Tuesday 18 August 1987

…”To be. Or not to be. That is the question. Whether it is nobler to be in the mind
or to… HAMLET CIGARS. NO POINT IN FINISHING.”
What a silly joke.
BBC1 and BBC2 went off air for two hours today when transmitters were
struck by lightning…”

As ever, I’m filling my diary with reflections on all the things that really matter.

Wednesday 8 July 1987

…Tried to make a paper aeroplane that you could work by string but it ended up to
be another of those things in my bottomless rubbish bin…

Of all the things I mention in today’s entry of my diary, this is the most curious. Annoyingly, I don’t give any further explanation as to what I was trying to do with the plane. Nor why I was even bothering with such a blatant time-filling exercise. How would you even “work” a paper aeroplane with string? Isn’t the whole point that they fly unaided?

Three days into the school holiday and I was already embarking on tasks doomed for failure. At least I hadn’t yet resorted to going on trips to the council rubbish dump.

Tuesday 26 August 1986

…This morning I had to practice my piano pieces because
I have my first lesson [after the summer] in a fortnight’s time.
Today was a typical British day.
Rain, rain, rain, rain and even more
rain, rain, rain.
Our pond got flooded but now it’s in danger
from wind, wind, wind and even more wind.
And so on.
Discovered that next week Star Trek and The Muppet Show
are back on TV…

That’s me and my priorities, right there. Piano, rain, telly.

And yes, I really did experience something of a frisson every time I saw an edition of Radio Times with the words NEW SEASON emblazoned diagonally across one corner.

Sunday 6 July 1986

…Finished my Adrian Mole book
Had chicken for lunch with potatoes, cabbage and carrots.
Boris Becker won the men’s singles at Wimbledon.
Played with Lego. It might sound babyish but it isn’t…

Quite right. Normally I feel obliged to follow these extracts with some kind of hasty defence or justification, but my 10-year-old self has rather kindly already done so. Thanks, er, me.

Saturday 31 May 1986

…Got my World Cup wallchart today at last.
Bought a Whizzer and Chips comic…

The arrival of the wallchart was a last-minute coup by my postman. I was over-the-moon, especially as the first match was this very day, live on BBC1 from 6.10pm.

But there was another first today, one – with hindsight – of far greater importance.

I’m pretty sure this was my debut issue of Whizzer and Chips. I wouldn’t have recorded it otherwise. I bought it while in Oxford, visiting my other grandmother (the one who didn’t live in my hometown) and who had just been taken into hospital. I imagine my parents would have encouraged me to get something to read a) to keep me quiet in the ward and b) to distract me from the significance of my gran’s incarceration.

So began an addiction to Whizzer and Chips that lasted at least 18 months. Was I too old to be reading this particular publication? I know I was late to comics, just as I would be late to almost every pop cultural staging post. But I don’t think I sensed, as a 10-year-old, anything out-of-the-ordinary.

I soon asked for it to be delivered directly to our house, which it was, all the way through to April 1989 and long past the point I’d stopped reading it properly. During the rest of 1986 and ’87, though, I looked forward to its arrival immensely and started to build up a collection.

I’ve still got a few issues. The oldest dates from 23 August 1986:

His troubles are behind him - BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
My favourites were always Sweet Tooth, Mustapha Million, Store Wars and Odd Ball. I didn’t like Sweeney Toddler, Sid’s Snake, Junior Rotter or Shiner. Joker looked like it had been drawn in 1936. I never really understood the appeal of the Bumpkin Billionaires, and I hated Mizz Marble. She was a smart-arsed wuss and I feared I was a bit like her.

I’d forgotten whether I considered myself a Whizz-Kid or a Chip-ite, until I leafed through that issue of 23 August 1986 and discovered the answer:

Yay!

Chip-ites may have been tougher, but Whizz-kids were smarter – or so I believed. That’s right, isn’t it? Tell me it’s right.

Meanwhile, in next week’s issue – free Libby’s Um Bongo sticker!

Well, who could resist?

Sunday 6 April 1986

…Had beef for lunch.
In the afternoon played Cluedo and The London Game.
Also did a game like the London Game with British Rail railway lines instead of the Underground lines…

Heaven only knows what I’m talking about here.

I know that the London Game was (and still is) a board game based on a giant map of the Underground.

Players were dealt a handful cards, each of which featured a London landmark or tourist attraction. The winner was the first person to “visit” all their allotted attractions, which you did by throwing a dice then moving a coloured counter around the map until you reached the corresponding station on the Underground (Tottenham Court Road for the British Museum, for instance).

Our version of the game came in a box that looked like this:

Other municipal-based board games not pictured

It also had an equivalent of the Monopoly ‘Chance’ cards, on which would be mischevious instructions such as “Go to Kensal Green” (the most far-flung station on the board).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I always enjoyed this game. The box is still in the wardrobe of my old bedroom in my family home. I don’t think it’s been touched for at least 20 years.

But as for this game “like the London Game with British Rail railway lines”, the mind boggles.

Did I invent this on the spur of the moment? Did the whole family help design and draw it? What became of the “board” once the “game” was over?

I love the sound of it, but it certainly wasn’t any kind of game that had been bought from a shop (more’s the pity), and I’ve no recollection of what happened to it afterwards.

Also, it would surely have taken ages to play. Here’s a map of the UK rail network, not all that different from what it looked like in 1986. Imagine if the stations you got dealt were, say, Truro, Ely, Rhyl, Saltburn and Wick. The game would have lasted through the night!

Now there’s an idea…