Jun – Dec 1976

Half way through June, my diary entries became fewer and shorter. Probably, intially, it was because I was revising for school exams. This meant not only less time or inclination to write something at the end of the day, but also not much to write about (I seemed to have grown out of reporting that I’d had a bath that day, or what the temperature was).

As a consequence, this post covers the diary entries until the end of the 1976, and I’ve omitted some of the really dull entries like “Rained today”  or “Did nothing today”.

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Did some revision in the morning. Went out at about 1.00 pm. Hung around with Ricky. Looked at his NSU in his shed. Chased some kid across the mudchute because he had thrown something at R. Stevens. Went over Samuda all evening. Gary went out with T. Mansfield.


Imagine that, me and Ricky just standing there, looking at a moped in his shed. We probably had our arms folded, nodding our heads wisely, pointing out various components, seeing who could outdo the other with his superior knowledge of NSU Quicklys. The fact that it was in his shed – and never on the road – said more than our words ever could.

Here on the right are the said sheds:

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This was a later photo; Ricky (left) was into cars by now and they mostly worked. That’s John Bunn on the right. Their Starsky & Hutch pose would have been far more impressive if only they’d tried to look more manly and less……er….limp. 🙂

We looked after each other, obviously, seeing as we chased a kid across the mudchute for throwing something at Ray Stephens (sorry, Ray, that I spent years spelling your surname incorrectly in my diary. Mind you, I bet you couldn’t spell my surname either). I wonder who that kid was, and what he threw? I wonder if he is reading this?

But, the big news of the day, Gary went out with Tracy Mansfield! I think she lived in Seyssel St, as did Gary. This was monumental news, not just for Gary but for all of us. For the first time, my diary has admitted to the possibility of girlfriends. Oh dear……

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Went over Samuda again. Had a go on P. Wright’s FS1-E over the mudchute, came off of it. M. Battley asked out Sharon Shakespeare. Nana + Bill came round in the evening. Went round Samuda again. Came home at 11.00. Went in at 11.15. Bed at 12.30


Finally, I get to have a go on Phil Wright’s FS1-E, and what do I do? I fall off. I can actually remember this accident. Engaged first gear, released the clutch slowly (nervous the bike would stall), slowly pulled away (wahay, I’m moving), 2nd gear, then 3rd gear (really showing off now), going faster (ooh, that’s a bit fast, how do I slow down?),  even faster (oh sh*t), panicked and grabbed the front brake. The front wheel skidded, the bike leaned over, and after some horrible scraping noises, the FS1-E and I parted company.

The last thing I remember (I wasn’t knocked out or anything, it’s just the last thing I remember), was Phil and the rest of my ‘mates’ running past me as they raced to see if the bike was OK.

And then Micky Battley asked Sharon Shakespeare out (I wonder if she said Yes or not?). That’s the second asking-out-of-a-girl in as many days. If this carries on, I’m going to have to do the same, or risk being left out…..gulp.

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Forced to write in pencil tonight. Didn’t go out all day. Stayed in all day and did a lot of revising. Went up the Chinese in the evening up Tiller. Got back at 9.30. Eddie came round in the evening. Went to bed at 11.30. Set alarm because want to get a bag at Chrisp St. Tomorrow.


If I hadn’t written that I was forced to write in pencil, you never would have noticed, would you? And why “forced”? Had someone stolen all the pens in the house? Was my sister Karen standing in front of me with a frying pan, telling me she’s going to whack me round the head unless I use a pencil to fill my diary? The truth will remain forever lost in the mists of time.

Chinese up Tiller can only have meant “New Friends”. Not much choice really; there were at the time no restaurants on the Island, and the only takeaway places were chip shops or “Chinese up TIller”. A tin carton of chicken chop suey and a polystyrene cup of coagulating curry sauce to pour over it. Heaven.

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The boys from “Prospects” in New Friends.

 

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Went up Chrisp St in the morning. Bought a sports bag for £1.50. Bought a felt tip pen + some glue out of Sinfields. Went on bike for a while. Mark Fairweather came back today from Braithwaite. Went up his house. Did some revision.

DO SOME MATHS
DINNER MONEY


I bet I bought that £1.50 sports bag from Nicky Waidson’s dad’s stall, which was somewhere in this area of the market, close to the pub and Chrisp St itself. The Waidson family lived on Stebondale St, in the next block along from Ricky Newark.

