David's school diary: 1981-82
These are a few diary entries transcribed from a school exercise book - where possible copied "warts and all". Some of them are unintentionally really quite funny, and give a rare insight into this alleged repressed childhood I sometimes use an excuse for my social ineptness... Scarily, I actually remember a lot of these happenings quite vividly. Bear in mind too that I was eleven years old at the time, with secondary school looming dangerously close.
On the 29th July I stayed at home, there was nothing that could get me out. As you might have guessed, I was watching the Royal Wedding on the television. My dad stayed out all day, he didn't like things like that but he watched the coverage on the news.
The first time I went on holiday was with my Mum and Dad. We went to Chippenham in Wiltshire for a cycling holiday with about 500 non-relations. Each day of the week there were three cycle rides, one easy, one moderate and one hard. 'A's were hard, 'B's were moderate and 'C's were easy. Most of the time we went out on the B rides, but on two occasions we went out on C rides. That was a very enjoyable week.
Around the middle of August Mum and I 'cycle-camped' for a night at the Silver Birch Café in Ivinghoe. We found out that the café would allow campers, so we loaded our bikes and left for Ivinghoe. It was a small campsite but very pleasant. In the campsite were lots of wagtails. In the morning when my mum had just woken up, she looked out of the tent and saw just the legs of a wagtail by the shelter. That day we rode back to Prestwood.
Over the last week of August Mum, Dad and I drove up to Yorkshire to have a week of walking and cycling. Over the week we had walking and cycling days alternately. One of the days I planned a walk which just Mum and I went on. That was my favourite day.
On Friday, 25th September, our class produced the harvest festival. We started to rehearse the assembly on the Wednesday. My part in the assembly was the introduce the second year who acted a scene about those who don't have a harvest to celebrate. Our class acted out two poems; The Golden Boy, by Ted Hughes and Diary of a church mouse by John Betchman. The whole assembly worked perfectly.
In the afternoon we organised a harvest sake where parents and members of staff could buy food. I donated two home-made gingerbreads which my mum had made a couple of nights before. Both of them were bought by teachers; Mrs. Guiver and Mrs. Hill. Other donations were fruit, vegetables, jars of food and tins of food. The sale also went very well and £33 were raised for a Sue Reider home.
Last Sunday I cycled out to Speen, where my Mum was to ride in an 'Open Map Reading Contest', which is a kind of race but with quizzes. I stayed at the hall with a friend called Iain who is also coming with me to the Lake District in a few weeks time. Overall, my Mum came quite near the top of the result as she usually does in that kind of thing.
Yesterday we had a visit from a young woman who works for 'Help the Aged'. She came with her mascot, Hector who was a three foot high dog. The theme of her visit was 'Getting together'. She talked about Help the Aged in general and their service to the elderly in England, and then how we ourselves could help elderly men and women who live locally. At the end of her visit were were all given a form for a sponsored quiz, called 'Star Quest'. It had forty questions to answer, (if you could). On the back of the form there was a piece about what certain amounts of money cold buy. It said that £600 was a tenth of the money that would be needed to buy a minibus with a hydraulic lift for people confined to wheelchairs. £10 was enough to supply someone with hot meals for one week. I thought that the woman (Mrs. Evans) was very kind to come to us and talk about the elderly. I thought that it was a very interesting visit.
On Sunday I cycled out to Tylers Green to see Iain, the boy who is coming up to the Lake District with me. The visit was to make the main arrangements. While my Mum and Jane, Iain's mother were talking Iain and I were looking at his pet rabbits* and guinea-pigs. After that we went up to his bedroom where we played around until I had to go home. By the time we got home it was about six o'clock. I enjoyed that visit and still can't wait to leave for the Lake District the Saturday after we break up. On the Saturday, Iain is coming to our house at about seven o'clock in the morning so that we can leave early and have a good long day in the Lake District, and so that we have time to get used to the caravan.
* Strangely, I omitted to mention that one of said pet rabbits peed down me. Odd, that. I have consequently always been a bit wary of larger rodents and their bodily functions, and am most grateful when people like our friend Jo kindly provide a towel to protect against such eventualities!
