Of Gerards and Geralds

I know I’m jumping around a bit with my trove of old diaries, but my 17 year old self having a holiday pash made me chuckle. Not least because I shift from ‘Got up.. dressed..went to bed‘ type accounts to an exercise book filled with ethnographic reflections that Margaret Mead would be proud of. Description, narrative, sketches, music, food and interpretation. Of a two week coach/camping trip to Biot.

It was a cheapy cheapy cheap cheap holiday with three school mates; Mandy, Louise and Tamsin. A two day drive from Gloucester Road bus station, central London, via a night in a campsite ‘near’ Paris, to a craphole campsite in the South of France.

We fell into a happy routine in our fully equipped tent [brown plates, cups, a gas stove which collapsed, a table, 4 plastic ribbed chairs, metal beds with blue plastic mattresses], daily walks to the beach [quite a long walk, over a bridge over the motorway then turning right down a fairly narrow winding road, passed the Camp de Pylon (the other Nat campsite). We then had to cross one main road, go past JR’s through a tunnel, then across another main road to the beach], nosh (tinned ravioli, yoghurt, cacolac) and the campsite bar/disco.

The range of characters included the punks; really nice. 2 couples. Alison and Roger (peroxide blonde) and Sharon/boyfriend. Alison was ill most of the time with diarrhoea and sunstroke. The two couples didn’t get on very well. They lost £200 in Antibes and got left behind at the end of the holiday.

But what about the pash??? Gerard. From Clitheroe. Touring Europe on a motorbike with Vernon [very kind, paranoid about his age, lived with his mum, fell for Mandy big time] and Paul [27, drunk all the time, looked like Starsky and disappeared on Saturday morning and didn’t come back]?

Well. Turns out he was Gerald and not Gerard. And piecing together the story, with the detail provided and hindsight, he played with my 17 year old feelings with cups of Oxo, the odd slow dance to ‘Still Crazy after all these Years’ and general shite treatment [Gerald walked passed me without speaking and spent the evening with the posh girls/Gerald asked me to stir his oxtail soup].

Sigh. Maybe, just maybe, this tale of sun, sea, Oxo, love and leg warmers suggests very early signs of a sociological imagination.

Thanks to Kate Bielby for pointing out that all Gerards turn out to be Geralds in the end.

My any year diary

On a horrible, rainy, cold, early Autumn Sunday, I’ve had a right old cringe-chuckle diving into the box of diaries and old letters we found in the recent loft clear out. There is so much evidence of the laugh riot I was growing up, but in case you still had doubts, a couple of tasty morsels from my any year diary;

April 6th, 1978

Woke up. Sam had to do all the washing up. Started my school needlework (what a mess). Sarnies for lunch. Had my haircut. It’s really short. Ugh. Washed my hair, looks nicer. Read. Peeled spuds. Dad did some of our rockery. Mash, liver, bacon, peas, jelly. Watched TV. Patchwork. Read in bed. A lovely sunny day but rather windy.

The same day, a year later, I went to the Tennis Club Disco with the two Mandys and Claire. Sparing you the ‘woke up’ and what I ate routine, the disco took an exciting turn;

It was quite good. This boy danced with Mandy three times. His name is Peter. She gave us a lift home. Bed.

I (I think I) started to mix it up a bit, the third year. For example; a formal declaration of my diet intentions glued to the inside cover;

Hilarious. With a bucketful of cringe. And nosh of course.

My fun life

As usual, in this excavation of my hoarded treasures, what can I say really? Some pages from my ‘holiday notebook August 4-18, 1979’; first holiday without parents at Watermouth Holiday Villas, near Ilfracombe, with big sis Tracey and her mate, and my mate Mandy. I remember having a great time, and (conveniently) don’t remember detailing aspects of the holiday so obsessively thoroughly.

My spending list, across the two weeks, was so thorough I even detailed a ‘jelly welly’ (2p) and ‘bits and pieces’ (5p). (‘Omega Factor’ was the book based on a  tv show, I barely remember). Nice to see my still favourite Double Decker there at a much lower price of course. Food, well that is a consistent theme in my diaries, so I ain’t surprised to see a meal list. I don’t remember a peach instant whip and I’m not sure what a ‘sweetheart’ is, but otherwise, standard holiday nosh. I am surprised, and a little bit shocked, about my daily weather diagrams. I was a laugh riot. Clearly.

