It may be Monday but…

…there are plenty of things to be happy about.

Firstly, it’s National Cupcake Week, courtesy of British Baker magazine. If you needed an excuse to bake and/or eat cupcakes this week, you now have one. Wonderful.

Secondly, this week marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of ‘the broom cupboard’ – a tiny continuity booth in the depths of the BBC from which the first live broadcasts of children’s TV in the afternoons took place – and to celebrate, the BBC have dug out some archive footage. Truly, it was a golden age of children’s television. (Not that I’m at all biased.)

There isn’t tons of footage, owing to most of it being live rather than recorded, but that makes for more of an interesting insight into both the programme and the era. There are the obligatory clips of Edd the Duck and Gordon the Gopher; glimpses of other classic programmes – Going Live, Blue Peter, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Neighbours to name but a few; wonderful 80s/90s fashion; precocious children giving their opinions of Andy Crane; and of course, the odd moment when everything went a bit wrong.

It’s still educational too. Until today I had no idea that Edd the Duck had been a mascot for the British Olympic team at the Barcelona Olympics – but having watched an old Blue Peter clip I now do and could construct my own duck, should I feel moved to. [How I miss the time of my life when Blue Peter provided me with most of what I needed to know and was essentially the highlight of my day. Did I ever tell you of the time I went and watched it live in the studio…oh, it seems I did – thank goodness for blog labels!]

It takes you back to a simpler time, when computers were still a novelty and instructions for Blue Peter makes could be obtained by sending in a Stamped Addressed Envelope.

Apologies to those who weren’t watching BBC1 between 1985 and 1993, this won’t make a bit of sense to you. But for the rest of us, this opens up good hour or so of reliving our childhoods. Beautiful.

From the archives (Part Two)

The box I perused last night contained (according to its label) “Ribston and MAYC memories”. Essentially, this was a hodge-podge of miscellany dating from 1995 onwards. I knew things would get interesting (or boring, depending on who you are) when on opening the box I discovered my rather gorgeous 6th form jumper and two old school ties lying on top of everything else:

Other contents (in addition to the notebook mentioned earlier) included:
All my school reports from year 10 onwards.
My GCSE & A-level results envelopes.
Passport photos of myself dating back to 1992.
Tickets to every film I went to see between 1995 and roughly 2000.
Progammes to concerts and services I’d sung in.
A woolly green and yellow scarf.
And, last but not least, issues of my school magazine – The Ribbus.

I was particularly interested in this final item because I wanted to look up some of my juvenile writing explorations. The Lower 6th took on the role of putting the magazine together and I was super keen to be editor of my year’s issue. However, for some reason our year was the only one in the history of the school to have the magazine edited by a member of staff – but, in a cunning move, I managed (completely unintentionally) to appear as though I was editor on the inside page.

Yes, I’m in the photo – prizes to the first person to spot me…

Reading through the issue, I was surprised to find nothing credited with my name. My official capacity was Features Editor, and I have vague memories of writing quite a few short pieces tying collections of random articles by other pupils together. Then I turned a page and discovered something I’m 99% sure I wrote. A lot of its style would suggest that I wrote it and I definitely remember having the idea for the story. Anyway, perhaps you can judge for yourselves…

Through the keyhole: What is lurking behind the blue door? 

The one place where pupils aren’t allowed. The only room which cannot be seen from the outside of our schools building. The mysterious dwelling place of the species known as…the teacher! Why is it that pupils are banished from this lair? Consider the following clues: Pupils are only allowed to knock on the door at certain times of the day. Is it simply because teachers have different sleeping patterns to the rest of us? Or do they actually hang upside down from beams on the staff room ceiling, and sleep to avoid daylight?

Why is it that the only pupils claiming to have set foot in here are those who are about to leave? what have they seen that has traumatised them so deeply that they feel the need to depart our school? We don’t believe that is is marking work and chatting.

