to Cheltenham and a taxi to the railway station. Five minutes before the train was due to arrive, two policemen frog-marched me back.
Remission for bad behaviour? I then went to Birkenhead High School, where all the girls seemed completely normal: they weren't locked up. I took nine O-Levels, and then A-Levels in maths, further maths and history. Out of 30 girls who entered Balliol College, Oxford, in 1979, two of us were from Birkenhead High School.
Feeling a bit Parky? I got a second in jurisprudence. As president of the Oxford Law Society, I invited Michael Parkinson to come and talk, in an interview to be broadcast on hospital radio. The only venue big enough to hold the audience was the Oxford Union. I went to see my friend William Hague, then its president, and he readily agreed. As I delivered my first question, Michael Parkinson said, "You've got a nice pair of legs!" As I sat down, my dress had opened up.
On the run: Running away from school, and going to Frankfurt, were both out of character. I'm really a very conventional person. When we had a mass confirmation at school, I managed to trip and fall into the bishop's lap. My mother laughed, but I was deeply mortified.
Interview by Jonathan SaleReuse content