Sunday 3rd December 1989 (Dear Jessie:Deary me)

Diary CoverI was delighted to be asked my Sarah Lewis at My Eighties to choose my favourite five records from the eighties for her radio show. It’s not an easy task but after much anguish I told myself to not take it all so seriously and just have fun with it.

Which is why the 5th track I chose was Madonna’s Dear Jessie. As you can hear in the interview, I chose this as a kind of a joke to myself. It’s a fun pop song but it lacks the depth I thought it did when I was 16. Like A Prayer, with its patchouli scented inner-sleeve, remains a superb album but Dear Jessie is not its standout track, even if I thought it was at the time…

Saw the new Madonna video for Dear Jessie. It was much better than I expected. I think that they should have shown a little girl listening to the radio and being read a story and then going into dreamland. Madonna should have been in the video though. Doing it real with animation on or all real would have been real. With pink elephants and leprechauns and mermaids.

Oh I love the song so much. I don’t know, I feel really passionate about it. I feel all tingly as well when I hear it. All the words seem perfect and the music, it all seems so perfect. I’m so glad that they decided to release it as a single and I really hope that it gets to number one. Loads of people like it who normally don’t like Madonna so maybe it will.

I love that song with all my heart. It is the best song ever made from the best album ever made.

(Not) Quite.

The Orton Diaries edited by John Lahr

blitz98.jpgIf like me you were a child of the seventies, who grew up in the eighties, you might remember a magazine called Blitz. It was like a sister magazine to The Face, full of culture and art and grown up stuff. In March 1991 they published a “sex” issue, it was the month I turned 18.

It made a fascinating read and some content that particularly stuck with me was the 10 sexist books. Included in these was the Orton Diaries. Even back then I was a nosy bastard and despite not having a clue who Joe Orton was I bought a copy from my local Dillons bookshop.

Blitz.jpgThe Top Ten Sexiest Books as featured Blitz issue 98

Then, a bit like I did with Adrian Mole and Forever, I searched for the rude bits. After a quick flick through I was unable to locate his encounter with a dwarf in Brighton, or anything else about sex for that matter, and so, not really interested in a few months in the life of a London playwright, it had stayed untouched on the shelf until recently.

The diaries cover the few months from December 1966 up to August 1967 when Joe was bludgeoned to death by his boyfriend Keith Halliwell. Halliwell left the diaries with a suicide note that read “If you read his diary, all will be explained. KH PS: Especially the latter part”.

Reading the diaries in the knowledge that this is how they will end adds an altogether more poignant feel to them. I found myself looking for clues in how Orton recorded his relationship with Halliwell that might’ve signposted that ending; remembering of course that diaries are one version of events, and in this case potentially made all the more imaginative because he wrote them with the intent to publish them one day.

Yet they still make a fascinating read, filled with frank, no holds barred accounts of his sexual encounters, amusing retellings of conversations had and overheard, and insights into his new found fame along with the celebrities and artists with whom he mixed.

If you read diaries hoping for titbits, gossip and amusing anecdotes you won’t be disappointed. There’s plenty in here, including his friendship with Kenneth Williams. Orton was courageous and censorless in what he chose to record and thankfully they have been published largely unedited. A word of caution however, his salacious detail of the holiday in Tangiers, I’m sure in part the reason for its placing in Blitz magazine’s top ten ‘Sexy Pages’, may be too much for some.

theortondiaries1stedition.jpgThe Orton Diaries were edited by John Lahr and are still widely available

Those Were The Jamie Days

My Eighties

My special guest on this week’s My 80s radio show, choosing his Favourite Five 80’s tracks is Jamie Days. As a young boy in the Eighties, Jamie started to keep a diary, and has already published his daily musings from 1984. He has contributed excerpts from his diaries to The 80s Annual, vol.II, due out this November. I asked Jamie a few questions about his diaries and growing up in my favourite decade. 1984 Summer

What made you start to keep a diary at the tender age of eleven?

My nana bought me a tiny Grange Hill diary for Christmas in 1983. I’d had a little Paddington one before, in 1982 or 1983 I think, but I never stuck to it. But something in 1984 made me keep going.

How many years did you write your diaries for and how difficult was it to keep them going for that long?

I kept…

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Theft By Finding (3)

“In the UK, if you discover something of value and keep it, that’s theft by finding.”

[see the extract below from the Introduction of David Sedaris’ Theft By Finding]

If you’ve ever done it, you’ll know that it’s an interesting conundrum you’re faced with when you decide to publish your diaries. They’re your diaries but a lot of their content isn’t about you.

How will other people feel about your versions of their history becoming available for public consumption? As I’m not in the business of upsetting people, or creating problems for them, I made the choice to check this out with those whose pasts were linked to mine.

Now considering what I initially published began in 1983, people weren’t that easy to get hold of. Facebook and other social media sites helped but I couldn’t find everyone. Those I did find, upon hearing what I was planning to do, came back with responses that ranged from utter delight that I was reminding them of halcyon days, to mild bewilderment that I would want to do such a thing. Overall people were really positive, even though some of them thought I may have been cruel about them as they, in their words, weren’t “that popular at school”. Some people, with mild levels of notoriety in local circles, understandably preferred anonymity but there was one response in particular had me thinking.

To paraphrase, they said that whilst they valued my friendship they respectfully requested that any events from their past not be used in any shape or form.

But whose events were they? I wrote them, so were they my versions of their events, or my events that they happened to be in? I didn’t know what to do. I felt this particular person had been a key part of my growing up. Someone I remember with huge affection, someone who I wouldn’t want to leave out.

I was also keen to remain as faithful and as true as I could to what I wrote about what had happened and the way I originally wrote it.

I thought really hard about how I would approach it, and how I could be sensitive to what they’d asked of me, and wanted to let them know this.  However my thoughtful, reassuring response couldn’t be delivered as the contact methods through social media were cut off…

So I did what I thought was morally right under the circumstances.

So if you’re out there old friend, the events I’ve shared in the pages of the diaries contain the influence of your lively, giddy, caring spirit, but not you. And I hope that’s OK.

My 1984 Diary is available now, 1985 will be published this autumn, and 1986 in 2018.


1979 by Rhona Cameron

1979 tells the story of a year in the life of comedian Rhona Campbell when she was 13 and living in a small Scottish town. It chronicles her highs and lows and vividly brings back how she experienced her coming of age, shame and confusion about her sexuality and some unpleasant advances from the opposite sex. Satisfyingly it also includes exerts from the diary she kept sporadically throughout the year.


I’d had this in the “to-read” pile for a while and chose it recently because I wanted something nostalgic and amusing. It delivered on both fronts with Rhona taking the piss out of her younger self fantastically, but also being startlingly frank in what she shared.

However I wasn’t prepared for how open and honest she was going to be about being a teenage lesbian and the bullying and victimisation she faced because of it. Cruelty at the hands of other girls and older boys is as infuriating as it is heart-breaking, but it seems she takes it all in her stride now as she did then.

Chapters that detailed her obsession with fellow female classmates were hilarious “Of course, it was important I kept all the girls I knew under surveillance and maintained dossiers on them all. Or ‘Fact Files’, as I labelled them” Of course, because we all did that! Maybe we did – but do we write it all down, and publish it in a book? It’s brilliant stuff!

The subtitle is “a big year in a small town” and for Rhona it really was. Genuinely funny and moving, a recommended read.

Image result for rhona cameronP.S. it was nice to read I wasn’t the only one cutting off my pubic hair because I didn’t want it. We’ll all find some comfort that we weren’t alone in our awkwardness with growing up in the pages of this book.