Friday 5 February 1988

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.

Friday 22 May 1987

…After lunch the Woodbrook lot had to go off to Cobden again*.
Today it was about bullying.
We had to watch a video about a bully and a victim.
It was a good film but left me feeling queasy.
There is to be no cycling proficiency test this year, so I am not going to qualify…

And I never did.

I was quite cross about this, but I don’t mention any reason for the test not taking place. It had done so every year at my primary school for at least as long as I’d been there. Traffic cones, cardboard traffic lights and chalk drawings of a road junction were an annual occurrence in the playground. Not this time, however.

Maybe the local authority couldn’t afford it anymore. Cycling proficiency tests were funded by the government from 1958 until 1974, when responsibility was devolved to county councils.

It’s now called Bikeability – “cycling proficiency for the 21st century”. A bit more of it in the 20th century wouldn’t have gone amiss.

However my lack of qualification hasn’t stopped me using the cycle hire scheme in London. Take that Boris Johnson.

*The Woodbrook/Cobden visits are explained here.