Wednesday 31 December 1986

…359 DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS!
Last night I had a nose bleed at 3am until 4am.
It’s not fair.
I hate nose bleeds.
This is the last day of 1986: the year Prince Andrew and
Sarah Ferguson got married.
The year the space shuttle blew up.
The year of the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl.
The year in which we went to Anglesey.
The year in which I took two piano exams and
the year in which I should have tried better to play sport at school.
It was also the year Mum went to Sainsbury’s 50 times…

…This is my last entry for 1986.
I hope the new year will be like this one only better…

I would like to associate myself with the remarks made by myself 25 years ago today.

Tuesday 30 December 1986

…Harold Macmillan, former prime minister, died today.
He was 92…

Macmillan was one of those people who always looked old. Even when he was prime minister back in the 1950s he had the appearance of an octagenarian, albeit a somewhat sprightly one.

Here’s the old bugalugs in 1956, flashing a £1 Premium Savings Bond:

Bond; the name's Premium Bond

His death was quite a big deal at the time. He’d become a bit of a one-man anti-Thatcher movement in the House of Lords, likening her fondness for privatisation to selling off the family silver. But as with the similarly-themed verbal eruptions from Ted Heath, I don’t think Thatcher gave a toss.

Elsewhere today my family played the board game Scotland Yard. “I won by capturing the crook – aka Dad – on his 20th move.”

Monday 29 December 1986

…This morning I got up at 7.20am to watch the
early morning Children’s BBC programmes.
Mum and Dad didn’t disapprove because I brought them up
a cup of tea – one each, not just the one.
We went to Leicester at 9am to spend our Christmas money.
We went from C&A to Lewis’s to Marks and Spencer and
then to WHSmiths.
I bought a Live and Let Die book, Asterix and the Banquet,
an Asterix game book and a book of TV themes for the piano.
Then we went to Hudsons, Breezes and Mothercare.
Later I watched Fifty Not Out celebrating 50 years of sport
on BBC television.
I had to watch Children’s BBC on the old black-and-white
television in the dining room…

For the first seven or eight years of my life, black-and-white television was all I knew.

Then a colour set was bought. It must have been in 1983 or even as late as ’84.

The very first thing I saw on it, and hence my first taste of technicolour entertainment inside my own home, was an edition of On Safari. I remember being startled by how vivid, not to say lurid, was the gunge in the studio swamp pits. The same went for Christopher Biggins.

Sadly, he doesn't come just once a year

The black-and-white set, which one of my parents had acquired in the 1960s, was a Grundig replete a dial for tuning into the stations.

It now served as the reserve television, where one of us could watch an alternative to whatever was on the main set.

In my case it increasingly became an alternative in all senses, as within a couple of years it would be where I went to stock up on the likes of Blackadder, Fry and Laurie, KYTV and others.

I always felt much more at ease watching these kinds of things by myself in a separate room away from the others. There was never much communal all-gather-round-the-goggle-box business in our house.

Later still I got to take the Grundig away with me to university. It was now over 30 years old but still working perfectly fine, and allowed me to become known in my hall of residence corridor as That One With The TV. Which I suppose was better than a clutch of other alternatives.

Two years after that, my sister took it away with her to university, and broke it.

Friday 26 December 1986

…I woke up at 7am and started to read Yes, Prime Minister.
I was so engrossed in it that I didn’t realise Muppet Babies had started.
Shock! Horror!
I only missed about two minutes luckily.
I had a triple breakfast made up of toast, cornflakes and bacon…

The first volume of Jim Hacker’s prime ministerial diaries was one of my main presents this year.

My entry for today tells the reader to find a full list of them “at the back”… but no such inventory exists. As such I can’t go into any further details as to what I received.

It was a bit of an atypical Christmas anyway. One of my grandparents was in hospital in Leicester, and most of the days involved visits, usually with the other grandparent in tow. Hospitals are places that take you out of time – at Christmas even more so. The few balloons and strings of tinsel that were evident inside the wards seemed to just subtract from, not compound, any sense of festive spirit.

I’m not sure how ill my grandparent was. I suspect the severity of his condition was kept from me and my sister. I certainly didn’t pay his circumstances much heed in today’s entry. Second only to my concern about Muppet Babies was getting back home in time to see Michael Crawford in Barnum.

Wednesday 24 December 1986

…Twas the night before Christmas
and in the past day,
Lots of things happened
and I’ve had to pay.
Finished my shopping
with no money left;
And now I can’t think of
any more rhymes.

Yes, that old cop-out. Oh dear. I couldn’t even stretch to “bereft” or, perhaps more challengingly, “cleft”.

But it was Christmas Eve, I’d watched – among other things – a repeat of The Box of Delights and the Two Ronnies, and I couldn’t be bothered. I’d bought my sister a cuddly dog, my mum a vase and my dad a map. “They were all cheap.” My work here was done.

Tuesday 23 December 1986

…We had to do our Christmas food shopping in Sainsbury’s.
It was madness.
Why couldn’t we have done it last month?
The food would have gone off, that’s why.
Spent five minutes getting into the car park.
Mum spent 82 pounds!
Honestly.
Well, it was for two weeks.
We spent two hours getting all our food,
20 minutes of which were spent checking out at the checkout.
Later I watched the Krypton Factor grand final.
The winner was a certain David Kemp…

No presumption here as to the merits of doing the food shopping early. But then I imagine you’d have been hard pressed to find a whisper of a mince pie in Sainsbury’s before the start of the month. I’m also taken by the idea of not going back out to the shops for a fortnight.

As for the Krypton Factor, it would have been smashing to find a clip from this particular edition online somewhere.

Even more smashing, however, is this clip, of a different bunch of contestants (but no doubt of similar middle-class, middle-management stock) from what looks like the mid-80s trying to assemble a three-dimensional puzzle of a map of… the ITV regions!

As for the “certain” David Kemp, it turns out he is now a governor of Canterbury Christ Church university.

Monday 22 December 1986

…I watched the Dukes of Hazzard.
This afternoon I watched The Pink Panther Strikes Again
starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Cleouosoe [sic].
Then I watched the Disney film Peter and the Wolf.
Then I watched Children’s BBC which included the
final part of Odysseus.
For tea tonight we had beef from yesterday, warmed up…

Always good to spend your school holiday getting out and about, meeting people and doing something different.