Archive for March, 2009
Saturday 31st March 1984
We got up at 8.30 and went outside for a bit, then it was breakfast. After breakfast we made our bed and tidied our lockers for inspection. After inspection we had to put our hiking boots and cagouls on, and we went outside for a muck around in the playground.
Me and Gazzie got a go on the see saw, and I took some photos. Then we set off for a walk up the hills, and everybody got up to the eyes in mud going down a path and over the stiles. We went through a wood and came out on the hills. We could see Middlesbrough and Carlton.
Then we could do anything we like, so we all rolled down the hill. Then we went back and had dinner, and after a go on the swings we had tea. Then we went in the den and played Pontoon, and me and Sug fiddled the cards and won thousands of pounds.
Then we had supper, and after a sing-song we went to bed.
So, there’s my official diary entry, but my ‘Carlton Diary’ (written in an exercise book in the camp’s classroom) is decidedly different in tone. I think I was acutely aware that this version had an audience, and would be read by my mates and teachers, so I started to ‘play up’ a little bit for laughs…
Saturday 31st March
Paul Whitehead woke us up by shouting in the morning, then to top it all Tucker let rip and that really got everybody’s eyes open. When the smell had cleared we chucked Gazzie’s Teddy around to the distant sounds of Slackie doing a Sedgefield. Then we got up and dressed and went out for a king size muck around in the playground.
Mason mangled everyone’s lugholes with the breakfast bell, and we had a vomit-brewing plate of something unrecogniseable. After a film on the Country code we yanked our boots on and pulled on Cagouls, then set off on a feet-blistering walk. We weren’t half way when Mason said he’d collapse. Some hope! We dragged ourselves up a big bank which was a complete waste of time because we had to roll down again.
When we got back it was ‘dinner’ which was something that resembled a frisbee and chips. After that we had another muck on and after that it was supper. A cup of hot chocolate (1% chocolate, 99% milk) and a round thing. After that we went to bed and choas started.
Whacky shouted some more unmentionable words, Slackie did a Sedgefield, Mason and Sug played Space Invaders and Tucker polluted the air again. Hundreds of people went to the toilet and when the lights went out someone did an earth shattering pump, but I think it was Mason’s whoopee cusion.
Oh dear, a hint of political incorrectness raises its unwelcome head. A ‘Sedgefield’ (or, to use its full title, a ‘Shivering Sedgefield’) was a craze that swept our social group around this time, and consisted of jumping up and down wildly (bashing into as many bystanders as possible) making insane ‘WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP’ noises. I’ve no idea how this started, but I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that the name undoubtedly derived from the Durham County Asylum that was a famous Sedgefield fixture from 1875 to 1996.
What can I say? It was 1984 and we were 11, and the complexities and tragedy of mental health issues were lost on us. They were just an excuse for us to inflict minor injuries on as many bystanders as possible while jumping around making silly noises.
Anyway, here’s another one of my wonky photos from the Carlton playground…
These are undoubtedly the rings mentioned by Mr Jones in yesterday’s film. I’d forgotten all about them until I saw this, so well remembered, sir! (And I think that’s Gazzie himself, on the left)
Mason was Stephen Mason, an undoubted eccentric and a brilliant artist who was thrillingly outspoken if there was something going on at school that he didn’t agree with. Including walking up bloody big hills, of which this was the highest point…
I was utterly entranced by this strange plinth and its accompanying stone seat, little beacons of ancient (well, 1968) civilisation in an incredibly remote and windswept location. I think my 11-year-old mind was inevitably jolted back to Alan Garner’s books, and no doubt I’ll have been warily glancing around the moors in case an advance party of Svarts came to kidnap us…
These walks had a lovely feeling of freedom about them, though. Despite being accompanied by all of my schoolfriends and two of my teachers, it didn’t FEEL like school at all. It was much more unhinged, and unleashed and ‘off duty’, and I remember chatting with Mr Hirst and Mrs Keasey in a more informal manner that we ever managed in the cloistered environment of the classroom.
In fact, this was the day of the 1984 Grand National, and I distinctly remember Stephen Mason asking Mr Hirst if we could all have ‘a little flutter’. To which Mr Hirst replied by wiggling his fingers in Mason’s face and grinning ‘There you go, there’s a little flutter for you…’
Great to get a bit of hill-rolling in, as well! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of plummeting down a sheer slope, tangled up in a burnished orange cagoul with the remains of fifty packed lunches careering recklessly around you.
