Monday 18 May 1987

…Back to school today and because of last Friday morning we all had to
sit by people we hate…

Throughout my time at school I was regularly struck by something.

It was a blackboard rubber.

No no, it was by how childish teachers could sometimes be. They would accuse you of being immature or juvenile, then promptly go into a sulk, act out of spite, or behave in a thoroughly selfish fashion.

You can’t help being immature and juvenile when you’re 10 or 11. You can help being that way when you’re an adult. Or rather, you can better disguise being that way when you’re an adult. Why was our teacher failing to do this, and in the process just making all of us even more fed up?

It was around this time that I remember mentioning to my mum and dad how unhappy I was becoming in class. All the events of the last few months had crystallised into a persistent dislike and distrust of my teacher, feelings I also believed to be mutual. Nothing ultimately came of it, as I was leaving in a few weeks’ time anyway. But had I been in the year below, I think I might have ended up switching schools. It was certainly discussed over the kitchen table.

Saturday 16 May 1987

…The day of the school fair.
[Our teacher] was in the stocks, which meant a chance to get him back for all
the shouting yesterday.
Out came the buckets of water and on they went over his head.
The maypole dancing ended up a BIG LAUGH.
The top of the maypole fell off and landed on a parent’s head.
It was put back on, but then all the ribbons fell off.
It ended a shambles – HA HA HA…

When you’re 11 years old, revenge is a dish best served piping hot.

Friday 15 May 1987

…This morning we had our trip to the Great Central Railway.
Everybody was behaving a bit stupidly and I must admit I did too.
I don’t know whether I went a bit mad or something, but at one point when
[Our teacher] asked if we were all having fun I shouted out “NO” in a comedy voice.
When we got back to school he went beserk.
He was shouting at people, splitting them up and moving them around the room.
Luckily the Woodbrook children had to go off to Cobden school for another talk,
so I missed most of it…

Something was definitely up with my teacher – and had been for some time.

Admittedly this was his first proper job after qualifying, and he was only in his early 20s. But if this was how he was starting to behave after just one year’s experience, heaven knows what he’d be like after five or 10.

Luckily I wouldn’t be around to find out. Woodbrook was the name of the secondary school that I’d be starting in the autumn. Cobden was the location for a series of “getting to know you” sessions run by Woodbrook teachers to which all the prospective intake were invited.

“Big school” was sidling rather menacingly into view. I had more things to be bothered about than observing the correct etiquette while on a heritage railway.

Tuesday 12 May 1987

…I am still deaf.
I have started my election folder.
Mrs Thatcher has said no to the idea from Neil Kinnock of having a debate
live on TV together.
She said: “There would be more hot air than light.”…

One of the few things Mrs Thatcher has ever said with which I agree.

The election folder was a ring binder in which I saved clippings and cuttings from newspapers and magazines. Looking through them now it is, inevitably, instructive to see the depth of coverage that used to be given to a general election.

Every day newspapers profiled contests in individual constituencies. Every day came long accounts of what each of the main party leaders (including David Owen and David Steel) had been up to. Sketchwriters penned inconsistently witty pieces from around the country. Ministers, shadow ministers and SDP no-hopefuls were afforded exhaustive pen portraits.

And then there were the opinion polls. Dozens of them, sometimes two or three a day. I kept a record of them all and plotted the results on a chart on my bedroom wall.

Meanwhile there was a month to go until polling day: a month to convince my mum and dad to let me stay up to watch the results – to stay up later than I’d ever stayed up before.

A very civil partnership

Monday 11 May 1987

…Mrs Thatcher has called a general election.
It’s a month away but I’m already looking forward to charting the results…

Newsround Extra ran a parallel election for schools and I tried to get mine involved. But my increasingly wayward teacher just didn’t want to know. I even brought into class the manifestos of the three main parties. I think this just made him even more confused, and perhaps a little terrified.

No-one, but no-one, was interested: teachers, pupils, not even my own parents. And so my school and I lost out on the chance to take part in a piece of history, and even get a mention by Martyn Lewis:

Friday 8 May 1987

…I went back to school today despite my ears, cough and general illness.
Everybody seemed to have forgotten about me because
they acted as if I wasn’t there.
We had a maypole practice in the playground, which was awful.
Everybody felt stupid because people walking past kept staring.
Lunch was a hard-boiled egg, grated cheese, salad cream, lettuce, a
chopped-up apple, an orange slice, a baked potato and an iced biscuit…

Once a month or so we’d get vaguely healthy dinners delivered by the local education authority, which nobody really enjoyed but which actually sound quite tasty now. I like how the apple was chopped up, as if we wouldn’t be able to work out how to eat the fruit were it presented to us whole. Mind you, chopped-up apple avoids social ostracism, a subject on which I already had strong views and experience.

Thursday 7 May 1987

…At the moment I am listening to an Election Special on Radio Leicester,
because today is local elections day.
Everyone knows that the results of today will decide whether Mrs Thatcher
calls a general election next month or next year.
But enough about that.
Everybody at our school, not just me, had the day off because it was being
used as a polling station.
So I had another day to recover.
But when I went to see the doctor this morning, he said my chest infection had
gone yet MY EARS ARE STILL BLOCKED UP…

Don’t worry, I shut up about my ears within the next few days. I think I got tired with being so angry at having to write about how they were no better.

Plus there were other obsessions to cultivate instead, like the general election – something that I knew even then to be not the sort of thing likely to win friends at school, and therefore something about which I ought to remain very tight-lipped.

You wouldn’t have local elections and a general election held on different dates nowadays. It would be considered “too much” – as if there’s such a thing as “too much” democracy.