Wednesday 30 December 1987

…Another shopping day.
At least this time I bought six books with my various monies, i.e. the £10 book
token and the £4.50 WHSmith voucher.
But of course we had to go to Marks and Spencer which was utterly boring.
We’d gone to Nottingham but it was a trip packed with incident because:
a) we got directed straight past the correct car park where we wanted to go, so
we had to find another car park nearby, much to the displeasure of Dad, and
b) Mum and Dad forgot their chequebook so they had to find a branch of Midland
Bank which was miles away to withdraw some money so they could order some
new furniture from Jessops before it had sold out.
Because of all this we didn’t have lunch until around 3.00pm in a Little Chef off the M1, after which we decided to just come straight home anyway…

Believe me, this did count as a day “packed with incident”. It still would.

A late lunch in a Little Chef? Yes, the 1980s had finally, FINALLY, arrived.

Tuesday 29 December 1987

…Today was a Tuesday and we decided to go to the sales.
Well, Mum and Dad didn’t want to, but we wanted to because we wanted to spend
some of our Christmas money.
I didn’t buy anything.
[My sister] bought a hairdryer and some trousers.
I was very annoyed because WHSmith in Loughborough is virtually empty.
That’s the problem: they haven’t restocked yet.
We came back from town on a Trippit, having taken the car in for more repairs.
I was back in time to watch Carry on Camping…

The day wasn’t entirely wasted, then.

I like how I presume to have knowledge of the post-Christmas retail strategy of WHSmiths. Or lack of one.

I was always bemused at how the place used to be almost entirely devoid of stock in the days between Christmas and New Year. Didn’t they understand that was when the greatest number of WHSmith vouchers were aching to be redeemed?

At least the Trippits were running.

Sunday 27 December 1987

…Went to see [other grandparent and uncle who lived near Stratford-upon-Avon].
There was a £20 note waiting for me there.
However before I could get to it, the car broke down.
Well, we thought it might be about to break down.
The oil light kept flashing and we had to call the AA.
We had stopped in a tiny village and had to use a nearby telephone box.
The AA took 70 minutes to get to us!
We had no way of letting the others know we would be late…

OH WHAT A PRIMITIVE WORLD WE LIVED IN. I don’t know why we didn’t use the telephone box to phone my grandmother and tell her about our predicament. Maybe we didn’t have enough change. But in which case we should have knocked on the door of a nearby house because, as I’d recently seen the film Clockwise, a maniacally humorous situation would obviously have ensued.

Friday 25 December 1987

…What links the following?
A French dictionary, a £2 WHSmiths gift voucher, a geometry set, some storage files, some subject dividers, a calculator, a book called The World’s Greatest Mysteries, a jumper, socks and The Naff Guide To 1988?…

This wasn’t a complete list of presents. if you can call them presents. They read more like a list of office utilities, or stuff you’d find in a “Back To School” promotion at Woolworths.

I also got some Sherlock Holmes books and the second volume of the Yes, Prime Minister diaries, all of which I still have. Plus there was a clock radio, my first one, which lasted me until the mid-90s. Its replacement still sits beside my bed.

My grandparents came round the visit “after the Queen – it must always be after the Queen”, and I mention that I tried my best to watch The Spy Who Loved Me on ITV.

Other than that it wasn’t a particularly notable Christmas Day. I don’t think I left the house once.

Saturday 19 December 1987

…This morning there was a fire in our neighbours’ kitchen.
The firemen came extremely quickly.
We all went into our back garden and had to stay there in case the flames spread.
No-one was injured, killed etc…

I remember this quite well, and I’m embarrassed at how I’ve tried to make it sound more dramatic than it really was. Nothing actually caught fire. It was only a gas leak in their kitchen. The logic of standing in the garden was, I suppose, sound. Their house might have exploded – and ours, consequently, might have caught fire, or been damaged, or exploded as well.

But equally it was, in hindsight, an enormous over-reaction. Gas escapes from pipes all the time, but you don’t see people standing in the street each and every day of the year waiting for the worst. Well, except in Ealing comedies and Les Dawson sketches.

Friday 18 December 1987

…Just one week left till Christmas.
And of course, I can hardly wait.
But we don’t finish school until next Tuesday, which is a bit unfair.
Also we have a whole week off after the week which has New Year’s Day in it,
which just seems ridiculous.
There were carols in this morning’s assembly for the first years.
I got to play a keyboard as the accompaniment.
And then I treated myself to chips, sausages and baked beans for lunch,
followed by a glass of milk and a ginger biscuit…

It was round about now that I began to get quite involved in doing music stuff at school. Not just what everyone had to do in music lessons, but additional things. Playing in assemblies. Taking part in school productions. And eventually writing and performing my own stuff.

I was never quite sure what my peers thought of all this. Ghastly showboating? Self-indulgent twaddle? Or just utter disinterest? Out of those three I’d rather it’d been the latter.

Still, along the way I got to turn the Beatles’ Nowhere Man into a chorale for four-part harmony; perform an avant-garde “happening” wherein I fixed a microphone inside a kettle, boiled it, and served tea to an audience; and organise a three-hour outdoor acoustic gig boasting covers of songs by, among others, The Smiths, Tori Amos, Otis Redding and (oops) The Lemonheads.

So I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Monday 14 December 1987

…More flipping limping seagulls.
I brought a book about them into the lesson, which I’d kept from
when we’d studied them primary school.
The teacher spotted this and accused me of cheating.
Ha – he’s got a nerve!
Well, there are quite a few in the human body,
so I suppose that goes without saying…

I like that I use the word “flipping”.

I was incredibly coy about using swearwords in my diary at this point. I still feared my words would one day be found, studied and judged by my parents. This all changed over the next couple of years, until it got to the point when I was more foul-mouthed in print than I ever was in public.

There wasn’t a parity of profanity until I went to university.