Just so long as we didn’t contravene the Country Code. I can’t remember the film we watched at all, but in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, you might as well have this…
The sing-song is equally vague, but I do remember the pontoon! It was a game we played a lot during school ‘downtime’, although Doug and I were once ‘knacked’ for playing ruthlessly for half-penny pieces one indoor dinnertime. Sug was, of course, Andrew Sugden, inventor of the Loonymen (see Volume 85 of this nonsense) and a man easily capable of secreting a few spare Aces up his Debenham’s sleeve. I probably helped out in return for a go on his ‘Space Invaders’, which was a hand-held LCD version, looking a bit like this:
And yes, Stephen Mason had a whoopee cushion that he gleefully let rip with every time Mr Hirst entered the domitory. And it NEVER EVER EVER EVER stopped being hilarious. (And it still hasn’t, I’m slightly ashamed to admit… giggle giggle, titter….)
Friday 30th March 1984
Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. Then I rang Grandma and then I went to school. I did my brochure and then we went in about Carlton. Had dinner at 12.00 and at 1.15 We set off for Carlton.
Arrived at 2.00 and got our cagools and boots in the barn, Then we went out in the playground, then we went for a walk around a farm and some manky paths. Arrived back about an hour later and cleaned our boots, then we had tea with two Seaton Carew girls called Amanda and Karen.
Then we had to be shown how to make our beds. Then we unpacked and me and Gazzie made our beds, then we wrote our diaries, and after that it was supper. Then we went to bed.
Right, a little change of format required here… the above is, of course, my OFFICIAL diary entry, written in the WH Smiths Desk Diary that I used every day in 1984. However, every day of our week at Carlton Camp, we were taken into the centre’s musty-smelling classroom as a group, and (ahem) ‘encouraged’ to write our ‘Carlton Diaries’ in an exercise book, detailing our days activities complete with illustrations and vaguely amusing captions!
Naturally I’ve still got mine, so for the next week we’ll have two entries for the price of one! So here you go (and yes, these are the actual illustrations…)
Friday 30th March 1984
We left school at about 1.30 and when we arrived at Carlton it was raining. Everybody staggered up the path with their cases but Huggy gave in and splattered a box full of paper in the mud. Then we dumped our cases outside the building and went into the barn to be put into our groups.
Me and my partner Gazzie (Gareth Jones) were put into the blue group by Miss Burnett, then after showing our boots and getting changed we all got our cagouls. After that we went into the playground for a muck about, and then we set off for a short walk.
We went along the coach road to Busby Manor, which was all manky and muddy and on the farm we went through, everyone was up to thier ankles in cow ****. When we got back to the camp we had to clean our hiking boots with some yellow stuff called Dubbin, which looked rather like school custard, then we had tea, which was Beans on toast.
Me and Gaz had to sit with two girls called Amanda and Karen. After tea Miss Burnett showed us how to make our bed, then me and Gaz went and made ours frantically because it was inspection soon. After inspection, everyone went in for supper, which was a biscuit that wouldn’t come out of the wrapper and some Drinking chocolate.
When we’d finished, we went to bed but didn’t get to sleep till about midnight because everyone in the other dormitories were making rude noises, and I hope they weren’t real. The best bit was getting through the mud in the farm, and the worst was sitting with them two girls.
Blimey, where to start…?
OK, for newcomers, this was the first day of my school’s week at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre, an Outward Bound camp at the foot of the North Yorkshire Moors. It looked (and still looks) like this…
I love the fact that I phoned my Gran before I left for school in the morning. I guess a little context might help here…. I was eleven years old, and I’d never been away from my parents for more than a single day before – and even that was just a night at my Gran’s house, or a stopover at Paul Frank’s farm.
The prospect of spending a full week away from my parents, Poggy Doggy and all of my usual home comforts filled me with a mixture of excitement, trepidation and downright terror.
On the plus side… Doug was going, and so was my mate Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones, who had the misfortune to be saddled with me as his official partner for the week. Our teachers Mr Hirst and Mrs Keasey were coming too, and the plan was to spend as much time as possible yomping around the North Yorkshire Moors getting cold, wet, dirty and… well, fit I suppose.
For reference (and remember this face) here’s Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones in the mid 1980s…
The centre itself is based in the picturesque village of Carlton, a mere ten miles from my parents house at the time, although it may as well have been ten thousand, so remote and isolated did it feel. So who could resist, exactly 25 years on, a little trip back there?