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Sinfields was the newsagents opposite George Green’s. What did I want with felt-tip pens and glue? Was it to make something I’d seen on Blue Peter, or had I developed a sniffing habit?

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Maths O-Level. Did multi-choice today. Went over the park after. Had fight with some kids after. Kicked their heads in. Got a lift home in Dr. Taylor’s car. Got some photos after. Went over the muddy, had goes on our (?) Honda Graduate.


Let’s get this correct from the outset. We didn’t really “kick their heads in”. That’s just a turn of phrase. Many kids from my school played in Greenwich Park at lunchtime, and some younger kids – maybe 11 or 12 years old – told us they’d been set upon by some “bigger kids”. We went to find them, and they were indeed big, bigger than us. I think there were at least 5 of them? Meanwhile, word had got round, and our group of schoolkids had grown to more than 30. There followed a handbags-at-dawn moment, a lot of taunting and running around, and somehow the whole melee spilled onto Maze Hill. It was there that proper fisticuffs started. Despite their size, the “bigger kids” didn’t stand a chance. It was over in seconds.

All exciting stuff, but less exciting when they were spotted hanging around near the park at the end of the day, obviously looking for revenge. Especially unexciting for me as I would have to walk past or near them to get home. Hence the lift from Dr. Taylor (or “Docco” as we usually called him). He was the headmaster of the school. Scary looking, but he was a decent enough bloke.

Dr AJ Taylor

This is the Honda Graduate whose ownership I was unsure about. It was not unusual to find dumped vehicles over the mudchute;  and it would have been finders-keepers as long as nobody bigger claimed it.

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Found out in school that we’re banned from the park, and I can go home in the afternoon every day next week (No exams) except Thurs, when I can go to school late. Went home by bus. Got bike out in the evening for a while. Stayed in mostly. Reggie came round for about 10 mins.


Banned from the park; no surprise there. Going home by bus was a pain, though. That meant walking through Blackheath to catch a 108 through Blackwall Tunnel to Poplar, and then a 277 from there.

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Here’s Reggie (on the right) visiting us for a cuppa. My dad looks like he just woke up – perhaps he had, he was a shift worker and might have been on “Nights”.

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Didn’t bother to do diary today.


I had bothered to do the diary, only to write that I hadn’t bothered. But anyway, why did I write anything? Was I worried I’d come back decades later to discover a blank page and not understand why it was blank?

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Got a new car today.
White Viva
NPH 81D


That Vauxhall Viva was 10 year’s when we bought it. I don’t think it lasted too long. At least, I can’t remember being in it very much. Plenty of memories of the Austin A40, the Ford Zephyr (or was it a Zodiac?) and the Ford Escort.  But not this Viva.

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Geography – 59%
TD – 70% – 2nd

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Molly, Larry + Kids came round today. Took Darren to the Imperial War Museum.


Here are (top) Uncle Larry and Auntie Molly, (middle) me and Karen, (bottom) cousins Darren and Donna. Darren’s so small in this photo, luckily too small to sneak anything out of the Imperial War Museum under his coat. 🙂

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Went on the George Green lorry for the Teviot Festival. Took photos.


I think that’s supposed to be a drawing of  a lorry. I must have fallen asleep half way through writing the George in George Green’s.

I cannot for the life of me remember being on that lorry, and I wish I had the photos now. Perhaps it’s the lack of photos which means I can’t remember it (my memory being as hopeless as it is)? I do have a couple of photos from someone else though:

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Cut foot open at Games. Had to have an anti-tetanus injection up the doctors.


I hated Games at school. It was either Cricket or Football, depending on the time of year, and I was hopeless at both. I didn’t like team games, I preferred to rely on myself (running, cycling, badminton, squash….these were and are my sports), and I especially hated the whole business of undressing and showering in the presence of other boys. Probably I wasn’t the only one who felt like that, at 15 or 16 I can’t have been the only one who was not so comfortable with his own body…..?

The school playing fields on one side were bordered by the River Quaggy, which Wikipedia describes as “17 km in length, passing through the south-east London boroughs of Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham; in its lower reaches it is an urban river, in its upper reaches further from London it is more natural and known as the Kyd Brook. The river rises from two sources near Farnborough Hospital at Locksbottom and is a tributary of the River Ravensbourne which it flows into near Lewisham station in Lewisham.”

