Friday 7 November 1986

…Today was Recorder Day at Burleigh Community College.
I was dead nervous meeting all those 15, 16, 17 and 18-year-olds.
But I soon got used to them.
We played some quite interesting pieces.
There were two jazzy pieces which were my favourites.
There were also some boring pieces that we didn’t manage very well.
It lasted from 9.30am to 5pm!
My fingers were tied in knots.
After that because I had survived we went down to the chippy to
get some chips which were very tasty.
Drew a picture of Big Ben for my project.
I thought it was quite good…

I’d been to one of these “Recorder Days” the previous year, which wasn’t that exceptional save for “the tower next to our building catching fire.”

This one was less combustible but more discomfiting.

For one thing I was more aware of the significance of where I was. Burleigh Community College was somewhere I knew I would eventually go to school. I would be one of those 15-year-olds that I felt dead nervous about meeting. They all looked so enormous and so confident. Everything about them seemed so impossibly remote. How was I to get from here to there?

More immediately disturbing was one of the teachers I met on this day 25 years ago. He was in charge of music at Burleigh, and he had the most hideous and unrelenting bad breath I had ever experienced. Even at the age of 10 I realised there was something wrong with this man’s character as to be so unaware of boasting such advanced halitosis.

I had no way of knowing that I and many of my peers would eventually end up sharing a classroom with this individual on a weekly basis for a number of years. If I had known, I might very well have swallowed my recorder and ended it all there and then.

Wednesday 29 October 1986

…The school was full of gas because something has gone wrong
with the boiler.
This afternoon we had Mrs Sweet.
But she is not very sweet.
Dead strict in fact.
SHOCK HORROR it was parent-teacher interviews this evening.
Luckily we both passed…

Neither my sister or I were yet considered old enough to be left alone at home, so on occasions like these we had to accompany our mum and dad and then either sit in the car or in the main school corridor by the fish tank.

At the time I used to treat it all with a heavy dose of sceptical melodrama (“SHOCK HORROR”). Now I appreciate what an ordeal it must have been for both parties. Things like records of achievement and homework diaries had yet to be introduced into my life. These evenings were pretty much the only contact my parents ever had with my teachers. I pity them all.

But why the thing was even taking place seeing as the school was “full of gas”, I don’t know.

Friday 3 October 1986

…After break we did our talk on inventions.
It went down very well with the class and [our teacher]
said it was very good…

My class had been asked to prepare presentations (how that word would come to dominate my life) on a subject that interested us.

I, along with a fellow pupil, had taken our cue from the never-less-than-entertaining BBC children’s programme Eureka, which boasted, among other things, one of the greatest signature tunes of the 1980s.

Naturally, by “taken our cue”, I mean “steal the format outright”. Our “talk” was supposed to reveal the story behind – deep breath – the radio, the TV, the biro, the telephone, the light bulb, chewing gum and the hovercraft. All in a light-hearted and, though nobody would’ve used the word back then, interactive fashion.

My notes from the day imply that we ended with the following spiel:

“They are all inventions of the past,
but now we are going to show you some inventions of the future.
First…the self-emptying dustbin!… Next, the self-serving drink machine!…
Next, the new washing-up-liquid… And finally, the multi-purpose box!”

Presumably each of these, ahem, hilarious creations was accompanied by a Heath Robinson/Vic Reeves-esque sketch, or even a putative model.

I wouldn’t vouch for the accuracy of my notes, however. They go on to suggest that we closed our presentation with the lines:

“And now, if you want to question us, please do so.
If you don’t want to question us, keep your mouth shut.”

Any boost to my ego afforded by all of this nonsense was thoroughly offset by what happened later in the day: the school barn dance.

I describe it as “chaos”, of feeling “sick afterwards”, and mention how “we all did dances and made fools of ourselves”. Why I was even there is a mystery, other than on the grounds of it being another unflattering and undignified compulsory activity.

Monday 30 June 1986

…Just one more week till the end of term.
Had recorders and a practice of the musical evening.
At the event I kept bumping into the flower display.
Me playing the piano was the most funniest [sic] thing that has ever happened in the world.
I played The Entertainer by Scott Joplin…

This is me trying to pull on the twin cloaks of nonchalance and bluster in light of the previous time I treated an audience to my piano-playing.

The event was a musical concert to mark the end of the school year. I’m not sure with which other items I was involved; I’m guessing it was the recorder ensemble. But I was only really bothered by how my solo spot was received.

And it went pretty well. It got a round of applause, which was more than last time.

I’m not sure it entirely made up for the catastrophe that was the school assembly. But it did restore a bit of self-pride and, judging by the “funniest thing” remark, a bit of self-deprecating cockiness.

The Entertainer was my party piece for a while. Then I got a bit more confident and moved on to the theme from Film ’86.