It was 40 years ago Today …

By P. Thornton 13 July 2022

I left Helsby Grammar School in Cheshire for the final time 40 years ago never to return. I never wanted to go there in the first place as all my junior school mates were off to the local comp just down the road. Parental pressure was applied however and so I ended up either a ‘grammar snob’ or a ‘grammar puff’ for the next five, long years.

Like most grammar schools, there was a pecking order both within the teaching staff and the pupils. The ‘rough’ kids with Runcorn accents were often ridiculed by teachers whereas the posh kids from Frodsham, Helcy, Kingsley, Manley, Tarvin and other strange villages in the sticks were indulged.

The grammar was a laughable institution with an inflated sense of its own importance. The head teacher wore a gown and a mortar board when she went for assembly. There was still a separate boys and girls class system but only one head. The girls played hockey, the boys rugby (Union!) and believe it or not we still did Latin for a year although all I can remember of it is ‘Marcus pulsat Septimus’

Nothing had prepared me for the culture shock of the grammar school and I tolerated until 1982 then left at the first opportunity after achieving four GCSEs.

The day I went to pick up my results was the same day we left for a family holiday in Paignton of all places. We never usually got further than Rhyl so heading down to Devon with me mum, dad, me, our Claire, our Gaz and our Ste all in the back of some arl banger was a bit of an odyssey for us.

Summer 82 – it was fucking hot! The ‘82 World Cup had started and our hotel (not just a B&B!) had a lounge where we watched tge match and me dad allowed me a few pints of Tartan bitter.

It was England’s first finals for 12 years and the Bulldog Bobby Brigade were there in Bilbao and then Madrid where they got wellied by the Guardia Civil.

A few random memories of that holiday.

The Basil Fawlty owner passing us the cheeseboard on our first night and us demolishing it. He came up to me mum and whispered loudly ‘do you mind if tomorrow you could leave some cheese for the other guests?’

Me having too much Tartan and pissing the bed that I was sharing with our Gaz (he was aged around 10 so I swapped places and blamed it on him and he got took the rap.

Buying the 12 “ version of Me No Pop I on Ze at a record fair. Still got it now. Still love it to this day.

Noticing local lads were wearing similar clothes to the scals back home. Blacmange Swedes ( curly perm on top, shaved at the sides, kickers and Hunter leathers)

Going to watch Airplane at Torquay cinema. Funniest film I’d ever seen.

Getting mad Sun burn on the last full day before we went home.

In the footy, By the time we were leaving, the Italians and Germans had reached the final.

My older cousin and her husband lived on the outskirts of Bristol and we went into the city centre on tge Saturday afternoon for a mooch. I saw my first body poppers in the UK there – it could well have been the Wild Bunch.

Back at our Lorraine’s I slapped camomile lotion all over my bright red scar tissue and settled down for the final. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it although what I DO remember was Alien being on after.

Aah Alien ! Maybe with The Thing the best sci-fi movie of the 80s. The gore is justified, the production values are amazing.

When I got home, our youthy had got an Alien style pin ball machine and Bulldog Bobby was another false dawn for the inept English national squad.

82 was a momentous year for me. I finally left school and went to the local college to do an Art A level but jibbed it after year 1 (ok I was booted out) and ended up on a YTS scheme.

I’m sure me mam and dad were devvo’d that their first born with Great Expectations of university and success ended up in a council warehouse grafting VHS tapes.

Je ne regret rien.

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