In the following entry, we see the start of a definite theme in these often tangentially rambling writings, that of a fastidious and obsessive attention to timing, amongst other trivia. I'm sure it would have been all very useful if testifying in court!
Question is, though, is my diary really any better nowadays..?
Half term holiday
On Friday morning I had to wait for the milkman and the postman as I needed the change from the milkman and the postman was delivering a Hanimex loudspeaker. By the time they had both come it was nearly midday.
Before lunch I walked out to the shops to buy Clive a birthday present, card and wrapping paper, some papers and some bread.
After looking at such things as jigsaw puzzles for some time, I had more or less given up. It was then that I noticed the stock of Rubik Cubes. It cost £1.59.
I came home and had lunch and prepared to leave for Clive's party. At 3.45 I left for his house. He was very pleased about what I had given him as it was something he had always wanted. The games we played were not exactly organised games but more thought up on the spot. The best was a variation of pass the parcel. I did not win any proper prizes, though I was given a pair of magnetic dogs as a booby prize*.
At last! Our holiday to the Lake District had started. We left at 8.00am with my friend, Iain. We could not use the M1 to get up there as there were too many roadworks. I did not really see much on the way as we were playing with Rubik Cubes, pocket Scrabble and Mastermind. At 2.30 we arrived at Threlkeld near Keswick. We quickly got our caravan which we had rented set up and had tea, cooked by gas. We got to bed early as we had had a long day. I was sleeping in a bunk with Iain. Over the week we had several walks around the neighbouring countryside. Most of them started at Keswick. Both my favourite and worst walk was over a fell by Derwent Water. When we were climbing up it, there was a driving hail-storm all the way. At the top was a trig point. The walk down was quite sheltered.
In the evenings Iain and I 'cubed' and designed such things as jet engines, painless syringes, and gas cookers. Most nights we all got to bed quite early.
One evening, Rachel and Brian called at our caravan. They were staying at a bed and breakfast place in Keswick. We had told them where we were staying and they managed to trace us at the site. They recognised the back of our car which goes up in a ridge. That night was our latest night for going to bed.
On Wednesday it rained all day, so we could not go out for a walk until later. The morning was spent looking at a museum in Keswick. There was a very large model of the Lake District that was made in the 19th century. Another exhibit was the rock and steel band's instrument which looked rather like a large piano but the keys actually made the noise. They were hit with a kind of large soft hammer. Later on, Mum, Dad and Iain went out for a walk in the rain. I don't like walking in the rain so I didn't go out with them.
On Saturday morning we packed up the caravan and left at 8.00am.
On the journey, we only stopped once when we had to eat our lunch. Yet again I didn't really notice anything on the way down.
On Saturday evening my dad gave a slide show at Widmer End School. The theme was the Thames Valley. It was very interesting as there were lots of pictures of me. That evening I could not go to bed until 11.15pm.
On Sunday I stayed at home to do my homework which was reading and my life diary. I did six and a half pages of that. Most of it was pictures, so I will have to do some more writing over the week. In the evening I got ready for school the next day.
On Monday I was quite willing to go to school.
* Said magnetic dogs' novelty value was their penchant for sniffing either others' bottoms, humour genuinely lost on me at the time.
One weekend not all that long ago, I went to Duntisbourne Abbots Youth Hostel with my Mum and Dad. Also there were our local cycling club of which we are members. The hostel was not very nice, the kitchen was too small and there were not enough chairs in the common room. I had been there twice before*. Upstairs in the dormitories and the washroom the floorboards creaked like anything. The water tank was very noisy and a pest.
On one of the cycle rides, we visited one end of the Sapperton canal tunnel. This was quite interesting. There were two reasons that I could see, why boats couldn't go through. One was that the canal was too overgrown. The other reason was that there was a metal door a little way in.
* But obviously we never learned from past mistakes!
More recently, we started to rehearse our Christmas play. It was a French play. The play was set at Motteville railway station in Normandy. My part in the play was a hitchhiker - l'autostop, called Jean-Lou. For several French lessons, Harry, John and I worked in the French room with a tape of our parts. Harry was another 'autostop' and John was the man in the ticket office - guichet. Soon, we knew our parts off by heart. Mind you, in our scene, John only had to say, "Aller a retour?" and "Alors, ca vous fait cinquante francs," which means, "Return?" and "That will be fifty francs," or words to that effect.