Not me and Gazzie for a start…
We were at a bit of an advantage as the camp manager Miss Burnett was a distant auntie of Gazzie’s, although she still had a slightly scary air of strictness to go with her friendly welcome. The ‘cagools’ meanwhile, were burnished orange affairs that looked like this…
…and yes, that’s Gazzie Jones himself, ‘mucking about’ in the playground on this very day! (Apologies for the rubbish picture by the way… I borrowed my Gran’s ancient 1960s camera for the week, and managed to load the film into it completely wonky)
Back to the site itself for a cheeky shuftie, then…
Our walk that afternoon took us on a little two-mile loop around Carlton village, down the old coach road and through Busby Manor. Our teacher Mr Hirst was a great guide. He was only (I guess) in his mid twenties at the time, and he was full of youthful enthusiasm, loud-mouthed vigour and an irresistable desire to scare the screaming habdabs out of us with terrifying ghost stories.
As Gazzie Jones will testify, as we revisit the coach road to Busby Manor 25 years on!
Amanda and Karen, meanwhile, weren’t from our school. Carlton Camp is a big old place, and the usual practice was for two schools to use it simultaneously. Namely us, and Seaton Carew Primary School, based in a tiny seaside resort on the watery edges of Hartlepool.
We only mixed in the dormitories and at mealtimes, but I still remember the outright terror at discovering that I would have to munch my beans-on-toast in the company of (gasp!) GIRLS. Amanda and Karen were perfectly pleasant, but I was never entirely comfortable sitting at that table.
This table, in fact…
And so to bed! I remember being utterly exhausted as I climbed into the bottom half of mine and Gazzie’s bunk bed. He had a teddy bear called Freddy Teddy. I had my three Alan Garner books. And we were sharing our ‘Blue Group’ dormitory with sandy-haired joker Jason ‘Tucker’ Tuck and sporty skinhead Robert ‘Harry’ Harrison… along with two duos from Seaton Carew who, as I remember, were…
1. A quiet bespectacled lad nicknamed ‘Luppy’ because his second name was Lupton. His first name, sadly, has been stolen from my mind by The Ghost Of The Grey Lady.
2. A tall, dark-haired lad called Davey Fountain who did a cracking Jimmy Cricket impersonation.
3. A well-built lad called David Davies who – no surprise to anyone – played rugby.
4. A cheeky skinhead called Lee who boasted, shaved into his all-over No 1 haircut, two completely bald tramlines that circumnavigated his ears. I made Gazzie Jones laugh into his ‘drinking chocolate’ by quipping at the supper table that he ‘looked like a tennis ball’.
In my fevered nightmares before coming to Carlton, I’d imagined lying in bed in a creaking, cobweb-strewn dormitory, the wind howling through shuttered windows and the skeletal fingers of the Grey Lady peeling back my blankets to take my mortal soul…
What actually kept me awake was the sound of fifty 11-year-old boys farting, giggling, slamming doors, singing filthy songs and throwing things at each others bunk beds in the pitch black until the early hours of the morning. If the Grey Lady had dared to put in an appearance, I think she’d have quickly backed off once Philip Slack had stuck a whoopee cushion up her cassock.
(NB If anyone from Carlton Outdoor Centre chances upon this and wonders how I broke in to take that ‘dinner table’ picture… I didn’t, honest! A teacher friend of mine took his class to Carlton in 2007, and kindly invited me to come up and have a look round for old times sake… and all necessary permissions were obtained. Phew!)
Thursday 29th March 1984
Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. First at school it was maths groups, and when we came out I did maths. First I had to do a Hexaside, Then I had to do two methods of multiplication. The Egyptian way and the Russian way.
At 12.00 I had dinner, then in the afternoon I read a bit, then we had to go into the hall to check our cases for Carlton, which we brought in this morning. When we came out I read, then we had to go in about Carlton again.
After that I did the cover for my brochure and at 3.00 it was assembly. Came home at 3.15 and played on the ZX81. Typed in a program called Oxygen Alert but it didn’t save. Then I had tea and after that I went out and played football.
Came in at 6.40 and watched Doctor Who, then I went out again. Came in about 8.00 and played on my ZX81, then I wrote my diary and I went to bed.
