Friday 5 February 1988

…COMIC RELIEF DAY.
The entire country donned their red noses, all except me, who didn’t have a proper one.
Mum had tried to make me a homemade one, but it was absolutely rubbish and
kept falling off, so I quickly got rid of it.
[My form tutor] had also made one himself, out of an eggbox which he had then coloured red with a felt-tip pen, and which looked hilariously bad.
They had been selling them at school but there were none left.
There was a special assembly which was based around all the teachers having
to do forfeits if they didn’t know the answer to a general knowledge question.
They could either have a forfeit done to them or pay 10p to Comic Relief.
It was a bit of a flop because some of the teachers didn’t understand the rules and
the forfeits were hardly that bad: popping a balloon, for example.
All day people were wandering around in funny clothes and make-up, and they
all looked UTTERLY STUPID.
There was nothing funny about PE, which was football outside in the mud, and I
hated it from start to finish…

I was allowed to watch some, but nowhere near all, of the telethon on BBC1 later.

A good deal of it is currently on YouTube, from almost near the start. What a bizarre choice from “Radio One listeners” for the 10th best comedy sketch of all time.

And what a ponderously-paced, refreshingly low-key affair the whole programme now seems. The “here’s what this evening is all about” bits last a good 10 minutes or so. Look, there’s Jimmy Perry sitting in front of a black screen introducing AN ENTIRE EPISODE of Dad’s Army. At one point almost all of BT’s London exchanges fall over. Michael Palin does a great bit of Vercotti, which his diary suggests he only thought up a few hours earlier. Then you’ve all those mini-sketches, including Philip Schofield and Andy Crane acting (!) at a drinks party (!), plus Valerie Singleton and Geoffrey Palmer – together at last.

It all left a mighty impression on a jaded 11-year old. As it still does on a still jaded 36-year old.

Tuesday 26 January 1988

…I’m hurring through tonight’s entry as I’m writing it in between trying to watch
Carry on Matron.
In Expressive Arts this morning we had to do a play on the theme of pets.
Ours went down well – went down the bin, that is.
Got 18 and a half out of 20 in a French test, which is TRES BIEN I think.
Australia is 200 years old…

I wasn’t the only one who’d been regularly tuning in to these Tuesday night Carry Ons.

In his diary for today, Kenneth Williams wrote: “Watched the TV news and then Carry On Matron. I was amazed ‘cos there was actually a story/idea behind this one, as opposed to the usual stream of would-be jokes… I looked about 35! It was odd to watch – Bill Kenwright made a brief appearance! – and possibly, my bits were the best I’ve ever managed in that sort of crap.”

He’s wrong of course, but there is this particularly fantastic scene:

The week before he’d lambasted Carry on Henry: “It was so bad in places… truly chronic dialogue… dreadful acting. A collection of such rubbish you’re amazed it could have ever been stuck together. Only an audience of illiterates could ever have found this tripe amusing.”

This illiterate did and still does rate Henry as one of the best – likewise Abroad, about which Kenny had wailed a few weeks ago:  “I was featured doing all the old crap. Looking at this rubbish you realise that nothing has changed! British sit-coms [sic] all consist of the same routines, jokes, and dirt. Very depressing.”

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.

Sunday 3 January 1988

…All the Christmas decorations came down today.
Needles from the tree went everywhere – we should have worn special clothes
to protect us, as I kept finding them in my jumper hours afterwards.
The house is now empty of all festive things.
It is rather sad.
The BBC revealed itself to the public this evening in a programme called
See For Yourself.
I did…

This was the first of the Beeb’s big John Birt-inspired look-at-how-awfully-accountable-we-are escapades, and I remember it being fantastically exciting. What’s not to like about a couple of hours on a Sunday night going behind the scenes at Auntie?

There are no clips from 1988’s See For Yourself on YouTube, but I thought I’d include this sequence from the 1989 edition as it:
a) features Sue Lawley at the peak of her powers as Mrs BBC, and
b) spends an enormously impressive few minutes following Sue as she walks through a sequence of BBC sets, beginning with Top of the Pops (in whose environs she leaves a bemused-looking DG Michael Checkland and Chairman Marmaduke Hussey) and including ‘Allo ‘Allo, Bread, Grandstand (“from hockey to horse racing… it’s comparatively cheap too!”) and Crimewatch.

We also learn that: “This sofa is a good example of the BBC’s economy… it’s subsequently been refurbished for Jimmy Savile in his latest Fix It series!”

Friday 1 January 1988

…Mum and Dad tried to put up two telephone extensions, so we can have more
than one handset in the house.
It was absolute chaos.
They had to drill through the stairs to get a wire through the kitchen, which
meant clearing out the entire long cupboard.
Another wire has gone upstairs but the phone will be in Mum and Dad’s bedroom.
All the while I was trying to watch Superman II but it was ruined by the noise…

Still, at least it wasn’t Superman III: the best one of them all. Fact.

Tuesday 29 December 1987

…Today was a Tuesday and we decided to go to the sales.
Well, Mum and Dad didn’t want to, but we wanted to because we wanted to spend
some of our Christmas money.
I didn’t buy anything.
[My sister] bought a hairdryer and some trousers.
I was very annoyed because WHSmith in Loughborough is virtually empty.
That’s the problem: they haven’t restocked yet.
We came back from town on a Trippit, having taken the car in for more repairs.
I was back in time to watch Carry on Camping…

The day wasn’t entirely wasted, then.

I like how I presume to have knowledge of the post-Christmas retail strategy of WHSmiths. Or lack of one.

I was always bemused at how the place used to be almost entirely devoid of stock in the days between Christmas and New Year. Didn’t they understand that was when the greatest number of WHSmith vouchers were aching to be redeemed?

At least the Trippits were running.

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: