Monday 31 August 1987 (Bank Holiday)

…Today, as you might have guessed, was a Bank Holiday.
I am getting more and more nervous as there is only one day left until I start at
Woodbrook – one single 24-hour day until I have to face the terrors of a new school.
Aaaagh.
There was a treat in store this afternoon, however, when we went to Beaumont
Leys Swimming Centre.
I’ve been there before, but still enjoyed the water chutes, the slides, the wave
machines and the fountains.
But why no Bond films, even though it was a Bank Holiday?
Grrrrrr…

I’ve certainly got my priorities right here. Less verruca plasters, more bazooka masters!

Friday 28 August 1987

…The car went in for its MOT.
Well of course, money will have to be paid out, it’s a fact of human nature.
Mum took it in this morning then came back here on a Trippit.
The phone rang three times in succession while she was out – turned out to be the
garage wondering where she was.
She bought me a Whizzer and Chips Monthly and also a magazine about the
World Athletics Championships which start tomorrow.
Watched a film called The Fiendish Plot of Dr Fu Manchu starring Peter Sellers
while having a snackette…

“Snackette”? I don’t think the 11-year-old me was consciously using palare… or maybe I was?

A Trippit, however, was not gay slang, but the name of the first bus service to run in Loughborough after deregulation.

This inappropriately-cute title adorned a fleet of glorified minibuses that served half a dozen key routes in and out of the town centre. Another “novelty” was the ability to hail a Trippit anywhere you liked along a designated stretch of road, and not just at a bus stop. This particular feature did not survive for very long – almost as long as the Trippits themselves, who were, inevitably, soon taken over by a larger company, who themselves were then taken over by a larger company, and so on and on until the present arrangement, with most of Loughborough’s buses now owned quite possibly by Angela Merkel.

Still, at least they’re back in the public sector. Shame it’s not the UK’s.

Tuesday 25 August 1987

…A day trip to, of all places, Alton Towers.
We got there just as I was about to deposit my breakfast in the form of a green
queasy mess into the margarine tub we always keep in the car.
To get to the entrance of Alton Towers you are meant to ride on the monorail.
It had only just been built, or so they said, because it looked as though they hadn’t
got round to finishing it yet.
Once inside we went on the Skyride cable car, went Round the World in 80 Days,
watched some dancing fountains and had lunch in the gardens.
The Adventure Land was a bit of fun, but we got soaked by a giant fountain.
We also went in the gift shop, to some place called Fantasy World,
to Kiddies Kingdom, to Cine 2000 which was terrifying and made me want to be
sick again, and finally we went round a lake on an electric-powered swan.
Despite all this we got back home at 6.30pm…

God knows whose idea this was. I’d be surprised if it was mine.

For many years the margarine tubs were permanently in the car. There were two of them: one for me, one for my sister. Mine saw the most use. I’ve never been tolerant of long car journeys. Any other form of transport, including coaches, seems to be fine. Cars, however, can leave me queasy after just a couple of minutes on a country road.

Such was my parents’ reluctance to break journeys for me to have a good retch, I would sometimes sit for ages with the tub under my chin, ready to catch the first convulsion. Only when I was actually sick did they stop and let me out for some air, while they made sure the tub was emptied, cleaned and returned to the car ready for the next time.

And there usually was a next time.

This was my one and only visit to Alton Towers. The two things that I most enjoyed about the place were the free map, which I remember being very colourful and amusingly-illustrated, and the swan-boat, which was nice and peaceful.

Its lasting legacy on my life has been my reluctance to ever set foot inside an IMAX cinema.

Saturday 22 August 1987

…Torrential downpour followed torrential downpour.
We went to Leicester where I bought three, yes three, Doctor Who books.
Got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam inside the Lee Circle car park.
I ate mince, peas and potatoes while watching Carry on at Your Convenience…

There’d been a run of Carry On films on Saturday nights throughout the summer. I’d seen Cruising, Cleo, Cowboy and Don’t Lose Your Head over the past few weeks; the season would end next Saturday with Screaming.

The pick of this bunch is definitely Convenience. Bizarrely this was the only Carry On film my parents ever saw at the cinema. Trust them to go and see what was, on its release, the biggest commercial flop of the whole franchise.

I’m surprised I was allowed to watch it 25 years ago, given there’s one scene where viewers are treated to the sound of Kenneth Williams getting a hard-on. Maybe my dad approved of the film’s anti-union sentiments. I can’t believe he approved of Sid James’ pro-union designs on Joan Sims.

I’ve always preferred the mid-to-late Carry Ons. I love the broader gags, the brassier tone, the technicolour malaise, the fact the cast have stopped trying to act and are simply being themselves, often sharing the same name as their character, but above all I love the desperate, bungled sentimentality.

The Carry Ons became truly great when they stopped believing in proving a point. They then became truly awful when they started trying to make one.

(Note: Here’s the Lee Circle car park in all its brutalist glory.)

Friday 21 August 1987

…Phillip Schofield has left Children’s BBC.
I AM GOING TO COMPLAIN.
And they have decided to screen Dr Who at the same time as Coronation Street.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE BBC?…

I was quite distraught about Schofield getting “sacked”, as Michael Grade implied during his cameo appearance between this afternoon’s programmes.

I was right to fear that Children’s BBC, or at least the Broom Cupboard, would never be as good again. There’d be a nice surprise awaiting me in a few weeks’ time when Going Live began. But I never warmed to Andy Crane, and I was right to be suspicious, given his subsequent defection to ITV.

There is more than a little mock outrage here at the BBC’s scheduling of Doctor Who. I hadn’t enjoyed the previous series, the grotesque 14-part ‘Trial of a Time Lord’. I was intrigued to see what the new series would be like, but would tune in more out of duty than love. And I was sufficiently detached from the programme to not mind having to watch it on the black-and-white set in the dining room, while my parents watched Coronation Street in colour in the lounge.

Tuesday 18 August 1987

…”To be. Or not to be. That is the question. Whether it is nobler to be in the mind
or to… HAMLET CIGARS. NO POINT IN FINISHING.”
What a silly joke.
BBC1 and BBC2 went off air for two hours today when transmitters were
struck by lightning…”

As ever, I’m filling my diary with reflections on all the things that really matter.

Monday 17 August 1987

…Today it rained sand.
Honest.
The wind had blown it right up from the Sahara and dropped it on us.
Cars were covered in it…

I seem to recall this occurring more than once in my childhood, but every time it happened it was as if snow had fallen on Christmas Day. People would step gingerly through their half-opened front doors, placing one foot on the ground as if unsure of its solidity, then teeter along the pavement, one hand pointing, the other clapped to the side of their face.

If it still happens now, it is not reported, let alone acknowledged. Like many extraordinary things from those times, it has become ordinary. The fanciful is now commonplace; the exceptional, mundane. All the hues of my childhood, even those the colour of sand, seem to have been heightened with the passing of time. Were the 1980s really that bright?