Grange Hill novel ‘Home and Away’ by Robert Leeson

img_0018Back in 2007, me and my wife anticipated the birth of our first child. In her third trimester we did all the things you are supposed to do. I decorated the nursery, while she purchased baby clothes, nappies, and a pram. We went to prenatal groups and met other parents to be. And in the evenings we watched the first 11 series of Grange Hill.

This obsession was triggered by a chance find at her parents house. At the back of a cupboard one wet Sunday afternoon we discovered a BBC Video Grange Hill VHS, which was an edited version of the first series. We watched it and loved it, as both of us had been huge fans as children. It left us wanting more, and sure enough Ebay came up with the goods. There were lots of people selling decent DVD versions, mostly recordings from the Sunday morning repeats shown on BBC2 in the nineties.

We got the first eleven series, the year after the Harriet the donkey storyline. Before we made this decision, we brainstormed our last Grange Hill memory banks, settling on the ‘Fresh and Fly’ storyline which is part of this season. This was broadcast in 1988. In 1989, both of us started work, leaving the world of children’s TV sadly behind, proving as well that we both watched well beyond the age we were supposed to.

Every evening, when I got home from work, we would watch a minimum of six episodes. We watched little else. Each lasts about 25 minutes, and so we raced through the years. Within a week Tucker went from fresh faced youngster to becoming the UK Fonzie. Soon Pongo, Claire and Stu-pot ruled the roost, swiftly followed by Zammo’s gang. And before too long, it was Gonch, Calley and Danny Kendall getting up to no good.

And of course, Roland, possibly the most fascinating of all the GH characters. Some may see him as a figure of fun, but I think his storyline is deeply moving. This poor child, who like most of us just wants to be at home eating crisps watching Trumpton, but instead has to endure school and bullies and games teachers. Watching his story unfurl after all these years was wonderful, particularly his sweet relationship with kind and loyal Janet. I like to think that Roland is out there somewhere, in his early fifties, maybe working a staff canteen or a greasy spoon cafe.

We managed to get to the end of the DVD’s a couple of days before my daughter entered the world. She was a fortnight late, and I wish she was half as considerate these days as she was then. Even now at the ripe age of 11 she turns her head every time she hears the theme tune Chicken Man, given the number of times she heard it whilst floating in the amniotic sac. Me and my wife often talk of watching through again, especially now the first six series are available commercially, but somehow, it wouldn’t seem the same. Those pre-children days seem so carefree, where you could fill your spare time with any old rubbish. Now, time on our own seems more precious.


Which leads me nicely to this paperback. Its a curious story, set between series 5 and 6, involving plans for a ‘School Journey’. Mrs McClusky gets an idea in her head that the children have been working too hard over the past five years, and that some sort of a school trip would be in order. The teachers get together and finalise plans for a walking holiday to Austria. The teachers get equal billing, meaning chapters spent in staff rooms and pubs as well as the classroom, with Mr Baxter, Mr Hopwood, Ms Lexington (good old Sexy Lexy) and gang having as much to do as Zammo and Pogo. They even manage to shoehorn a way to get Tucker into the mix.

The  school journey itself doesn’t actually get underway until two-thirds into the book, by which time the story has well and truly run out of steam. The trip is as artificial as the photo on the front cover, where Annette and Pogo clearly went to stand in front of a poster of an airport rather than Heathrow itself. There is also a strange subplot concerning Gripper and some Nazi memorabilia (which to be fair has a rather delicious punchline). Sadly, my beloved Roland doesn’t get a look-in either. The size of the school shrinks down to about a dozen, so lots of characters get sidelined, even Belinda and her cherished clarinet. The students who do feature lose their character somewhat, only Pogo and Jonah seeming anything like their onscreen personas. Time and again they are referred to as the ‘Grange Hillites’, which soon gets annoying.

Sadly, the author Robert Leeson is no longer with us, passing away in 2013. He wrote scores of books, writing this whilst in his mid-fifties. This wasn’t his only Grange Hill book, as another four were published under his name. How did I come to possess it? A friend saw it in a charity shop and thought I would like it, and to be fair, I did, even if the story is a bit strange.

