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 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.