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

Tuesday 18 November 1986

…At 8.15am we had our water cut off.
But we had been warned, so we had filled the bath with
cold water for the loo, saucepans for mum’s cooking and
a few jugs for drinking water.
It came back on at 2.15pm…
…For lunch at school we had pizza – yuk* – potatoes – yum –
oranges – yum – coleslaw – yum – and for pudding we had
milkshake.
This afternoon we did maths and after that swimming.
I hate swimming, because now I’ve got my grade 3
I am in the top group doing eight lengths of breaststroke!
Watched Yes, Prime Minister as always this evening…

This would have been episode three of series one, The Smoke Screen, which had been first shown earlier in the year on BBC2. This was its repeat on BBC1.

I doubt if I grasped many of the script’s subtler observations and jokes. In fact I’m not sure what I would have grasped. But I’d discovered a copy of volume two of Jim Hacker’s ministerial “diaries” on one of my parents’ shelves a few weeks earlier, and I had become hooked. I’d even taken the book to school for when we did silent reading. If it was possible for a 10-year-old to be dizzyingly pretentious, then – in this instance at any rate – I was that child.

Anyway, 25 years later, I now get all the observations and the jokes, and most of what is laughingly dismissed here has almost come true:

*To coin a Sir Humphrey-esque phrase, I have since reversed my position on this continental comestible.

Saturday 15 November 1986

…Dad and I went into town this afternoon to get two comics including
 my Whizzer and Chips, a book for me based on the TV programme
Odysseus the Greatest Hero of Them All and to get two candle
holders for our Advent candles.
Watched tons of TV this evening including a film, Doctor Who and
Hi-De-Hi…

Tony Robinson’s freewheeling adaptation of the Odyssey, Homer’s epic ancient poem, was currently showing on BBC1 in the Jackanory slot.

I was a big fan. I was hooked just as much by the conceit – Robinson retelling the whole yarn entirely by himself, on location, with gags and silly voices to boot – as the story.

At the time, the name listed on the front cover as co-author meant nothing to me:

Robinson's crew, so?

Now I flick through the pages and see how the vernacular and sometimes scatological text is laced with, yes, clunking sentimentality. The kind, I fear, that often turns up in this blog.

Oh dear. Twenty-five years on, and it’s Curtis rather than Robinson who has left the bigger mark.

That wasn’t what was meant to happen!

Thursday 16 October 1986

…The library van came to school this morning.
We got all our books that we were halfway through
snatched from our tables and thrown in the van.
Luckily I got mine back.
You couldn’t miss the library van.
It’s got a word in huge letters on the side: LIBRARY.
I kept falling in the mud in hockey this afternoon deliberately.
I am going mad on my election map…

The mobile library visited our school once a month. The excitement of seeing it arrive and getting to go inside far exceeded that of its actual contents. I got the impression it always came to us last, such was its slim collection of stuff that sounded interesting by people you’d actually heard of. Nonetheless we were all forced to borrow a few titles for reading in our own time (i.e. homework). Norman Hunter and Susan Cooper were a couple of favourites. Occasionally there was even a battered Dr Who Target novelisation cowering on one of the revolving racks.

I’d assumed mobile libraries had disappeared from Loughborough years ago, or else fallen victim to the present government’s spending cuts. Wonderfully, they still exist.