Saturday 28 November 1987

…I wish my piano exam would hurry up and be over.
Some really good programmes are starting on the TV soon, including a new series of Yes, Prime Minister, and I won’t be able to enjoy them until the exam has passed away.
I’m also waiting to put up my Christmas decorations but won’t do that until
the exam is over…

This was my grade 4 piano exam, and like last year I had to do it at the local convent. But first I had to have a dry run, and so paid a visit to this establishment today, a Saturday, to try out the piano.

I always hated doing this, even more than the exam itself. For one thing I felt uneasy being in a girls’ school. Second, it was a RELIGIOUS girls’ school. And third, there were pupils having lessons on a Saturday. It all seemed shifty and wrong.

Plus the air inside the building smelled of two of the worst things in the world: incense and skulduggery.

Is it any wonder I pined for the well-crafted hoo-ha of Hacker and Sir Humphrey?

Friday 27 November 1987

…Today was BBC Children In Need Day, and this year they are aiming to raise
a total of £10 million.
I’m trying to get mum and dad to pledge some money…

Even if they did, it wasn’t enough. Only £8.7m was ultimately raised, a reminder of when these telethons just as often fell short as exceeded expectations.

Footage from 1987’s Children in Need is easy to find on YouTube, thanks to a million video recorders having clicked into action in anticipation of a grisly gaggle of has-beens. No, not Wogan and Patrick Moore – the other lot:

Tuesday 24 November 1987

…The world, or rather the USA and Russia, have agreed to scrap
all medium-range nuclear missiles – hooray!
At last: they took so long about it.
But today they only agreed, and they will sign the contract next month.
In Dance this morning we had to do something about what we wanted to do
when we grew up…

I would have found this task more challenging than the usual dance-based fare thanks to the fact I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I never had an inkling. Not once during my childhood do I remember ever alighting upon a profession and thinking: yes, that’s the one for me.

Instead used to tell people, rather cockily: “Well, I know what I DON’T want to do…” and sometimes follow this up, were I feeling particularly sardonic, with: “…and that’s be within a hundred miles’ distance of YOU!”

Understandably, this was not received well.

But by now I was defining my life through negatives, rather than positives (thanks, adolescence!), which people who know me now will recognise as a trait still very much in evidence. So I guess in that sense, I had alighted on something that I was going to do when I grew up. I don’t think that would have satisfied my dance teacher, however, so I’m guessing I probably settled for a) miming playing a piano or b) pretending to introduce an edition of Panorama.

Performing his usual humble function

Thursday 19 November 1987

This time it happened last night.
King’s Cross Undergrond station caught fire and 30 people were killed.
It began when an old wooden escalator was set ablaze and
everything went up in flames.
I have used this escalator when we have visited London!
This morning we began by looking at the Dewey Decimal system…

I think I already sensed that the theme of 1987’s end-of-year retrospectives on TV and in the papers was to be, as I put it, DISASTER!

And yet this latest tragedy didn’t leave that much of a mark on either me or my diary. The same went for the other calamities of the past 12 months, from Zeebrugge to the storm. I recorded them carefully, even coldly; noted a bit of reaction; then moved on – in this instance, to Melvil Dewey.

I’d definitely reached the “bottle it all up” phase.

Sunday 15 November 1987

…This afternoon I watched a silly James Bond film that went wrong because
they made it too funny…

WHAT AM I SAYING?! The 11-year-old me could not have been more wrong. I have come to fully and sincerely love Casino Royale, which I’m happy to argue is one hundred times more fresh, imaginative and downright entertaining than the Daniel Craig remake.

In 1987 I was still struggling to tell good Bond from bad Bond, not having fully recovered from reading three Ian Fleming novels and discovering none of the best bits from the films were in them. But nonetheless I was lapping up every trace of 007 I could see and hear, including a Sunday afternoon airing for, among others, these exceptionally fine two minutes of cinema: