Monday 25 January 1988

…First thing this morning [my teacher] asked us all to stand up and stay standing
only if we had:
a) brought in our homework diary
b) had completed all our homework
c) come in on Friday when it was snowing
d) brought in our play money
e) had brought in our Parent Evening slips
Only three people were left standing – and I was one of them…

Oh dear.

Yes, it’s all very well playing by the rules and being good, but did there need to be this kind of rigamarole that left me embarrassed and isolated from everyone else? I ended up feeling like I was the one who was in the wrong,

The “play money” was for a trip to the town hall theatre on Wednesday to see a pantomime that I would sum up in my diary as “absolutely useless”.

The “Parent Evening slips” were bits of paper on which my mum and dad had indicated which slots were most convenient for them to come and meet my form tutor.

Because both my parents were – by now – lucky enough to be in work, these slots were always in the early evening, usually after 7pm. I don’t recall there being much competition from other families.

Friday 22 January 1988

…It had to happen and it did.
The weather forecast said SLIGHT SNOW was going to happen today.
In fact the place was as bad as last January.
I reckon about two-thirds of school didn’t bother turning up.
Around a half of the teachers weren’t there.
Loads of people just decided to go home at lunchtime.
The system was in chaos.
Snowballs rained down on you the moment you stepped outside.
Yet somehow I was one of the ones who did make it to school and, yes, stayed
until the whole building was closed around 3pm.
Trains were halted, people were stuck and more snow is forecast.

It didn’t stay long. Most of the snow had gone by the end of the weekend. But I was glad – evidently – that the season hadn’t passed without some proper wintry weather to enjoy. And my efforts to both attend and remain at school would unexpectedly pay off come Monday.

Wednesday 20 January 1988

…During lunch break I had to help try and rescue a fish in the school pond that had
a huge bit of fungus growing on its head.
We couldn’t even get it near a net, never mind inside one.
I’m not surprised – the fish is the size of a passport photo…

The fish survived for another month or so, then one day died. I was really quite upset.

Monday 18 January 1988

…More PE, or Physical Exhaustion.
We finally got to go on the gym apparatus, but I got put in a stupid group that could only go on a feeble springboard, a mat, a bench, and THEN ANOTHER MAT!
In science we had to decide what would make a harmful pet and a normal pet.
What this had to do with science was beyond me.
In Blue Peter they showed you how to make your own personal organiser…

This was one “make” that I thought I’d have a go at. The results were disastrous. It fell apart almost from day one, and had to be held together with Sellotape. I covered the front and back with a garish polkadot design: white spots on a purple background. I then went to the Filofax section WHSmiths and bought a load of maps of places I would never visit in my life.

The whole episode left me so annoyed, and also embarrassed, that I never dared show the wretched thing in public.

I knew then I’d never be a yuppie.

Thursday 14 January 1988

…We had goodbye party for Michael who is leaving.
Well, he had already left, but he came back for us to say goodbye to him.
I ended up doing all the washing up and helping to clear up.
Of course I got no thanks at all…

This was the same Michael who had run away the previous term, and who I thought had then simply come back and carried on as normal.

I remember now that the local education authority sent him off to what we were told was “a special school”. We never saw him again.

I wonder what this party entailed. Refreshments were clearly involved, for I’m not sure what else would have needed to be washed up. Notice yours truly in the kitchen. I knew my place.

Tuesday 12 January 1988

…This evening I watched Carry on Behind…

There seems to have been a Carry On film on TV every Tuesday evening in January 1988. I’d watched Abroad last Tuesday, Behind today, and next week was Henry. Three of the greats*.

I can’t believe, however, that they were screened uncut. There’s surely no way Behind, with its opening striptease by “Miss Amelia Fosdyke”, bare breasts and all, would have aired in full before the watershed.

The Carry Ons must have been butchered for their first appearances on terrestrial television. I remember watching a video of Abroad at some point in the 1990s, and suddenly becoming aware I was seeing entire scenes for the first time – the bit where Sid rips off Babs’s bra, for example.

Nowadays it’s a different matter, and you’ll get late-era classics like Girls and Dick, going out untouched – albeit in shockingly bad prints – right in the middle of the day.

There’ll always be a place in my top five films of all-time for a Carry On. About that I have long been decided. It’s just a question of which one…

*Yes, honestly. Give me 1970s smutty technicolour Carry On over 1960s black-and-white spoofery any day.

Monday 11 January 1988

…Back to school today.
We got off to a right start this morning by having some homework set: honestly.
It’s called A Winter’s Tale, which the teacher has pinched off William Shakespeare.
We have to make up our own tale, though.
It’s a bit of a lazy idea for some homework.
In PE we were supposed to have our first lesson on all the gym equipment, but
we spent the whole time learning how to get it out and set it up.
We didn’t actually DO anything!

Just the thought of that weird webbed substance on the underside of gym mats still gives me a Proustian shudder. It always seemed to me the least appropriate material to offer protection from sharp falls and high-velocity antics. I could never understand why we were encouraged to climb all the way up ropes attached to the gym walls with just ONE SOLITARY MAT at the bottom for safety.

There was an enormous vault over which we were expected to jump. It’s hard to imagine any other object that could rob as much dignity as possible from both adolescent boys AND girls.

Mini-trampolines were also in evidence, which meant the same went for unsupported body parts on all genders.

This was all getting too much.