January 1976

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Our camp over the debris near new houses got knocked down. Went in Ricky Newark’s house. Played Risk and watched carry on again doctor. Went out of his house at about 8.30 pm. Went home at 9.00 pm. Watching TV for the rest of the evening. There was a good film on – Run a crooked mile (excuse change of handwriting half way down).


We had put quite a bit of effort in to building that camp. A December 1975 diary entry referred to it as a smart camp near the luxury homes. We even all chipped in and bought candles so we could go there at night. Then, on New Year’s Eve, someone knocked it down, and that was that……

The luxury homes were the new houses built on Saunders Ness Rd, close to the Waterman’s Arms. They were the first non-council houses I had ever been aware of (I thought everyone lived in a council flat), and if memory serves me right, they went on the market at 50 grand.

Here are the houses on the right in a 1970s image (copied from a video, and poor quality). Our camp was in the debris behind that blue fence on the left, although the fence was not there at the time of our camp, the debris was surrounded by remnants of the old factory wall. In the distance, the remains of Cumberland Oil Mills, one of the domes of Greenwich Naval College and a hint of Waterman’s Arms.

saunders ness 3 15061675011Ricky Newark was one of my best mates at the time. Ricky is frequently mentioned in my diary, along with Gary Langton, Micky Battley and Mark Fairweather.

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Pat came round in the morning to borrow my record player for her party on Sat. 3rd.  I had to take the plug off. Almost got a new front wheel off Ricky Vella for 50p, but it was too wide. Went Gary Langton’s house until 11.30. He played Mike Oldfield’s new LP – Ommadawn very good record. Tonight it was very, very windy, with gale force winds up to 70 mph.


Can’t imagine why I needed to remove the plug from my record player before lending it to my aunt. Impressed with the detailed weather report.

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Gary Langton and John Bunn (a couple of years later)
Mike Oldfield

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Went out about 5.30 when Ricky Newark knocked for me. Went in his house with Mick Battley and played Risk. I actually won with 494 armies. Mum went out in the evening. She went to Pat’s birthday. Dad also went. Got more Brooke Bond Wonders of Wildlife cards today. Have now got 22 cards. Went in at about 10.50 pm.


Obviously surprised that I won the game of Risk. From what I can remember, I rarely won board games. I must have been lucky this time, I didn’t like games enough to try and win.

A strange way to describe my parents going to a party together.

Loved getting those cards, one in each packet of PG Tips. And neatly pasted in the card book, which in this case was….

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IMG_20140916_085739It rained quite heavily today. Had a bath in the morning. When I went down, Marie was in the kitchen chatting with Mum. In the evening played Risk with R. Newark, P. Newark, M. Battley, M. Oshman again. Went in at about 8.00. Watched TV for the rest of the evening. Went to bed at 1.00 am


I can hardly bear the excitement.

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All other schools went back today. Went up M. Fairweather’s house with T. Rose in the afternoon. Played Battleships and Tip-it. Afterwards had a few goes of M. Fairweather’s slug gun over the muddy. Dad bought Mum Barry White’s Greatest Hits today. Stayed on for the rest of the evening. Went out for 1/2 hr with RN [Ricky Newark] + MB [Micky Battley]. Memo: Get Dinner Money + Note


The slug gun in question was a Black Gat. They fired ball bearings, slugs or darts. Of course, boys being boys, shooting someone else was part of the ‘fun’.

The muddy was the name we more commonly used for the Mudchute. Still owned by the PLA (Port of London Authority) in 1976, and thoroughly overgrown, it was a wild and wonderful playground for all Island kids.

My mum has a Barry White tape in her car which she still plays over and over to this day.

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Back to school today. Pat was indoors when I came home from school. She had brought my Record Player back. Went Stratford in the afternoon with M. Fairweather and R. Stevens [Stephens]. Got Dymo tape and Mike Oldfield’s single In Dulci Jubilo. In the evening found plasticine and an animal game in MB’s [Micky Battley’s] block. Gave game to Angie.


