Wednesday 29 October 1986

…The school was full of gas because something has gone wrong
with the boiler.
This afternoon we had Mrs Sweet.
But she is not very sweet.
Dead strict in fact.
SHOCK HORROR it was parent-teacher interviews this evening.
Luckily we both passed…

Neither my sister or I were yet considered old enough to be left alone at home, so on occasions like these we had to accompany our mum and dad and then either sit in the car or in the main school corridor by the fish tank.

At the time I used to treat it all with a heavy dose of sceptical melodrama (“SHOCK HORROR”). Now I appreciate what an ordeal it must have been for both parties. Things like records of achievement and homework diaries had yet to be introduced into my life. These evenings were pretty much the only contact my parents ever had with my teachers. I pity them all.

But why the thing was even taking place seeing as the school was “full of gas”, I don’t know.

Tuesday 28 October 1986

…We did our Grade 3 in swimming today.
I failed I think, because – hang on, I PASSED, because
after many tries at doing my racing dive I did it right…

I was never a great swimmer. I couldn’t do breast stroke, found the crawl too much hard work, while doing back stroke meant you could never see where you were going. But I faithfully worked my way through the system. Grade 3 was a blue certificate, if I remember rightly. Grade 4, which I think eluded me, was pink.

I wasn’t to know it then, but the last time I ever found myself swimming in water would be just three years away.

Since that day in November 1989, when I fell out of a canoe on a river in north Wales, I’ve never been in the stuff.

Sunday 26 October 1986

…I made six pairs of spectacles, or glasses, made out of
cardboard and cellophane.
The cellophane was over the holes for the lens,
making funny colours…

I think this was one of my more successful attempts at DIY entertainment, though I can’t think where the cellophane had come from. There was clearly enough to furnish half a dozen glasses, though again I’m not sure why I felt the need to make so many. Probably because it was going well, I seemed to be good at it, and hence didn’t want to stop.

Still, there’d be plenty to go round come the BBC’s ‘3D week’ in 1993.

Friday 24 October 1986

…This evening there was a fire in the BBC Television Centre
while the Six O’clock News was on.
Terrible, but they got it under control by 6.15pm…

A search on YouTube doesn’t produce any results for this particular conflagration, but it does suggest BBC news broadcasts were rather prone to incident during the second half of the 1980s. For instance, here’s a different fire, supposedly dating from a Sunday in 1987. Cutbacks appear to have curtailed drastically the number of hymns scheduled for that evening’s usual act of worship.

Thursday 23 October 1986

…Today we went out to Birmingham Airport for the day.
We set off in torrential rain.
We arrived in torrential rain.
We went straight in to see what arrivals and departures there were
and then went back [to the car] to have a drink.
The airport, the NEC, the Motor Show and Birmingham International station
are all linked by little monorail lines.
We went on one to the railway station and the Motor Show.
It was very crowded – you can say that again.
As usual I held everyone up finishing my lunch.
Then we went up to the spectators’ gallery where we watched
an hour of boring – well, not some of them – arrivals, departures,
loading up and other things.
We left in torrential rain and we arrived back in, guess what:
TORRENTIAL BLOOMING RAIN…

1986 was clearly the year for family visits to regional airports.

One incident from this return trip to Birmingham Airport that I didn’t record occurred while we were on the monorail.

Some people were smoking inside the carriage, despite numerous signs instructing otherwise. This prompted my dad to do something I’d never seen him do before.

He marched up to the smokers, swiped the cigarettes from out of their mouths, threw them on to the floor and ground them into ash. “Can’t you read?” he yelled into their faces.

He then strode back to the rest of us, where we were standing in complete silence.

We all continued to stand in complete silence until the monorail reached its destination.

And we didn’t say a word about what had happened, not then and not since.

Wednesday 22 October 1986

…Every week Mum and Granny have their shopping mornings.
And today was one of those days.
Mum says they are much better without me and Becky [my sister] around.
But then we don’t have half-term holidays often.
The only good bit about it is pushing the trolley around Sainsbury’s.
Mum hadn’t got much money so she only spent 17 POUNDS!…

That’s 17 pounds for me, my sister, mum and dad for the rest of the week*.

Nowadays I spend at least double that amount on food every week just for myself.

Truly another etc. etc.

Round lettuce: 12p

*Though this would have been topped up with stuff mum bought at the post office every Monday when she went to collect the family allowance. For a time, the prospect of being one sleep away from fresh slices of corned beef was one of the few things that made Sunday evening bearable.

Saturday 18 October 1986

…I got up at 7.30 and got dressed at 8.00 to watch
The Muppet Babies, The Queen in China and
Saturday Superstore till 12.15pm.
Bought Whizzer and Chips as always and I got a book on
inventions and the Boys Handbook, or rather mum and dad got it,
from a second hand book sale.
England are playing Australia in the final after beating
West Germany 2-1 in the Hockey World Cup For Men…

That was the official name for the tournament. Oh yes. Don’t think for a minute I was merely taking another fickle interest in the latest big sporting occasion.