Tuesday 30 September 1986

…We had to do a poem about an animal. I did the penguin:
“The penguin lives in the cold South Pole
It is never never on the dole.
They always first get shipped away
To be wrapped in paper the very same day.
They get sent to shops all around
And people eat them when they are found.
They throw the paper clean away
It may turn up another day”…

I have nothing to add.

Friday 26 September 1986

…The annual Webb Ivory catalogue came out today.
We get ours from school.
It’s all about things for Christmas like cards, decorations, presents
and all kinds of models, toys and books.
I have already seen things that I want…

I’m not sure if our school had some sort of deal with Webb Ivory, but these catalogues materialised around this time every year, haunting and teasing us with seasonal sensations while simultaneously reminding us there were still three long months to go until Christmas was really here.

We each got to take one of these hefty catalogues home. I would spend several hours leafing enthusiastically through its tissue-paper-thin pages.

Then I would order precisely nothing, having been told by my parents that it was far too early to be bothering with this sort of nonsense.

Thursday 25 September 1986

…Star Trek and Tomorrow’s World were some of the TV I watched tonight.
It was Lofty and Michelle’s wedding day in EastEnders…

There had been plenty of other occasions when a TV programme or film had become a subject for shared gossip in the classroom; On Her Majesty’s Secret Service earlier this week, for example.

But this was the first time that I can remember almost the whole school being excited by the transmission of something. People were going about reminding each other to tune in, and talking about where and with whom they would be watching.

It was impossible not to get caught up in the hysteria. Then again, this was during the absolute peak of EastEnders’ initial imperial phase, and in the 19 months since its launch the show had burrowed deep into the national consciousness. Plus there had been acres, oodles and hours of pre-publicity about the on-screen nuptials.

As for the episode itself, I only got to see some of it thanks to a quarrel over whatever was on the other side. But it was enough to be suitably armed for the mass post-mortem examination that I knew would take place in the playground tomorrow.

In retrospect it’s in no way the greatest moment EastEnders’ history, but was and is enormously enjoyable and bears, it goes without saying, no relation whatsoever to the tone, pace and quality of the serial today*.

*All of which are lamentable.

Wednesday 24 September 1986

…I had my first piano lesson of the term with a new teacher
because my old one died.
I brought a water pistol [to school] but it leaked and wet my trousers.
Everybody seemed to have videoed O.H.M.S.S., but we haven’t got a video.
I am feeling horrible and left out…

Real, proper, grown-up tragedies were nipping at my heels. One of my teachers had been hospitalised from a heart attack; now my piano teacher was dead.

Yet they didn’t register on any sort of different scale from the petty mishaps and misfortunes to which I gave equal prominence in my diary. Rather, they all resonated in unison, the one seeming just as consequential as the other.

I remember on this occasion kicking up quite a fuss about not having a video recorder. I’d voiced protests before, but to no effect. I felt like ours was the only house in the world that didn’t have one.

Here was a rare instance of me feeling out-of-step with the times in which we lived. Normally I didn’t give a toss. I think what prompted such alarm was the fact that, as I note, “everyone” seemed to have recorded the Bond film, revealing to me just how ubiquitous this gadget had become, and therefore how laughably antiquated my family now appeared.

Suffice to say my petitions were useless. We would go on not having a video recorder for not just the rest of the year, but the rest of the DECADE.

Tuesday 23 September 1986

…This afternoon we had Mrs Gibson.
I got told off for saying that the thing we were doing was boring.
Watched the James Bond film O.H.M.S.S…

The “thing” we were doing was so inconsequential that I failed to record what it actually was. Mrs Gibson was a supply teacher, and I’m afraid I succumbed to the eternal, universal temptation of treating her like an interloper and an idiot. In other words, I talked back.

But it was my turn to be made to feel ridiculous later in the day during our weekly swimming lesson at the town leisure centre, when we had to go into the pool wearing pyjamas. This “very strange experience” – as I described it – was fun for about five seconds, then irritating for another five, then humiliating for a further five minutes. Why had my mum given me an old pair of pyjamas that were two sizes too small? Didn’t she realise they’d end up even smaller once wet?

Even later, though, came the thing I had been looking forward to ever since my letter from Veronyca Bates of the Central Television press office. Inevitably I was only allowed to see about an hour of it. Even more maddening, though, was the fact my mum and dad, despite not even being James Bond fans, made a point of carrying on watching it after I’d been sent to bed.

How did I know this? I crept to the top of the stairs and listened.

Weirdly, the film sounded far more exciting and persuasive at one remove than when I was watching it up close. Years later I realised this might have had something to do with the majority of George Lazenby’s lines being dubbed by someone else.

This never happened to the other fella - thank goodness

Saturday 20 September 1986

…The day that Whizzer and Chips comes out.
Went into town this morning to get it.
Mum and Dad went to a wedding reception so me and Becky had to go to Granny’s.
I watched Roland Rat, Doctor Who and tied string all round her garden…

The BBC Audience Research Bureau recorded a varied number of responses to Trial of a Time Lord, some positive, some negative. None, as far as I’m aware, involved the deliberate unspooling of string. This was one battle I was going to have to fight all by myself.