Tuesday 30 June 1987

…It might have been my last Tuesday as primary school but it was also my first
Tuesday at secondary school.
This morning I was at Woodbrook for an induction, and there is another one –
DREAD! – tomorrow.
It did not begin well.
Me and Eddie are in Mr Elliot’s class, and will be, always and all the time,
for the whole of the next year.
1SE is the class code, room 10 is the number, yugggh is the teacher.
People said that he is the strictest teacher in the whole school.
I hope not.
We did a tour of the school, some work about the rules of the class and read a
booklet about the school.
Then at lunch I chose: one sausage, 17p; chips, 25p; a glass of orange, 18p; and
a chocolate biscuit, 11p.
That’s 71p in total for just one day!…

I’d been given one pound to spend on lunch, so I ended the day 29 pence up. The 1980s had finally arrived. (I could have made more, had I spotted the free jug of tap water and tray of empty glasses.)

The induction only lasted until around 2pm, after which we all returned to our respective primary schools. My diary notes how, as I walked into the playground, everything suddenly felt a lot smaller. Even the children in the other classes looked shorter. Having spent the morning being towered over by intimidating teenagers, this was rather reassuring. A pity it’d all be over by the end of the week.

Monday 29 June 1987

…So we enter my last week at primary school.
I have just looked back using my diary to see
the sorts of thing I did in my class on a Monday.
There used to be a terrible maths test every Monday afternoon
which we called The Dreaded Yellow Sheet, remember?
Creative writing used to be every morning, after the Dinner Money Count.
It used to be the day of my first few piano lessons…

Oh dear. Here I am, having kept a diary for barely two years, already filling up space by looking back at stuff that had been and gone long ago, rather than bother to record any thoughts on stuff that was happening in the here and now (never mind yet to come).

I surmise a bit of displacement activity going on. After all, what other reason would someone have for churning out reams of prose about things they’d put in their diary years ago?

Saturday 27 June 1987

…Went shopping.
I bought Whizzer and Chips, two second-hand books about 007,
a little hedgehog pencil sharpener and rubber and nothing else.
Mum forgot to record the first 10 minutes of last night’s Week Ending on Radio 4,
so I had to record it myself again this evening…

Having long (and foolishly) given up on Ian Fleming’s originals, I was now hungry for any and every Bond spin-off and tie-in I could find. Today’s purchases did not disappoint:

"When I come back I'll expect to find you in bed"

Christopher Wood’s novelisation of his own script is shamelessly thrilling and laughably overwrought. It includes and expands on all the main bits of the film, which is what the 11-year-old me desperately wanted. But even back then I found Wood’s attempts at doing love scenes both hilarious and more than a little cringing:

“…The girl looked down at the innocent swelling of her breasts. Was it obvious? Could anybody tell at a glance that she had been making love, wild, beautiful love?…”

“…Bond’s nostrils flared. ‘I think you know the kind of treatment I need. I’m going to shave. When I come back I’ll expect to find you in bed’…”

“…She looked into his eyes half apologetically. ‘James, you are not the first man that has made love to me.’ Bond’s hard, naked body moved towards the bed and his fingers closed around the sheet. ‘My darling,’ he said. ‘That remains to be seen.’ He came down on her like a hawk….”

Roger Moore’s “diary” of the making of Live and Let Die, meanwhile, is a literary classic. In character throughout – the character of “Roger Moore”, that is – our man treats his work on the new “Jimmy Bond movie” as a sort of colonial grand tour, where locals and luvvies alike are all wonderful and only the threat of kidney stones can colour the mood:

“Five and thirteen hundred ferocious crocodiles made B-Day 47 a day to remember… Around 20 of us gathered round a grand piano on the open patio and sang our way through a two hour repertoire from Moonlight in Vermont to a bouncing Blame it on the Bossa Nova… Gloria and I got busy. I will not bore you with the details except to say that she put her heart, body and soul into her work…”

If only he’d done one of these for each of his Bond films. “B-Day 59, and I suggested Desmond drop in a line about ‘attempting re-entry’. Everyone fell about…”

"An unholy, all-action and sometimes all-embracing alliance"

Friday 26 June 1987

…Had a rehearsal for our leavers’ assembly.
It was TERRIBLE.
Everybody was shouting and talking while [our teacher] was trying to keep order.
It will be a DISASTER.
In the end we gave up and read more of Henry’s Leg, our current story.
This went on after lunch – meat pie, potatoes, cabbage and gravy with whip
for pudding – when we had to design a new cover for Henry’s Leg…

Having no memory of Henry’s Leg whatsoever, I’ve had to look it up. What an upbeat and confidence-inspiring subject with which to see out the school year: a boy who tries to forget about his family problems by indulging in his hobby of collecting junk.

Designing a “new cover” for a story book was an absolute classic Friday afternoon activity, though given what sounds like a rather hysterical morning I’m not surprised our teacher took refuge in this reliably pacifying, not to say stultifying, assignment.

I’m not sure we ever got round to watching the TV adaptation. Perhaps we ran out of time. This was, after all, my penultimate Friday at primary school. I don’t think we missed much.

 

Wednesday 24 June 1987

…Last ever PE lesson at this school.
Down the years it has always been deadly boring, taking in
commando rolls, hockey, basketball, gymnastics, flopping about,
messing around and loads more things.
I shall not miss it…

PE is the one primary school subject that humiliates you twice. If you’re not very good at, say, maths or English, it’s only your brain that gets punished. You can sit behind a desk and fail mentally. But if you’re not very good at sport, it’s your brain and your body that is given a drubbing. You are judged to be a failure both mentally and physically. And that is an immensely crushing experience, even to a child as young as six or seven.

But worse is to come. If you’re no good at PE at secondary school, you’re humiliated three times over: mentally, physically and psychologically. Your shortcomings on the football pitch or running track are branded not merely the product of a lack of stamina or poor brain power, but of a “bad attitude” or of “not trying hard enough”. And you can try harder, you can try as hard as you like, but if you simply can’t kick a ball straight, hold a racket in the right way, or run fast enough to avoid finishing last, the humiliation is unending.

I wasn’t headstrong, I wasn’t haughty; I wasn’t fat, I wasn’t thin. I just wasn’t very good. Yet a procession of teachers of all ages and genders deemed my inadequacy to be all my fault, and hence nobody ever tried to help me get better.

It did end, of course. But one of the curses of adolescence is the sense that everything that is bad is unending, and everything that is good is over too quickly.

(And here are some of those sports I’d been made to do at primary school: shinty; crab football; short tennis; non-stop cricket; ball skills; Olympic gymnastics; basketball; eight-a-side football; and running around in circles.)

Monday 22 June 1987

…Wimbledon is starting tomorrow not today.
There was no play whatsoever due to some unfortunate circumstances that
fell from the skies above: RAIN!
No Wimbledon and also no Test Match between England and Pakistan.
So today’s sports summaries on the TV and radio will only be the noise of rain…

Gags about wet weather at Wimbledon. Now there’s something that’ll never catch on.

Saturday 20 June 1987

…I am still worried about going to Woodbrook.
All those people staring at you.
Laughing at you.
Teasing you.
IT WILL BE TERRIBLE, I’M TELLING YOU…

No pretence or bravado here. I was genuinely concerned about starting secondary school. And I was going to have to face up to those concerns sooner than expected.