Thursday 4 February 1988

…Stacks and stacks of homework tonight, but I am ploughing through it slowly.
We started Home Economics today for the first time, which is great and a thousand
times better than the stupid sewing we had been doing in Design lessons.
However we didn’t actually do any cooking today, as we weren’t allowed.
Instead we had to learn the basic rules.
You’d think most people would know how to turn on an oven!
Next week we are doing our first cooking: a fruit salad! HOLD THE FRONT PAGE!
It is Comic Relief Day tomorrow but there are no red noses left in the shops,
so I won’t have one…

It’s stretching things a bit to describe the preparation of a fruit salad as “cooking”. But bear in mind, despite my flippant remarks, most of my class had never turned on an oven before, nor had knowledge of things like gas marks or tablespoons.

In later weeks we tackled tomato soup, apple crumble, a “garden salad”, chocolate chip cookies, pizza and a Swiss roll*. I quite enjoyed it. For once I got to take stuff home that I’d made at school with which I could be proud, and about which my family took an interest. Even if that was just to give it a taste and make loaded remarks.

My diary gives the impression of the first-ever Comic Relief Day being treated by everyone as it were almost a national holiday. And there was I, destined to miss out on the fun as I wasn’t organised enough. But my mum had other ideas…

*Yes yes, push him down a mountain.

Saturday 7 March 1987

…DISASTER!
Yesterday at 7pm a ferry was leaving the Belgian port of Zubrigge [sic].
Just one mile out of the harbour it is thought to have hit something under the water
and capsized on to its side.
It is already being labelled as one of the most terrible sea disasters ever.
All round the harbour every boat was sent to the rescue, including divers in
RAF planes, HMS I’ve forgotten the name, tugs, police, ambulances and all
their services were called and sent.
And the worst thing was that it was at night – see map at bottom.
Witnesses said it all went, people started screaming and then came icy water.
Saturday Superstore started late.
The figures so far: 409 alive, 79 missing, 49 dead.
The prime minister has visited the scene and so have
the Duke and Duchess of York – they all said it was a terrible tragedy…

It was rare for me to include so much reportage in my diaries. I even drew a rather clumsy map:

Insert "ro-ro" gag here

There’s also this, in one of my school exercise books. I don’t think the intent was 100% respectful:

Bow doors not pictured

That’s not my writing, by the way. Except the correction. Naturally.

Tuesday 30 December 1986

…Harold Macmillan, former prime minister, died today.
He was 92…

Macmillan was one of those people who always looked old. Even when he was prime minister back in the 1950s he had the appearance of an octagenarian, albeit a somewhat sprightly one.

Here’s the old bugalugs in 1956, flashing a £1 Premium Savings Bond:

Bond; the name's Premium Bond

His death was quite a big deal at the time. He’d become a bit of a one-man anti-Thatcher movement in the House of Lords, likening her fondness for privatisation to selling off the family silver. But as with the similarly-themed verbal eruptions from Ted Heath, I don’t think Thatcher gave a toss.

Elsewhere today my family played the board game Scotland Yard. “I won by capturing the crook – aka Dad – on his 20th move.”

Friday 14 November 1986

…A man has died from doing a Noel Edmonds
Late Late Breakfast Show stunt.
He fell off a crane.
It is big news…

It wasn’t just big, it was enormous.

This was one of those events that collectively and instantly entered the psyche of a generation. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. It might sound it to people who weren’t around in 1986 or were too young to notice. But really, it’s not.

It was talked about in the playground for days. Days and days.

It was morbid and hubristic. It was downright bizarre. It was compellingly grisly.

It was, to be frank, a sensation. And, to be frank, as 10-year-olds, we revelled in it. That’s perhaps a horrible thing to say, but we weren’t old enough to know better.

All we were aware of, all we were receptive of, were the incidentals and the peripherals. Such as: what actually happened while Michael Lush was suspended from the crane? How high was he off the ground? How did Noel Edmonds find out?

And above all, what was going to be on instead of the Late Late Breakfast Show instead?

We didn’t once hold a thought for the friends and relatives of the victim.

And we certainly didn’t give a thought to the wider question of whether members of the public should ever be placed in situations of jeopardy on live television.

In short, we discussed it and then recalled it for all the wrong reasons. But to be fair, I don’t think any of us at that age would have been expected to determine what were the right and wrong ways to remember such a unique event.

We had others to do that for us.

Chiefly, television.

Tuesday 7 October 1986

..Today the Conservative party conference started in Eastbourne.
Mrs Thatcher sprained her ankle.
A new paper came out today.
It’s called The Independent. It’s a bit like the Times…

I remember being puzzled as to why it launched on a Tuesday. Surely Monday would have made more sense?

My parents were very sniffy about the Independent. My dad bought a copy of the first edition and didn’t think much of it. It was a good 15 years before he bought another.

I, however, was fascinated, as much by the novelty of a “new” daily paper as its contents.

So much so that it was a good 20 years before I bought another.

Not really, no
The people who came up with that slogan, Saatchi and Saatchi, were also responsible for packaging and promoting this year’s Tory conference, which wasn’t in Eastbourne, but in Bournemouth.

It doesn’t seem to have been a particularly memorable gathering, ankle-injuries aside. Norman Tebbit organised the whole event and claimed all the credit for its opinion poll-inflating success, much to the chagrin of his deputy Jeffrey Archer. This didn’t stop Archer lapping up the limelight…

Mrs Thatcher offers a big hand on Mr Archer's entrance

…a picture that was much reproduced three weeks later when Archer had to stand down after reports that he had ALLEGEDLY paid a prostitute to go abroad to avoid being quizzed by journalists, thereby sowing the seeds of a story for Ian Hislop to dine out on for the ensuing 25 years (and counting).

I love how everyone, including Maggie, is wearing their conference passes in that photograph, just in case there was the potential for confusion over who she might be.

Saturday 4 October 1986

…Top of the First Division is Notts Forest with Man Utd at the bottom.
Leicester beat Man City 2-1…

I’ve no idea why I decided to mention this. Nor, for that matter, why I did this:

Roundhay 17, Met Police 18

It’s pasted into my diary. I can only guess it was another passing eruption of my fickle fondness for recording details of events I otherwise had no concern with whatsoever.

I never did it again.

Still, Manchester United – five points!

Sunday 3 August 1986

The Commonwealth Games finished yesterday with England heading the medals table with 58, or was it 52, golds.
This afternoon I breathed and I ate things…

Not even this attempt at a bit of deprecation makes up for the special self-typed, carefully-stapled pull-out that also accompanies today’s entry in my 1986 diary.

For it seems I was more obsessed with the Commonwealth Games than previously thought.

Not only did I watch hours of it on TV, not only did I add all the results to the official BBC Commonwealth Games handbook, not only was I saving up to buy the signature tune on BBC Records… but I also took it upon myself to do this:

Listing precariously

My very own list of all the results. Page after page after page.

There’s no point pretending I didn’t take a lot of care over this. Look: I’ve even recreated the official Games logo in pencil. Several times.

Sigh.

Here was my fondness for annotation and commemoration in full, giddy effect.

“What did you do during the holidays?” my classmates would ask when school resumed in the autumn. “Nothing much,” I lied.