Charley Boorman remembers silent sessions and terrible food at his Quaker boarding school

Me and my school photo: Charley Boorman remembers silent sessions and terrible food at his Quaker boarding school

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UPDATED:

21:31 GMT, 15 June 2012

Actor-turned-adventurer
Charley, 45, lives with his wife Olivia and their two teenage
daughters, Doone and Kinvara, in south-west London.

Charley in a class photo taken at Sibford School when he was nearly 14-years-old

Reminiscing: Charley in a class photo taken at Sibford School when he was nearly 14-years-old

This photo was taken at Sibford School near Banbury in Oxfordshire in the summer of 1980, when I was nearing my 14th birthday. Guy Ritchie was a couple of years below me at Sibford but I didn’t know him well, so we haven’t kept in touch.

Both my parents Christel and John [director of films such as Deliverance and Hope And Glory] were relaxed about education. But schooling was complicated for me because I’m quite heavily dyslexic.

Half the time we lived in Ireland and half the time we lived wherever Dad was making a movie, so we spent a lot of time in the US, where they were much more advanced on dyslexia. When we travelled, I was taught by tutors. Then I went to a few schools in Ireland – St Gerard’s in Bray, St Kilian’s in Dublin and Sir Oliver Plunkett just outside the capital, which all specialised in dyslexia and helped me a lot.

Finally my parents sent me to Sibford, a mixed boarding school with about 600 kids and a large dyslexia department, for three years. I was apprehensive about leaving home for the first time, and I remember on the first morning seeing a signpost to places like Burdrop and Chipping Norton and thinking I was in some alien world! School food was atrocious, particularly Sunday lunches, which comprised slivers of beef floating in water, with soggy carrots and potatoes.

On top of the normal school timetable, we dyslexic kids would have extra lessons, which gave me tremendous confidence in reading and writing. And we were always integrated. I didn’t like English or maths, and I sometimes used dyslexia as an excuse for not doing my homework. But I really enjoyed geography and metalwork. I made my mum a beautiful bracelet which went on display at school for a while, and that made me proud.

Adventurer: Charley has never forgotten his teacher's advice - 'walk fast and look busy'

Adventurer: Charley has never forgotten his teacher's advice – 'walk fast and look busy'

Back then I was massively into motorbikes and adventure, but mostly I was fascinated by girls. I had a few school romances; as it’s a mixed school, you learnt how to communicate with the opposite sex.

Sibford is a Quaker school, and each
morning you’d sit in silence for 30 minutes or so. If somebody wanted to
say something they’d be encouraged to stand up and speak. A lot of us
enjoyed that because it helped clear your mind.

Being
a Quaker school, Sibford had a different kind of strictness. If you got
into trouble, you’d have to write a letter to your parents to tell them
what you’d done – I think I’d have preferred the cane!

My
housemaster once told my father I was very good at not getting caught.
But a few of us were once found with cider we’d bought from the local
pub. My housemaster insisted we shouldn’t be suspended or expelled,
though, as the pub was also at fault for selling it to us. I always
liked him for that, and for the advice he gave me, ‘Charley, walk fast
and look busy, then no one will bother you!’

I’m still in touch with four of my schoolmates and I’ve been to the occasional school reunion. The food is a million times better now!

www.charleyboorman.com. The book and DVD of Extreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada are out now.