Grange Hill has given me much pleasure over the years. I was sad when I heard it was finishing, and its no surprise there are many fan sites and clubs in existence. Buying all those DVD’s cost me a good hundred quid, but it certainly made the period leading up to my daugther’s birth a lot more bearable. Here in 2019, I have a daughter who has just started secondary school, and can’t help but wonder if it bears any resemblance to this. Or is it a bit more Rodney Bennett.

Banjo Kazooie Totaku Figurine


As a child, I was a huge fan of the Spectrum games published and made by Ultimate. Atic Atac was my favourite, which was nothing more than a simple maze game, somehow made more compelling by the fact you felt you might actually be able to finish it. It had a health system which slowly depleted as you ran around, looking for pieces of a key.  Picking up pieces of food from the floor gave you a little boost, and you always felt that a spare chicken leg or bowl of cream was just the other side of the door.

Something Ultimate games had in spades was personality. Even the little spaceman of Jetpac felt like a real little guy, let alone their signature character Sabreman. When their Spectrum days were over, they jumped ship to Nintendo, changed their name to Rare, and with the odd misfire here and there carried on making amazing games.

I got my N64 relatively late, and apart from the packaged Mario the first two games I got were both Rarewhere – Goldeneye, and Banjo Kazooie. The former is great, but the latter I think is the greatest game to grace that console. From the moment i started to play I could see the lineage back to the Spectrum experience, with its blend of British humour, challenging puzzles, and wonderful graphics.

And incredible music. Composer Grant Kirkhope really excels himself, every section of every level containing excellent themes. I loved the way they merged into each other as you moved around the worlds, matched beautifully alongside the grunts, whistles and bellows that replaced speech. The worlds as well are incredibly varied, much more so than Mario64, packed with things to do, people to see, challenges to face.

I never finished Banjo Kazooie. Rather annoyingly, I let a visiting niece lose on my N64 one day and she somehow managed to delete a 50 hour save file, so I had to start again which killed the momentum. I got to the board game but never managed to take down Gruntilda.

Fast forward to 2019 and the bear and bird are still very much part of my life. I replayed it about 7 years ago on Xbox, and my son and daughter sat and watched and started their own saves. Later, in a playground, I noticed that they were playing at being Banjo Kazooie, which was hilarious to watch. Once, my son ran up to another child he didn’t know and shouted, ‘I’ll be Banjo! You can be Mumbo!’ and ran off, leaving a rather confused kid following in his wake.

So the figure in question was a Christmas present for my son this year. He went absolutely crazy when he opened it, eyes wide, and couldn’t wait to stick it with his Amiibo. I got the sequel game when it came out but it never grabbed me the same way, nor did Nuts and Bolts, but the original is an classic and in my top five video games of all time. I have purchased it three times over the years – on the N64, XBox, and part of the Rare Replay package. So I’d say about £90 has been handed over to Rare for my bird and bear habit, which is not a problem.

Whizzer and Chips Comic


It’s a cliche, but it’s amazing to think how far my money used to stretch when I was a kid. In the late seventies, I got twenty pence pocket money from my Grandparents, who on Saturday took me to the parade of shops on the estate near where I lived. I would usually buy two comics and a half a quarter of sweets, usually lemon sherberts. I always asked for a half a quarter – I suppose buying an eighth sounded a bit ‘druggy’. Of the two comics I bought, without fail one of them would be the amazing Whizzer and Chips.

This comic was published by IPC Magazines, and I adored everything they produced. Monster Fun, Shiver and Shake, Buster, Cheeky, Cor!, Whoopee, Krazy, to name but a few. I would have bought every single one each week given the resources. Its incredible to think how much choice there was, literally dozens of different titles jostling for position on the shelf. The IPC comics range were all fairly similar, with some genre specific, maybe more about ghosts and monsters. Comics would come and go, merging into each other like Russian dolls. Gradually a bigger comic would consume an under-selling one, a way I guess of deflecting the few fans an ailing comic had into another title.

