Friday 28 November 1986

…Did a radio play upstairs [at school].
For lunch today we had dumplings, chips and peas,
followed by gingerbread cake with icing on top.
Made Christmas decorations in art this afternoon.
We went to see the Christmas lights being switched on
in the town centre this evening at 6.30pm and also
popped into Woolworths to get some Christmas decorations…

Frustratingly, I don’t go into any more details about the “radio play”.

I think what I meant was that a group of us recorded a script on to a cassette recorder, while pretending we were taping a radio play. But I can’t remember whether it was something we’d written ourselves or something we’d been given by our teacher.

The significance of doing it “upstairs” was great. Almost all of my primary school was on one storey. There was only a single flight of stairs in the entire building, which led up from the staff room into the stock cupboard and the Other Room.

The Other Room was where, earlier in the year, I’d been told I could never become a fighter pilot. On this day 25 years ago, The Other Room took on a more agreeable function.

The novelty of being in town at 6.30pm to see the Christmas lights being switched on would have been compounded by the novelty of being in town at 6.30pm and being able to go into Woolworths. It was quite possibly the latest I had ever been in a shop.

Things would have been back to normal the following week, though – including half-day closing on Wednesday.

Saturday 9 August 1986

…We went to Bradgate Park this morning.
We paddled in the stream, climbed hills and drank out of drinking fountains.
This afternoon I was swinging on the garage roof when I fell down.
That is no laughing matter.
I hurt myself a lot. I got no bruises…

See, I did go outside from time to time, even getting into the odd scrape.

Swinging from, or more correctly clinging on to the edge of, the garage roof allowed me to fancy myself as something of a daredevil. It wasn’t too far off the ground, but on this occasion I must have lost my grip prematurely and landed not on my feet but on my side or back.

I used a wooden ladder to climb on to the roof. This ladder should not really have been allowed anywhere near an unsupervised child. It had nails sticking out of it, and some of the rungs were loose. I think my parents had inherited it from one of my grandparents, who themselves had quite possibly inherited it from someone out of The Road To Wigan Pier.

Nonetheless I treated it, as I did the garage roof, as a challenge.

A challenge, moreover, that reaped benefits. Namely, the fact that once I was up on the roof I got to see into all the next door gardens, allowing to me literally look down on my neighbours.

Saturday 28 June 1986

…Went to a hot balloon show in the morning but came back home because there were not any balloons there.
In the afternoon we tried again – still no balloons.
So we went to Normanton and walked along the banks of the River Soar and got very frustrated because there were not any ferries across the river…

A hot air balloon floating above or near our house was always the catalyst for great excitement. The same went for a low-flying helicopter (was it Anneka Rice?) or Concorde, which used to pass our way on one of its occasional visits to East Midlands Airport.

In fact, such was the (justly) perceived significance of a Concorde cameo, its appearances would be announced in the local paper the week before, giving the town’s residents plenty of notice and a chance, if necessary, to re-arrange plans. We all thought Concorde was a big deal. I guess we were easily awed.

Saturday 21 June 1986

…Went to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
Adventure playgrounds, fountains, pretty gardens and nice shops added to the fun.
France beat Brazil 5-4 in the World Cup. Amazing…

I didn’t end it all, then.

I know I was distraught at how badly yesterday had gone. Yet I didn’t mention it in today’s diary entry. Not a thing.

Why?

Just in case it isn’t clear, I cut things out of the entries I put on this blog. The stuff that appears here are mere snippets; filleted highlights, if that’s not too bold a claim, of the original text.

In most instances this is to spare you and me the embarrassment and boredom of reading personal things about myself and my family.

This expurgation will also extend, should this blog still be running in a couple of years or so, to the ghastly whining and pompous confessions of adolescence.

But I also leave out stuff that I feel just sounds, frankly, daft.

By way of an example, I’ve made an exception in today’s blog. The sentence about Chatsworth House sounds like something no sane person would ever say out loud.

I certainly can’t imagine the 10-year-old me turning to my parents and declaring: “Thanks for taking us to Chatsworth House. Those nice shops added to the fun!”

It took me some time to learn to write my diaries the way I spoke – indeed, to move beyond mere reportage and begin to include statements of feeling.

If I’m honest, too many of these early entries take refuge in cliches and turns-of-phrase. I’m not particularly proud of this. It’s as if I’m penning a journal of public record or a dry school assignment rather than a personal diary.

Hence the fact that even when writing up things that must have been quite traumatic (such as yesterday) I opt for descriptions rather than impressions. And when I do venture an opinion (today’s “amazing” World Cup game), it just comes over as rather trite.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on the 10-year-old me. But then perhaps he deserves it. After all, returning to yesterday’s debacle, who’d have thought puppets and a piano recital would have gone down well in front of an audience of peers?

