Friday 23 January 1987

…Last night the school was broken into.
Nothing was stolen but it was obvious that they had been trying
to get into the computer room because there was scratching on the door…

This mystery was never solved. No clues were forthcoming from the scene of the crime and no culprits were ever caught. As such it passed into myth as The Robbery That Went Wrong. Why did the burglars fail? Were they disturbed? Did they have a last-minute attack of conscience? Could they even be somehow connected with – GASP – the school itself?

I’m pretty sure in the days following the break-in there was much lazy scapegoating among pupils and parents alike. The most popular theory was that the thieves were from one of the “undesirable” parts of town – the ones with terraces and no front gardens and cars with bin bags for windows. Looking back I’m sure it was more likely to have been someone with a younger brother or sister at the school. It always is.

I was more relieved that the rascals, wherever they hailed from, didn’t succeed. If they had done, how would I have coped as Chief Printer For Printing Things?

Thursday 20 November 1986

…At the moment it is throwing it down with rain outside,
it is 9.45pm and I am eating some cherry cake.
This afternoon we almost blew the school computer up.
Considering yesterday we almost smashed the computer
to bits trying to get it to start, today we properly blew all
its fuses because we were teaching some others how to
play a programme called Flowers of Crystal…

I had to look this up.

I’d forgotten all about this BBC Micro “game”, which, by virtue of us “playing” it during lesson time, naturally had an educational bent.

I may be wrong, but I believe it involved a character called Mr Grubble (think the CEO of an international bank) bringing the planet Crystal to near-oblivion thanks to rampant commercialisation. The hero (think someone camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral), aka the 10-year-old us playing it at school, had to save the planet before it was destroyed, or became unprofitable, or both.

There were spells and monsters and a choose-your-own-adventure format, all within the confines of a BBC Acorn microcomputer.

The 1980s were arriving at last!

Wednesday 10 September 1986

…I have been made chief printer of my class for printing things on the computer…

All power corrupts, even when you’re 10-and-a-half years old.

I relished the status, albeit fairly meagre, that this honorary position gave me.

Sure, it was no captain of the football team, Christmas card monitor, or even the person responsible for fetching tracing paper from the stock cupboard.

But it was something, while previously there’d been nothing.

Thursday 12 June 1986

…Did more computer printing today and watched a programme on Droughts.
Had mince pie, no not the Christmas stuff, pie with mince in.
In Games we did cricket and after that more printing…

Good grief, I was now spending most of my days on the BBC Acorn. There was only one in the entire school, so I can’t have been making my peers very happy. Hopefully somebody was appreciating all this computerised busywork. And I trust my namesake(s) in the following clip would have been proud.

Remember, the interesting line is Line 30:
30 PRINT TAB(PLACE,16) ” ” CHR$224

Tuesday 10 June 1986

…Did some computer printing today.
Got things ready for the Open Evening at school which was tonight.
At the Open Evening there was the old bells and ribbons mob, the Morris dancing team, with parents, children, work, computers and teachers all about the place…

I confess I used to find something intriguing and a little exciting about being in school after hours.

I realise this view places me in a very very small minority of similarly-minded people. Yet I did enjoy those occasions where I could legitimately be in school once everyone else had gone home, such as open evenings or, as would be the case at secondary school, rehearsals for plays and concerts.

I think it was a combination of the impression of feeling privileged and a sense of being trusted. After all, not everyone, in fact not even most people, ever got to see what school was like once the final bell had rung.

Admittedly most people didn’t want to. And for some people being in school after hours only ever equated with punishment.

But I would have quite looked forward to this open evening, despite the presence of “the old bells and ribbons mob” with its reminders of my own humiliating and enforced participation in country dancing.

I’m utterly baffled, however, by the reference to computer printing. My reticence on this point is very annoying. What on earth was I doing – producing worksheets or handouts? Doing a favour for a member of staff? Or just shamelessly if discreetly messing about?