I sometimes wonder how I got away with being a 1980s kid. Between the Ro-Ro ships sailing with their bow doors open, the football grounds burning down, the police-enabled disasters at them, the state-backed kiddy fiddlers, the beef that ate your brain, the Soviet nuclear rain, aircraft full of smoke on the runway at Manchester Airport, the deranged social workers who if you weren’t being abused might grab you and lock you in an institution with Jimmy Savile, the IRA, the weird tolerance of horrible road accidents with scout group buses, the possibility of your family being economically crushed from one moment to the next, oh, and the cold war…
Which I thought was quite cool – I liked the RAF low flying and missed it when it stopped. And I remember visiting Menwith Hill, being told to leave my Ladybird book of secret codes behind, and driving in past folk who were busy burning several Ronald Reagans. Inside they tried to get us to care about football, I think they called it, but it wasn’t football, and well, that was it.
More to the point, all those disasters had an egalitarian quality. They all look like they might have happened to me. But, anyway, back to the guy who at the time would have had a decent chance at Greatest Living Yorkshireman, depending on whether Geoff Boycott was politically on the up or down at the time. Will Boycs lie in state at the Queen’s Hotel in Leeds?
You just can’t overstate how ubiquitous he was – as well as the national scene, he was permanently on Look North and Radio Leeds, in the papers, in the field at “events”. And I distinctly remember that school always did something for Children in Need. It was actually true that the BBC carried out huge national youth mobilisations, and Jimmy Savile was always, always right in the middle.
Further, the 80s were the high years of TV and also of tin-rattling. Everywhere still had a district general hospital and none of them had any money, and you could say the same for schools. As a result, there was a continuous culture of rattling the tin for this or that basic public service, which usually guilt-tripped everyone involved and their families to get out and rattle the tin too.
And everyone watched enormous amounts of telly. We didn’t officially believe in it, and claimed not to care about it, and there was some sort of effort to restrict how much of it my sister and I watched, and we were often surprised by how much other people watched (as in, never letting the tube cool down) but in the final analysis, boy, there was a lot of telly, and he was in most of it.