A HEXASIDE? They’re just taking the geometrical mickey now. I’m now convinced that this whole sorry process is just an excuse to sex-up and re-brand the humble hexagon, a perfectly respectable polygon in its own right. No doubt the next step is a series of tawdry Hexaside TV commercials, with the cast of Duty Free plugging it relentlessly backed by a pounding Nik Kershaw soundtrack.
As for Russian and Egyptian multiplication… well, alright, there’s a BIT more evidence, have a look at this bit of ‘recreational mathematics’…
Substitute a squeaky chalk blackboard for the overhead projector, Mrs Keasey in her lilac suit for the bloke in the pink shirt, and plonk whiffy Christopher Herbert down the front, and that’s a pretty damn accurate Crimewatch reconstruction of 29th March 1984.
Alright, one last day of relative ‘normality’ before the horrors of Carlton Outdoor Education Centre (and the Grey Lady) took me away forever. Except the spectre of it loomed over us all day, like an impending war. I have no idea why we had to bring our suitcases in to have them ‘checked’, but I do recall lugging my World War I brown leather affair into the hall amidst a sea of trendy dayglo camping gear brought in by posh kids who went horse riding and took skiing holidays.
Presumably Mr Hirst wanted to ensure that we’d packed sensible numbers of socks, underpants, waterproofs and Imperial Leather (one of life’s little luxuries) and not just filled our cases to the brim with Wham Bars, Fighting Fantasy books and laggy bands (to fend off the Grey Lady, naturally).
Good to see another ZX81 failure, anyway – I can’t find out much about ‘Oxygen Alert’, but a modicum of research reveals that it did indeed appear in the March 1984 edition of the Sinclair Programs magazine, so at least I was up to date.
And woah! False memory syndrome! I wrote last week that Part Two of the Doctor Who story ‘The Twin Dilemma’ was the last episode that I saw for nearly twenty years… but I was clearly wrong, because here I am, bold as brass, sitting down in front of Part Three! So it was just the very last episode that I missed. What a cliffhanger as well, with Peri captured by the Gastropods, and Azmael (played by the mighty Maurice Denham) refusing to let the Doctor go to her rescue.
No doubt it kept me awake all night. That, and my dark troubled nightmares about The Grey Lady of Carlton Camp…
Anyway, a few more highlights from the Radio Times for this day:
BBC1 3.00pm, The Afternoon Show. Presented by Barbara Dickson and Penny Junor. ‘Today they look at: Accidents In The Home – is your home more dangerous than the outside world? Dreams – do they have meaning or purpose? Domestic robots – would you have one in your home? Quiz Times with Vernon Coleman – does guilt rule your life?’
Wow. It’s like Pebble Mill At One’s neurotic older sister.
BBC1, 4.35pm Huckleberry Finn and his Friends. Part One of the 6,754th BBC1 repeat of this series, but I defy anyone over 35 not to look at the following opening title sequence and not want to curl up in a ball in front of the fire with a mug of warm milk and a Blue Riband biscuit…
BBC2, 9pm Mike Harding In Belfast. ‘Mike Harding ferries his road show across the water and takes up residence in the Grand Opera House, Belfast, for the next six weeks’.
And in my heart for the next 25 years. Mike Harding was a comic hero for me in the early 1980s, a moustachioed genius whose rambling (and often filthy) tales of growing up in West Yorkshire sprang from the same music scene as Jasper Carrott, Billy Connolly and a shedload of other folkie stand-ups that never get enough credit for kickstarting the modern stand-up scene and dragging it out of the Northern club circuit.
And yegods, this takes me back…
Our full week at Carlton Camp starts tomorrow… don’t forget your Wham Bars!
Wednesday 28th March 1984
Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. Got the bus at 8.30 and first at school it was assembly. When we came out it was Topic groups and when that had finished me and Ozzie did some more of our brochure. Then I had a read and after doing some more brochure I had my dinner at 12.00.
In the afternoon I did a bit more of the brochure and then I had to do some maths about Quadrisides or something. When i’d done that I read for a bit and I had to do some of the brochure for the rest of the afternoon cos I’d done everything else.
Then we went in to the hall about Carlton and at 3.15 Mam came for me and we went into Yarm. Got a Tucker’s luck book. Came home at 4.30 and had tea, then I went outside and played football again. When I came in I played on the ZX81, then after another session outside I came in and watched Day of the Triffids at 7.40. Then I packed my Carlton case and went to bed at 9.30.
