When I was ten and a new pupil at secondary school, I wrote my first set homework assignment for R.E. – a recount of the one of the seven plagues of Egypt. After a few days my book came back with the comment (in a mean little script written in red pen): Is this all your own work? Mortified, because it was my own work and I’d written it like a story, with my usual enthusiasm and emotional investment, I approached the teacher on the pretext that I hadn’t been able to read her comment. “Well,” came the reply, “it was so vivid.” I said I had written it myself, but I could see she didn’t believe me. To this day I still feel the injury to my early strong sense of myself as a writer, and the need I had to own and assert my talent, though of course in those days, when the teacher was the ultimate authority figure, it didn’t make any difference to her judgment.