Neil Fairweather, Terry Landerkin and Ray Stephens in Galleon House. Photo: Mark Fairweather
Neil Fairweather, Terry Landerkin and Ray Stephens in Galleon House. Photo: Mark Fairweather

Perhaps I should explain where we all lived. Then, comments like MB’s block will make more sense. Here’s a map of our world as it was in the 1970s, with helpful little letters and labels.

North of this was Samuda and Glengall. West was Millwall. South and East…well..that was over the water.

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Paid Dinner Money + Subs today. Swopped 4 Mad books for a big space book with Tony Rose. Mark Fairweather borrowed my Tubular Bells. I borrowed his Queen LP A night at the opera. Stayed in all evening. Watched 633 Squadron. Mum went badminton in the evening. She also got a letter because of her overdue Library Books.


I liked school dinners, especially the desserts (or “afters” as we used to call them). It was always something with custard. Sponge with custard, apple pie with custard, chocolate cake with custard, custard with custard.

There seems to have been a lively amount of trading and lending going on. Books, records, bike parts, dirty books, you name it. Hope my mum’s books weren’t overdue because I’d swapped them for an LP.

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Had PE in school today. Played volleyball. Did football at dinnertime. Had physics homework. In the evening played football over the Red Ochre. Went over the Island Gardens. Micky and Ricky came in and I played some of A night at the opera. Watched good film at 10.30 The Mercenaries.


The Red Ochre was another name for the Wreck or Rec. The last spelling is an abbreviation of Recreation, a throwback to when Millwall Park used to be officially called Millwall Recreation Ground. Mind you, there are still people who call Millwall Park the New Park, even though it hasn’t been ‘new’ since the 1920s.

Anyway, the Wreck was a fenced off football pitch with a grit playing surface, nicely mixed with the remains of bottles, bonfires, rusty bits of corrugated fencing, nails and screws. I didn’t like playing on the Wreck. Here’s a photo of Jake and Dennis Sale playing football there (photo courtesy of Cathy Anderson). It is misleading – the remains of the prefab in the background make it seem far worse than it was  – but it is evident that the prefab remains are also creeping on to the ‘pitch’.

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Only got maths HW. J. Rouncefield was away so I did my French HW in the free time. On the way home – K. Ayres, R. Stevens + I. Phillips were waiting for us in the foot tunnel. We played football outside the tunnel for a while. In the evening went over Island Gardens. Took M. Fairweather’s LP Back.


Keith Ayres (aka Honky)
Keith Ayres (aka Honky)

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Bought Ommadawn by Mike Oldfield, New Wheel, Box Spanner, Mudguards and high pressure adapter. Mended bike with R. Newark in the evening. G. Langton came in with Big Boy in the evening. Went up the leaves again. Mum + Dad went out tonight.


Big Boy was a large, stray Rottweiler dog who just appeared on our estate one day, and started following us around. Rumour had it that he was an escaped guard dog who had been mistreated, which may have explained his habit of attacking anybody in a blue uniform. Some of us fed him, and he spent the nights in different flats. Not in ours, not allowed, but I wasn’t sorry, I was never comfortable with him, especially when he jumped up me with his massive paws on my shoulders and started getting romantic ideas…..

The leaves was a walled-off corner of Island Gardens where all the swept-up leaves were dumped. It was a great place to play, especially at night, as it was possible to completely bury one’s self under the leaves. Typically violent, one antic involved jumping off a shed roof on to the leaves, and whoever was buried underneath.

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 Had a look around the old debris with R. Newark in the morning. Got my bike out for a while after. Went in R. Newark’s house and helped him take a wheel apart. As usual, went up the leaves again. Mum + Dad went out again in the evening.


Mum and Dad, out out…..

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Didn’t go games because I had hurt my back. Tony Rose didn’t go because he had a headache. In the evening we went over the leaves again. M. Fairweather trod on my finger and cut it badly. R. Newark sprained his ankle the day before.


We were falling to pieces!