We have now done three performances with audiences, one to Mrs. Elderfield's class, one to Mrs. Jellet's class and one to the school.
We were planning to perform our play in front of the parents on Friday, the 11th of December, but because of bad weather, the play was postponed until Monday, the 14th December. I hope all goes well.
I did not do much before Christmas, but for Christmas I received some lovely presents. From Mum and Dad, I got an electronic game called 'Split Second' which has eight programmes. Also I got a sweatshirt, a book called Fungus the Bogeyman and a set of 30 Caran D'Ache pencils with some paper. From my sister, I got a slimline calculator. From my brother, I got a book on the Space Shuttle and a model of it. From my Granny and Grandad, I got ten pounds. From some other friends I got £1.50 in a Boots token. From the Robinson family, I got a book called 'Man-made Wonders of the World'. It was a very enjoyable Christmas. The Sunday after, the batteries in Split Second were dud. On New Year's eve I went to London with my Mum. We made a visit to the Science Museum. It was very interesting as there were many things on which you could 'have a go'. These included some computers*. One was used by some doctors as a type of questionnaire.
* This may well have been my first ever contact with the cursed things. Not that long after, I was to buy myself a Sinclair ZX Spectrum; the rest, as they say, was history.
A weekend of 3½ days
Surprise, surprise, a half day on Friday. All we had as a proper lesson was some maths. I thought I would be the only person at home, but more or less the whole family was there. So I had a nice afternoon at home. On Saturday I didn't do much, but on Sunday I went sledging with my brother and next door neighbours (back from New Zealand). I discovered something much better than proper sledging. That was going down the hill on an old bag or sack. It is much faster and you don't have a huge thing to heave up the hill. I think that the best thing is the sack. I used Harry's one. It was an old fertiliser bag. A carrier bag was quite good but not as good. If I can find a sack at home, I will probably use it instead of our big and heavy sledge*.
* And no doubt go on to write a detailed thesis on the drag coefficients of different sack materials. However, we had no sacks of our own, so this did not come to pass. It was probably the last decent snow we had anyway.
Since January 12th, a lot of things have happened.
During the weekends I was often with my next-door neighbours and their Hornby train set which was quite fun. I was better at theirs than I was on Joseph's one which were I used to drive the trains off the end of the track without fail, (not on purpose).
On the 1st and 2nd of February, Mrs. Guiver was away from school on a course. Over those two days, we had a whole mixture of teachers. Some of them included, Mr. Brickle, Mrs. Hill, Mr. LeGood, Mrs. Jellett and Mr. Carter.
On Thursday the 4th some of the fourth year classes went on a trip to the Imperial War Museum in London. 'Some' included our class. Most people only had one partner, but I was in a three with Joseph and Warren. By the end of our visit it was only Joseph and I in a group! Warren had mysteriously vanished*.
I thought the museum was very interesting but I don't think I would want to go there as a family. There were many galleries and corridors with guns, clothing, aeroplanes and other equipment but everywhere seemed to centre at the aeroplane room. At 11 o'clock we saw some films about the war in the museum cinema. One of the films was all about the V1 missile or 'Doodlebug', a flying bomb whose engines cut out above the target and came silently down the earth, exploding as it hit.
We had lunch outside and then return to school.
Last Friday afternoon, I went to my next-door neighbour's birthday party. There was only one game that we all played. That was a quiz about things in the house and garden. My partner - John and I, won the quiz.
In about June last year I rode in a heat for a national cycling competition. In the junior section, I came 1st. I got 75 points out of the possible hundred. Last Sunday I went to the presentation of the prizes. at first I thought I was only going to get a gift token (because I had already been told) but I also got a cup for the year. Even my mum, the organiser, didn't know I going to get the cup until just before it was given.
* No further comment made on the matter, and the fact that my mum cannot remember a Warren leads me to suspect he may have been a figment of my imagination.
The weekend before last, I did not do much but this weekend and the two extra days, I did quite a bit.