But Whizzer and Chips was my favourite and since you ask, I was a Whizz-Kid. There was something about a boy and his snake that appealed to me more than a kid who kept on getting a black eye. There is something very charming about a typical IPC comic strip, miscreants walking unchallenged down plain, bare streets, against a vanilla sky, bumping into friends and getting into scrapes. I loved the pictures of food, bags of sweets groaning, fish and chips steaming. And I loved the mood they conjured of relaxed, easy play, of turning a corner and bumping into a friend, or a bully.


My favourite strip was ‘The Krazy Gang’, which rather annoyingly appeared in Chips. This was about a gang of kids, a parrot, and a bonkers alien called Freaky. He was a nightmare of teeth and eyes, with hanging, defined arms and a school tie. No explanation was given how he came to be spending his time hanging around with this bunch of misfits. He was very easy to draw, and I used to spend hours doing just that, on any spare scrap of paper I could find. So popular was the gang that two members had their own spin off. Pongo the baddie got a strip of his own and Cheeky his own comic, which was quite the promotion. It didn’t last long long, but one edition came with this rather excellent badge that I still have to this day.

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I love the art style of this strip, particularly how the artist shows movement in the characters with very simple pen strokes. These guys could really draw. Also, looking through these now, you have to remind yourself that its not Viz without the swearing. So much of DNA of the IPC house-style drifts into the parody version. That said, I never once remember laughing at a comic when I was a kid. The impression they gave was of children rolling around in laughter when reading, but I viewed them almost as if they were drawn documentaries. They entertained me, but I never found them funny.

I didn’t cared one bit for any DC Thompson publications, and it pains me that they are the company still going, churning out rather depressing ‘comics’ to this very day. And don’t get me started on Biffo the Bear. From time to time I’ve bought my 9 year old son a Beano, amazed at how little content he got for so much money. I had a few old Whizzer and Chips left, which he enjoyed, so I decided to go on Ebay and see what old comics were still available.

I bought a bunch and short answer – he loved them. I managed to get forty issues for a tenner, and he thought they were amazing. He keeps them by his bed and goes back to them night after night. So they really did make them better in those days, and its such a pity that the Beano is the only survivor of that genre. Week after week I used to spend my pocket money on these, plus the Summer Specials, plus the annuals. A good hundred quid or more of my own money, for something that still entertains children to this day. I have great fondness for IPC, nestled away in Kings Reach Tower, and I think their absence is a great loss to today’s generation of silly kids.


The Young Ones – Batchelor Boys Book


I was the perfect age for The Young Ones. I was eleven when the first series aired on the BBC, and it largely passed me by, but by the time of the second series my juvenile brain was ripe and ready. I was old enough to find the swearing hilarious, and young enough to know that the fact I was watching it would not go down well with my parents.

For those who don’t know, The Young Ones was in essence a sitcom, but it was so much more than that. It was a riot of silliness, character and colour, showcasing the talents of most of Britain’s top alternative comedians. The situation was four students, renting a grotty shared property, who were visited from time to time by their seedy landlord. The comedy was whatever they wanted it to be. There was a loose narrative to the episodes, with sketches, music, puppets, and even stand-up providing the connective tissue.

At thirteen I was allowed an old black and white portable in my room, and it was on this that I used to watch. It was on quite late, past the time I supposed to be in bed, so I used to sit watching with the volume so low I could barely hear, hoping my parents on the landing wouldn’t tumble me. Although I was allowed free reign to watch whatever television I wanted, they weren’t great fans of swearing, and I would not have been comfortable watching it with them. My wife has a great story of her Mum coming in the room at the moment Rik declared, ‘what’s it to you, piss face‘. This would not have gone down well in my house.

I had two episodes taped on VHS, and I used to watch these over and over. One of these episodes was Bambi, the Open University episode, the other Time, where the gang are visited by a strange woman called Helen and are transported to the Dark Ages. Bambi contains what I think is the funniest four minutes of television ever committed to tape. Although it only contains two of the regular characters, I think it sums up the programme perfectly.

Which leads me nicely onto the book. I don’t know how I happened to possess a copy, which was produced during the run of the second series, but a copy found its way into my possession. I can only imagine it was a gift from my older brother. I used to love this book, and thought it utterly hilarious. I mean come on, who couldn’t find this funny.


