Friday 27 February 1987

…In assembly Mrs Wade tried to catch us out by asking us what was tomorrow’s
date and the date of the day after that.
She wanted to know what was special about the day after tomorrow.
Here are some of the answers people gave:
“Pancake Day.”
“Ash Wednesday.”
“Easter Day.”
“Loughborough Rugby Club v Lichfield.”
“Beginning of Lent.”
I knew of course: St David’s Day…

Hmm – a bit of boasting here, and rather graceless boasting at that.

But then again, anyone who thought that the day after the day after Friday could be another Friday, or even Ash Wednesday, deserves a fair helping of an 11-year-old’s scorn.

Tuesday 24 February 1987

…Had to go to Beaumanor Hall for a sports day.
I absolutely hated it.
When I arrived at school to get on the minibus, everyone pushed me off because
there wasn’t enough room.
I had to get a lift 10 minutes later with Mrs Williams.
I didn’t mind – I knew it would make me late to start the sports.
But when I arrived they were waiting for me and for some others who
had been chucked off the minibus.
The first activity was indoor hockey – I rated it 2 out of 10, the two things being
I could clout people over the head and play James Bond during it.
After a break we had to do Olympic gymnastics.
You should have seen us doing the vault – if we didn’t smash into the horse we
kind of flopped on top of it then fell off the other side.
2 out of 10.
Then came the best thing: lunch.
Next we did short tennis: boring and terrible, 1 out of 10.
And last we did some orienteering, which was BRILLIANT because
I actually knew what to do.
10 out of 10…

You see? Give a child some kind of physical activity they know how to do, and they’ll do it as well as they can. Give a child something they can’t do, and they’ll resort to coping strategies involving moderate violence and make-believe espionage.

Friday 20 February 1987

…Didn’t get dressed till 8.43, ooh I could do with a D…
…Went to Granny’s this morning while Mum went to work [it being half-term].
While there I read 94 pages of Goldfinger, before finishing it this afternoon
THEN we went to the cinema to watch Basil The Great Mouse Detective…

My attempt to get into Ian Fleming’s Bond novels only lasted a couple of months.

After soldiering through a pathetic, paltry three (this one, Live and Let Die and From Russia With Love) I gave up. I stupidly and naively thought they would bear more resemblance to the films than was actually the case.

The only reason I got through 94 pages of Goldfinger so fast was because I couldn’t wait to reach the laser beam bit. Instead all I found was a circular saw and, later, some lesbians. Had there really been that many lesbians in evidence when I’d watched the film a few weeks earlier? I was confused.

A few days after this entry, unable to reconcile the differences between the books and their big screen cousins, I decided to devote my life to the devouring of the latter rather than the former. I haven’t read another Fleming novel since.

"I said, well, we don't go out looking for it!"

Wednesday 18 February 1987

…The annual sponsored event for the school came round today and luckily
I didn’t have to do it.
As it was a sponsored gym test, I would have raised about 1p.
So instead I helped with the timing, which tired my fingers out.
Class 3 and 4 did theirs first, which was the just the ordinary gym test
we had been doing over the past weeks.
But class 1 and 2 were just INDESCRIBABLE.
They kept running off, moaning about how they didn’t know what to do,
and just generally being nuisances.
Because of them we didn’t get back to school until midday…

Here was one occasion when my ailments came to my aid.

Even though the problems with my ears shouldn’t really have precluded the sort of physical jerks involved in the gym test, I played the sickness card to the full and consequently got a free pass out of this particular farrago.

I never saw the point of sponsored events that involved an activity at which you weren’t very good. How on earth were they supposed to raise as much money as possible? Far more sensible to go for something like a sponsored silence, which had happened a couple of years earlier and which had been a great success.

The gym test in question took place at the local municipal leisure centre, the same place we had swimming lessons. Parents were invited to cheer their offspring, though few came. I’ve no idea what we were raising money for, but it was usually to buy another mobility scooter for the nearby old people’s home. I went there once on a primary school trip. The whole place smelled of disinfectant, which I found strangely comforting.

Monday 16 February 1987

…I had to go to the doctor’s again today.
After waiting 40 minutes we saw [the same person as last week].
My infected ear has got better but I was still deaf in it, and my left ear was the same.
I had a hearing test and the results were LOW.
I am now taking medicine…

The thing that strikes me most about this passage is the waiting time: 40 minutes. I’d forgotten how bad things had become by the mid-late 80s. A waiting time of at least half an hour was simply, if grudgingly, accepted. Looking back through recent entries I see that I always had to wait at the surgery, even when I got my “emergency appointment”. But I never complain about it. I state it as a fact. A fact of life.

Thank goodness that sort of thing is now safely confined to a previous century. Oh wait a minute…

Sunday 15 February 1987

…After I finished tidying my desk I went downstairs to start a recording session.
I taped myself singing All-Time High.
It sounded stupid.
Then I played it on the piano.
It sounded weird…

Still irked by the absence of the theme from Octopussy on my favourite Christmas present, and being now in possession of a James Bond songbook, I resorted to committing the tune to tape by myself.

The results were shocking. All-Time High is pitched, counter-intuitively, in a rather low key. (Here’s Rita Coolidge with a very greasy face bellowing her way through the song in 1983.) But even though this was back when I was still blessed with the pipes of a boy soprano, I had trouble picking out all the right notes. I blame having a gammy ear.

My misguided oral acrobatics were only slightly bettered by my subsequent instrumental version, which proved trickier than I thought thanks to the song being written in the key of A flat.

This meant having to wrap my fingers around slightly more black notes than was comfortable for someone who’d only done their grade 3 piano exam two months ago. Plus the opening saxophone solo didn’t work being bashed out on a keyboard instead of being breathed seductively down a horn.

I’d taken the sensible decision to forbid the rest of the family from coming anywhere near the living room while all of this nonsense was going on. I now took the equally sensible decision to wipe the results before anyone in the world, including me, could hear it again.

But that wasn’t the end of the day’s excitement. It continued into the evening when, according to my diary, the whole family gathered to “watch the title sequence of Antiques Roadshow”.