Vicki Ooi, Founder and director of the Shakespeare4All charity When I was about eight, in 1949, I drew this cow in my art class at King George's Girls School, Penang, and coloured it purple. I said I'd seen it in a dream. The teacher said, 'Nonsense, I've never seen a purple cow - you're wasting my art material. You won't be allowed to draw anything more unless you colour the cow brown.' I refused, so she slammed my knuckles with a wooden brush. I never drew after that. To this day, I've also never been able to do anything creative on expensive paper. I write on the backs of old envelopes and scraps of paper. There was a lot of corporal punishment in that school. I stayed there from primary into secondary. My first teacher, Miss Goh, was awful. She had a lovely jade bangle on her left arm and a heavy metal ruler in her right hand. I admired the bracelet enormously and then the ruler would come whacking down when you were looking at this fascinating jewellery. All the time I was there, I was a bad pupil, because I was bored. If kids are bored, you should give them more challenging work and they'll thrive. My friends in art once made a life-size model of one of our classmates, and I got the girl to bring in spare clothes, so I could dress up the model and hang it from the fan. When the teacher walked in, you should have heard the scream - she thought one of her class had hung themselves. We were given a lot of lines but I discovered that if you tied 10 pencils together, you could do 10 sets of lines at once. Soon other kids started asking me if I could lend them lines. Then I discovered where the teachers hid the lines, so I stole those and recycled them. I was nearly expelled. But my father was the inspector of schools in Penang. That helped tremendously. He said to me once, after three letters from my principal, 'You have a choice. You can go and be a salesgirl, a hawker or a servant. But I don't recommend any of these jobs knowing that you have no skills in any of them and you spend money lavishly.' What also made a difference was that I had diphtheria when I was about nine, and the doctor said I wasn't to do sports for about a year because of my weak heart. I hated sports. So I kept rubbing out the date on his medical certificate and putting in the new year. I asked to work in the library instead. The rest of my time was spent writing and putting on little plays. I left the school in Form Five, because they didn't have enough teachers to teach Form Six, so I went to a boy's school, the Penang Free School. If you've only ever been beaten and told how bad you are in school, you have such low self-esteem. To walk into the Free School was like the whole world opened. People there treated you like their equals. My history teacher William Williams asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to write plays. He just said 'Well, what's bloody stopping you?' There was a wonderful headmaster too, Mike Hughes. We used to smoke in the bike shed, and Michael came in and said 'Ladies, if you want to smoke, smoke like ladies. Only ladies of a certain profession smoke out in the street. I will give you a special common room where you can have tea and smoke and hopefully discuss your literature.' I went on to the University of Western Australia in Perth for a year to do history. But I didn't stay because my father was taken ill at the beginning of 1962 and he died in April that year. He didn't leave us a lot, so I had to look for a university which would be cheaper than Australia. That's when I discovered Hong Kong University. I taught there for 30 years until I retired in 2000, but by then I had started Eduarts and Shakespeare4All. Dr Vicki Ooi was talking to Amanda Watson. Shakespeare4all is performing A Midsummer Night's Dream tonight at the Cultural Centre.