|Tessa, 54, is best known as Del Boy's girlfriend, Raquel, in Only Fools And Horses|
This is me aged five on my first day at school. Iím wearing my bottle-green uniform and standing at the end of the path to our house in Kenton, north-west London.
Mum was a civil servant at the Ministry of Defence and sent me to Kenmore Park Junior School in Harrow because she worked nearby. We didnít have a car, so for the first two years I rode on a seat on the back of her bike to get to school.
I felt quite insecure on busy roads. At seven, I started cycling myself. I had a moment of panic on my first day when I realised Mum wasnít around, but the rest of my time there was very happy.
On my tenth birthday, my class left for a fortnightís cruise to Norway, Sweden and Holland. Iím an only child, so I loved being in a dormitory Ė I thought thatís what it must be like to have brothers and sisters.
In our last year at Kenmore, we put on a play. It was the first time Iíd acted and I was playing a cook. Mum was ill and my dad wasnít around Ė they were divorced Ė so no one at home could make me a costume. Miss Woolacott, one of the teachers, ended up making me one in her lunch breaks. I loved it all.
At 11, I went to Downer Grammar, up the road, and discovered there were things about school I didnít like. I was in the bottom set for maths and I was hopeless at science. I also dreaded PE because I was always the last person to be picked for a team and I trailed behind in every race.
I remember traipsing round muddy hockey fields using my stick to protect my ankles from the other girlsí violent swings. Every other week, I said it was my 'time of the month' to get out of it.
I wanted to be a dancer and Iíd been going to dance class every evening since I was four, but when I was 14 I realised the other girls were much better at ballet than me. I had neither the figure nor the talent. So I turned to acting.
|Tessa has a son and a daughter with her partner, the actor Douglas Hodge, and they live in Oxfordshire|
When Mr Whittington, my English teacher, read Shakespeare, it came to life. He encouraged us to use our imaginations. I thought he was this wise old man because he had a beard. He was probably in his 30s. Once I got into drama, I was determined to be an actress.
I had a crush on Christopher Neame, who was in Colditz, my favourite TV programme. I found out he went to the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and I didnít know any other way into the profession, so I thought I had to go there. And because Mum didnít have much money, I had to get a grant. I needed five O-levels. I worked my socks off and got eight.
My headmistress was horrified when I said I was leaving at 16, but there was nothing she could do. I was incredibly single-minded Ė I never asked Mum, I just told her.
Sheíd been in amateur productions so she was totally supportive. I left school and applied to Central. Who knows what Iíd have done if I'd been rejected. Luckily,I got in and it all worked out.