Off the rails? When I was seven my parents emigrated to South Africa, and I went to one school for the rest of my time, Herschel School, after the astronomer. Having started my education in Britain, I was a little ahead and I settled in; I didn't have to sweat very hard. At 11, being a bolshy child at home, I was deposited in the boarding part of the school. I was nearly expelled from this and still have the letter from the grim headmistress to my parents: "After Lights Out, Susan, with others, climbed over a balcony rail ... most dangerous to herself should an accident have occurred." I was, I'm afraid, a bit of a ringleader for the "naughties".
Darling, you were terrible! The most traumatic thing happened to me when I was 11. I was chosen to play a page in George Bernard Shaw's St Joan. I had a line which went something like "Look, a kingfisher flitting through the leaves," and four or so more lines. Three nights before the opening, I was called to the front of the stage and told that my voice wasn't loud enough and I was being replaced. I was mortified.
The Sash my mother wore? I probably don't need to tell you that this was a segregated, all-white, all-girls school in apartheid South Africa. I came from a circle of highly politicised parents. If you were too political, you went to gaol, but some of the mothers belonged to the Black Sash, an all-female organisation which stood outside Parliament on state occasions with heads bowed in mourning for the death of democracy. The last non- whites, the Cape Coloureds, were taken off the electoral roll in the early Fifties.
Out of South Africa? At 16, we took what was called the Matriculation Board Exam, a standard between O and A-levels. I went very briefly to Capetown University, but left because (a) I was much too young, and (b) I was longing to get back to Europe. After a term I bunked off and caught a boat to Europe with my mother. After about four months later she went back and, still 16, I was on my own.
Take a letter, Miss MacGregor! I went to Ecole de Commerce in Switzerland - not a finishing school at all but like a business school or mini-poly. I did it for six months and then came to Britain. I should have gone to a crammer and taken my A-levels, and then to university, but I did a secretarial course and loathed every minute.
- More about:
- George Bernard Shaw
- Higher Education
- London Business School
- University Of The Arts London