I really don’t remember spending quite so long on these bloody holiday brochures… it’s been going on for months now, hasn’t it? No wonder I don’t like going away as an adult, I had enough sandy beaches and ‘deep blue seas’ in Spring 1984 to last me a lifetime.
And ‘Quadrisides’… or something. I’ve absolutely no idea… I’ve been trying to use Google, but there’s really not a lot to go on. Either I’ve got the name wrong (which would be pretty unlike me, as I was extremely retentive, even as an 11-year-old) or it was a name one of our teachers had made up. I presume it’s a four-sided shape? Any qualified mathematicians able to shed any light on this?
Two days away from Carlton Outdoor Education Centre now, and things were starting to get frantic. I’m not sure what all these fifteen minute meetings were about, although I think a bit of information about our forthcoming activities was starting to filter through… we would go to church on the Sunday, we would sleep in bunk beds, we would walk on the moors until our tiny feet bled, we would have our mortal souls possessed by the Ghost of the Grey Lady.
It was also around this time that we had to choose a partner (of the same gender, naturally – there was to be no hanky panky at the Outward Bound centre) to share a bunk bed and a daily dinner table with. I’d hooked up with Gareth ‘Gazzie Jones’, which was great news for me and worse luck for him. He had hiking boots, a working knowledge of the moors, practical nous and – crucially – an auntie (Miss Burnett) who worked at the centre.
In return, I was a obsessive compulsive milksop scared of horses and Giant Hogweed, so it’s safe to say I got the better half of the deal. Sorry, mate.
I bought my Tucker’s Luck book from the back room of Strickland and Holts gift shop, which had a nice selection of books – usually including the latest Fighting Fantasies although not, oddly enough, any Doctor Whos.
It was the one pictured, though… pretty much a word-for-word adaptation of the first TV series, with Tucker and his curly-permed mate Tommy swopping (gasp!) schoolgirl partners halfway through, chubby Alan moping into bacon sandwiches, and insane skinhead Ralph Passmore (bovver boots, braces, pork pie hat) chasing them all through building sites and suburban gardens. Good clean healthy fun, and still – as with so much of this stuff – now on the spare room shelf six feet away from me. And it’s got my name scrawled in the front, so I must have been intending to take it away to Carlton in the vague hope that a few literary pursuits would take my mind off the Grey Lady.
Anyway, a few highlights from today’s Radio Times…
BBC2, 11am, Words And Pictures. ‘Trog And The Dog. Getting the sheep into the fold is a problem for the Trog family, until the Quickerwits show them how to train a dog to do the job for them’.
Marvellously bleak children’s TV, shown as part of BBC2’s ‘Schools and Colleges’ programme. And featuring, no doubt, the terrifying Wordy…
BBC1, 5.10pm Moonfleet. Part Six: ‘John and Elzevir are being transported to Java when their ship is caught in a storm. The crew take to the boats leaving the convicts’. The kind of splendidly worthy children’s drama that seems, sadly, to have gone the way of Presto supermarkets and Opal Fruits. Based on the 19th century novel by J Meade Falkner, and starring David ‘Nightmare of Eden’ Daker.
BBC1 9.25pm QED ‘Testing, Testing’ with Anthony Clare. ‘QED looks at how ordinary things are put through extraordinary tests. It’s a world of crashes, bangs – and worse…’
I grew to love BBC1’s popular science show QED, mainly because its opening title sequence (see below) always reminded me of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, but also because it was occasionally very quirky and did Adventure Game-style stuff about space exploration and time travel.
However, in the early 1980s, it was also showing utterly terrifying things like this…
We’ll have a bit of, erm, fun with the permanent 1984 threat of mutually assured nuclear armageddon as the year progresses. By means of a light-hearted taster, meanwhile, cop a load of this… on BBC1 at 11.20pm (and undoubtedly the best place for it)
Tuesday 27th March 1984
Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. Got the bus at 8.30 and when I got to school Gazzie had brought some hiking boots for me. When we went in it was hymn practice and then after that all the boys had their medical for Carlton. When we came out I did maths, then me, Ozzie and Frankie did some of the brochure.
At 12.00 I had dinner and in the afternoon it was reading time. Then me and Doug went and read in the library, and I got a new book. When I got sick I came out and wrote some of the brochure.
Came home at 3.15 and Doug was at Yarm so I played on the ZX81, Then I went out for a bit and came in for tea at 4.35. At 4.45 I watched Charlie Brown, then I played on the ZX81 again. After that me and mam walked Poggy Doggy on the estate and at 6.40 I watched Tucker’s luck.
