Friday 29 January 1988

…The theme of this week’s assembly was Australia and I had to play Waltzing
Matilda on the piano, which was as usual HIDEOUSLY EMBARRASSING.
I made a few mistakes which I thought stuck out a mile, but nobody said anything.
Handed in my Australia homework which ended up being eight pages of waffle.
My blocked-up ears, cold and sore throat got me out of PE, much to the teacher’s
displeasure, but I didn’t care and went off and did some work instead.
There was a supply teacher for science and everyone messed around so much
that at times you couldn’t hear her speak.
I felt sorry for her…

My attitude towards supply teachers evolved (or regressed, depending on your point of view) from one of sympathy to impatience. At this point I was still tending towards the former. I would regret the way they were bullied by my fellow pupils – not that I did anything to stop it. But within a couple of years I started to get tired of their inability to control a classroom and, occasionally, a bit contemptuous of them for not knowing their stuff. This wasn’t true of all of them. But we did seem to get an awful lot. And all too often, the dreaded “let’s push the tables apart and sit in a circle” kind.

Friday 18 December 1987

…Just one week left till Christmas.
And of course, I can hardly wait.
But we don’t finish school until next Tuesday, which is a bit unfair.
Also we have a whole week off after the week which has New Year’s Day in it,
which just seems ridiculous.
There were carols in this morning’s assembly for the first years.
I got to play a keyboard as the accompaniment.
And then I treated myself to chips, sausages and baked beans for lunch,
followed by a glass of milk and a ginger biscuit…

It was round about now that I began to get quite involved in doing music stuff at school. Not just what everyone had to do in music lessons, but additional things. Playing in assemblies. Taking part in school productions. And eventually writing and performing my own stuff.

I was never quite sure what my peers thought of all this. Ghastly showboating? Self-indulgent twaddle? Or just utter disinterest? Out of those three I’d rather it’d been the latter.

Still, along the way I got to turn the Beatles’ Nowhere Man into a chorale for four-part harmony; perform an avant-garde “happening” wherein I fixed a microphone inside a kettle, boiled it, and served tea to an audience; and organise a three-hour outdoor acoustic gig boasting covers of songs by, among others, The Smiths, Tori Amos, Otis Redding and (oops) The Lemonheads.

So I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Friday 27 March 1987

…Almost everything went wrong today.
First of all Edward announced that I couldn’t go to see his video of Dr No
tomorrow because he was going somewhere.
It’s been almost a week since it was on TV.
I suppose I’ll have to wait ANOTHER week and go through all the usual
stuff I hate – PE, swimming, [school] choir, maypole dancing – until I get to see it.
I didn’t get to have chips from the chippy this evening,
which I had been looking forward to.
Plus Grange Hill had a sad ending, because it was the last one in the series.
Lunch was cheese pie – YUK – tomatoes, cress and coleslaw, followed by
an orange portion…

The sentence “Almost everything went wrong today” must appear in my diaries more than any other. I’ve used it at least half a dozen times already this year*.

Yet the most alarming thing about this extract is that I appear to have started maypole dancing again. The last recorded mention of this was a year or so ago, when I noted I’d been kicked out of the team. Yet here I am back in the fold – totally unwillingly, it must be emphasised. I wonder what had happened.

I hated maypole dancing. The humiliation was total. It forced you into the kind of intimate body contact with fellow pupils that was utterly repulsive for children at the age of 10 or 11. The pole we had to parade around was decades old and falling to pieces. The top part, to which the coloured ribbons were attached, kept toppling off and landing on us, mid-prance. The ribbons themselves felt – and smelt – like they’d been manufactured in the late-1940s, possibly from the uniforms of demobbed soldiers. And then there was the music: ghastly winsome oom-pah tunes on a recording no doubt hailing from some rural free love festival in 1967.

You’ve got the idea that it was not a good thing, right?

* That goes for both 1987 and 2012.

Tuesday 3 March 1987

…Today, worse luck, was when we were going to the Town Hall to perform in
some silly musical play called the Space-Dragon of Galatar [with other schools
from the area].
It was dead boring all through the day.
First of all we had a run through of the songs.
Then we sorted out our movements for the stage.
Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over
and over again.
By the time we finished that it was lunchtime.
Then we split into groups to get our costumes ready.
Our costume, as the dragon, was a simple bit of cloth with holes for us to
poke our heads through.
Once we had done that we did a dress rehearsal over and over and over etc.
At 4.30pm we did the five-minute performance.

We’d been rehearsing this nonsense for the best part of two weeks. I couldn’t believe so much effort was involved for so little reward. I suppose it was meant to represent a gesture of cross-town co-operation, a “hands across the water” to our various educational rivals. Albeit in the form of an supernatural fairy tale set in space. With songs.

But even as a piece of symbolism it failed, because nobody mingled with anybody from a rival school, and the fact we’d all been assigned different costumes and roles just deepened any feelings of suspicion.

The Space-Dragon of Galatar made a couple of paragraphs in that week’s edition of the Loughborough Echo. It was the first such initiative was ever attempted. It was also the last.