Saturday 1 August 1987

…Woke up to find that Mum had forgotten to tape Week Ending AGAIN.
The washing machine leaked and the utility room won first prize in the
Disguise-Yourself-As-A-Lake competition.
Got dragged to a summer fete.
I was 2p off winning a box of chocolates in the
Guess-The-Amount-Of-Money-In-The-Jar competition.
Watched Carry on Cleo…

This feels like more of a conventional summer holiday roster of activities, at least compared with extracts from some of my recent entries.

The summer fete was in the grounds of a local parish church, but the location didn’t bother me so much as my inability to win anything or find anything worth buying. For I’d realised that fetes, like second-hand bookshops, often offered up unexpected yet rewarding treasures.

Over the next couple of years I’d collect most of my Blue Peter books from fetes and jumble sales, ending up with a near-complete run from Book Four to Book Twenty-Two. A decade-and-a-half later I supplemented this to bring the tally up to Book Thirty-Two, whereupon I gave up. And I will never have a complete set, because you have to pay something like £30,000 for Books One to Three as they were printed on Biddy Baxter’s personalised blotting paper or something, and that’s just ridiculous.

I will never learn the origins of Bleep and Booster. But I can live with that.

Saturday 27 June 1987

…Went shopping.
I bought Whizzer and Chips, two second-hand books about 007,
a little hedgehog pencil sharpener and rubber and nothing else.
Mum forgot to record the first 10 minutes of last night’s Week Ending on Radio 4,
so I had to record it myself again this evening…

Having long (and foolishly) given up on Ian Fleming’s originals, I was now hungry for any and every Bond spin-off and tie-in I could find. Today’s purchases did not disappoint:

"When I come back I'll expect to find you in bed"

Christopher Wood’s novelisation of his own script is shamelessly thrilling and laughably overwrought. It includes and expands on all the main bits of the film, which is what the 11-year-old me desperately wanted. But even back then I found Wood’s attempts at doing love scenes both hilarious and more than a little cringing:

“…The girl looked down at the innocent swelling of her breasts. Was it obvious? Could anybody tell at a glance that she had been making love, wild, beautiful love?…”

“…Bond’s nostrils flared. ‘I think you know the kind of treatment I need. I’m going to shave. When I come back I’ll expect to find you in bed’…”

“…She looked into his eyes half apologetically. ‘James, you are not the first man that has made love to me.’ Bond’s hard, naked body moved towards the bed and his fingers closed around the sheet. ‘My darling,’ he said. ‘That remains to be seen.’ He came down on her like a hawk….”

Roger Moore’s “diary” of the making of Live and Let Die, meanwhile, is a literary classic. In character throughout – the character of “Roger Moore”, that is – our man treats his work on the new “Jimmy Bond movie” as a sort of colonial grand tour, where locals and luvvies alike are all wonderful and only the threat of kidney stones can colour the mood:

“Five and thirteen hundred ferocious crocodiles made B-Day 47 a day to remember… Around 20 of us gathered round a grand piano on the open patio and sang our way through a two hour repertoire from Moonlight in Vermont to a bouncing Blame it on the Bossa Nova… Gloria and I got busy. I will not bore you with the details except to say that she put her heart, body and soul into her work…”

If only he’d done one of these for each of his Bond films. “B-Day 59, and I suggested Desmond drop in a line about ‘attempting re-entry’. Everyone fell about…”

"An unholy, all-action and sometimes all-embracing alliance"

Friday 26 June 1987

…Had a rehearsal for our leavers’ assembly.
Everybody was shouting and talking while [our teacher] was trying to keep order.
It will be a DISASTER.
In the end we gave up and read more of Henry’s Leg, our current story.
This went on after lunch – meat pie, potatoes, cabbage and gravy with whip
for pudding – when we had to design a new cover for Henry’s Leg…

Having no memory of Henry’s Leg whatsoever, I’ve had to look it up. What an upbeat and confidence-inspiring subject with which to see out the school year: a boy who tries to forget about his family problems by indulging in his hobby of collecting junk.

Designing a “new cover” for a story book was an absolute classic Friday afternoon activity, though given what sounds like a rather hysterical morning I’m not surprised our teacher took refuge in this reliably pacifying, not to say stultifying, assignment.

I’m not sure we ever got round to watching the TV adaptation. Perhaps we ran out of time. This was, after all, my penultimate Friday at primary school. I don’t think we missed much.