7.00 Went out and played football, then I came in and played on the ZX81. After some supper I had a bath and went to bed at 9.15.
AAAAARGH! There is no metaphor in the English language that can possibly convey the utter, arse-clenching agony of attempting to walk for the very first time in a pair of hiking boots.
In early 1984, I owned a grand total of four pairs of footwear…
1. A tatty pair of cheap crimson trainers from Woolco, as pictured left.
2. A pair of black, school ‘pumps’ (stop tittering) for use on pommel horses and the ‘apparatus’.
3. Cheap football boots with moulded plastic studs.
So hiking boots were well out of my comfort zone in every sense of the word. But we’d been told in no uncertain terms that our week at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre would involve a) walking slow b) walking fast and c) walking at a kind of intermediate pace, either slowing down or speeding up between a) and b), and that the absence of Proper Hiking Boots would lead to a disciplinary hearing chaired by the Ghostly Grey Lady Of Carlton Camp.
So my Dad had been consulted about the prospect of purchasing a pair in the days leading up to my moorland adventure, and reached the considered conclusion: ‘Can’t he borrow some bloody boots? He’ll never wear bloody hiking boots again as long as he bloody well lives’.
Thankfully, Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones (a seasoned cub scout, who went camping and sang Gin Gan Goolie and everything) came to the rescue.
(I’d been in the cubs myself, for less than a year from 1980-81. I had the full uniform – green jumper, cap, woggle and neckerchief – and our meetings were held every Thursday night in Levendale Primary School hall, with the towering figure of Mr Blankley (who always reminded me a bit of Paul Darrow from Blake’s 7) as our Akela. I managed not to attain a single badge during my time there, and discreetly resigned in the Summer of 1981 when I realised I was missing Top Of The Pops every week. My Mum pushed a note through Mr Blankley’s letterbox, and then we ran to the car and screeched away in a cloud of dust.
I’ve still got the uniform, but I’m never prepared. For anything)
So, exactly 25 years ago today, Gazzie Jones turned up at school and presented me with a Presto carrier bag containing a pair of gigantic hiking boots that resembled two hollowed-out brown breezeblocks tied together with lengths of rope. I tried them on in the cloakroom at dinnertime, and developed saucer-sized blisters on my heels within seconds.
(All credit to my dad, though, who was dead right. 25 years after Carlton Camp, I have indeed never worn bloody hiking boots again as long as I’ve bloody well lived)
I’ve no recollection at all of us boys having our ‘medical’ but, as nobody at the school had even a jot of medical training, I’m going to speculate that it consisted of Mr Hirst saying ‘Cough… touch your toes… next’ around twenty times.
No wonder I spent the rest of the afternoon sulking in the library.
Anyway, a few more highlights from the Radio Times of the day…
BBC1, 1.45pm Chock-A-Block, with Fred Harris. ‘Today it’s the Chockabloke who puts the block into Chockablock’s block slot and rocks the Rockablocks to find words that ring Chockablock’s rhyme chime’.
As a very small child, Fred Harris terrified me, purely because he had (gasp!) a BEARD. And I was scared of facial hair (see also: Ron Mael from Sparks). I even used to have nightmares that, as I lay in bed, a strange, bearded puppet-like figure called Fred would peep around the corner of the door and call my name in a terrifying, sing-song manner. It still makes me shivery writing about it now.
BBC1, 6.40pm Harty. ‘Live from the Greenwood Theatre, Kenny Everett invites Russell Harty to put his toes into The Blood Bath At The House Of Death’. I thought this must have been a stage play that Cuddly Ken was appearing in, but I’ve just checked and it’s a FILM! A spoof horror film starring Everett and Vincent Price! Released on 30th March 1984! For 25 years this has completely passed me by… I’ve never heard of it. And I’ve just been amazed and delighted to discover that it’s out on DVD! Just ordered a copy! More exclamation marks, please!
BBC2 7.40pm Top Gear. ‘A look at motoring in the year 2000 with William Woollard and Frank Page. How will cars be powered in the 21st century? Electricity or hydrogen? Could towns and cities change to suit or motoring needs, and one day will cars drive themselves?’ I HOPE YOU’RE READING THIS, CLARKSON!!!
BBC2, 9pm Marti Caine. With special guests Randy Crawford, Derek Griffiths, The King’s Singers and Spike Milligan. Throw in St Francis of Assissi and that’s pretty much my ideal dinner party.
