Friday 29 May 1987

…An Australian teacher was at school today.
He had come over to see how the best English schools operate.
If that was the case, why did he come to ours?
We had to write about what we thought of when we mentioned the word “Loughborough”.
This was easy: I live there.
I have started a map of all the parliamentary constituencies.
Of course it has already gone terribly wrong…

Give me the child until he is seven 11 and I will show you the man.

Wednesday 27 May 1987

…Lunch today was HORRIBLE.
Chips, cheese pie and tinned tomatoes, followed by strawberry whip.
School dinner are revolting.
Didn’t go to PE because of my cough and my ear but I had to watch instead…

Just as taking part in school sports was no doubt a formative experience for some, not taking part in them had something of a similar influence on me.

Watching others working and playing together while you looked on from a distance, usually by yourself, was something that – perhaps by instinct, perhaps by chance – helped nurture vague feelings of individualism (and isolation, both literal and imagined).

I spent a number of PE lessons as a spectator, not a participant. It came at a point in my life where I guess I was starting to become more conscious of being a bit different and being a bit of a loner. Here, to my vaguely-adolescent eyes, was an example of what such distinctions could and would be like put into practice.

Thankfully I hadn’t yet become too much of an introverted arsehole to not record in my diary a splendidly visceral reaction to today’s school dinner.

The combination of cheese pie and tinned tomatoes makes me feel slightly nauseous even today.


Monday 25 May 1987 (Bank Holiday)

…The first of two days off school for half-term.
I am feeling much better.
I’ve been up all of today and have eaten and drunk a few things.
Listened to Cat’s Whiskers this morning, which are radio programmes for
children that are on every holiday.
My ear is still blocked up,
but Mum has already said I won’t have to do PE this week…

Now there’s a tonic to make anyone feel better… although obviously not too much.

Sunday 24 May 1987

…All I’ve had to eat or drink today was an apple and three glasses of orange juice.
I am on my death bed.
I stayed in bed all day and didn’t go anywhere.
My symptoms are: ear-ache, blocked-up nose, dizzy, sick and utterly horrible.
I’m sorry…

Oh dear, yet another bout of ill-health. At least I made the effort to apologise to all of you, 25 years in advance.

Saturday 23 May 1987

This afternoon me and Dad were going to buy some more plants for the pond.
We were on our way to Birstall from Loughborough, and were at the bottom of a
hill waiting at some traffic lights which were on red.
Suddenly this mad lady driving an orange van came whizzing over the hill and
crashed into the back of us.
It was like something off a Carry On film.
The stupid lady got out and began shouting at us
but she will be forced to pay the damage.

I like how my frame of reference isn’t something like The Dukes of Hazzard, The A Team or even a Bond film, but the Carry Ons.

An approach that continues to this day.

Friday 22 May 1987

…After lunch the Woodbrook lot had to go off to Cobden again*.
Today it was about bullying.
We had to watch a video about a bully and a victim.
It was a good film but left me feeling queasy.
There is to be no cycling proficiency test this year, so I am not going to qualify…

And I never did.

I was quite cross about this, but I don’t mention any reason for the test not taking place. It had done so every year at my primary school for at least as long as I’d been there. Traffic cones, cardboard traffic lights and chalk drawings of a road junction were an annual occurrence in the playground. Not this time, however.

Maybe the local authority couldn’t afford it anymore. Cycling proficiency tests were funded by the government from 1958 until 1974, when responsibility was devolved to county councils.

It’s now called Bikeability – “cycling proficiency for the 21st century”. A bit more of it in the 20th century wouldn’t have gone amiss.

However my lack of qualification hasn’t stopped me using the cycle hire scheme in London. Take that Boris Johnson.

*The Woodbrook/Cobden visits are explained here.

Tuesday 19 May 1987

…Another day with none of the teachers here.
Only Mrs Davenport [the school secretary] and the dinner ladies knew what was
going on.
The supply teacher made us design coats-of-arms and
make models using balloons…

This kind of stuff would become off-limits once the National Curriculum was imposed. I usually felt irked by any sort of disruption to the school routine caused by teachers being away and lessons being changed. But given how things currently stood, this time I was really rather glad.

Besides, everyone knows it’s the secretary and the dinner ladies who call the shots in primary schools.