On Sunday, I went to Tylers Green in the car with my Mum and Dad. I went there to buy a bicycle frame off some friends. The frame was nowhere near being brand-new, but had been owned by many people in our cycling club. The frame was rather scraped all over, but after being painted it will probably look as good as new.
On Monday, Mum, Dad and I went to London for the day. We drove to Amersham railway station and went on the 9.40 train to Baker Street. From there, we went on the underground to Green Park station. Then we came up to ground level. From the station, we had a nice walk to the London Transport Museum. In the museum there were many buses, trams, trolleybuses and railway carriages. It was very interesting to see how transport had changed from the horse and cart, to the steam railway, to the buses and now the electric underground trains. As well as the actual vehicles used there were also pieces of equipment on show including a model of an escalator that worked at ten minute intervals. On the way home, we went to a cycle shop in Amersham where we bought a saddle, some pedals, and some more things for my bike*.
On Tuesday, I went to Wycombe with my mum. All I wanted to get was a small clock, either digital or quartz, so long as it ran on batteries. After looking in several shops I found what I wanted, a tiny 'Coral Quartz Alarm' clock. This morning it DID wake me up.
* It was all very well if a lick of paint could make the rusty crock "look as good as new" (surely a quote from my parents), but it was never going to look as nice as my friends' shiny new Raleighs without at least a few essential accessories...
Since my last entry, my alarm clock has worked perfectly and has woken me up nearly* every morning.
The bicycle frame that we bought a few weeks ago has been equipped with gears, brakes and other bits and pieces, and I have taken it out on a few rides. I found that changing gears was quite a problem and the chain kept falling off as a result. It probably won't be long before I do master the gears. Hills are still a great problem for me, just as they were on my old bike.
Once the lovely sunny days came, I spent most of the time outdoors. I went on a ride on my bike and spent a lot of the time out in the garden playing 'Swingball', a kind of tennis for small places. The ball is on the end of a string fixed on to a post, and you have to hit the ball to and fro with a partner. I had lots of matches with my neighbours but I lost most of them.
For some time now, some of us have been rehearsing for the school production of the Roger James musical, "Saints Alive!" I am playing my clarinet, along with some other people playing all kinds of other instruments. We are doing a performance in front of the school today.
* Did that mean it failed once or twice, or just that I didn't use it every day? Seriously, this was one reliable little clock, and was accurate to about half a second over six months. If it wasn't for an incident with a dodgy battery, I may well still be using it today, which would have saved a lot of hassle buying alarm clocks in more recent years.
On Monday the 26th April I went to a meeting at Aylesbury Grammar School. First we saw the deputy head and then the actual headmaster with the housemasters. When I go there in September, I will be in 'Denson' house. Also in my house will be Ian. After seeing the head, we were given a guided tour of some of the school. We saw the physics labs, the art rooms, the indoor heated swimming pool, the woodwork room, the metalwork room, the rifle range, the computer room*, the library and the squash courts. The meeting went on for ages, but was very enjoyable.
Over the last weekend and the May Day bank holiday we had a cycling holiday in Lincolnshire. The weather was very changing because of near gale-force winds. The winds were so strong in fact that I often had the fear of being blown off into the network of drainage ditches which criss-crossed over the fens. However the holiday was quite enjoyable.
The journeys were quite quick as there weren't any hold-ups. We arrived back at home early in the afternoon. On the return journey, we stopped at Peakirk to have a look at the birds at the Peakirk Wildfowl Trust Centre. That was also very enjoyable.
* At that time, little more than a broom cupboard at the back of one of the maths rooms, crammed with a couple of Research Machines 380Z's on a trolley, a ZX81 hooked up to a large but decrepit television, and a BBC Micro with a dodgy EPROM that had been left to erase in a sunny window and consequently would occasionally flash up ghostly graphics from a game long ago typed in from a magazine.
Since my last entry I have had my birthday. On the Sunday I had my treat. I went out to Thorpe Park with my sister and her boyfriend. Most of the park consists of disused gravel pits where boat rides are available. There were many rides and other things to do, including the control of model boats. One of my favourite exhibits was a collection of scaled down international monuments.
