Friday 16 October 1987

…DISASTER!
Hurricane winds have been battering London and the south-east, causing damage,
deaths and some injuries.
A trail of destruction has been left across the country.
But not here.
Although we did get to do PE inside instead of outside, because of the weather…

Truth be told, the hurricane barely grazed the east Midlands. There was a disappointing absence of carnage outside my bedroom window and certainly nowhere near enough disruption to mean a day off school. However I was up early enough to enjoy tour de forces from Anne Diamond (well-versed in hosting TV-am in besieged circumstances) and also from Nicholas Witchell, anchoring BBC1 from the only room in Television Centre with a light bulb that still worked:

NAMEDROP ALERT! Many years later I got to interview Nicholas Witchell about this very incident.

“It produced one of the most gratifying responses from people that I can remember in all my years of broadcasting,” he recalled. “I had dozens of letters from people, many of them elderly and on their own, who’d spent a very frightening night, and who had switched on in the morning and found a face which I hope was friendly, if a little bemused, and reassuring.

“It was certainly one of the oddest situations I’ve found myself in, but also – looking back – one of the most satisfying because it was a moment when people wanted and needed information, and we were able to give some of it, even if it was from the ‘Broom Cupboard’!”

Wednesday 10 June 1987

…In 24 hours from the time I am writing this, the polling booths will have closed and
Election 87 on the BBC will have begun.
Opinion polls show another Tory government with another Labour opposition
but who knows?
That may not be right.
You can’t judge the opinion polls, and the biggest and most important opinion poll
is the one taking place tomorrow from 7am to 10pm when the nation will be able to exercise their vote…

I sound so pompous here. Yes, more than usual.

This was one of those occasions where I was using my diary to hold forth on something I couldn’t do in public. I’ve already mentioned that nobody at school was interested in the election, neither teachers nor pupils. At home my dad helped me with my list of marginal seats and had chipped in to help buy me the ITN Election 87 Factbook. But that was about it. I knew of no kindred spirits for my interest in and obsession with the election. Naturally, therefore, I kept quiet. Very very quiet.

Yet despite fussing persistently over the mechanics of the election and the practicalities of polling day, I didn’t have any sort of opinion over who ought to win. I wasn’t supporting anybody. Sure, I knew what all the main parties stood for, but I didn’t have any real awareness of what their policies meant, or could mean, for the country.

I did not grow up in, to use a phrase so beloved of the statesman’s memoir, a “political household”. We did not discuss privatisation and trade union reform over the kitchen table – not least because we didn’t have a table in the kitchen. I think one of my parents voted Conservative right through the 1980s. But they certainly never broadcast the fact, and I can’t recall any sort of political discussion, never mind argument, taking place until the end of the decade, when Thatcher was on the ropes, our neighbours had announced they were refusing to pay the poll tax, and I first nailed my colours to a mast.

But that’s not for now.

All I was bothered about on this day in 1987 was whether I’d be able to stay up late on a school night to see a few results. Who’d be first to declare: Cheltenham, Guildford or Torbay?

Maggie serves up a pasting"I warn you not to get stuck in mile-long tailbacks..."

Friday 13 March 1987

…Next Tuesday is the Budget.
I think I’m going to do a report about it, by recording the news and then
playing it over and over again so I can put it into my own words.
I might even put my own words into the recording…

“Among his announcements, Mr Lawson said that the price of [SMASH HITS] would be reduced by two pence from midnight tonight, while the price of a packet of [PANINI STICKERS] would rise by five pence.

“The chancellor had bad news for [COWS]. The cost of filling up [A MILK BOTTLE] is to go up by 15 pence at midnight.

“There are no plans to alter the amount of [DISGUSTING CHEESE AND TOMATO PIE SERVED IN SCHOOL DINNERS] within England and Wales.

“Mr Lawson also confirmed that the tax on [UNSIGHTLY WASHING LINES IN YOUR NEIGHBOURS’ GARDEN] would rise by 10% from 1 April.”

Friday 24 October 1986

…This evening there was a fire in the BBC Television Centre
while the Six O’clock News was on.
Terrible, but they got it under control by 6.15pm…

A search on YouTube doesn’t produce any results for this particular conflagration, but it does suggest BBC news broadcasts were rather prone to incident during the second half of the 1980s. For instance, here’s a different fire, supposedly dating from a Sunday in 1987. Cutbacks appear to have curtailed drastically the number of hymns scheduled for that evening’s usual act of worship.