For much of its length through SE London, it looks like this:

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One way to avoid too much involvement in Games was to wander over to the bushes near the Quaggy, perhaps giving the impression you were looking for a lost ball (it is possible to walk in a certain way that gives this impression), and then stay there until you heard the final whistle.

On this particular day, in the middle of a heatwave (I haven’t talked about the weather for a while, have I?), I removed my boots and socks and went for a paddle, only to step on a broken bottle and cut my foot open. Ouch.

Wisely (the Quaggy was not much more than an open sewer after all), the teacher insisted I went to get a tetanus injection. I don’t know how I got home, but that afternoon I went to the Island Health Clinic at Castalia Square. The nurse showed me into a treatment room where I rolled up my sleeve for the injection. She smirked “No, not in your arm, trousers down please”. Ouch again, physically and emotionally. I need no photos to remember this….

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Had a fight in the evening, after photography. Broke wrist.


Short diary entry and shaky writing. Hardly surprising seeing as my right arm was in plaster.

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It went like this……

I left the photography lesson, around 8pm, to hear that Chris (whose surname I have forgotten) wanted to fight me. Why? I don’t know, and didn’t know then. Even odder, I’m pretty sure he fancied my sister Karen. Was that his weird way of impressing her?

Anyway, if someone “offered you out”, you didn’t say No. You couldn’t say No. And there we were, standing in the small playground under Galleon House (where we played Chinese Football, if you read earlier diary entries and remember what that was), surrounded by loads of kids going “Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight…..”.

Chris-with-no-surname was quite taken with this chanting and started strutting around, showing off his biceps. He might even have removed his shirt, I can’t remember. That’s when I punched him full in the face.

His reaction was to take a kick at me with his steel toe cap DMs, which I parried with my right arm. Then another kick, which I again parried. Then I noticed I couldn’t clench my fist any more and my wrist was in enormous pain….something was wrong.

Me: “I can’t fight any more; I think something’s broken.”

He: “Oh, OK then”.

So I went home, and then to hospital, through the foot tunnel to the Dreadnought Seaman’s Hospital in Greenwich, which was the closest and most convenient…..unless ambulances were involved.

A few days later, I knocked Chris senseless with a Millwall Brick, stuffed him in a blue plastic bag from the laundry next to Sinfields and dumped him in The Thames (I might have made this last bit up).

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Found out today that I am definitely going Holland for 2 weeks on a sailing holiday with the club. Cost = £10. Going on the 29th.


How about that then? A tenner for a sailing trip to Holland.

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Went up Mile End with David Juch and got photos taken for passport.


Those were the days – a 277 bus all the way to Mile End so we could go to the booth in the tube station.

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Take photos today on George Green float in Island Carnival.


Terrible. I don’t remember this either, or have any photos 😦

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‘Pieces of eight’ concert.

Got passport today.


Did you see what happened there? I had the passport photos taken on 9th July, and my passport was ready on the 13th! How? Was the passport created by a certain Fred up the Roman Rd?

And, no, I don’t know what Pieces of Eight was all about.

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Founder’s Day


My school was ridiculously old. The boys’ school was founded in 1677 through a charitable endowment by John Roan, Yeoman of Harriers to King Charles I, who left a substantial amount in his Will:

to bring up so many poor town-born children of Greenwich at school, that is to reading, writing, and cyphering, and each of them forty shillings per annum towards their clothing until each of them shall accomplish the age of fifteen years. The said poor children shall wear on their upper garment the cognisance or crest of me, John Roan.

Once a year, Founder’s Day was celebrated, accompanied by a memorial service in St. Alfege’s Church in Greenwich.  That’s a big and impressive church if ever there was one…

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I can’t remember the services, other than trying to hide behind columns or sneaking outside for a fag (that’s a cigarette, if any American friends are reading this). A year later, the school would celebrate its 300th anniversary, making it almost a century older than the USA (that’s for my American friends too).

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Go away to Holland today.

Left Millwall Docks at 4.00. Reached Sheerness at 10.00.


Also going to Holland were Gary Blondell and David Juch, and I think one other kid but I can’t remember who. It wasn’t just kids from the youth club, though; there were also a few kids from borstal on some kind of leave. One of them was a complete pain, but his bark was worse than his bite. The rest of the borstal kids were no different to us, really. A couple of youth leaders from the youth club also accompanied us, but again I can’t remember who.

The boat was an old Norwegian sailing lifeboat, named the Larvik. We were reliably informed it was a very safe boat, designed to right itself if it ever capsized. Er….ok. Here on the right is the Larvik in the lock at Blue Bridge.

