Tuesday 24 February 1987

…Had to go to Beaumanor Hall for a sports day.
I absolutely hated it.
When I arrived at school to get on the minibus, everyone pushed me off because
there wasn’t enough room.
I had to get a lift 10 minutes later with Mrs Williams.
I didn’t mind – I knew it would make me late to start the sports.
But when I arrived they were waiting for me and for some others who
had been chucked off the minibus.
The first activity was indoor hockey – I rated it 2 out of 10, the two things being
I could clout people over the head and play James Bond during it.
After a break we had to do Olympic gymnastics.
You should have seen us doing the vault – if we didn’t smash into the horse we
kind of flopped on top of it then fell off the other side.
2 out of 10.
Then came the best thing: lunch.
Next we did short tennis: boring and terrible, 1 out of 10.
And last we did some orienteering, which was BRILLIANT because
I actually knew what to do.
10 out of 10…

You see? Give a child some kind of physical activity they know how to do, and they’ll do it as well as they can. Give a child something they can’t do, and they’ll resort to coping strategies involving moderate violence and make-believe espionage.

Wednesday 7 January 1987

…Today was the day I proved myself a complete failure.
In PE we did the first of many ‘super gym’ exercises
when we all had to do certain exercises for a minute.
The exercises were:
Shooting at a basketball net
Squat thrusts
Leg raises
Catching balls running
and bench aside jumps.
I was a complete and utter flop at all of them.
Compared to the others my scores were like what an
egg-laying hen is to the Ministry of Defence…

When it comes to simultaneously raising hackles and lowering self-esteem, there’s little that outranks enforced communal physical exercise.

Friday 12 December 1986

…This morning the whole school went to see
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Derby Playhouse.
One word to describe it: good…

My terse summary masks what I really felt about these kinds of occasion.

I hated them.

I couldn’t bear the noise and the melee and the sprawling disruption they commanded upon the normal schoolday routine.

Every time we went to a pantomime or a production in a local theatre, it seemed to become a ghastly war of attrition (not that wars of attrition can ever be anything else) between the audience and the performers.

I remember one particularly cacophonous stand-off between various schools from the north Leicestershire area and Little and Large.

My diary doesn’t mention which celebrities – or otherwise – were involved in this particular and no doubt mass participatory reworking of Roald Dahl.

I left out their names in order to spite them.

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.

Tuesday 23 September 1986

…This afternoon we had Mrs Gibson.
I got told off for saying that the thing we were doing was boring.
Watched the James Bond film O.H.M.S.S…

The “thing” we were doing was so inconsequential that I failed to record what it actually was. Mrs Gibson was a supply teacher, and I’m afraid I succumbed to the eternal, universal temptation of treating her like an interloper and an idiot. In other words, I talked back.

But it was my turn to be made to feel ridiculous later in the day during our weekly swimming lesson at the town leisure centre, when we had to go into the pool wearing pyjamas. This “very strange experience” – as I described it – was fun for about five seconds, then irritating for another five, then humiliating for a further five minutes. Why had my mum given me an old pair of pyjamas that were two sizes too small? Didn’t she realise they’d end up even smaller once wet?

Even later, though, came the thing I had been looking forward to ever since my letter from Veronyca Bates of the Central Television press office. Inevitably I was only allowed to see about an hour of it. Even more maddening, though, was the fact my mum and dad, despite not even being James Bond fans, made a point of carrying on watching it after I’d been sent to bed.

How did I know this? I crept to the top of the stairs and listened.

Weirdly, the film sounded far more exciting and persuasive at one remove than when I was watching it up close. Years later I realised this might have had something to do with the majority of George Lazenby’s lines being dubbed by someone else.

This never happened to the other fella - thank goodness