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Decided to go to Motor Bike Show with Jacko at Westminster on Saturday*. Got a lot of homework so didn’t go out in the evening. Walked through George Green school on the way home. AT THIS POINT THE LEAD KEPT FALLING OUT OF MY PENCIL SO I CHANGED IT.

* Thursday

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Only got Geography HW. Had to go and see Elmitt at dinner time for being cheeky. I [had] told Hearnden to hit him. Took compass set to school. Fairmo got detention for smoking. Didn’t go out much in the evening. Went out for about 1/2 hour at 9.00 pm. Watched football on TV. Spurs v Newcastle. Bed at 11.00 pm.


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After school went to Motorbike Show at Westminster with Jacko and his dad. Bought a paperbook and a magazine. Got a few leaflets. Got home at about 7.00 pm. Stayed in for the rest of the evening. Did my Physics homework. Went to bed at 12.30 pm.

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 M. Battley + R. Newark came in for a while in the evening. Went over the wreck etc with the others. Mum went round Pat Quinn’s with Angie. She got in about 11.30. Dad got in from work at 9.00.


My dad worked in the Watney Mann’s brewery in Whitechapel. He always did shift work, which rotated. One week Earlies, one week Lates, one week Nights, and then back to Earlies again. We had a calendar on the wall, and each week was marked with a letter: E, L, N, E, L, N, etc.  If he was getting home at 9.00, then he must have been on Lates this week.

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Had Bath in Morning. Also went up Crisp St with R. Newark because he went to buy a new tyre. Got bike out for a while. Went in Gary Langton’s house, played Suspicion. Went in at about 11.00. Watched The Mummy. Mum + Dad went out in the evening.


So…..Saturday was bath day.

Must have been GT Roberts that we went to. Not quite on Chrisp St (correct spelling), it was on the East India Dock Rd and was the only decent bicycle shop for miles around.

 

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Rode bike for a while in the morning. Had dinner at 2.30. Played football over the wreck for a whole. Went over the muddy. M. Battley had a go of P. Wright’s Yamaha FS1E and almost crashed. Ricky + Micky came in for a while in the evening. Played owzatt and trumps.


I would have killed for a Yamaha FS1E in 1976. The first decent looking moped, with a top speed of at least 30 mph (legally limited in the UK to 31 mph from 1977), it had serious street credibility and was the most popular moped of its time (not so closely followed by Honda’s SS50 aka the Noddy Bike).

Regularly, we enviously gathered around Phil Wright and his “fizzy” outside his house in Kingfield St, praying he’d let us sit on it or…..just imagine….ride it! Today was Micky Battley’s day!

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Fairly Normal Day in school today. Went Woolwich College in the afternoon. T. Rose gave me a dirty book – In Depth. Joined George Green YC today. Was the 3rd person to join. Joined to do Badminton, Table Tennis, 5-a-side Football and Photography. Cost 35p to Join. Played Pool and Football for a while in the Youth Centre.


Youth Centre scenes (photos, your truly)

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1977 youth club 9 1977 youth club 10

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Got up late today. Went to school on my bike. Blackman got clouted by Smith in TD. Firing pellets at everyone in French with my pump. Got a lot of HW. Didn’t go out in the evening. Mum borrowed £1 to buy a 5th Dimension cassette. Went bed at 11.45. Read In Depth for a while.


The Smith who clouted Mark Blackman was Mr. Smith, the Technical Drawing teacher! I can’t remember it, but I don’t think it was unusual at that time for teachers to give you a clip round the ear. Don’t recall any of them hitting me though. Probably worried I’d hit them back, being one of those oiks from East London (after all, I’d already been caught urging Hearnden to hit one teacher).

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Had a new bloke, Mr Cookson, for Geography. Billy Gerarda was over Greenwich Park at dinner time with his dog Shane. Tony Rose saw him, but I didn’t. Ran home from school. Got no Homework. Played football over the wreck. Sold Elton John LP to Tony Wright for £1. Went to bed at 11.30. Alarm Broke.