What’s apparent, looking at it after so many years, is how I didn’t really get some of the jokes when I was 13. Parts of this book are filthy, and whilst the language doesn’t stray from the TV show, some of the content does. I used to find this page particularly shocking when I was younger, even though now it’s clear to see that they’ve got their pants on.


Again, looking at this now, a couple of things strike me. The complete absence of Alexei Sayle, for a start, who either wasn’t available at the time or didn’t want to be involved. I get the impression that all the photographs for the book were probably taken over one intensive day, with the actors coming in, dipping into the dressing up box, taking a few snaps, before leaving it to the writers to come up with the goods. It is though credited to the original writing team of the BBC series, and the spirit of the show is very much alive.


The above page gives advice on how to cheat at exams, the main tip being on the night before the exam to think dirty thoughts and write the answers on your ‘thingy’. The next day at the exam, think dirty again and hey presto, the answers will ‘rise up and appear before your very eyes (well, before your very belly button’). Great tip. I also used to find the picture below far more amusing than maybe I should, which I guess indicates the level of my humour at the time.


I like the fact The Young Ones lasted for two series, and then went. They did reprise the characters for Comic Relief in 1986, and for a strange ‘Friends Provident’ advert towards the end of the decade that suggested two members of the team had recently taken on rather large mortgages. This book gave me hours of fun – in fact, it still does, I just spent a happy time looking through it now. I also own the DVD’s, which means a spend of about thirty quid on these most desirable Batchelor Boys.

Zzap!64 Annual 2019 Kickstarter


As a British child of the 1980’s, most of my computer buddies owned a ZX Spectrum. There were a few who had a Commodore 64, who usually lived in a big detached house with a father who got the train into town at dawn and returned after Eastenders. It did seem like a rich kids toy, but I don’t remember being remotely jealous of those with the computer with better sound. And better graphics. Oh, and a proper keyboard. Ok, maybe I was a little bit jealous.

A good friend of mine called Neil owned a Commodore, and I used to go round his house during the holidays to play. My main memory is of playing the awesome Uridium, a stylish scrolling shooter that looked utterly wonderful, ships smoothly gliding across the screen in a way that made my Speccy look a bit useless. The ship even had a little shadow. I have no memory of Neil ever coming round to play on my 48K marvel, which I guess says something.

I know far more about the Commodore 64 than I should, due to the fact that despite never owning one, I used to buy a magazine dedicated to it. I was an avid consumer of Crash, produced by the publisher Newsfield. I’ve talked here about LM, their misguided attempt at a lifestyle magazine. When I discovered they were branching out into a sister publication called Zzap!64 I decided to buy the first issue, and continued to do so for a number of years.

Zzap!64 had a noticeably different feel to Crash. It felt more rebellious, taking every opportunity to have a pot-shot at its rubber keyboarded rival. It also pushed the writers to showcase their personalities, making their character an integral part of the magazine. In Crash, the reviewing and editorial team were largely anonymous, but at Zzap!64 the team were presented at every opportunity.

The magazine lasted a surprisingly long line, right up to its 90th issue in 1992. Recently, publisher Fusion Retro Books have launched successful Kickstarter projects to produce annuals of both Crash, and Zzap!64, and for both of these I decided to make a contribution and get on board.

I love a good Kickstarter, providing they are of a low value and come with some cool bits and bobs. This particular campaign came with a couple of stretch perks, and as part of my payment I ordered a rather fetching Zzap!64 mug, which sits very nicely with the mug I got with the Crash Kickstarter.


The annual itself is excellent. The original team have contributed, including most of the top brass at Newsfield. The cover by artist Oliver Frey is superb. To be honest, without his involvement the whole exercise would be pointless, and the artwork inside is also of a high quality. I enjoyed the retro features the most. What interests me is what these people have done since the 1980’s, so how their life has panned out since then. There is a great article about someone who won a competition to appear on an original cover, and a feature on musician Rob Hubbard. I also enjoyed the article on games that never saw the light of day, particularly the mention of Psyclapse and Bandersnatch, very topical at the time of writing.


