Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Seventeen

grange hill s09e17-1

Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 4th March 1986

Calley’s not happy with the changes that have been made to the first issue of On Spec (the school magazine).  She feels that Mrs McClusky’s fingerprints are all over it – watering down her original fanzine idea into something that could have been produced by the school secretary.

But it’s still controversial enough to annoy Mr Glover intensely, especially the article on smoking. Since smoking is prohibited amongst the pupils, the magazine – by acknowledging that it’s a problem for all sections of the school community – is seen to condone it.  A few years back this might have been the sort of point that Mrs McClusky would have picked up on, but she didn’t seem too concerned to begin with (so she seems to have mellowed somewhat).

But now that the governors have raised concerns, she agrees that changes need to be made.  This might suggest that she’s keen to jump when she’s told to jump, but later events will prove that Mrs McClusky is still very much her own woman and still very much in charge.  The showdown between her and Mr Glover is yet to come ….

Mr King is aware that the school governors want to recall the magazine, but tips Fay the nod thereby allowing her, Calley and Ronnie to rush off to distribute it.  Hurrah, strike one for pupil and staff power!  I’ve a feeling that Mr King might get into trouble for this, but it’s his insidiously creeping relationship with Fay that’s more likely to prove his downfall.

Zammo visits the post office to cash a dodgy pension.  This is an authentically grimy slice of mid eighties London life and the dingy setting help to ramp up the tension as Zammo anxiously waits his turn.  When Banksie joins the queue, Zammo’s nerves start jangling even more.  It seems a long, long time ago when Banksie was the untrustworthy one and Zammo was the good guy.  Banksie’s posting off a job application whilst Zammo’s fraudulently collecting money to further his, and other people’s, drugs habit.

Banksie does gently jibe Zammo about his recent non-attendance at school, but like the others he still either doesn’t seem to realise that there’s anything seriously wrong or (and this might be nearer the mark with Banksie) simply doesn’t care.

It’s an interesting touch that when we later see Zammo, Howard and Doug waiting for the man (or more accurately woman – Tamsin) it’s Doug who articulates that their current lifestyle isn’t good (“there’s got to be a better way to live than this”).  You might have expected that Zammo would be the first one to realise that drugs are a dead-end street, but not so.  Possibly he’s too far gone.

Last time, Danny was keen on the concept of a speaking wall – a place where pupils could write anything they wished.  Surprisingly permission was granted, although Danny’s work is more in the artistic than verbal vein.  It’s another slice of mid eighties life – a mural depicting nuclear war (mushroom clouds, rockets and skulls).  Miss Booth stands firm as Danny’s champion – it seems that she’s recognised his talent and wishes to nurture it (otherwise her dogged determination to indulge him makes little sense).

Mr King gives Fay a lift home and – just as when the pair were spotted in the café by Laura and Julia – Julie, out walking her dog, is the latest to spy the teacher and pupil having an animated conversation.  Grange Hill’s catchment area is clearly so small that everybody can’t help tripping over everybody else.

They both plan on seeing the same film at the weekend and Fay suggests they go together.  Mr King decides that it wouldn’t be a good idea as it might give people the wrong idea (he’s rather too late on that score!) but then quickly changes his mind, arranging a date for Saturday at five.  And so he digs himself a little deeper into his ever-increasing self-inflicted hole ….

It’s been a while since we’ve seen that Grange Hill favourite – pilfered clothes from the changing room.  Ziggy decides to steal Imelda’s clothes to teach her a lesson, but of course he gets it wrong and ends up pilfering Jane’s clothes instead.  At least this gives Jane – who’s been pretty invisible this year – a little bit of screentime next episode.  Ziggy and Robbie have to disguise themselves as girls in order to breach the changing room, which is a suitably silly moment (Ziggy’s high-pitched approximation of a girl’s voice, for example).

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