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Here we are as we left via the same lock. How many Islanders can say they have been the cause of a bridger? Standing are David, myself and Gary. I don’t remember who the crouching kid was.

1975 Mike sailing to Holland

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That day, we sailed to Sheerness, on the way witnessing Southend Pier burning down.

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Left for Holland today. It should take about 24 hrs.


The following morning we sailed to Vlissingen (I called it Flushing in my diary, the English name for the place). The weather was too rough to allow use of the sails, so we used the motor. The combination of diesel fumes and the rolling of the boat were more than enough to make sure we were all seasick. 24 hours later……

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Arrived at Flushing, Holland today.


A very Dutch-looking place….

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Where I first tasted the delights of chips and mayo (Patat Met Mayo)

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Went to Middelburg along a canal today. Moored up in a smaller canal in the town.


 

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Middelburg, also very Dutch-looking…

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Left for Veere today. Moored up at a yacht haven farther along the ‘coast’. Went to a youth club in the evening where they sold beer.


Beer! In a youth club! We were astounded. Couldn’t get anything stronger than a Coke or a cup of coffee in George Green’s Youth Club. And here………Stella Artois……which even sounded exotic with its French name (I now know it is brewed in the Flemish area of Belgian and it’s crap).

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Went sailing for a lot of today. Met up with some Sea Scouts. Played football against them (lost 5-4 in extra time). Also swam against them. Went over to their camp fire in the evening.


That was good. Dutch sea scouts, who all spoke English and who all were very friendly and hospitable. I find it hard to believe we nearly beat them at football. Us! Me, Gary Blondell, David Juch and a few miscreants from borstal. Playing against fit young men from the land of Johann Cruyff and (later) Dennis Bergkamp. Must have been drinking too much Stella and just imagined all of this.

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Left the sea scouts today. Went to the actual town of Veere. It’s pretty boring here.


Coincidentally, I was in the actual town of Veere a few years ago. It’s pretty boring there.

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Left Veere and went back down the canal to Flushing. We are staying here until Monday.

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BORING


It was. We’d nicked what we could from the local tourist shops. We’d spent hours not catching any fish in the harbour. We’d spent hours wondering what the youth club leaders were up to when they went into town of an evening. We wanted to be back in London.

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BORING


But not yet.

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 Left Flushing for Sheerness today. More sailing to make us all sea-sick.


I’d really had enough. The captain of the boat had been getting on my nerves already for a few days, and it was my turn to cook breakfast (feeling sick already) in a force-whatever gale. I had a safety harness on, but had connected it too high in the galley (nautical term, that) so I was just hanging and swinging around, trying to turn the bacon and eggs whenever I swung close enough to the cooker. And the smell of diesel. Ugh. If I smell a marine engine now, I have the urge to kick the nearest person with a beard and roll-neck jumper.

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Arrived here in the morning. Will leave for Millwall tomorrow morning.


YES!

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Left Sheerness and got home today at about 1.00


Again, YES!

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Went to Bedford today. Stayed with Molly overnight.


Molly was my aunt. She was one of the most spirited people I ever met. Another family member who passed away far too young :(.   xxx  Here she is standing on the landing in our flats on Manchester Rd.

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 Stayed with Dave from now on. Helping him on the ice-cream van.


Uncle Dave! My mum’s brother. Molly’s brother. He had 2 or 3 Tonibell Ice Cream vans in Milton Keynes, and I helped him during this school holiday. (I think it was “helping”, but suspect he was helping me more than I him). Here’s Dave with dodgy moustache and my cousin Donna, Molly’s oldest daughter.

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Went home from Dave’s today with £24 in my pocket.


24 quid! That was a fortune.

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That was the last entry in my diary. Not corresponding to any particular date, just my attempt to transcribe the chords of a song I was mad about, so I could play it on my own guitar (which I think was permanently missing 2 strings). This is the song. Things would never be the same again.

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7 thoughts on “Jun – Dec 1976

  1. Absolutely hilarious!! one minute laughing out loud – yes,i always threatened the frying pan – then a feeling of sadness for happy days gone,and all loved ones gone 😦 I love reading these diaries mike xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah 1976 the year I met my now wife she worked in George Green day centre for the old people been married now 35 years. Good reading I remember some of the old names seeing most of them helped me on my milk float

    Like

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