diamond geezer

 Friday, May 26, 2023

40 years ago today...

 Thursday, May 26, 1983


6.45 Bedside radio switches on.
7.00 It's Mike Read with the Radio 1 breakfast show.
7.10 Crawl out of bed and stumble into the bathroom. It still smelt of cigarette smoke even though our French lutist had left on Monday.
7.30 Breakfast in the kitchen. Mmm, Coco Pops. I'd opened a new packet of Coco Pops earlier in the week and moaned in my diary that the new offer on the back of the packet was really dull. You had to cut out four tokens and send them off to get a card-based memory game by return, and I wrote "Why aren't there any nice plastic figures in there any more, eh?". Those were the days, I still have my chunky blue Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, my Munch Bunch pencil toppers and my Weetabix Dr Who cards, but even 40 years ago those days were sadly gone.

7.55 Grab briefcase and set off on the walk to school.
8.20 Arrive at school, just like normal. But it's not normal. It's the day before A Level study leave. The last day of timetabled learning. The very last day of lessons at school.



8.25 Hello classmates. Well this is strange isn't it? Shall we pick our pieces for the board game at lunchtime? What we should have been talking about this morning was the premiere of Return of the Jedi which had taken place last night. We'd all seen the first two films. But entertainment news didn't flash across the world in those days, plus the film wasn't out in the UK until next week, so conversation was usually rather insular instead. That said, Phil had come in on Monday and told us all about the plot of Friday 13th 3 in full gory detail; "This machete, right...".
8.35 No assembly this morning because our last one was yesterday. Instead our form teacher settles us down and hands out our very last school report. All it says in my diary is that mine was "a goody", and I fear that was an understatement.

9.00 Double free period. Our very last opportunity to learn something from a teacher but instead the timetable delivers us a free. Phil uses the opportunity to hassle the librarian by talking and whistling, because it's the last day so what can they do? Then he walks out early. I probably read the paper and the school's copy of Punch, or at least flicked through the cartoons.
10.10 A general election is imminent and almost all of us in the class can vote. I've made a Tory manifesto, a satirical one, and this is my chance to hand it round and try and get some laughs. I had tried making three manifestos, one for each party, but only the Conservative one was funny. With no computers in those days I drew it all out on a sheet of folded A4 paper and traced an image of Maggie onto the front. I even get a smile from the classmate whose councillor dad is about to become Tory Mayor of Watford this afternoon. Sadly I don't still have it because Bill took it home with him and I never saw it again.
10.30 My very last lesson in <Subject 1>. We go through a short answer paper and Mr K gives us some helpful exam tips. That was it for me and <Subject 1>, and probably good riddance.
11.45 My last lesson in <Subject 2>. Mr F is also leaving and he unexpectedly spends the first period telling us about his life. I think he's trying to be inspirational. Then the headteacher pops in to say good luck (which was a relief, because on Tuesday he was supposed to be teaching us in the chemistry lab but instead we all hid in the cloakroom and he assumed he'd come to the wrong room and walked off and we got a free period instead)

1.00 A quick last trip to the sixth form common room while I still can. If it had been Tuesday I'd have hung on every word of the new Top 40, but it was Thursday.
1.10 Back to our form room to spend the very last lunchtime playing board games. Our favourite board game at the time was called Cosmic Encounter. It was a bit strategy, a bit sci-fi, a bit geeky. But hell, we were geeky sixth formers so we never noticed that we should have been talking about football and breasts instead. We play two games. Dave wins the first with a particularly good combination of powers, and I'm doing well in the second when the bell goes. And that was pretty much it for me and communal board games, there never was a spare hour and a ready audience again.
2.15 Final registration. Yes we're all here.
2.25 My very last lesson is my very last lesson in <Subject 3>. We do some actual revision of an important topic and then Mr G tosses us a potential essay question ("Discuss") and gets us to debate it. My pair debates it best. I could have done <Subject 3> at university but I was better at <Subject 2> so there was never any question I'd be doing that instead. But you get a lot more of <Subject 3> than <Subject 2> in this blog, so I'm glad it turned out to be useful in the end.

3.40 The bell rings and school's out. The class victim whoops. Sometimes I feel ashamed that we still had a class victim. This was the sixth form for heaven's sake, and you'd think we'd have matured past that. Other times I'm mighty glad that somebody else was there to be class victim instead of me. That's it, I thought, nobody at school's ever going to try and teach me anything again.
3.41 Collect all my textbooks from my locker so I can lug them home and use them for revision. But not tonight, I'm having tonight off, my first exam isn't until after the General Election for heaven's sake.
3.45 Walk round to Station Approach so Mum can drive me home. Normally on a Thursday there was an orchestra rehearsal after school but we'd had a big concert the previous evening and that was it for the rest of the year. I don't think I ever played that instrument again.

4.15 Uniform in the wash already.
4.45 Cup of squash and Countdown on Channel 4. Still new, still fresh.
5.40 News. There's been a big earthquake off the coast of Japan.
6.00 Roast pork for tea.

6.55 Tonight's Top of the Pops is hosted by Peter Powell and Pat Sharp and features Big Country, The Style Council, Hot Chocolate and The Police, plus New Edition as the new Number One. But it's only 20 minutes long because of...
7.15 The FA Cup Replay between Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion. A bit of a thrashing for the Seagulls, it turned out. I probably slunk off to my bedroom to listen to David Jensen on Radio 1 instead.
9.00 The Young Ones S1 E3 - Boring (repeat) "Although there are all sorts of interesting things going on around them, the gang are feeling incredibly bored so they decide to go to the pub."
11.30 To bed to write my diary (you never know, it might be useful later)

I still had eight more days at school, seven of which were to sit exams and the eighth was to hand everything back in and say goodbye. I've already blogged about that final day back in 2008 (when the title was "25 years ago today" because time moves on relentlessly). But 26th May 1983 was the last day of normality - lessons and classmates and teachers and lunchtimes - all extinguished with a few turns of the clock. I see none of those classmates any more, indeed I couldn't tell you what more than a handful of them are doing, but they were once essential companions day after day. You don't know what you've lost until it's gone.


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