Penny Smith remembers flushing her sports pants down the loo and hanging with bad-girls

Me and my school photo: Penny Smith remembers flushing her sports pants down the loo and hanging out with the bad-girl outlaws

TV presenter Penny Smith, 53, recently published her third novel, Summer Holiday

TV presenter Penny Smith, 53, recently published her third novel, Summer Holiday

This is my younger sister Helen and me (I’m the one with the headband) in our primary school uniforms. We’ve always been close, although there were some intense rows when we were growing up – we used to pull each other’s hair out.

We went to Uppingham Primary School, in Rutland, with my two brothers, Steve and Darryl. We all went on the school minibus, which stopped outside our house, and Mum would wave the four of us off each morning.

I loved school with a passion. I liked learning and I sometimes started projects my teacher hadn’t even set. I’d rope my friends into doing them with me as I was, and still am, incredibly bossy. I even created a school magazine with recipes, stories, a poem and a crossword – I still have a copy at home.

My obsession with writing, which later took me into journalism, then fiction, began early on. When I look back, I feel sorry for my teachers. They would set a piece of homework with no upper limit on how much you could write. I remember getting back after the summer holidays once and handing in my ‘What I Did On My Holidays’ essay – it was like a small novel! The other kids just handed in a single sheet of paper.

One of my favourite teachers was Mr Ainse. He looked a bit like Val Doonican, and when I was once off with tonsillitis, he wrote me a really sweet note to say the class was missing me.

My sister, brothers and I all had school lunches, which I loved – I still hanker after overcooked cabbage. There was never a problem with me eating anything at all, and I realised if I smiled nicely at the dinner ladies, they gave you bigger portions.

Penny lives in central London with actor boyfriend Vince Leigh

Penny lives in central London with actor boyfriend Vince Leigh

The worst thing that happened to me at Uppingham was when I accidentally flushed my sports pants down the loo on sports day. I had to wear lost-property pants that were twice as big as me.

I went back to my primary school some years ago, with GMTV, who gathered a few former pupils together. One of them was my old friend Karen Merrick, who became a nurse and was still as much of a laugh as she was then.

The strangest thing about going back was that I remember the school being massive, and of course it was tiny. After primary school, I moved to Rutland High School for Girls, in nearby Oakham. I didn’t know anyone there so I had to start making friends all over again. I thought it was a smart idea to make lots of friends, so I ran with the sporty gang, the bad-girl outlaws, the good-at-English crowd and even the smoking crew, although I hated every puff and gave up smoking as soon as I left school.

My only regret about school is that I didn’t concentrate more in history, even though it was taught in such a dull way. I remember endless tales about medieval churches, and even now when I see people brass rubbing my heart sinks because we did it endlessly. Why didn’t we talk about
Henry VIII’s wives or the court of Elizabeth I and all its skulduggery That would have been much more fun.

Summer Holiday by Penny Smith is published by HarperCollins, 7.99.