It also surprised me how many people are still actively involved in the production of new games for the system. The same is true of the ZX Spectrum. I’m not quite sure why anyone would be bothered to play them, let alone spend the time coding games, but people do and there is a large community avidly consuming fresh product. The reviews themselves I found less interesting, to be honest, but I appreciate their inclusion, as they show how much interest still remains in this clunky beige box.

I spent forty three pounds on this Kickstarter. Rumour has it they are going for it again this year, and I dare say I’ll chip in. Back in the 80’s I would have spent another twenty quid on the magazine. The annual feels fresh, even though its based on nostalgia. This shows the skill of the publisher. It could have been a wallow in the past, a cheap rememberance of a supposed golden era, but it is so much better than that. Love and effort has been poured into this annual, which is what makes it such a quality item.

Galaxy Invader 1000 – from CGL

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Some Christmas presents stick in the mind. The Emu puppet I got in 1976. The Pocketeers that used to clutter the bottom of my stocking. And my first ever ‘video games console’ – the Galaxy Invader 1000 I got in 1981.

What was great about this present was that I had absolutely no idea I was getting it. I was 11, and completely lost my mind. My parents have a photograph of me at the moment I’d ripped off the wrapping paper, and there is a look on my face similar to the expression you’d see on a photo taken much later when I first held my baby daughter. It is a mixture of surprise, joy, and utter delight.

I played it most of that Christmas Day, and well into the year. I have recently played Red Dead Redemption 2 on my Playstation 4, and despite following up every side quest, hunting down legendary animals, even looking for those damn playing cards, I’d guess that I’ve played Galaxy Invader 1000 more. I used to be able to beat the game every time I played, even on level 3. At the end of term when we were allowed to bring in games, I took this to showcase amongst my peers.

By this time, my friends were starting to get home computers, and weren’t that interested. Adam up the road even had an Atari console you could plug into the telly, making him a God amongst men. Soon enough, even my household were proud owners of a ZX Spectrum, and Galaxy Invader 1000 was consigned to history.

But not thrown away. It has survived, and now sits in a box in my loft, with other keepsakes. It’s the sort of thing you move aside when looking for something else. So last night I got it out of the box, put fresh batteries in, and was amazed to see that it still works.


It was incredible to hear those sounds again, so familar after all these years. The way it plays a slightly longer tune each time to lose a life. The sound of the red UFO passing overhead. Even the feeling of depressing the fire button. It was as comforting as the noise Pac Man makes. I showed it my son, who was interested for about 30 seconds, before going back to Smash Bros. on the Switch.

I didn’t pay for this. My parents did. But I certainly got value for money out of the Galaxy Invader 1000. I would estimate its the video game I’ve played the most, and that’s saying something. It’s funny how something so simplistic can give so much pleasure, and how pathetically drab it looks now.


Holimarine Holiday Camp ‘Micky is Magic’ Badge


As a child, we used to spend a week every Summer in a caravan, usually on a Holimarine Holiday camp.

I’m not sure why we chose this particular company over all the other rival holiday camps. I know though we were a family of limited means. In the late 70’s my Father quit his stressful sales job and took up a position as a village milkman, which meant he couldn’t bankroll expensive foreign trips. Instead, we would spend a week in a metal caravan in either New Quay, Wales, or Hopton on Sea, courtesy of Holimarine.

We went there every summer of the early 80’s, and I couldn’t have been happier. It was at Holimarine in Wales that I bought this collectors badge, from the children’s entertainer. What I can remember about Micky is that he had glasses, a mop of curly ginger hair, and a gigantic puppet rabbit that he used as part of his act. ‘You seem to remember a lot‘, I hear you cry. Well, there’s a reason. I have a photo.


That is quite some puppet, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s worth noting that I’ve cropped the picture to the left to remove myself. As a 10 year old I stood proudly next to Micky. You may notice that not only is Micky wearing a ‘Micky is Magic’ badge, but so is the rabbit.

