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.

Thursday 18 December 1986

…This morning we played Call My Bluff.
This afternoon we had our school Christmas party.
We played a newspaper game,
a passing-string-up-and-over-people’s-jumpers game,
a game where you passed a ball from people’s chin to chin
and not forgetting pass the parcel.
The food turned out to be served buffet style.
Then this evening everybody except me appeared on TV
because the whole class had gone over to Leon’s house
which is said to have marvellous Christmas decorations.
I stayed behind because [the teacher] wanted me to help
get a birthday surprise ready for [another teacher] who
was 24 today…

The chin game is one of those activities that has become confined purely to pre-teen or post-teen gatherings. For it to pass off successfully, it seems you either need a surfeit of innocence (in the former) or alcohol (in the latter). Adolescence, with its crippling self-awareness and preponderance of sediments and smells, is no place for chin-to-chin intimacy – at least, not between semi-strangers.

It was perfectly suited, therefore, for my primary school Christmas party, along with the equally intrusive string-up-the-jumper game and the eternally harmless pass the parcel. I’ve no idea, though, about what was involved in the “newspaper game”. As for Call My Bluff, I have a fear that I’d have approached this with a degree enthusiasm that would have unnerved many of my peers.

The TV appearance was on Midlands Today on BBC1. I’m not sure why I was picked to stay behind, but at least it meant I got to experience school after hours (always a joy).

Wednesday 17 December 1986

…As it was the infants’ party in the afternoon,
we had the afternoon off.
But in the time we were at school, we did some most strange things.
We had to make our own percussion instruments,
either using our mouth or using something in the classroom.
Then we had to sing Walking In The Air.
Instead of going home at 12.15pm I went to Eddie’s house.
We played on the computer and watched a James Bond video of
A View to a Kill…

I still have a soft spot for Walking in the Air. It’s perhaps the most melancholy song ever to become associated with Christmas. A musicologist would tell you it contains more minor than major chords.

One of the great injustices of the latter half of the 20th century (OK, perhaps not one of *the* great) was the way Peter Auty*, who sang the original and superior version, got utterly frozen out (ahem) of public consciousness by you know who, whose version is sappier and full of awful look-at-me melodramatic flourishes.

Although, like the rest of the country, I did buy a copy:

Take your hands out of your pockets, son

Talking of melodramatic flourishes, I’d been hassling my friend Eddie for ages to hire a Bond film from his local video rental shop. Such a transaction, indeed the very notion of a video recorder, was still alien in my house. As such today’s escapades were hugely exciting, even if the only 007 available in the shop turned out to be this one.

*Auty’s pipes also decorate another of the decade’s finest musical motifs.