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Went over the park at dinnertime. Played football against the 5th years. Lost 5-4. Went over the club for a while at about 5.30. Went over the wreck at 8.00. Afterwards played one chase all chase around Galleon Flats. Changed card in club am now doing Badminton, T. Tennis, Judo and Making Things ??

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Found out in school that for the next 2 weeks 4th years will become prefects because the 5th + 6th years are having Exams. Played football for a while over the wreck. Rex* got run over by a car. Is alright though. Dad bought in some Chinese when he came in.

* REX. B. Gerada’s dog.

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Bought new inner tube and brake blocks and shoes today. Went Ricky’s house. Played Table Tennis. It snowed very heavily today but it didn’t settle. Went to see Tommy at East Ham Odeon. Very good film. Bought chips on the way back. Got in at 11.00.


East Ham Odeon in the 1970s

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Washed hair in the morning. Went up Ricky’s house. Played Risk. Decided to have Guitar Lessons over George Green. Pat + Billy came round for tea. Good film, The Italian Job was on in the evening. Set Alarm. Got clothes ready, etc. Went to bed at 11.30.


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BADMINTON. 4th years started prefect duties today. I am not doing anything. Laces snapped on boots today. Went to the club in the evening. Had Badminton. Was pretty good. Put name down for Guitar Lessons and Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance. Went in at 9.30. Watched What’s New Pussycat.


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Wore shoes for school today. Got permission off Alfie to stay in class at dinnertime. Borrowed Mitchell’s book to do Maths HW. Had a go at Judo at the club. Never Again. I threw G. Langton but he landed on my leg and it bloody hurt. Went in the lounge afterwards and played cards.


Alfie was Alfie Knott. a respected and friendly teacher (and father of a classmate) who the year before had been shot by the IRA who mistook him for a military neighbour. A 1975 newspaper photograph showed us welcoming him back to school. I’m fifth from right, at the front with a couple of fists obscuring some of my face.

1975 Knott Back

 

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Was very cold today. Wore coat and gloves for school. Rolo didn’t go to school today. Went to the club in the evening. Was going to do Making Things but I did photography instead. We use Practika cameras worth £60. We will learn how to develop, enlarge, shrink, etc.


Here is a photo of a properly-spelled Praktica camera worth £60.

And here is a photo I took of one of the lessons, using said £60 camera. Left to right are Ricky Newark, the photography teacher whose name I have forgotten, Mark Fairweather and Tony Wisewell (Ozza). This photo must have been taken a year or so so later, as it is clear from Mark’s hair that we had discovered punk.

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Didn’t go to school today. Woke up at 11.00 am. Had bath.Put new inner tube on bike and Brake Blocks. Picked up Angie from school and gave her a crossbar home. Went Ricky’s brother house in Hackney in the evening. He (Jeff) wasn’t in but his wife (Kathy) was. Had drink and cake.


Angie, Karen, Me and cousin Donna

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Didn’t go to school Either. Nor did Karen or Angie. Had to clean up downstairs. Went club in the evening. Didn’t do anything special. Had a good game of slapping eachother on the arm though. Afterwards everyone was nicking vegetables off the back of a lorry (I’m a good boy I didn’t)


There was a bit of waste ground between Glenaffric Ave and what was Brig St that was for decades used as a parking area for lorries. A great place to play at night, leaping from lorry to lorry, but sometimes some drivers were foolhardy enough to not secure their loads very well. I have no doubt that I did NOT get involved in this vegetable nicking and throwing activity, but I expect that this was due to the risk of getting caught rather than being a good boy. Why was I making ironic statements to myself, in my own diary? It’s a mixed up, crazy world.

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 Didn’t go out in the morning. Went Stratford with M. Fairweather and R. Stevens. Got More Goon Show Scripts with Book token. Nicked 2 Sven Hassel books. The legion of the damned and March Batallion. Went in the Wimpey. Mum + Dad went out over George Green in the evening.

 

 

 

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