Saturday 31 May 1986

…Got my World Cup wallchart today at last.
Bought a Whizzer and Chips comic…

The arrival of the wallchart was a last-minute coup by my postman. I was over-the-moon, especially as the first match was this very day, live on BBC1 from 6.10pm.

But there was another first today, one – with hindsight – of far greater importance.

I’m pretty sure this was my debut issue of Whizzer and Chips. I wouldn’t have recorded it otherwise. I bought it while in Oxford, visiting my other grandmother (the one who didn’t live in my hometown) and who had just been taken into hospital. I imagine my parents would have encouraged me to get something to read a) to keep me quiet in the ward and b) to distract me from the significance of my gran’s incarceration.

So began an addiction to Whizzer and Chips that lasted at least 18 months. Was I too old to be reading this particular publication? I know I was late to comics, just as I would be late to almost every pop cultural staging post. But I don’t think I sensed, as a 10-year-old, anything out-of-the-ordinary.

I soon asked for it to be delivered directly to our house, which it was, all the way through to April 1989 and long past the point I’d stopped reading it properly. During the rest of 1986 and ’87, though, I looked forward to its arrival immensely and started to build up a collection.

I’ve still got a few issues. The oldest dates from 23 August 1986:

His troubles are behind him - BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
My favourites were always Sweet Tooth, Mustapha Million, Store Wars and Odd Ball. I didn’t like Sweeney Toddler, Sid’s Snake, Junior Rotter or Shiner. Joker looked like it had been drawn in 1936. I never really understood the appeal of the Bumpkin Billionaires, and I hated Mizz Marble. She was a smart-arsed wuss and I feared I was a bit like her.

I’d forgotten whether I considered myself a Whizz-Kid or a Chip-ite, until I leafed through that issue of 23 August 1986 and discovered the answer:

Yay!

Chip-ites may have been tougher, but Whizz-kids were smarter – or so I believed. That’s right, isn’t it? Tell me it’s right.

Meanwhile, in next week’s issue – free Libby’s Um Bongo sticker!

Well, who could resist?

Wednesday 28 May 1986

…In PE we did Crab Football.
With a lot of team spirit and co-operation the final score was 10-1.
To the opposition…

Sarcasm alert!

I wonder, though, if there is anything more excruciating than knowing you’re no good at PE, yet having to wait to be picked by a team captain who is well aware, as soon as they’re landed with yours truly, their team has already as good as conceded half a dozen goals.

It had been over two months since I’d last had to play this painful, humiliating game, so obviously it was time to be stripped of my dignity all over again.

Still, at least our team got one goal. Despite me setting up at least a couple for the opposition.

Tuesday 27 May 1986

…Day off again and nearly finished my map.
Did more organising for my TV on the World Cup…

No, I wasn’t setting up my own pretend TV channel in order to do some self-commentating. Instead, caught up in the mood of the occasion (more than I would ever be in subsequent tournaments), I fell to preparing a personalised viewing schedule, aided in no small measure by the arrival on newsstands and in our house of… 

GREAT SUMMER OF SPORT!

Chances are I would have skipped past all of this…

"...I for one shan't grumble."

…and headed straight for this:

Live on BBC1 and Radio 2 MW

“Second half live on BBC1”? Wouldn’t that be like starting to read a book from the middle? Not that I would have been able to watch those particular games, seeing as they were way past my bedtime. But I can’t deny that I was quite excited by the 1986 World Cup, chiefly for the spectacle, the history, and the novelty of all that TV schedule-shunting. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who was in the England squad, but I would have been able to tell you what time the first England match was on television, *and* whether it was also on Radio 2 MW.

With only days to go until the first game, however, one question above all else was beginning to dominate my every waking minute: just where on earth was my Radio Times/Grandstand World Cup Wallchart?  

Note: The “map” that I mention in the diary extract was a “map of the local area”, which I’d decided to start drawing the day before. Yes, I know: another map. What can I say? I had a crush* on cartography.

*”Had” a crush?

Monday 26 May 1986 (Bank Holiday)

…Day off today and tomorrow because of the half-term holiday.
Wasn’t allowed to watch the James Bond film Live and Let Die…”

More evidence of the frustratingly different (and in my 10-year-old mind, illogical) regimes run in my parents’ house and in that of my grandparents.

Earlier in the month I’d been allowed to watch Diamonds are Forever: my first TV Bond. Now here I was being denied even a snatch of the sequel (no Roger Moore-esque pun intended).

This seemed preposterous to me then, as it does now. Why the inconsistency between generations? Didn’t my mum and dad check to see what my granny and grandad let me watch?

Come to think of it I’m rather glad they didn’t. Or if they did, they can’t have been told the full story. To add to the mystery, I don’t think my grandparents even liked James Bond.

Anyway, being denied, as the following fantastic trailer booms, “more excitement, more action, more danger, and more – much more: Roger Moore!” ruined my bank holiday. Though not quite to the extent that McCartney’s theme is ruined by that nightclub singer halfway through:

Friday 23 May 1986

…Did a practice of the Assembly and did some work on floods.
In Art we put some hair onto our puppets – the papier-mache heads.
During the next few days we have got to look for material for his body, arms and legs…

Another Friday, another rehearsal for the assembly on 20 June.

If I had any doubts as to the wisdom of doing so many run-throughs, I didn’t record them. I’d like to think that my contributions, which had crystallised into the puppet routine I talked about on the 16 May plus a short recital on the piano, weren’t the cause of the endless practices.

If anything was my fault, it was my fondness for over-ambition. When it came to producing stuff for school assemblies, I always liked to think big. Too big, perhaps. For an assembly during my final year at primary school I attempted to stage a pastiche of Panorama, while a script I wrote for an assembly during my first year at secondary school involved the slaughter of an entire class of 25 pupils.

Nothing on that scale was intended for this performance, but I’m starting to wonder whether even some gag-based puppetry and a short burst of live music was perceived as too extreme for my teachers.

(Note also that the other ongoing puppet-based saga, the one in my Art lessons, was still not complete. I’d got ahead of myself on 16 May when describing the current state of my mangy marionette; it seems I hadn’t even began to assembly the accursed beast’s body…)

Wednesday 21 May 1986

…Did dictation, PE and SMP.
In the afternoon we wrote a story about the most exciting time of our life.
At dinnertime two-thirds of the class (not including me) had to do 50 lines for messing and talking…

I tried to make it my business to stay out of trouble at school, though anybody who chose to write the phrase “two-thirds of the class” instead of the less poncey “most of the class” or simply “a load of people” was always going to fall in with the swots rather than the rabble. Anybody using the phrase “two-thirds” within earshot of the rabble, however, was probably inviting several buckets of scorn, not to say punches.

I did get sent to the headmaster’s office a couple of times. I think one of them had yet to happen. The other had occurred a year or so earlier, when I was caught giggling during recorder practice – a travesty of justice, naturally. Especially as I was one of the few who could actually play the damn thing.