I wish I’d found this a couple of days earlier, but here’s a lovely chunk of TV from Friday 23rd March 1984, including the Nine O’Clock News. An amazing little glimpse into the era…
Monday 26th March 1984
Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. First at school we had assembly, then when we came out it was Topic groups. We had to do our own holiday brochure, so when we came out, me, Ozzie and Frankie started our brochures. Then it was maths groups and I joined Group two.
At 12.00 I had dinner and in the afternoon it was reading time. Then me, Doug and Ozzie did our Maths and just as we finished it was maths groups again to show our maths. At 3.00 We had to go in the hall about Carlton and at 3.15 I came home and played on the ZX81.
Then I had tea and after tea me and mam put my name on everything for Carlton. After that I went out and at 8.00 I watched Points of view, then I turned over and watched Duty Free. At 8.45 I had a bath, then I wrote my diary and at 9.40 I went to bed.
Yegods, did the quest for us to make MORE and MORE and MORE holiday brochures ever stop? We must have produced enough to fill an entire branch of Lunn Poly by now, and there can’t have been a yellow or blue felt tip pen left working in the entire school. (Does Lunn Poly still exist, or has it gone the way of Presto and Hintons? Answers on the back of a booking form drawn in pencil with a Shatterproof ruler, please…)
Odd that I was put into ‘Group two’ for maths, as I don’t remember us being split off into different groups for any subject. I know I keep talking about ‘Topic Group’, but I’m pretty sure we all did the same stuff, we just had different teachers telling us about it to make us more manageable. What we definitely DIDN’T have was any kind of ‘streaming’ to system to suit different abilities, Levendale was a proudly progressive mixed-ability school.
Which basically meant that anybody who was actually any good at maths had, unfortunately, to cope with with innumerate knuckleheads like me, counting on my luminous socks and mumbling at bits of long division.
And yay! Nametags! Do kids still use these at school? A little inch-long tag with your name on them, attached to all your items of school clothing to stop smelly Christopher Herbert running off with your Adidas tracksuit bottoms, safe in the knowledge that nobody in their right mind was going to go within a country f***ing mile of his rancid clobber.
I think you could actually buy pre-printed tags (with your name embroidered on them… I think?) and then your Mum had to peel the backing off them, and iron them onto the inside of all your collars. And then six days later they’d all fall off and you’d have to go out and buy another load. Whoever made these must been coining it in, and probably now lives in a huge, rambling country mansion with their name emblazoned across the roof on a huge banner.
And – woah there – here’s another bit of bona fide 1984 excitement. I’ve got hold of the 1984 Radio Times for this very week! It has a cover advertising BBC1’s ace science programme QED, articles about Beryl Bainbridge and JB Priestley, a helpine for worried cross-stitchers, and John Craven’s Back Pages (for kids!!!) focuses on Ian Dury. Who says British culture has been dumbed down over the last 25 years?
Anyway a few highlights from Monday 26th March 1984…
1. Pages from CEEFAX accounting for two hours in total of BBC1’s daytime schedule, and three hours of BBC2’s.
2. ‘Well Woman’ on BBC1 at 2pm, ‘a look at the pros of cons of all contraceptive methods’. ARE YOU READING THIS, LOOSE WOMEN?!?!?
3. ‘Jackanory with Penelope Wilton’. Bestill my beating heart. I’d lie there in blissed-out rapture if she was reading to me from the Yellow Pages.
4. ‘World Figure Skating Gala’, 6.40pm live from Ottowa on BBC1. Torvill and Dean’s ‘last performance before turning professional’, which baffled me at the time. ‘So they’re amateurs, then Mam? REALLY? Blimey, the professional skaters must be AMAZING!!!’
5. ‘Sporting Chance’, 8.30pm on BBC2. ‘A series of eight programmes in which a number of well-known personalities take up the sport of their choice. This week, Anneka Rice and Martin Shaw continue with their chosen sports of orienteering and gliding, and newcomer Joe Brown tackles the French game of boules’. I WANT TO WATCH THIS!!!
6. ‘We Bring You Live Pictures…’, 11.35pm on BBC2. ‘Four programmes about the pioneering days of television outside broadcasts, narrated by John Craven’. See above.
My Dad probably watched the above by himself, glugging his cloudy home-brewed wine from a half pint glass then standing up to salute the national anthem before Open University came on and he turned off the standard lamp and went to bed.