Me and my school photo: Tim Vincent remembers losing his puppy fat and learning to act
22:38 GMT, 10 August 2012
Tim Vincent, aged 12, in his Maelor comprehensive school uniform
This is me aged 12 at my mixed comprehensive, Maelor, near Wrexham in North Wales. I was going through a chubby phase and was bullied a bit as a result – nothing major, just snide remarks, but at that age you hate to stand out. I was only about 5ft 4in then, and by 17 I'd shot up to six foot, so I grew up rather than out.
The comments held me back from approaching girls for years. But they also made me determined to get fitter, and I started lifting weights in the school gym and running in the country lanes around my home.
It was a huge shock moving from my tiny primary school in the village of Overton, where you knew everyone and walked to class, to a comprehensive with 600 kids and a seven-mile coach ride every day. It was a strict school; the uniform was similar to Grange Hill with a tie and blazer, and the height of rebellion was to wear Day-Glo socks. But I was never much of a rebel, and was even made a prefect.
I was reasonably academic, good at English and the humanities, though not great at maths or science. But my big love was always acting.They didn't have any drama lessons at school, so my mum used to drive me twice a week to acting classes in a nearby village, where Ricky Tomlinson – of Brookside and Royle Family fame – helped out.
A young Tim Vincent on ITV's Children's Ward in 1988
When I was 15, he took a group of us up to the Granada Studios in Manchester for an audition. They were looking for actors for a new ITV series, Children's Ward, and they wanted untrained youngsters rather than stage-school products. I managed to bag the lead role of Billy Ryan, a teenage alcoholic. Billy used to drink Bacardi and Coke, although obviously it was only Coke on set!
Tim Vincent appeared in Dancing On Ice in 2008
We did 13 episodes initially, which meant I had four and a half months off school. The cast had a private tutor, and we were meant to do at least three hours' schoolwork a day, but because I was in so many scenes, usually lying on a bed, it sometimes didn't work out that way and I was starting to fall behind.
The school was great, setting me extra coursework and making sure I was following the syllabus. Our classroom directly overlooked the Coronation Street set, and it was hard to concentrate sometimes with Barbara Knox or Julie Goodyear sashaying along in high heels on the cobbles beneath you. But I managed to get good grades in my nine GSCEs and went on to do the same with A-levels in English, history and sociology, while carrying on filming Children’s Ward.
I got a place at Bournemouth University to study PR, but deferred for a year, and during that time was offered Blue Peter, which I jumped at. I have no regrets about not going to university – those three years on Blue Peter were my education in TV presenting and filming, and I had an amazing time.
Tim Vincent with his Blue Peter co-presenters Diane Louise-Jordan and Stuart Miles
I often live in the States for months at a time and I do miss Britain a lot, especially my dog, a tiny teacup Yorkie. I'm back here covering the Olympics for American channel NBC and I'd love to do something like the US X Factor, which returns later this year. I'm on nodding terms with Simon Cowell, so you never know.
Former Blue Peter presenter Tim Vincent, 39, lives with his partner Michelle Sugar – Sir Alan's former daughter-in-law – in London, Wales and LA.