Each term we ask members of staff a few light-hearted questions about themselves so that friends of St Mary's School, Cambridge can get to know our team a bit better. Enjoy reading about our members of staff by clicking on each link below.
Head of English
What was your favourite subject at school? English, of course! I loved History too and I even had a place to study Fine Art at university, but English was always the subject I enjoyed the most and I think I always knew I would do something with it. I was lucky to have an incredible English teacher who fired up my enthusiasm. He didn't pay much attention to the syllabus and only really taught the things he was interested in, but his energy and enjoyment were infectious. He just threw stuff at us: Alan Ayckbourn, Alan Bleasdale's Boys From the Black Stuff, Dannie Abse, Larkin, Dave Podmore's Guardian cricket column (he used to photocopy it for us each week!), Beyond The Fringe... It was brilliant and it taught me very early on that literature and the arts could be exciting, strange, provocative, beautiful and utterly absorbing.
How did you get in to teaching? I initially went into advertising when I left university and began a Masters in it. It was fascinating, but it was never really me. I come from a family of teachers (both parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles!) so I suppose it was to be expected that I would give in to the inevitable and join them! I worked as a Reception teaching assistant for a year (a baptism of fire!) and loved it. I did my PGCE at the University of Cambridge the year after. I love sharing my passion for the subject with others and seeing their enjoyment and interest grow is incredibly rewarding. It is never, ever boring!
Why did you decide to work at St Mary’s School, Cambridge? I came from London because I wanted to return to Cambridge, and I was immediately struck by the unique atmosphere of the school, and I liked the 'quirkiness'. The best thing about teaching here is the friendliness of the staff and the girls and the sense of community.
Favourite things! What's your all-time favourite…
Book: Virtually impossible to choose, but today I'll go for Great Expectations. I'm teaching it to Year 9 and each time I come back to it I find something new. Alan Bennett's Writing Home is something I return to for comfort reading too. Oh, and P.D James' Death in Holy Orders! She captures the atmospheric nature of that part of the Suffolk coast so well.
Poem: Larkin and Hardy are my favourite poets, so something by one of them. They both find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'll go for The Whitsun Weddingsby Larkin and The Darkling Thrush by Hardy.
Film: I love a lot of the 1960s British kitchen sink films. Billy Liar is my favourite: Tom Courtenay is superb in that. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning with Albert Finney comes a close second. Also, if you haven't seen it, Spielberg's first TV movie Duel is a superb piece of cinema. You don't need special effects to create tension!
Joke: The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense. (Sorry)
What’s your favourite hobby? I love music and enjoy collecting records, which can be an expensive habit! At school I had a Saturday job and I used to spend all my money on albums. Nothing has changed really! I am a lifelong supporter of Ipswich Town Football Club (someone has to be...) and I watch them home and away. Town have a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and following them can be a painful experience, but it has become so engrained in me that there's nothing I can do about it now. When they do well it is a great feeling (see Richard Chaplow's last minute winner at Watford last season!). They are currently once again flirting with the play-offs, so there's still a sliver of hope this season...
What sort of music is your favourite? Paul Simon, The Smiths, St Etienne, Kirsty MacColl, Rory Gallagher, Belle and Sebastian, John Lee Hooker, New York Dolls, The Sundays, Blur, The Shangri-Las, to name but a few! In terms of more recent stuff, I really like a band called Songhoy Blues.
Where has been your favourite holiday? Southwold, Suffolk. Still my favourite place on earth!
Team trivia: (without looking it up) which two countries signed up to the common market in 1973 alongside the UK? Ireland and Spain? [Partly correct – the correct answer is Ireland and Denmark]