So I’m guessing today’s trip to Chatsworth was my parents’ idea of a pick-me-up. That’s assuming I even told them quite how badly the assembly had gone.

I think I probably bottled it all up. Isn’t that what everyone does at that age?

Yet I don’t think I had really recovered. And reliving all this now, 25 years on, I’m still not sure I have.

NOTE: To return, as requested, to the specifics of yesterday, my piano piece was The Entertainer by Scott Joplin, the sketch involved me operating a Kermit the Frog puppet my mum had made for me, and Andrew was another pupil who I vaguely knew but who also played the piano. Poorly, as it turned out.

Saturday 10 May 1986

…Liverpool beat Everton 3-1.
Now the next grand event is the World Cup.
Spent most of the day going to, staying and having a look, and come back from Belvoir Castle.
Watched an Inspector Clausoe [sic] film…

In searching for information on which songs were released by Liverpool and Everton to promote their respective chances in the “grand event” that was the 1986 FA Cup final, I discovered that highlights from the game are being shown on ESPN Classic this Thursday at 11.05pm.

Despite my noting the result in today’s entry, I didn’t actually watch the match 25 years ago (being, as the diary rather pointedly makes clear, being dragged across the county to Belvoir Castle and back again), so were I to tune in on Thursday it would be the first time I’d seen any footage of this particular victory by Liverpool over their Merseyside rivals.

I wouldn’t have had any allegiance in 1986, just as I didn’t throughout the entire 12 years I later lived in Liverpool, which I’d like to say is a reflection of sensitive neutrality, but is probably more to do with chronic indecisiveness. I did witness a number of Liverpool victory parades during my time as a resident, but that was more to do with geography than design. I also once stood next to Robbie Fowler in the Rose of Mossley public house, but that’s another story.

The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles tells me Liverpool’s 1986 effort was Sitting on Top of the World, a jaunty singalong number with not one but TWO reassuringly obligatory key changes during the final 40 seconds, and which reached number 50.

Everton’s single, whatever it was, failed to chart.

So instead here’s what was, as a child, my very very favourite clip from any ‘Inspector Clausoe’ film:

Thursday 8 May 1986

…Sent off for the Radio Times/Grandstand World Cup wallchart today.
Did Comprehension. Watched Near and Far.
Had Chips for lunch…

Glossing over the non-canonical appearance of chips (or rather, Chips) on a Thursday and not a Friday, here’s proof that I wasn’t entirely outright dismissive of sport.

The start of the 1986 World Cup was a little over three weeks away. Clearly I had succumbed to some of the hype already in evidence everywhere from the newspapers to the playground.

Yet I think my interest in getting a copy of the (free!) Radio Times/Grandstand wallchart was just as much to do with the appeal of Filling Something In as it was football.

I loved documenting the outcome of big events. In the summer of 1984 I’d had great fun filling in the results tables in my Ladybird Books guide to the Los Angeles Olympics…

Rocket man not pictured

…so I was particularly excited when Ladybird’s guide to World Cup 86 appeared:

It was this or the Panini sticker album

Being a resident of the town in which Ladybird Books had its home meant I could take it for granted that shops were always well-stocked with publications.

Naturally there was also an element of civic pride in being seen to buy and own this local company’s slim, sleek, cardboard-backed wares.

Anyway, with Ladybird’s guide already in my possession and the Beeb’s wallchart on the way, I felt I was well-placed to enjoy, albeit in a rather empirical fashion, the greatest tournament on Earth.

Meanwhile, unlike How we Used to Live and Science Workshop, Near and Far was one schools’ programme whose title sequence and theme music I never looked forward to. I know this is a far from original observation, but why did a humdrum humanities-based affair come adorned with such a bone-chilling opening?

Sunday 2 March 1986

…Went on a bridge that looked down on the M1.
I counted 103 [vehicles] in five minutes going south.
Dad counted 74 in five minutes going north…

The M1 was about five minutes’ drive from our house. This bridge would have been somewhere between junctions 22 and 23.

Growing up, the M1 came to symbolise a formidable overture to a family holiday. It was always the first road we would use en route to our annual week away somewhere in the UK every July. It would also be the first leg of a journey to see far-flung (or so it felt at the time) relatives. For these reasons, and because of its size and noise, I think I found the M1, as a concept, quite intimidating. Confronting it from above and seeing it from the perspective of an onlooker rather than a passenger would have been quite a challenge. I would have been just as much awed as intrigued.