Monthly Archives: May 2010

July 1st 1975

“INDUCTION – Cum-c-us great! Had to do speech – Q.Funny. New birds ain’t bad”

I should start by saying that “political correctness” was nothing but a twinkle in most people’s eyes in 1975.

I should continue by pointing out that I was a hormonal 17-year-old boy.

Furthermore there were some very attractive young birds ladies amongst the prospective new students for the following school year.

John Sweeney - still angry at being far less funny all those years ago

Looks like my unrequited stand-up career took further root, as I doubtless undermined all the good work that John Sweeney – Coffee Club President-elect if you remember – had done on stage before me. That would generally be the tone of things: John would stand up at the lectern and be all serious and grown-up about what Barton Peveril would be offering its students for the next few months, whilst I would follow him, generally being juvenile, taking the piss and mocking my peers, the tutors and (occasionally) the headmaster.

It goes without saying that the apparent coffee club promotional tagline of “cum-c-usis somewhat embarrassing and indefensible 35 years later.


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June 30th 1975

“Did bumph for induction week”

Induction week consisted of prospective students ‘trying out’ Barton Peveril.

There would be talks from the headmaster, the tutors and the sports & entertainment/arts representatives. The Coffee Club, at the forefront of student activities for the forthcoming college year, would also do presentations and hand out promotional “bumph” to the ‘newbies’ telling them what to expect and how to get involved.

I must have been put in charge of something.

That was their mistake, right there.


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June 28th 1975

“went round Southampton looking for a job – no luck”

1975 saw UK inflation running at a staggering 24.2%, the cost of petrol had risen an astonishing 70% since the start of the year, and interest rates were at a mind-boggling 11.25%

Unemployment was also at its highest levels since the 1930’s, topping the one million mark.

No wonder there were no part-time, even mere Saturday, jobs to be had!?!

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June 27th 1975

“Got glasses fixed. Leavers dance – went well”

The current second year 6th have all done their A-Level exams and are all set to head off to university/work/a life of crime.

To send them on the way, the first year 6th – and specifically the Coffee Club committee (of which, as some of you may remember, I was a member) – arranged a massive leaver’s dance complete with music, dancing, buffet food and (illicit) alcoholic beverages.

Maybe, if my glasses looked OK, I got lucky on the dancefloor?

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June 23rd 1975

“Broke glasses. Arm came off. had to go for interview in old specs”

Oh the ignominy!!

Y’know, in retrospect, maybe fate was trying to tell me something?

As a result of not having my regular ‘comfy’ specs on I was doubtless more squirmy than I otherwise would have been at this important interview at WH Smith in Winchester.

So squirmy in fact that I was probably summarily dismissed within just a few minutes as a “terrible candidate” for part-time employment.

I can tell you that I didn’t get the job. Just as well, given how things would otherwise pan out over the following weeks, months, years and decades.

Whenever I read something like this that happened 35 years ago I can’t help but wonder how different my entire life would have been had things taken an alternate course back then.

Life is one big chaos theory.

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June 21st/22nd 1975

● “Did nothing all day xcept get up late. Went round Nigs in evening”
●”Did nothing all day”

Seems like I started my “do nothing all day” habit as long ago as 1975?

Seriously though, what 17 year-old kid in the seventies would have “nothing to do”?

Nowadays I can excuse a “do nothing day” on middle-aged tiredness or sheer bloody-minded belligerence, but at 17 surely the world was my proverbial oyster?

I feel retrospectively resentful of what I didn’t do this weekend 35 years ago.

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June 20th 1975

“Phoned up WH Smiths in Winch. Got to see manager Monday morning. Party at Hiltingbury – Rubbish!”

WH Smiths – or as it is properly known WH Smith (no “s”) – is one of the UK’s oldest retailers.

It started life in 1848 as little more than a news vendor on London’s Euston station and was owned and run by William Henry Smith. It quickly took advantage of the railway boom going on at the time, opening other outlets – adding books and magazines to its mix – on the station concourses in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool stations.

The business slowly grew and was passed down from father to son until 1948 when death duties threatened to undermine it. It ended up being sold to its workers and the public under an ambitious share scheme which kept it trading successfully.

There was still a family-member “Smith” on the board of directors as recently as 1996!

In 1966, and as the country’s foremost bookseller, Smiths originated an in-house 9-digit code for uniquely referencing the books it sold. They called it Standard Book Numbering or SBN. It was adopted as a recognised international standard four years later, when it was re-tagged the ISBN scheme.

In the early seventies, WH Smith started getting involved in more areas of retailing than just its core business of newspapers, books, stationery and magazines. It set up a travel offshoot as well as running a set of DIY stores (Do It All) in conjunction with High Street rival Boots.

To take advantage of the music boom, it also introduced record & tape departments to most of its bigger outlets, Winchester being amongst those converted. 

And on this day in 1975, yours truly snagged an interview with the manager. I can’t work out who was more desperate – them or me?

In other news, another Hiltingbury party and another “rubbish” review, doubtless meaning there was no top totty to be had. Or, if there were, none of it was at all interested in this geekish out of work ‘bum’

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June 16th 1975

“No phone call – stuff ’em. English = hahahaha / Art = farce”

So to precis the day…

Whitwams bailed on the best record salesman (or worst instrument salesman) they were ever likely to find. Their loss, someone’s else’s gain.

Meanwhile my English exam was a joke and my Art exam redolent of a dodgy Brian Rix production.


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