Pupils appear to have an intense fear of knocking on the door. Pupils we have interviewed who have actually reached the “inner door” talk of being knocked off their feet by the blast as the door opens or being blinded by white lights. Perhaps there is something out there after all. It is as if they know that they don’t want to discover what’s in there. [You might think that but we can’t possibly comment – Ed.]

So what do we really think goes on in there? We know that they must have their reasons for keeping activities here under wraps. Do teachers have various rituals such as inisteing on drinking from the same mug or sitting in the same seat? Who knows how bizarre and extreme staff room activities have become? [Wouldn’t you like to know! Ed.] The staff remain adamant that there is really nothing of intrerest there, but still, where is better for the exchange of torture techniques and the concoction of evil examination papers? So let’s look at the evidence:
The sink full of unwashed mugs
The magnetic letters on the whiteboard
The glorious smells of cakes (Mrs Waterman’s) and coffee
The flourishing pot plants
The torn copies of the Times Educational Supplement (ripped during a fight for the Appointments section, presumably).

And now for our home audience, here’s whose room it is…


From the archives (Part One)

I’m currently with the parents in Belfast (I use the plural, though my Dad actually left less than 24 hours after I arrived – I’m trying not to take it personally), where in an understairs cupboard is my academic archive. (That’s my pretentious way of describing a load of school reports, files, books and assorted other paraphernalia.)

Inspired by my nostalgia adventure the other week, I wanted to dig through one specific box and find the notebook friends wrote in when we left school for good. (This is a particularly quaint custom – I guess it emulates the American yearbook tradition.) It’s just as amusing as I suspected. Sian (creator of the CD mentioned previously) wrote a mammoth entry in which she had this to say about my future life:

“I suspect that when you’re 45, you’ll be a mega-famous historian…if there is such a thing, or you’ll be presenting one of those Open University programmes that are on at 3am on BBC2. Or you’ll be having a torrid affair with Jeremy Paxman, or you’ll be MP for Gloucester (!!!). Or you’ll have a love child by a Cabinet Minister and call it Jurgen. Or be someone very high up in the Women’s Institute. Or you’ll be a jolly good librarian. Or you’ll be the Managing Director of a very nice company producing nice things (like the Body Shop). Or you’ll be a lap dancer working in a seedy Soho club. Or of course, you’ll be studying Theology at Durham with Mr Fuller’s [one of our less favourite teachers] old lecturers (!!!!!!). Or you could be a Minister and do the Cathedral Service every year. See, the possibilities are endless!”

I think you’ll agree that she’s got a lot of bases covered there – so chances are I may end up actually doing at least one of them. (Though I can safely say that no child of mine will ever be called Jurgen!)

Also amongst the pages of this book was the script for our final school assembly (goodness only knows how I managed to acquire and then safely store away such a thing) which appears to have been a mash up of Grease, Daisy Pulls it Off and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Clearly we were a very, very special group of 17 and 17 year olds. In addition, was a letter inviting me to an interview with the Headmistress for the position of Head and Deputy-Head girl (I was awarded neither post) along with a copy of an ‘alternative A-level’ Sian and I created over several hours when we ought to have been revising. Ahhhh, the memories!

There was an awful lot of other stuff in the box, so this theme’s to be continued…

Let’s do the time-warp again…

Throwing myself into 1990’s nostalgia had some rather predictable results – I dug out some old photo albums and did a little reminiscing. Then, while writing yesterday’s post and remembering my theme song, I pulled out the CD my friend Sian had created following the dawn of the new millennium. [Katie – I am not re-opening the “did the new millennium begin in 2000 or 2001” debate, it’s over and we all know who was right…]

