Monday 25 January 1988

…First thing this morning [my teacher] asked us all to stand up and stay standing
only if we had:
a) brought in our homework diary
b) had completed all our homework
c) come in on Friday when it was snowing
d) brought in our play money
e) had brought in our Parent Evening slips
Only three people were left standing – and I was one of them…

Oh dear.

Yes, it’s all very well playing by the rules and being good, but did there need to be this kind of rigamarole that left me embarrassed and isolated from everyone else? I ended up feeling like I was the one who was in the wrong,

The “play money” was for a trip to the town hall theatre on Wednesday to see a pantomime that I would sum up in my diary as “absolutely useless”.

The “Parent Evening slips” were bits of paper on which my mum and dad had indicated which slots were most convenient for them to come and meet my form tutor.

Because both my parents were – by now – lucky enough to be in work, these slots were always in the early evening, usually after 7pm. I don’t recall there being much competition from other families.

Friday 22 January 1988

…It had to happen and it did.
The weather forecast said SLIGHT SNOW was going to happen today.
In fact the place was as bad as last January.
I reckon about two-thirds of school didn’t bother turning up.
Around a half of the teachers weren’t there.
Loads of people just decided to go home at lunchtime.
The system was in chaos.
Snowballs rained down on you the moment you stepped outside.
Yet somehow I was one of the ones who did make it to school and, yes, stayed
until the whole building was closed around 3pm.
Trains were halted, people were stuck and more snow is forecast.
HOORAY!…

It didn’t stay long. Most of the snow had gone by the end of the weekend. But I was glad – evidently – that the season hadn’t passed without some proper wintry weather to enjoy. And my efforts to both attend and remain at school would unexpectedly pay off come Monday.

Friday 16 January 1987

…This evening I ate an apple and everybody complained about the noise
so I went upstairs…

I’ve long had an aversion to eating apples in enclosed public spaces, and I wonder if this is from where it hails.

I would never, for example, munch one on the Underground, or on a bus. I’m happy to do it while walking down a street, but I’d never dare do it sitting at my desk at work. Apples are extremely nourishing but also extremely anti-social. If the noise doesn’t irk the people around you, then the sight of tangy spittle dribbling all over your chin and hands most certainly will. Plus it makes you feel shabby and out-of-sorts. Best to keep this habit for when you’re alone, or when you’re alone in a crowd.

In other news, my primary school was still closed, snow still lay thick on the ground, and I’d got to spend my time watching daytime television. Hurrah!

Thursday 15 January 1987

…Another day off school for me and probably 999 billion other children.
Radio Leicester told the glad tidings last night that
school would be closed “until further notice”!
England have regained the Ashes and won the cricket series
in Australia 2-1.
This afternoon I finished reading Live and Let Die
and recorded the theme tune to Anzacs…

The weather was now severe and stubborn enough to warrant a mention in Kenneth Williams’ equally severe and stubborn diaries.

In the entry for 12 January he records how his mother had no cold water in her bathroom due to something being frozen in the pipe. “It is the first time it has happened in 21 years,” he wails. “I have never known such cold as this! It makes the ears sing with pain.”

Then in the entry for today, 15 January, he says: “The news was all about the disastrous results of the Siberian conditions all over the country.” He adds: “One good thing is that lots of birds have died in the freeze.” A trifle barbaric, Ken, though granted it’s not out of character.

Turning to that other foremost chronicler of recent times, in Michael Palin’s diary for 25 years ago today he mentions that LBC had taken to calling the cold snap the “Winter of Misery”.

Well, it wasn’t for me. What Palin went on to write was much more in keeping with my feelings and no doubt those of countless others:

“Plenty of children on Parliament Hill sledging on everything from proper sledges to plastic red and white striped barriers pinched from road-works abandoned during the bad weather. Arrive home glowing.”

Tuesday 13 January 1987

…Today’s weather conditions were even worse than yesterday.
The snow now is REALLY deep and when I mean really,
I mean REALLY.
This morning I trudged off to school in my wellies and
so did everybody else.
It was such a mess in the cloakroom when I came in.
Snow, wellies, shoes everywhere – it was chaos.
Somehow we all managed to get in our right classrooms.
We had to write something about how old people feel in
this appalling weather…

What a selfless gesture. Not that it did the old people any good.

Later over lunchtime there was a massive snowball fight in the playground and even more mess in the cloakroom. Well, what did the staff expect? That having let us outside we’d just stand in silence and watch as the flakes continued to fall?

Saying that, all pretence of sticking to the usual timetable had clearly vanished come the afternoon, when in lieu of our normal lesson the teacher announced we could do “anything we wanted”.

And how did I respond to this fully-sanctioned invitation to completely let rip?

I sat down and wrote a play.

Monday 12 January 1987

…AT LAST: the snow has arrived.
And there’s more to come.
Today it was over -50 in Russia and it was the coldest day in
Manchester which has only occurred three times over the last century.
This morning I froze to death when we went to school.
You should have seen what it was like at playtime.
Today in maths we were working in Base Hex.
We had to do some sums, play a type of game and
cut out bits of card: SO HARD.
It was really quite weird at first but now I know how it’s done
but I won’t explain because it’s a load of meaningless drivel…

I can’t imagine this made it into the soon-to-be-introduced national curriculum. Why we were even studying such an abstract system is bemusing. Was our teacher privy to some Whitehall documentation that suggested switching all high street transactions to a positional numeral system with a radix of 16? (And yes, I’ve just copied that explanation from another website.)

But look: we were in school even though it was snowing. The Falklands spirit lived on. That, or the outside toilets were still functioning and the NEV-R-BREAK lagging on the school boiler was just about intact.

For now…