Miranda Hart, one of Britain’s best-loved actors, remembers her school days at Downe House as full of lacrosse, laughter and custard.
What school did you go to and when?
Downe House School in Berkshire from 1984 to 1991. I think they genuinely were the best days of my life.
Were you a boarder or day pupil?
I was a boarder. My father was in the Navy and got posted abroad when I was 11, and they decided to keep me and my sister’s education in the UK.
What A-levels did you choose?
I did Politics and Geography. I also chose Biology but gave it up in the first term because I didn’t want to go on a field trip to look for algae somewhere. Perhaps not the wisest choice.
What were your passions at school?
Lacrosse was my primary passion. I absolutely loved it. All sport really, but lacrosse suited me really well. I was a sprinter so I could whip down the field cradling the ball higher than most. I didn’t admit I wanted to act until quite late in my life so just played one line parts here and there in plays – mainly playing men in various smelly suits. Oh, and another passion was playing piano duets – I was good at the piano but it was playing duets I loved.
Did you have a memorable teacher?
I was going to add to the above that I do remember being really passionate about directing the play I did in Sixth Form. It was Hay Fever by Noel Coward and I was really proud of how many laughs it got, and I will never forget what Mr Palmer, the French Teacher, said. He was always rather an intimidating figure, and I never had him as a teacher as he only taught the top divisions (somewhere you wouldn’t find me), but he took the time to write me a note and tell me that it was one of the best plays he had seen on at the school in all his years there. It was so encouraging because we all need champions to support our unique skills.
What do you remember about school food?
Mainly that I absolutely blooming LOVED IT! In the main, I refer to the puddings. The apple crumbles with the six-foot high yummy crumble topping and the thick custard. The ice cream and chocolate sauce. Although I draw the line at bread and butter pudding…
Can you recall the smell (and if so what is that)?
Not getting the recipe for that custard. And not doing that third A-level. It had repercussions for where I could go to university. That said, I never regret following my passions, and I also gave it up to focus on lacrosse (at the time I thought I might be a PE teacher). The only regrets I think we can have in life is if we know what is true and right for us, but we go the other way due to fear. That still small voice within always knows the way.
Have you been back since?
Yes, a couple of times, which I have really enjoyed. Although once was at the height of fame with Miranda being on the screens, and I was very flattered, but not expecting girls to be hanging out of their classrooms and screaming at me as I walked past. My moment of feeling like a pop star!
If there was one perfect day at school you could relive what would it be?
Need you ask – an afternoon on the lacrosse pitch, followed by a massive apple crumble and custard.
Maths or English?
Neither. You’ll see me in nature.
Hockey or Tennis?
Tennis. No question.
Uniform or mufti?
Piano or guitar?
Head girl or Cheeky Rebel?
A cheeky rebellious Head Girl. Changing the system in a jolly way.