For my birthday, I received a lighting set for my bike from Mum and Dad, a telescope from my sister and a set of walkie-talkies from my brother. It was a very enjoyable birthday.
Yesterday evening, a group of 3rd and 4th year children went to Wembley Arena to see the Harlem Globetrotters play against the Washington Generals in basketball. My favourite player in the Globetrotters was Hubert "Geese" Ausbie who was always arguing with the referees. He played jokes with the ball. Out of these my favourite one was when the referee wanted the ball at the other end of the court, and "Geese" expected it to go there on its own.
We arrived back at school at 11.10 p.m. The whole evening was very enjoyable.
During the Spring Bank Holiday some 3rd and 4th years, including me went on a 1½ week holiday in France. We met at school at 1.15 a.m. on Thursday 3rd of June. Our cases were loaded into the coach, and we boarded. We coach left at 1.40 a.m. We had a long drive through the night and arrived at Plymouth in Devon at about 6.30 a.m. We had problems getting through the customs but eventually we boarded the ferry, 'Cornouailles', the French for Cornwall. The crossing was very long, and the water was quite rough. The departure from Prestwood seemed as if it had happened the day before.
On the boat there was a huge coach and lorry parking area, a restaurant, a Duty Free shop, a lounge with reclining chairs, a bar, lots of cabins and several decks. At last! Roscoff was in sight. First we passed some islands and then we could clearly see church spires and houses. We docket at about 4.00 p.m. We got back on the coach and had a 15 minute drive to the Chateau de Kersaliou, our base for the next week or so.
Diné (French word for 'Dinner') was soup, meatballs with pasta which no-one on our table enjoyed, lots of French bread and some sticks of fruity jelly which tasted a bit sickly to most people.
Bed time for the first night was 9.00 p.m. and we had a pillow fight that evening which was going to be our usual routine for the next few evenings.
Every day we went somewhere quite local. Sometimes we went swimming in the sea which was usually quite warm. Other places where we went included: Saint-Pol-de-Leon, a very small town with a cathedral! One day we drove to Morlaix and came back on the train which was quite fun. One day we went on a day trip to Huel Goat, a largish village in the heart of Finistere (Our part of Brittany). Mearby there was a forest with a pretty stream running through it which went underground when it reached some round stones. By the stream there was a huge rock which could have a corner of itself lifted up from the ground. A man was charging 1 franc to be seen lifting the rock.
On Monday morning we watched some James Bond films on the Chateau's video. They were: The Man with the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me. I preferred the latter.
At 10.15 p.m. we boarded the coach for Roscoff. We boarded the ferry, yet again, Cornouailles. We thought we had booked reclining chairs but we had something better, cabins. I shared mine with Mark, James and Jason F. The boat departed at 11.30 p.m. We soon settled down to sleep after James had demanded food which I managed to provide: half a beaker of blackcurrant juice. I woke up, feeling a bit sick at what we all thought was 5.50 a.m., but Mrs N had made a mistake; the ship was to dock at 6.00 a.m., when the time was really only 4.50 a.m. Some of us went back to sleep for the next hour, but I stayed out on the deck to watch us dock in Plymouth. We boarded our coach and left for home. We stopped at a Granada service station at Exeter for a breakfast. I had toast with butter, coffee, and fruit juice. We still had a long journey ahead of us, but it seemed to pass by quite quickly. We arrived at school at 1.40 p.m. I walked home with my next door neighbour. I had a snack lunch at spent the afternoon at my neighbour's house.
I found the whole holiday very worthwhile*, especially as it greatly improved my French knowledge and language.
* Actually, I'm pretty sure I hated almost every moment of it, but hey.
The Environmental Studies Exhibition
The exhibition is being held at our school this year, so we could easily make a visit to it on the first day.
Most of the local schools contributed to the exhibition, to make any visits worthwhile. The theme was 'Barriers', which is a much wider subject than it at first seems*. Our class did work on plastics as barriers while Mr Le Good's did bridges. They made some beautiful models out of 'Artstraws' and 'Plasticine'. Our school's area was by the music centre.
One of the subjects that Little Kingshill school covered was road-signs as barriers against traffic.
One school had called day and night 'barriers', but I don't really understand what they have to do with the main theme.
