Tuesday 18 November 1986

…At 8.15am we had our water cut off.
But we had been warned, so we had filled the bath with
cold water for the loo, saucepans for mum’s cooking and
a few jugs for drinking water.
It came back on at 2.15pm…
…For lunch at school we had pizza – yuk* – potatoes – yum –
oranges – yum – coleslaw – yum – and for pudding we had
milkshake.
This afternoon we did maths and after that swimming.
I hate swimming, because now I’ve got my grade 3
I am in the top group doing eight lengths of breaststroke!
Watched Yes, Prime Minister as always this evening…

This would have been episode three of series one, The Smoke Screen, which had been first shown earlier in the year on BBC2. This was its repeat on BBC1.

I doubt if I grasped many of the script’s subtler observations and jokes. In fact I’m not sure what I would have grasped. But I’d discovered a copy of volume two of Jim Hacker’s ministerial “diaries” on one of my parents’ shelves a few weeks earlier, and I had become hooked. I’d even taken the book to school for when we did silent reading. If it was possible for a 10-year-old to be dizzyingly pretentious, then – in this instance at any rate – I was that child.

Anyway, 25 years later, I now get all the observations and the jokes, and most of what is laughingly dismissed here has almost come true:

*To coin a Sir Humphrey-esque phrase, I have since reversed my position on this continental comestible.

Saturday 15 November 1986

…Dad and I went into town this afternoon to get two comics including
 my Whizzer and Chips, a book for me based on the TV programme
Odysseus the Greatest Hero of Them All and to get two candle
holders for our Advent candles.
Watched tons of TV this evening including a film, Doctor Who and
Hi-De-Hi…

Tony Robinson’s freewheeling adaptation of the Odyssey, Homer’s epic ancient poem, was currently showing on BBC1 in the Jackanory slot.

I was a big fan. I was hooked just as much by the conceit – Robinson retelling the whole yarn entirely by himself, on location, with gags and silly voices to boot – as the story.

At the time, the name listed on the front cover as co-author meant nothing to me:

Robinson's crew, so?

Now I flick through the pages and see how the vernacular and sometimes scatological text is laced with, yes, clunking sentimentality. The kind, I fear, that often turns up in this blog.

Oh dear. Twenty-five years on, and it’s Curtis rather than Robinson who has left the bigger mark.

That wasn’t what was meant to happen!

Friday 14 November 1986

…A man has died from doing a Noel Edmonds
Late Late Breakfast Show stunt.
He fell off a crane.
It is big news…

It wasn’t just big, it was enormous.

This was one of those events that collectively and instantly entered the psyche of a generation. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. It might sound it to people who weren’t around in 1986 or were too young to notice. But really, it’s not.

It was talked about in the playground for days. Days and days.

It was morbid and hubristic. It was downright bizarre. It was compellingly grisly.

It was, to be frank, a sensation. And, to be frank, as 10-year-olds, we revelled in it. That’s perhaps a horrible thing to say, but we weren’t old enough to know better.

All we were aware of, all we were receptive of, were the incidentals and the peripherals. Such as: what actually happened while Michael Lush was suspended from the crane? How high was he off the ground? How did Noel Edmonds find out?

And above all, what was going to be on instead of the Late Late Breakfast Show instead?

We didn’t once hold a thought for the friends and relatives of the victim.

And we certainly didn’t give a thought to the wider question of whether members of the public should ever be placed in situations of jeopardy on live television.

In short, we discussed it and then recalled it for all the wrong reasons. But to be fair, I don’t think any of us at that age would have been expected to determine what were the right and wrong ways to remember such a unique event.

We had others to do that for us.

Chiefly, television.

Thursday 13 November 1986

…This afternoon’s PE lesson was football.
It was horrible, dreadful, outrageous and plain stupid.
1. It was throwing it down with rain.
2. There were piles of mud of everywhere.
3. It was freezing cold.
Loughborough is in absolute chaos and mayhem.
Traffic jams two miles long, people stuck on traffic lights,
diversions in operation everywhere.
The reason: the fair.
The fair opened this afternoon and we went at 6pm.
I went on the ghost train which was horrible, the helter skelter,
the fun house, the merry-go-round and the dodgems…

The funfair still visits my hometown at this time every year. It was there this weekend.

I believe it now costs something like £20 to go on one ride. Twenty-five years ago it cost something like 20p to go on one ride. Both of these figures are more than likely inaccurate, but serve a purpose all the same.

My love for the funfair didn’t survive into adolescence. Or to be more precise, it didn’t survive beyond the point where you were meant to stop going with your parents and start going with your friends.

I also went off it because it started to feel somewhat embarrassing to be seen to be a) enjoying yourself in public and, worse, b) enjoying yourself in public on a plastic horse fixed to a giant multi-coloured musical spinning top.

Both of these things are, of course, entirely permissible once you reach that point in adulthood where you’re allowed to no longer care what others think of you, which I would argue is when you reach the age of 30.

Perhaps my most vivid memory of the funfair, however, is nothing to do with the rides at all.

It’s the fact that the people who ran the fair parked their caravans and mobile homes in the street outside my primary school.

We would watch them warily. They would watch us wearily. But that was the extent of it. No mobs of parents with pitchforks. No petitions to the local council. Nothing, in fact, except a bit of infantile petulance towards strangers, and we acted like that towards anything unfamiliar, such as being served cheese pie on a Tuesday instead of a Monday.

Twenty-five years on, my primary school doesn’t exist anymore. It has disappeared from the consciousness of the town. I imagine the people who run the fair have done the same.

Monday 10 November 1986

…Captain Mark Phillips got hurt in a car crash but luckily he’s all right.
It’s a bit awful five days away from his wedding anniversary…

I’m not sure quite what prompted this outburst of monarchism, but at least I was taking an interest in current affairs. Little did I know at the time that Mrs Mark Phillips’ current affairs did not include Mr Mark Phillips.

In other news, “the road safety lady” visited our school this afternoon to “tell us about stop, look, listen, the Green Cross Code and other vital things”.

Later I watched The Krypton Factor and Executive Stress.

In the long term, I’m not entirely sure which has proved more useful: knowing never to cross a road between parked cars, or knowing that if today is Sunday 3 March, the date of the Saturday before last assuming it’s not a leap year is 23 February.