Weekend News

LB is back! He marched in with his PGL certificate, a bin bag of filthy clothes, shouted “HELLO MUM” and disappeared to find the laptop to go on youtube.  Any details of his five day trip will have to be teased out with Chunky Stan’s help a bit later. Just before he got back, I was reading through his school news book. Hilarious really. So similar to my diary entries in my teens with exactly the same focus. 

This entry made me chuckle. Undated it details food (banana cake), TV (Passport Control, Traffic Cops, Britain’s Got Talent, Somewhere over the Rainbow) and daily mechanics (bath, bed, sleep). He trumped my early efforts with a finishing sentence “..and I went to sleep and that’s it basically.”

My diary (2); Christmas Day

Browsed a bit more of my diary this afternoon. I was waiting to upload some photos and it sort of called to me from its recent position under my computer screen. Next to the packet of Rajah Extra Hot Chilli Powder and the spotty sock.

The page fell open at ‘Christmas Day’. Wow. Now this should be a cracking entry. We always had a great Christmas Day as kids. All that excitement, atmosphere, lovely food and fun. Always fun times.

The verbatim entry;

Christmas Day

Up at 6.30. Opened stocking – Yorkie, tic tacs, book, paper clip, piggy bank, make up, biro, rubber, Abbey National notebook.

Went downstairs. Cup of tea. Unwrapped pressies – cardi, Parker pen and biro, Barry Manilow* LP, Ludlum book, Neil Diamond single, record cleaner, Bogeyman book, Pooh calendar.

Brekky. Got dressed. Listened to Barry Manilow LP. Read book. Had orange drink then Florida Orange. Listened to Beach Boys, Paul Simon, The Police. Tracey worked.

Christmas dinner. Afterwards watched TOTP with No.1s. Bit of George and Mildred, Putting on the Ritz (Fred Astaire), James Bond (Man with the Golden Gun). Went upstairs to my room. Downstairs. Watched Airport 75 -terrible. Bed.

Eh? Where is everyone? Where’s the excitement? The drama? The interaction? The fun?

Why did I keep a daily record of my life based on stuff, the TV I watched and daily activities like waking up and going to bed?

Mind boggling and hilariously, weirdly, odd.

*I ain’t gonna apologise for Bazza. I loved him then and I still do. Mr Ultimate Cheese with the mysterious background. I do wonder about the Abbey National notebook and Neil Diamond single though. 

My diary

Found my diary from when I was about 15.  Blimey. It is hilariously awful.  My teenage self was clearly on an autism spectrum related path before that path ‘existed’.

I googled ‘diary’;

1. A daily record, usually private, especially of the writer’s own experiences, observations, feelings, attitudes, etc.

2. A book for keeping such a record.

3. A book or pad containing pages marked and arranged in calendar order, in which to note appointments and the like.

Well. My diary is a big fat fail on most of these criteria. About the best I can claim is that I had a book. A book in which I kept a brief, daily record of what I did. Excluding any feelings, observations or attitudes.

A random example entry (verbatim);

Thursday 16th October

M took us in car. Double English – test on Act III. Break. Maths – Essex numeracy test till 12.00. French till lunch. After lunch, library. Miss Martin told us about Merch of Venice trip. R.E; discussion about whether ‘decent’ people should get divorced. Geography; essays back. Walked home. Cooked pizza. Butterscotch Instant Whip. Watched Change of Sex part two. Julia/George bust operation. Slept.

Each entry is pretty much the same but substitute different lessons, teachers and flavours of Instant Whip. And interject a lot of “bored” and “borings” into the lesson descriptions. I suppose there maybe a glimmer of interest for my Southend High school mates. Maybe. But probably not. I find it so random now, looking back, that  I detailed ‘break’, ‘slept’, ‘walked home’. What was the purpose of it? It kind of pre-dates the Ronseal ad campaign. It does what it says on the tin. But the tin says ‘tedious life timetable age 15’.

All I can salvage from it is that I put quotation marks around ‘decent’ in the divorce discussion. Maybe there was a hint of a sociological imagination there.