Monday 6 April 1987

…We got our book orders today.
I had ordered Johnny Ball’s Second Thinks book.

It’s still a great read.

Ball's up

The best chapter is the one on codes and ciphers. It includes this classic riddle-me-ree:

“Have a go at solving this little problem:


Can you take six letters away and leave an English word you might associate with me?”

The first correct answer wins the right to claim this gag of Johnny’s as their own:

“The other day I woke up with a sick eye, so I thought I would have to go and see a sick-eye-atrist, but instead I went along to see my doctor. I realised I’d have to see him with the other eye until the sick one got better…”

Saturday 4 April 1987

…Today I bought a book priced £14.95 about Doctor Who.
It’s called The Doctor Who File and contains all those facts that you never
even knew about.
But that was after Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds and
Saturday Superstore, whose special guest was Prince Edward to announce
the winner of the Superstore Superstar competition.
And the winner was a jazz band who were brilliant, great and
other wonderful things.
The Grand National today.
I don’t know exactly who won it but I heard something about the winner being a
17-1 outsider?!!!
Dad was meant to have some manure delivered today but it never arrived…

£14.95 feels like an awful lot today, let alone 25 years ago. Perhaps I had some birthday money left over.

You must remember, though, that back then Peter Haining’s book and others like it were pretty much the only way of finding out about Doctor Who’s history or discovering wildly important pieces of information like production codes and lists of every available Target novelisation. In fact by 1987 it was probably spin-offs like these that kept the show both in production and in the black, albeit not out of the doldrums.

I still have The Doctor Who File, but I haven’t flicked through its desperately glossy pages for over two decades. Which is about the same length of time since I watched an episode of 1980s-era Doctor Who out of choice rather than duty.

As for the band who were “brilliant, great and other wonderful things”, they were the still-brilliant Juvenile Jazz, seen here setting old Wogan’s early evening joint a-jumping. Not too sure about the clarinettist’s blatant mugging to camera, mind:

Friday 20 February 1987

…Didn’t get dressed till 8.43, ooh I could do with a D…
…Went to Granny’s this morning while Mum went to work [it being half-term].
While there I read 94 pages of Goldfinger, before finishing it this afternoon
THEN we went to the cinema to watch Basil The Great Mouse Detective…

My attempt to get into Ian Fleming’s Bond novels only lasted a couple of months.

After soldiering through a pathetic, paltry three (this one, Live and Let Die and From Russia With Love) I gave up. I stupidly and naively thought they would bear more resemblance to the films than was actually the case.

The only reason I got through 94 pages of Goldfinger so fast was because I couldn’t wait to reach the laser beam bit. Instead all I found was a circular saw and, later, some lesbians. Had there really been that many lesbians in evidence when I’d watched the film a few weeks earlier? I was confused.

A few days after this entry, unable to reconcile the differences between the books and their big screen cousins, I decided to devote my life to the devouring of the latter rather than the former. I haven’t read another Fleming novel since.

"I said, well, we don't go out looking for it!"

Saturday 17 January 1987

…There was no school again today – as it was THE WEEKEND
in case you didn’t know.
Went down at 8.30am to watch The Hunter, Muppet Babies and
Saturday Superstore which today had Christopher Reeve as a guest.
We cleared the extension roof of snow and then made a giant snowman.
After lunch me and Mum went into town to buy Whizzer and Chips,
Muppet Babies Disney Magazine,
some satsumas,
some tissues,
a Flake,
two Wispa bars
and the Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Book…

This was and still is a very fine publication:

Over 16 million books sold by the authors of...

Admittedly it’s now a relic of that late, lamented time when the phrase “Comic Relief” stood for both of those things.

But gags about Thatcher and Reagan and Frank Bough’s cardigans (cf Adrian Mole’s Christmas) are just as funny today as they were then. Well, they are to me.

Plus it’s got new stuff by Douglas Adams, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Smith and Jones, Spitting Image, The Young Ones, Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry… everyone you’d expect given the era. Oh, and spoof programme billings – in both Radio Times and TV Times fonts!

ck when the merely the name Bob Monkhouse was considered funny
I’m actually a bit surprised I was allowed to buy it. The language is often, as one of my uncles used to say, a bit blue. I reckon my parents must have thought it was simply a kids’ joke book raising a bit of money for charity. I’m absolutely certain they wouldn’t have let me own it had they seen this page:

Alternative comedy