Micky also judged a fancy dress contest that week, where my intepretation of a seagull (fashioned from toliet paper and pieces of cardboard) earned me second prize. I have a photo of this as well, which I’m not uploading, only if Micky asks me directly. I have to wonder what he (and the rabbit) are up to these days – whether he’s still an entertainer, or followed a more sombre career path. Google has no idea, so I guess I’ll never know. Needless to say, I wish him health and happiness.

In later years we went to Holimarine at Hopton on Sea. I was so happy there. My parents would sit on the beach all day and I was given free range to roam the site, playing in the arcades and generally making a nuisance of myself. Me and my cousin would rent a Surrey Cycle and pedal round camp. Here is a photo I found on the internet of the Hopton site, which is exactly how I remember it.

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In the evenings, we would go to the entertainment complex. We’d sit as a family unit, trying to make our drinks last all night, hoping to get a bag of crisps or some whelks from a man who would pass from table to table. Some nights, there would be a ‘Razzle Dazzle Disco’, and we would dance to ‘March of the Mods‘, very much like in the video in the link. I have a vivid memory of a dance floor festooned with balloons, some of which had two pence pieces inside. I stomped around, trying to release their treasure for the arcade next door.

The entertainments were hosted by a man called Spencer K Gibbins, and I’m pleased to discover from Google that he’s still very much alive, and in show business to this day. It’s a mark of his powers that I still remember his name. When the holiday was over I used to lie on my bed, looking at the leaflets I’d collected during that week, wondering what Spencer was up to on stage back in Hopton. I thought he was the most amazing performer, lively, funny (but never blue), and utterly charming. What shocks me is how young he must have been, barely in his 30’s, not much older than my Dad at the time. Google tells me that when not at holiday camps, he used to tour with Sooty. Lucky Sooty.

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We stopped going to Holimarine in the mid 80’s. By then I’d gotten too old for the arcades and entertainment. One year, we went the same week they showed sci-fi drama V on the television, and I stayed in the caravan every evening glued to the telly, much to my family’s dismay. By the time I was at sixth form, my parent’s financial fortunes had changed, and they went abroad for their holidays, without me and my brother.

But those Holimarine holidays were magical. The company doesn’t exist anymore, bought out in the 90’s, and there is little trace of them on the internet. There is this wonderful advert, but little else.

I’d be surprised if I paid for the ‘Micky is Magic’ badge. I imagine it was bought for me. But it is a great momento of a happy children holiday, and for that reason, I can’t imagine a reason why I’d ever throw it away.

Daniel Land – The Dream of the Red Sails

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When you have children, it’s hard to imagine what you used to do with your free time.

These days, I have an exquisite 90 minute window between their bedtime and mine, which I generally squander fiddling with my phone or flicking through Netflix. In the BC period (Before Children), I had whole evenings to fill with whatever activity I came to chose. This is how I found myself writing for music blogs.

It all happened alarmingly fast. In 2004, I sent a sample review to a website, and before I knew it, fistfuls of jiffy envelopes started plopping through my letterbox, crammed with album promos and singles. I unwittingly became the main contact for a couple of major PR firms, and my job was to post news items on the site, select albums to review, and redistribute the CD’s to other writers. The download era was nascent, physical releases still their preferred method of getting content into the wild.

This may sound exciting – ‘free music!’ – but became a massive chore. The novelty soon wore off – you’d be amazed how much Lady Sovereign sent out into the wild. I’d groan as cash in compilations spilled out amid Paolo Nutini singles.

The low point came when, to appease a PR who threatened to stop sending releases, I had to review Donny Osmond’s ‘Love Songs of the 70’s’ and an album by an outfit called The Puppini Sisters. I took a day off work to write what were at best rehashed press releases. So I jumped ship to a different blog called The Line of Best Fit (TLOBF), which I’m pleased to see is still going to this day. Here, there was more freedom to write about music I was passionate about.

There were bright spots though. I made a good contact at Fierce Panda, who sent me the first release by iLiKeTRaiNS, a band I still adore to this day. 4AD sent me all their new releases, and I quickly became a fan of the late Johan Johansson. Another was a Manchester musician called Daniel Land. He sent the site a copy of his EP, which I thought was terrific. So I wrote a glowing review. His follow up was equally enthralling, as was an album he made as a member of outfit ‘The Engineers’.

