When I Was 10
January 16th 1981, the day that I turned 10. I donít remember it. I know it happened because Iím 34 now, and 10 is en route. But I canít recall anything special about it. In fact 1981 seems a bit of a blur for me. John Lennon was no 1 with the dreary Imagine, with its video shot in his white house, sat at a white piano, playing to white carpets, white walls and white shutters.
I turned 10 half way through Junior 3 at St James School in Shaw, and then went on to spend half of being 10 in Junior 4. I guess these could have been formative years for me as both of these classes were taken by two stalwarts of discipline, Mr Pilling and Mr Stansfield. Although diametrically opposite in size, Mr Pilling being about 6Ĺ foot to Mr Stansfield 5 foot nothing, they both had the same aura of hard man surrounding them. At break during the bleakest of winters, because we used to have them in the north at that time, they would stand out in the cold with their short sleeved shirts and folded arms, watching with sullen faces over all the children in the playground. Both also took the football teams of which I was a member, so I guess 10 was the year that I started playing football properly. Cold northern winters running around muddy fields chasing after a ball like a flock of starlings, without any consideration for the nuances, rules, and style of football. The pitch was behind Warburtonís bakery, in fact now is Warburtonís bakery, so there was always the smell of cooked bread, fresh yeast, and warm dough in the air while we played.
I remember being reprimanded by Mr Stansfield, for getting my colours wrong on a picture of a tiger that I was colouring. I must point out at this stage that Iím colour blind, or colour deficient as itís now know as, so was devastated to get berated for having a disability. My mother went in to see the teacher to give his ear a bending over being insensitive to the colour plight of a 10 year old boy at such an emotionally charged time. Mr Stansfield reacted by making me the paper monitor; a job which entailed trips to the paper cupboard near the main hall, to retrieve copious amounts of colour paper for use in the wall displays, my embarrassment in front of the whole class derived from my disorder was perpetuated for the rest of the year, as time after time I brought back the wrong coloured paper. He also made me the milk monitor which involved trips to the kitchen to pick up crates of miniature bottles of mile, and hand them out to the class. Now thatís nothing extraordinary until I add that he also forced me to drink a bottle despite me telling him that I was unable to drink milk on the grounds that it made me sick. So I drunk it, and was sick!
Mr Pilling was a very tall man. You can imagine the terror that would befall a 4ft child looking up at a giant of a teacher as he boomed chastisements though his u shaped moustache. A voice like a fog horn that we had been scared of since moving into the same school wing in Junior 1. But for all this Mr Pilling was a kind a gentle man, and never gave me any issue about being colour challenged. I was very sad the day, many years later, when I heard that he had jumped off a bridge into the path of an oncoming train. What a waste.
The school was situated next to a mill. This only has importance for one reason; the school wall separated the playground from the mill reservoir. Time after time we would kick a football over the 8 foot wall and then have to retrieve it after school from the middle of the pond. Always a challenge!
I think I started to become aware of girls at this time. I had two girl friends over the year, one of them would become my girl friend again some 5 years later where weíd actually take the role a little more seriously than just holding hands. The other had breasts and I remember fondling them at any opportunity I could.
I was never particularly affected by music at this stage, I had no stereo of my own and only really listened to music that my parents or my brother had. Weíd set up a little den in the shed next to the house and we had an old record player in their were I would spend much time playing my fathers old 45ís. I guess my love of my parents music comes from this time. But I was also being influence by my brother who was making the transition from punk, through New Romantics and on his way to Heavy Metal.
TV was a strange bag; I would have been watching Danger Mouse, Swap Shop, and Rentaghost. These would have been the day time childrenís programs of the time. However I was supplementing them with programs such as Blake 7, Magnum PI, Buck Rogers, and Not the Nine OíClock news.
There are many things I remember about 1981, but donít actually remember having much association with at the time, and thus find it hard to link to being ten. Life seemed pretty ok, there were few things wrong with the world in the eyes of a 10 year old, however in the days running up to my 10th birthday, Peter Sutcliffe confessed to being the Yorkshire Ripper and killing 13 women. I remember the fear of this demon that had filled the previous decade.
A postal bomb intended for the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was intercepted., the first of many assassination attempts that would mark my 10th year.
Ronald Reagan became the 40th American President only to be gunned down by John Hinckley, later that year. Before him every president elected in a year ending in zero (beginning with 1840) had died in office, so he just managed to become the first president to beat the "zero factor".
