Thursday 12 February 1987

…When will my ear ever get better?
Will it ever return to its normal state?
I have tried taking my tablets inside in a banana but they all fall out
because I chew it too hard, leaving me with an anti-antibiotic banana.
At least I didn’t go to PE because of my ear and my cough.
I went out and watched them instead.
We had to sort out books for the library van because Mrs Kirkham
[the headteacher] had just received news that it was coming in an hour.
Then she announced the news that the library van had broken down.
What GARBAGE…

Since my tempestuous doctor’s appointment on Saturday 7th, I’d twice returned to the surgery.

The first was to get my ears syringed, which emptied them of wax but not of pain. I still couldn’t hear properly, so back I went 24 hours later for yet another consultation, this time with a far nicer doctor than the one with whom my mum and I had crossed words on the 7th.

I was diagnosed with an infection in my right ear and a compressed ear drum in my left. Antibiotics were prescribed, to be taken three times a day for five days.

Up to this point in my life I had never swallowed a plastic capsule. I now discovered that I didn’t really like it. In fact, I positively and physically recoiled from it. Hence the need to “trick” me by “hiding” the pills within some mashed banana.

I know: how humiliating. It was like I was 11 months old, not 11 years. And STILL I couldn’t do it.

Yet there was no alternative. I simply could not swallow them raw, not even with a mouthful of water for assistance. My throat wouldn’t respond to my commands.

This bodily stand-off had proved especially distressing on the evening of Tuesday 10th, spoiling my choice of viewing – “Holiday 87, In At The Deep End and Food and Drink” – and leaving me “utterly mad with my ear”.

But thanks to Phil Norman I know now that this episode of In At The Deep End was the one where Paul Heiney upset Bananarama, so perhaps it was just as well I was otherwise occupied.

Tuesday 5 August 1986

…Watched Rainbow, a soppy film and the BBC’s brilliant holiday programmes.
After lunch we went into town.
I bought a 7″ record of the BBC’s Commonwealth Games theme tune, which is the signature tune…

Finally, after saving my pennies for what felt like ages, I had the thing in my hands.

The theme tune, which is the signature tune, was already on one of my homemade cassette compilations of music taped off the TV.

But this was something different. This was the real deal. This was your actual BBC Records and Tapes. This was:

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes? Huh?

Yes, I still have that same copy of the theme tune, which is the signature tune, but I no longer have any of the enthusiasm I had back in 1986.

Because to be honest, it’s a load of rubbish.

Besides being one of the most lacklustre pieces of music ever conceived for a sporting tournament, the melody sounds like it’s being played on a single-octave kiddies Casio keyboard, with occasional use of that wobbly effect to fool stupid people into thinking there’s a real flute involved.

There’s also an underwhelming choir mumbling in the background, a bit more Casio keyboard business at 1:20 (this time with the melody setting on “brass”), some real bagpipes (which always sound dodgy when set against an electronic backing; see Mull of Kintyre for how to make pipes sound properly pop), then a couple more minutes of precisely the same thing with not even a couple of key changes towards the end to pep things up.

The whole record sounds more like a wake than a wake-up call.

I can’t for the life of me remember what the B-side was like. See You In Auckland?

Not bloody likely

Not bloody likely.

All in all it’s an effort that managed to sound dated before the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony had, well, come to a close.

The only thing that really brings me pleasure now is to see again that distinctive BBC Records and Tapes livery:

A reassuring sight, if not necessarily sound

Bad Arrangement, Robertson.

Saturday 26 April 1986

…The first of the Saturday Picture Shows today.
Mum made Kermit. He’s brilliant. Mum’s still doing it now.
Went to buy another Asterix book today. Five more to go until I’ve got them all…

Yes, I considered the arrival of this year’s BBC1 Saturday morning summer “filler” enough of an event to warrant a mention, just as I had made a point of noting the end of the current series of Saturday Superstore one week earlier. I would have made sure I was up early enough to catch the 8.30am start as well.

This was the year that the Picture Show mustered the struggling-desperately-hard-to-be-credible-but-not-quite-managing-it line-up of Mark Curry, Cheryl Baker and Gary Davies.

It was also the year that it last mustered anything at all, as it failed to return in 1987. Something thunderously awful took its place, about which I penned plenty of diary-based vitriol, but more on that in 12 months time.

Look, here’s Gary and Cheryl (after a few seconds of Miami Sound Machine) sitting in a very mid-80s studio (lots of chrome, scatter cushions and gently-flashing coloured lights) promising us It Bites “live in the studio” this “Sadderday”:

Ah, it was exciting back then. Really, it was.

As for “Mum made Kermit”, this is the next chapter in my attempt to put on a puppet show in my school assembly, an idea first hatched a couple of weeks earlier, but which went nowhere until I persuaded my mum to attempt to sew and stitch together my very own Kermit THE frog.

She did a really great job. It had tiny metal wires to move the hands and everything. But it would be some time before he made his debut in front of anyone other than my deeply forbearing family.

Saturday 22 March 1986

…Bought Cliff Richard and The Young Ones today.
Made a dog puppet as well…

I absolutely loved this record when it came out. I thought it was utterly hilarious.

I played it over and over again on the tiny, battery-powered portable record player I had in my bedroom, which had been bought for me as a birthday present a couple of years earlier.

Yet, being barely 10 years old, I’m sure I can’t have had the faintest idea who The Young Ones were. I’d certainly never seen them on television.

I’m trying to imagine how I must have rationalised their involvement in a duet with Cliff (of whom I certainly was aware).

Perhaps I thought they were a sort of novelty pop group. Or a troupe of performers like the Grumbleweeds. I’m sure they would’ve been talked about at school.

Anyway, I would have purchased the record from either Woolworths or WHSmiths in the town centre. And, like every record I ever bought, I’ve still got it:

"Great, Cliff! Which instruments do you want us to break?!"
I would’ve read the sleeve notes and been none the wiser as to the identity of Ben Elton and Richard Curtis (for I would not have been allowed to watch Blackadder yet), never mind Lionel Bart or Mariella Frostrup.

"Coming soon: the Book, the LP, the Chocolates..."
But I would have played the B-side (“It’s on the tip of my tongue!” “What a STUPID place to keep your guitar!”) just as much as the A-side and relished them both. I still do. I’m afraid/unashamed to admit that “What does this button do? [EXPLOSION]” cracks me up even now.

Ditto “Can I go now? [WHACK].”