1981-1983 was when I was a sixth former. I did A’ level Geography and English Literature and extra O levels in Political Studies and Economics. Our school merged with Archway to become George Orwell School. Our local council chose this name because the merger of our two schools was due to be completed in 1984. That and he was a fine British socialist might also have something to do with it. I did one of my A levels at the newly opened Sixth Form Centre, just off Liverpool Road in Holloway. One claim to fame is that our head at Tollington Park was the father of Lofty from EastEnders but Mr. Watt retired when the schools merged.
Whilst studying I met some new friends including Yat and Ben as well as got to know Andreas and John, who I’d been at school with for five years already. Robert was also part of the gang, we’d been in same class since the age of 11 and studied Eng Lit together. Despite having minimal artistic talent I managed to hang out with some pretty good art students. As well as school I had a cousin with a talent for art who I’d kept in contact with. Mevlit went on to study in Birmingham and he had a brief appearance in The Clothes Show as his talent lay in knitwear at that time. I have only mentioned boys but of course there were girls at the school too and being 16-18 we were starting to take more notice of the opposite sex. One I didn’t take too much notice was in my Eng Lit class, she chose the subject because she liked reading but bemoaned the fact we had to read all this Shakespeare and why couldn’t we read Jackie Collins.
In 1982 I took and passed my two O levels and in hindsight it was downhill from that point academically. In my final year I got distracted by politics and spent time canvassing for Jeremy Corbyn in my local Islington North constituency.
That wasn’t however my first political action. Earlier in 1983 I spent a day helping out Peter Tatchell’s campaign in the Bermondsey bye-election. It was a hopeless task as Peter was portrayed as the anti-Christ in a red rosette. I knocked on doors that rarely opened with Patricia Hewitt, who went on to become a Leicester MP. Peter’s recently been in the news as some students are trying to boycott events he speaks at. Shame on them.
As you can guess, it wasn’t all studying and politics during those two years. In our spare time during daylight hours we would go to parks and play a round on the putting green or go boating. Gilroy never got over being mocked for his preparation before playing a shot (that he missed) and disappeared from our circle of friends. The new craze was Space Invaders, which we could play in pool cafes (which we also played), and pubs. Ah yes, pubs. The Duke of Edinburgh were frequented along with The Osborne Tavern in Finsbury Park before the Gonzo incident after which we took up residency at the Tolly, which is now very near the new Arsenal stadium, opposite the George Sobell Sports Centre, where I tried squash and ice skating. I wasn’t a natural at either. Despite being under 18 it was possible to get served in pubs in 1982-83. Most of us were students, the exception being John who left school at 16 and joined the Post Office and Andreas who left and found himself in the catering business. By now I’d given up working in fruit and veg trade and walked into Sainsbury’s on Holloway Road with Robert and asked if they had any jobs going. After completing some forms we started soon after. Saturday night the store closed at 5 but we worked till 6:30 stocking up empty shelves. There being only one supervisor about it was an opportunity to eat a few things to keep us going. Robert was interrupted in the act of eating a pork pie. Thinking quickly he put the pie in his sleeve and walked away. Unfortunately the pie fell out onto the floor. He was asked to return in the middle of the week to speak to a manager. He never did and his career in retail came to an end.
Pubs were great, and lager and snakebite were favoured drinks. Better than pubs were parties. And an invite to one was an invite to all so we travelled across London to drink, dance and whatever else we could get away with.
I can’t remember if it was the summer of 1982 or 1983 but me, Andreas, John, Robert (if my memory serves me correctly) and Sanjay went to Bournemouth for a weeks holiday. We were blessed with good weather and the opportunity to attend an event with Dave Lee Travis DJ ing. He made a sleazy gesture mocking a female as she was running onto stage. Sanjay was quite academic and as such not like the rest of us. He also had a glass eye. Walking back from DLT’s show we were accompanied by a group of girls. I don’t know what made him do it but he took out his glass eye to show off to the girls. That wasn’t the smartest move to do under the circumstances. The soundtrack of that holiday was a track by Spandau Ballet called Instinction.
Things I recommend, for students to learn who Peter Tatchell is and what he’s done in his lifetime before they seek to judge him negatively.
Things I don’t recommend; trying to impress the opposite sex by taking out your glass eye.
Sleazy Radio 1 DJs.
Pork pie’s, legally acquired or otherwise.
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