This particular mix was a genius creation. Initially it was meant to celebrate our leaving school after A-levels (in 1999), but it took her over a year to get round to finally doing it – I think arriving at Christmas in our second year of university. It contained a track for each person in our circle of friends, a few teachers and a variety of other topics, including a Cinema and Pizza Hut song (we did that combo a lot – there’s not much else to do in Gloucester); the previously mentioned We watch far too much TV song, a Happy Song and a Sad Song. [Yes, highly original names!] 
The music itself is an eclectic mix of 90’s cheese (the Spice Girls feature, as do 911…), indie awesomeness (Echobelly and a track from Alanis Morissette’s second album), golden oldies (Abba, Simon & Garfunkel, Nancy Sinatra) and quite possibly the saddest song ever released (Everybody Hurts – a track to be skipped in moments of deep depression). I enjoyed re-listening to it so much that I’ve created it on Spotify, so you can listen to it for yourself if you fancy it.
But the CD isn’t really what I want to talk about – it’s the guide to the tracks I found inside the case that amused me most. Sian decided to go into great detail about the theme of each track (though neglects to mention any of the actual song names, which proved to be a little bit of a challenge when doing the Spotify thing) and included photos as well as predictions for what we’d be up to in ten year’s time. 
Because I know I couldn’t mention this without including the evidence, here’s my segment:

In case you can’t see the text clearly (you should be able to click on it & see it full-size, if you care to), Sian’s prediction for me was that in 10 years time I’d be ‘having punch ups with Ann Widdicombe over the House of Commons coffee machine’
I’m not and I haven’t. 
To be fair, I think it was unlikely that anyone could have predicted exactly where I am now ten years ago. Researcher for a major Christian denomination wasn’t particularly high on my list of career possibilities. (Though probably higher up the list than my enigmatic next potential career move.) 
Fortunately, none of my other friends have achieved their predictions either. Kind of…
Kathryn was destined to be ‘massaging her way up the ranks of the Olympic team’ [she was a trainee physio at the time] and is instead physio for the England under 21 netball squad, which is fairly close. 
Oh, and you might be interested in an explanation regarding the photo. All I can remember is that it was a 60’s themed shindig and there was wine – much more than that I don’t know. Just felt you ought to know that wasn’t my typical look as a teenager. 

Clutterbuck de-cluttering

Something about the dawn of a new decade and having my flatmate move out seemed to inspire an uncontrollable need in me to de-clutter the flat.

As this nostalgic post suggested, I’m somewhat sentimental and tend to hang on to things for far longer than they’re useful (if they were at all useful in the first place). A couple of weeks ago I spent a Saturday afternoon sorting through boxes of old correspondence (it went back to 1995 – the year we left London) and other similarly nostalgic items. The ones from university years appeared to contain the tickets from every film, play and gig I went to over three years, plus random post-it notes left by friends and motivational messages to myself (yes, I know…). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this kind of thing. I got a decade of such things into a (large) shoebox and I reckon that’s perfectly acceptable.

At the same time, I made some important breaks with the past. An envelope full of paraphernalia relating to some idiot boy? Gone. Years’ worth of birthday/Christmas cards? Gone.

Tonight was more of the same, this time in my bedroom which I’ve studiously avoided tidying or cleaning, despite the to-do list on the fridge saying in captitals: TIDY & CLEAN BEDROOM. The pile of stuff to go to the charity shop has got bigger (including a number of handbags – be proud). My under bed storage system has been rationalised and craft supplies reorganised. Exciting stuff.

Then I made a discovery – a file of old e-mails. (I know, who prints out e-mails? Well, I had my reasons…) They were very old and should have been prime candidates for chucking out, but I couldn’t do it without reassurance. (Merci beaucoup to Katie for providing it!) They’ve gone, and with it the last of some ridiculous sentimentality.

There’s nothing like getting rid of stuff you don’t need. It actually makes me realise how much rubbish I keep for no particularly good reason. Remember the mix-tapes I mentioned last week? I found several, including one that had been eaten over 5 years ago and which I recreated on CD 4 years ago – why on earth had I bothered keeping it??

All I need to do now is to finish the mission properly, rather than just settling for what I’ve done so far. Procrastinating is evil, but so easy…