Prince Charles and Lady Dianna Spencer got engaged and married this year. I guess the Omens were in the charts, their engagement was launched off the back of Joe Dolceís Shaddup Your Face and Roxy Musicsí Jealous Guy. Who can forget the look of Ďdelightí on either of their faces as she showed the ring to the photographers. It seems kind of odd now when you look back at those images realising that all the time, both of them new that Charles was already with mistress and that Dianna was nothing more than the acceptable face of child birth.
A mysterious epidemic, was discovered in homosexual men, and caused increasing concern in the United States. The unknown condition, which consists of two separate diseases - a form of pneumonia and skin cancer, had been found in 180 patients in 15 states since July 1980. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was recognized by the American Centre for Disease Control later that year. Around 24 million people have died from Aids since it first emerged and it is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa.
Bucks Fizz won the Eurovision Song Contents with Making Your Mind Up. I think itís the only time I have witnessed such an event as the United Kingdom winning the Eurovision contest. The politics of being generally ant Europe were not fully formed at this stage.
I do remember the excitement of the Space shuttle Columbia being launched. As a child of 10 anything remotely space was just top. Still revved up by the images of the Star Wars films and the first Star Trek motion picture, I was so excited when the school placed one of those big tellies that stood on a tall stand, with small wheels, in the middle of the hall and we all watched the count down and lift off. Later that year the Shuttle did publicity tour of the world and I remember seeing it fly over on the back of its Jumbo Jet, while at one of my running meets. 22 years later, Columbia broken up as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere killing all seven astronauts on board. It was the first time there had been an accident on landing in the 42 years of space flight.
Inspired by Adam Ants, Stand and Deliver, IRA Prisoner Bobby Sands dies in the max prison, Belfast after 65 days on hunger strike. He would be the first of 10 deaths. I remember at the time finding it odd that convicted terrorists would attempt to make demands by starving themselves to death, a state in which they would be better received by the people holding them prisoner. While writing this piece I find myself agreeing with my thoughts back then, although I do have to qualify that I know nothing about what Bobby Sands himself did or didnít do, or indeed the cast iron status of his conviction.
In a continuing theme of assassination attempts, Mehmet Ali Agca shot and wounded Pope John Paul II as he blessed a crowd in St Peter's Square, Rome. From that moment on all footage of the Pope was of him in, what became affectionately know as, the Pope Mobile. A small van carrying a glass box with a chair, and the Pope in it.
Mark Chapman pleaded guilty to the charge of murdering John Lennon outside the Dakota Building in New York in 1980. He was given 15 to 20 years for the murder, but it seems he will likely never be released. With hindsight he should have been given life for making Imagine and Woman no 1 at the start of this year.
At 17 years old Marcus Sarjeant, was charged with treason after firing six blanks at Queen Elizabeth in The Mall. During his trial, Sarjeant was described as a shy loner haunted by failure who was inspired by attempts on the lives of US President Ronald Reagan and the Pope. The court heard the teenager was also obsessed with the murders of President John F Kennedy and John Lennon. It seems odd now that we have such issues about video, TV, and computers games creating copy cat violence, when indeed, issues like this show than human nature is already ahead of us in that department.
There was an issue of unrest across the country and a flare up of riots in Brixton, Toxteth, and other parts of the UK. It was later acknowledged that much of the widespread unrest had its roots in social and economic deprivation and in racial discrimination. The Specials sang about Ghost Towns.
TV and the music business, changed forever as MTV launched the first 24 hour music channel. To this day Iíve never had an MTV channel having steadfastly stuck with terrestrial TV and having moved out of my parents before my brother had satellite installed.
My future career was set on course with the release of IBMís PC, with its vast 64k of RAM and a single floppy disk drive, and PC-DOS version 1.0; this was the real start of the computer revolution that has allowed me to carve out a career. It would be another few years before I actually got into computing in any way, but by the age of 15 I would be a fully paid up member of the computer geeks society. There is some irony that I spent much of my early computer career with computers that had less power than your average washing machine, and that now I often spend time programming mobile phones and DVD players, that are following the same progression curve just 20 years behind and quicker.
Not content with the number of Assassinations so far in the year, the Iranian President and Prime Minister are assassinated in a bomb blast
Luckily for some, France's President Mitterrand abolished the guillotine. I seems crazy now that it took until 1981 before someone actually outlawed this form of execution. However, I wonder if the world would be a better place if it was still used.
Just to add another notch to the yearís assassination attempts and successes, Egyptian President Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by Muslim fundamentalists.
Maybe in a thinly veiled assassination, Actress Natalie Wood drowned off the coast of California. Many believed her death wasn't an accident.
So my rather more eventful than I actually remember 10th year, ended to the tune of Donít you want me baby and the land of make believe.