Friday, 14 July 2017
First viewed : 1986
We move on into 1986, something of a red letter year for me and quite a busy one for this blog as we'll see.
I mentioned a few posts back that I'd moved into shared accommodation for my final year at university but it wasn't long before I came to regret it. The seeds had been sown before we even moved in. Right at the start, my friend Dave L had asked me if we should invite anyone else and me, always wanting to construct a gang, had suggested Pete and Dave M , two other students who'd been left behind after the mass exodus from the hall of residence at the end of Year One. We walked miles around Headingley in April / May 1985 until we found somewhere that apparently suited everybody, then right at the point when we were giving the landlord a deposit , Dave M pulled out and decided to stay put for a third year. We then had to start afresh, looking for somewhere as a trio. We found a back to back in Woodhouse and, fearing that the whole project was on the point of collapse, I agreed to take a very small room to seal the deal.
That was one problem. The next, and I'll have to choose my words carefully here, was Pete. Pete was in the neighbouring room to me that second year in hall and we had a certain amount in common . He liked walking and playing snooker and I enjoyed his propensity for practical jokes as long as they were directed at other people. That's why I suggested him despite having full knowledge of one or two disturbing incidents - Pete had a very poor relationship with many of the incoming students - which should have given me pause for thought. Dave M later said that the main reason he'd pulled out was the thought of spending a year in the same small house as Pete.
By his own admission, Pete had just scraped onto a chemistry course at Leeds after disappointing A Level results. He struggled on it and at the end of that second year, calamitously, he failed the exams and had to take a year out. His tutors said they'd turn a blind eye to him attending lectures but he had to fend for himself as far as maintenance went. His parents gave him enough to survive which meant he could stay in Leeds and have plenty of free time in the house to think up annoying wheezes. I came very close to hitting him on one occasion which would certainly not have ended favourably for me. That wasn't the full extent of the problems though. One evening Dave L and I came back to a house full of smoke. Pete had made the cellar his own, to work on his bike and play with his air rifle, but it had got cold so he decided it would be a good idea to make a fire despite the fairly crucial absence of a chimney. On another occasion, I came back from a weekend at home and the guy from the adjoining property was on the doorstep, threatening to give me and Dave L a good hiding over the excessive noise Pete and his drinking buddies had made on the Saturday night.
It didn't seem safe to stay with Pete and then there was an external threat. The Yorkshire Post started reporting that a large gang of feral kids were targeting students for attack. The reports indicated that the kids were roaming from Woodhouse into the more obviously student territory of Headingley but it was still too close for comfort.
Those were the push factors. Then there was a pull factor. Leeds Student reported on a recent court case - Street v Mountford - I think - where the judges declared that licence agreements, exactly the type of contract we'd made with the landlord were a sham to avoid fair rent legislation and must now be regarded as tenancies. I wasn't that interested in screwing the landlord for a lower rent ; what I wanted to know was did the judgement mean I could tear up the licence, cancel the two post-dated cheques he still had to cash and walk away from my mistake ? Nobody seemed sure but that prospect was the final nail in the coffin for my tenure at 17 Thomas St. Over the Christmas holidays I decided that I would not be returning there and, indeed, never spent a night there again.
Having made that decision , I had no other option except to stay at home and commute in to Leeds when necessary. My mother was very much against this idea, taking the view that I was running away from my first encounter with the real world. I only had one good argument to deploy, that my dissertation, on Edwardian politics in North East Lancashire, required more research in local libraries, which it did. With that , and a contribution to maintenance which I could ill afford because I couldn't find the assurance I needed to cancel that next rent cheque, she grudgingly yielded for the time being. This also meant that, once again, I could watch midweek TV.
That's not entirely relevant to Catchphrase although it was on Sunday nights at a time by which I would normally have started my journey back to Leeds. I have no idea when I first caught an episode but some time during its first year of transmission seems a fair bet.
Catchphrase was a very lowbrow game show akin to Punchlines where the two contestants had to identify a well-known phrase, proverb etc. from a partially-revealed, faintly humorous animation, often featuring the show's Dusty Bin-esque mascot Mr Chips.
The show found its ideal host in slimy Irish comedian Roy Walker, another New Faces winner. His queasy repartee and shark-eyed insincerity were a perfect fit for the cheap concept and that gave the show a certain sleazy charm and durability.
It was the sort of show I'd never stay in to watch and I missed the most infamous episode in 1994 with the "Snake Charmer" animation where Mr Chips appeared to be bashing the bishop. It had me on the floor when it first featured on a Bloopers show.
Walker was a smart cookie and knew when it was time to quit in 1999. Nick Weir foolishly tried to replace him. He fell down the stage on his first show and things didn't get much better as ratings plummeted. Weir was sacked in 2002 and Mark Curry took over for a final series in 2004 now relegated to a daytime show.
The show was revived with Stephen Mulhearn and is currently on its fifth season.