I stopped writing for TLOBF in late 2010, parental duties getting in the way. Daniel has continued to release material both as a solo artist, and in an instrumental side project called ‘Riverrun’. I still took an interest in Daniel’s music, purchasing some of his main releases. I loved his 2016 album ‘In Love With A Ghost’, but this year, 2019, he has excelled himself with his new release, ‘The Dream of the Red Sails’.

He describes it as ‘an album of summery, wide screen Dream-Pop’, but it is so much more than that. Track ‘Long Before the Weather’ stands out in particular, a glorious blend of melody and sentiment with a shimmering coda of beautiful guitar and keyboards. There are other highlights. ‘Starless’ has a tight, repressed tension that unleashes itself towards the end, whilst ‘SkinDivers’ manages to blend melancholy and optimism into four blissful minutes. The production is smooth, and as sonically impressive as anything on a major record label.

The Dream of the Red Sails captures an effortless feeling of mindfulness, with music that sharpens the senses, making the world around seem more vibrant and colourful. I heartily recommend it. You can listen to it on all popular streaming services, or buy a CD direct from Daniel at his website.

Daniel has had about thirty quid from me over the years, money well spent. I’d rather give it to him than any funded band, in the hope it gives him the opportunity to make even more incredible music.

Eastenders Novel ‘Good Intentions’

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Throughout my teenage days, I was an occasional diarist.

I’d start the year with ambitions to keep a daily record, fizzling out part through the year, due to apathy and the absence of anything exciting happening. The records I do have frustrate me, as I spend most of the page describing what’s happening in the world, rather than what’s happening in my life. For example, I report in great detail matters such as the space shuttle exploding, or Chernobyl, as if I’m concerned it may pass other archivists by. I should have left the heavy lifting to the likes of Max Hastings and Dominic Sandbrook, and concentrated on what I had for tea or did at school.

The worst offender is my 1986 diary. All I do is bang on about Eastenders. I was obsessed with it that year, and every Tuesday and Thursday’s entries are exclusively about Albert Square. Why I felt the need to review the plot of each episode I’ll never understand, but I faithfully give my thoughts and opinions, sometimes again for the Sunday omnibus. When Andy the nurse got knocked over I even gave the page a black border.


So what actually happened to me on the 14th August 1986, we will never know. And my obsession with Eastenders didn’t end at BBC1. With my pocket money, I bought these flimsy fiction paperbacks as well. I was a relatively normal teenager, but my reading material consisted of these trashy novels telling the back stories to my favourite characters, such as what Ethel did during the War, or how Lofty coped in the army.

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My favourite was Good Intentions, which covered the blossoming relationship of Debs and the aforementioned Andy. I thought Debs was the most beautiful woman to grace the planet, and read this paperback again and again. They make Mills and Boon look like a Man Booker Prize contender, but that didn’t stop me. I’d daydream that I was Andy, particularly when I got to the racy bit on page 148. During 1986 I went on a two week exchange trip to Germany, and took two items of reading material for the whole fortnight – The Eastenders book, and the April edition of Spectrum magazine Crash. It was all I needed.

Now, in 2019, UK digital channel ‘Drama’ are repeating Eastenders, right from the beginning, and I’m hooked all over again. They show two episodes a day and I’m gripped. At the time of writing, it’s the early Spring of 1987 in Walford. Pete has just beaten up Pat, Barry and Colin keep falling out, and Arthur’s been released from hospital after his Christmas Club related breakdown. I can’t get enough of it. If they showed six episodes a day, I’d still be up to date.

My relationship with Eastenders came to an abrupt end around the time Huw and Lenny left in the late 90’s. I just stopped, and now it’s as incomprehensible to me as a foreign language comedy. But these old ones are so watchable, and I can’t get enough. Though  I have no idea why I loved these trashy paperbacks so much.

I bought about a half dozen of these books, retailing for two pounds each. Twelve pounds for a little bit of Walford magic. I definitely got my money’s worth out of Good Intentions.