What was your school like?
I went to the same school as Jarvis Cocker. If you’ve heard his songs about growing up, that about sums it up. Put it this way, I used to watch [British TV school drama] Grange Hill and think it was posh.
Were you a swot or a rebel?
Bit of both – these days I’d probably be labelled with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder]. I was one of those kids who was so clever, I thought I knew more than the teachers. I may have been wrong on that one.
What were your favourite subjects?
English. When I read Catcher In The Rye [by JD Salinger] I fell in love with books. I was just coming up to school-leaving age and was feeling all the teen angst that comes with that and something about Holden Caulfield [the book’s main protagonist], even though his circumstances were a million miles away from mine, really hit home. The first time I went to New York, I retraced his path through the city.
Who was your most memorable teacher and why?
Mike Jarvis. Maths teacher. Great guy, played guitar and had a cracking beard!
Did you ever get in trouble?
This magazine is not big enough to answer that question. I had lines more times than I care to remember and I’m pretty sure I’ve got repetitive strain injury in my wrists as a result. One lunchtime at junior school I was a server and the girl I was serving with was giving out unequal portions. When I complained, the dinner lady took her side and I got into trouble, so I walked out and went home. I remember cowering in my parents’ bedroom while the headmaster hammered on the front door. I was kicked out of the school choir for that one, hence no number one singles in later life.
Did you like school dinners?
I absolutely loved them. In fact I had this harebrained scheme a few years ago to open a restaurant serving nothing but school dinners, with dinner ladies as waitresses. I think it’d go down great. Personally, I was a massive fan of cheese pie, chips and beans, followed by rainbow sponge and chocolate custard – though woe betide the dinner ladies if there was skin on the custard.
What crazes did you have at school?
In the early ’80s my school allowed us to use one of the classrooms for breakdancing. I also seem to remember fluorescent terry-towelling socks doing the rounds. Farah trousers and Pringle sweaters had their moment, too. Everyone at school looked like Jimmy Tarbuck.
What was the worst school joke?
How many letters are in the alphabet? Twenty-two, because ET went home and somebody shot JR – that joke is so ’80s, it comes with a Rubik’s Cube and Raleigh Grifter.
Who was your best friend at school? Are you still in touch?
My best friend was called Stephen Clark. He lived near the bus stop – which I always envied as it meant he could stay in bed longer. We spent far too much time playing with our ZX Spectrums. He pops up every now and then but we’re not close now.
How do you think your school experience differs from that of Dubai kids today?
My school seemed very spit ’n’ sawdust compared to what kids get here. Facilities these days are amazing and kids in Dubai seem well balanced. They also seem very intelligent for their age, or maybe we were just really immature. I expect it’s the latter.
So were your school years the ‘best of your life’?
I didn’t enjoy school that much. I’ve been invited to a school reunion in September and wild horses couldn’t drag me there. I have no intention of reliving the past and I’m not that bothered about everyone seeing how that cute, skinny little runt has grown into a big fat monster! When you’re at school it’s your entire world. It can really mess with your head and you’re led to believe every decision you make is vital to your future. After leaving, you look back and realise that’s not the case. I wish someone had explained that to me, then maybe I’d have relaxed and had a better time.
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