Buildings was one of the subjects because they are weatherproof. They did some work that went like this: The first gosling made his house from straw. The second gosling made his house from straw and sticks. But the third gosling made his house from bricks.
There were some programmes about the exhibition but unfortunately these were only available to the teachers and Susan D who designed their covers, However, there were some questionnaires for us to use. Some questions were: What is the moon? What is a star? Are you afraid at night? "WHOOOOO".
My comments are that the contents of the exhibition must have taken a lot of time and care to be written and made. Some of the schools which have children much younger than us did some lovely pieces of work. The small displays often had the best pieces of work and vice versa. Every bit of space was used, even the backs of the display stands because of the amount of work that was used in the exhibition. Even with the amount of work that was done, I think there are still more subjects to be covered. For instance, the huge dams that make vast reservoirs that bring water to our taps and an endless supply of electricity.
* As made evident by the utter irrelevance of 90% of the exhibits, by the sound of it. Perhaps had there been a bit more focus, those huge dams whose omission I go on to lament might have enjoyed their fifteen minutes of fame. On the other hand, the mere concept of an environmental studies exhibition was found to induce involuntary yawning in 87% of test subjects, so perhaps it's not surprising how many of the contributors creatively interpreted the definition so as to display what they darn well wanted.
My last Prestwood Sports' Day and visit to the church
On Tuesday, the 6th of July, our class walked through the woods to Great Missenden. We played rounders on the Berryfields which resulted in the loss of one of our balls*. Mark H hit the ball quite hard, but it went behind. It rolled across the grass and disappeared in a ditch by a hedge. We continued with another ball until it started to rain a bit too much for our liking. We then walked up the hill to the church, where we ate our lunch and then worked in the church. We did part of a worksheet that Mrs Guiver had written out and then, group by group, we walked up the tower to see the bells with Mr Guiver. The climb started with a spiral staircase. The next section was a wooden flight of stairs which led up to the belfry. There were seven bells; six large and one small for chiming on weddings and other such occasions. Later one we were given a demonstration of how to ring bells. When we came down we continued with our work and took some rubbings of stone plaques. At about 3.00pm we walked up the hill and arrived back at school at 3.45.
Tuesday was my Mum's birthday. I gave her a mug and a torch, both of which she liked.
Thursday was our annual sports' day. There were many events. They were: Long jump, High jump, 50m, 100m, 200m, 800m and Novelty races. There were lots of heats (and heat) which made the afternoon seem very long. My event was the 800m in which I came 8th or 9th and didn't lose. Stephen H dropped out after a lap because of cramp.
Penn won sports' day by a large gap from Hampden.
On Saturday, I went to Walton in Essex to see my Granny and Granddad. They were very well and I think, happy to see us. They gave me a collection of 30 photos of some of the teams in the World Cup Finals.
On Sunday, went out for a cycle ride with my mum and a local cycle club. We rode along tracks with stinging nettles either side which the leader called good, especially as it is said he is immune to their stings. He is normally known as 'Ghy', but his proper name is Frank Ghysens.
In the evening, I watched the World Cup Final, which was between West Germany and Italy. The first half resulting in a 0-0 score but 15 minutes into the second half, Italy scored the first goal. Rossi just heading the ball in. Eight minutes later, Italy scored another. Later they scored yet another. Just before the end of the whole match Stielike of Germany scored, but it wasn't enough to rob Italy of the cup. The score was 3-1 which meant Italy were champions of the world for four years.
If there had been a draw, there would be half an hour's extra time and if the match still hadn't been decided then there would have been a replay next Tuesday.
* Yep, you just knew there was a gripping story waiting to be told there, just as you knew very well I would recite (with 100% accuracy I am sure) the events at Sports Day. What I want to know is why I'm wasting my life writing computer software when I could be toting a sheepskin coat and oversized microphone, relaying football match reports to Final Score on the BBC.
And there we have it. Italy comprehensively beat Germany. There was no score draw, there was no extra time. Golden goals and penalty shoot-outs were yet to be invented. And, mercifully, with no replay the following Tuesday, there was (unless anything else emerges from the woodwork) to be no more diary from me for another 14 years.