1982: The year I realised there was life beyond Sneyd Green…

Let’s turn back the clock 30 years. Yours truly was tubby, aged 10, and at infant school.

I was still happily playing with a tin of toy soldiers and nipping over the railings for a game of footie on the high school playing fields of a weekend (goalkeeper, obviously, because this asthmatic didn’t do much running about).

Then things changed. This was the year I looked beyond Sneyd Green and started to take notice of, well… other stuff.

I think this was because 1982 was a momentous year – for all sorts of reasons.

Indeed, I’m convinced it was the events of those 12 months which switched me on to current affairs.

No, I’m not talking about the arrival of the BMX or the ZX Spectrum home computer – I had neither.

Nor did I go in for Deely Boppers, ra-ra skirts or leg warmers – which all made their bow in ’82.

I’m not talking about the launch of Channel 4 with its first edition of Countdown, either.

No, what struck me when I watched the evening news was the crushing misery of real life.

Unemployment hit three million for the first time since the Thirties and I learned what a dole queue was.

Of course, there was no bigger story than the Falklands Conflict – which unfolded before our eyes on television from April to June.

For a starters, my mum suggested we stop buying Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies because of their country of origin. She only suggested it, mind.

As a 10-year-old I recall being worried as Maggie’s Task Force sailed off but I didn’t really know why.

The Falklands Conflict was the first ‘war’ which us Brits witnessed via nightly updates on the TV news.

For anyone who saw them, even a youngster like me, there are certain names and images which will be seared into your mind.

Mirage fighter planes, Exocet missiles, Harrier jump jets, Goose Green, Mount Tumbledown, the blazing Sir Galahad, the sinking General Belgrano.

For the 74-day duration of the conflict pictures were beamed into our living rooms every teatime – exposing for the first time the full horrors of war to us back home.

In the end, we won, but the cost was steep: 255 British military personnel, almost 650 Argentine military personnel and a handful of Falkland Islanders died.

Last year I met Simon Weston OBE – the remarkable survivor of that fire on the Sir Galahad – at a theme park in Cornwall of all places. He remains an inspiration.

Television also provided other vivid memories of that year for me.

In October I was one of more than 120 pupils at Holden Lane First and Middle who huddled around the school’s only beast of a TV and watched as King Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose was raised from the murky depths of The Solent.

This was history at its most exciting and I was hooked for life.

I also watched virtually every game of the World Cup in Spain and very nearly completed the Panini Sticker album for the tournament – eventually giving up on a couple of Hungarian midfielders.

It was a year to be Italian and I recall the Boys’ Brigade lads playing football on the grass up at Wesley Hall Methodist church (trees for goalposts) all wanting to be Paolo Rossi.

1982 was also a year of contrasting royal stories. There was joy for the House of Windsor when Diana, Princess of Wales, gave birth to her son and future heir to the throne Prince William in June.

But a month later I remember being horrified that the Queen had spent 10 minutes chatting to intruder Michael Fagan when she woke up to find him sitting on the end of her bed.

Ten-year-old me was genuinely concerned about Her Majesty’s safety for several days after that.

Thirty years later and our Liz is approaching her Diamond Jubilee so I guess I needn’t have worried.

Happy anniversary, your Majesty.

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

Advertisements

Holiday made me remember just why I love Scotland


Holidays are supposed to be relaxing. This is, of course, a myth perpetuated by travel operators and anyone who doesn’t have children.
How many times have you picked up a holiday brochure to be confronted by a gorgeous,
bikini-clad woman on a lilo floating across a calm, sky blue swimming pool seemingly without a care in the world?
I guess the image of said woman trying to cram her family and most of her household belongings into a car in the pouring rain isn’t quite so appealing.
Yes, the truth is that – for parents – going on holiday is one of the most stressful and tiring undertakings of the year. So much so that I’ve returned to work for a rest.
It wasn’t like I’d been on a round-the-world trip, either. We had a week in Dorset and a week in Cornwall.
It started off well enough. Despite my protestations, we managed to squeeze two children, a puppy and most of our worldly goods into a small hatchback.
Granted, I couldn’t see out of the back window and my car did have a Flintstone-esque lilt to it as we went round corners – but we coped.
We also possess something my mum and dad never had – the advantage of in-car DVD players.
However, having listened to The Wishing Chair theme tune a couple of dozen times I was ready to throw the technology out of the window by the time we reached the M5.
Which was precisely where the problems began. That was where the four-hour journey to Dorset turned into an eight-hour slog.
We hit a tailback so impressive it would have had Norris Mcwhirter reaching for his notebook.
That’s when I developed an irrational hatred for caravans and motorhomes and that infamous radio travel bulletin phrase ‘sheer weight of traffic’.
That’s when the bribes with confectionery and endless games of I spy commenced.
I have honestly never seen so many vehicles. While the northbound carriageway was like the D-Road at 3am on a Sunday, it seemed like the whole of the UK was heading south to stay in the same cottage as us.
You may have thought that our Sat-Nav would have come to our rescue at this point. You’d be wrong.
Robot-voice attempted to divert us across cabbage patches and down country lanes last navigated by a horse and cart when we still had an empire.
Suffice to say that it’s good, old-fashioned maps for the Tideswells from now on.
Delays and traffic jams became a recurring theme for the whole holiday.
Sadly, the congestion didn’t ease even when we arrived at our various destinations.
You see, I remember Land’s End as having a gift shop and nowt else. These days it is a costly tourist attraction with a car park so vast you need a map to find your vehicle.
Quaint little fishing village St. Ives was like Hanley on a Saturday night – only with a few more parking spaces and bit less vomit.
St. Michael’s Mount – that beautiful island just off the coast of Penzance – was overrun with so many tourists as to render a visit to the priory/fortress pointless.
Wherever we went, no matter how early we set off, there were hordes of people pushing and shoving and driving round in circles for the holy grail of a parking space.
I realised that things have changed an awful lot since mum and dad took my brother and I on holiday to Paignton all those years ago.
Basically, England is now full. Enough said. Never mind whether or not it’s the school holidays there are simply too many people and too many cars.
Given that all of the places of interest were rammed I fell back on the simple pleasures.
The weather was overcast but who cared? It was ice creams all round down on the beach at Sennen Cove.
Then my mum fell asleep while the missus read the paper.
Lois scoured the rock pools with granded and fearless, four-year-old Mina paddled in the sea (even though it felt like the water temperature was around minus 30).
Meanwhile yours truly set about building sand castles with the kind of care and precision employed by Arthur Wellesley in the construction of the Lines of Torres Vedras.
Waves crashed against the rocks, the seagulls cried and finally everyone relaxed.
It was at that point that I remembered why we holiday in Scotland every year: Because when you get north of Fort William there’s no bugger there.