Arabella Weir on being the naughtiest girl at school

Me and my school photo: Arabella Weir remembers being the naughtiest girl at school

Peter Robertson


22:51 GMT, 23 March 2012

Actress and comedienne Arabella Weir, 54, lives in north London with her husband Jeremy and their children Isabella, 14, and Archie, 12.

Arabella at Camden School For Girls

Arabella at Camden School For Girls

This is me at Camden School For Girls in May 1976, aged 18. I was a stroppy student, or as one teacher said, ‘The naughtiest girl I’ve ever had the misfortune to teach!’ I prided myself on a bad attitude, and in this photo I’m going out of my way not to smile. I thought that was the coolest thing I could do, which was pathetic.

My father, Sir Michael Weir, was a diplomat, so I was born in San Francisco, went to school in Washington and then Cairo, the Lyce Franais and the Town And Country prep school in London, and then Bahrain. But when I was ten my parents split up and my mother brought me and my two elder brothers back to England for good.

So,in 1968 I went for an interview at Bedales School in Hampshire, and it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I was so unlike all the ethereal, pencil-thin pupils there who called their teachers by their first names. I was chunky and wearing a nylon trouser suit and when I called the teacher ‘sir’, he laughed at me in front of everyone.

I didn’t get in to Bedales, and started at Camden School For Girls in September 1969, aged 11. I lived with my mum and sister five minutes from the school, and Mum taught English to the sixth-formers. But going there was daunting because I was plump and insecure.

I loved English literature and French but there was no way I was going to behave well just because my mother taught there. I even made the music teacher cry and cheered when she ran out of the room sobbing. I was suspended four or five times, once for a whole week, to my delight – for me, that was the last word in cool.

The actress (above right) with the cast of The Fast Show

The actress (above right) with the cast of The Fast Show

From the age of ten I’d known I wanted to be an actor because I liked showing off, but drama and plays required extra-curricular work, so I wasn’t keen on that. From 15, I sang with the band Bazooka Joe and when we lost our bass player, we were joined by Stuart Goddard, who later became Adam Ant. Our last gig was at St Martin’s School Of Art and we were supported by a band, playing for the first time, called The Sex Pistols.

When I was doing my O-Levels I was bored and feckless so I only passed two, yet I was allowed to stay on for A-Levels. By that time I was academically engaged and I got three: history of art, French and English.

I was extremely happy at the school and was the most popular girl in my year. I knew Emma Thompson, who was in the year below me, but we weren’t friends – she was much more of a jolly-hockey-sticks swot than me.

My parents and my brothers all went to Oxford but I went to Middlesex Poly, where I studied drama for two years, although I wish now I’d gone to university. I’ve sent my own son and daughter to a local comprehensive because I’m a Socialist, and I hope they don’t have to try as hard as me to be popular, because in my day there was no way you could be swotty and cool. Looking back, I wish I didn’t feel I had to try so hard to be the naughtiest girl in the school.

Arabella’s latest book, The Real Me Is Thin, is out now, published by Fourth Estate.