Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Fifteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 21st February 1989

Last time Helen attended work experience she was very much dressed for the office (despite wanting to work on the shop floor). There’s an obvious irony at work today as she’s come togged up in jeans and dungarees (ready to know what it means to work hard on machines) but finds herself shunted into the accounts department for the day.

She’s left in the delicate hands of Jeanette (Joanna Wright) and Alison (Kelly Cryer). Both are presented as short-skirted featherheads who are forever wittering on about their latest boyfriends. They have little in common with Helen – at one point they caustically comment that she probably isn’t the type to go out to clubs. Helen’s short hair and dungarees hammers this none-too-subtle point home.

She finds no more of a welcome with Neil (Garry Patrick), a boy slightly her senior who’s been working in the factory for a while. Neil’s been designated to look after her when she ventures onto the shop floor tomorrow, but he’s not relishing the task (after all, she’s a girl). This air of casual sexism is reinforced when Helen bumps into Mauler, who’s doing his work experience at the same place.

Mauler’s working in the kitchens, which is something that’s designed to raise an eyebrow. But if Helen wants to work in engineering and Mauler wants to peruse a career in cookery, why not? This plotline may be painted with rather broad brushstrokes but its heart (attempting to diffuse gender stereotypes) is in the right place.

Oh, and we also learn that Mauler’s first name is Francis. He’s kept that quiet (helped in no small part by all the teachers who only ever refer to him by his surname).

There still seems to be someone sleeping in the school overnight. It can’t be Tegs as he’s now living in care, so who is it? Trev’s convinced it’s the ghost of Danny Kendall and bets Robbie and Ziggy a fiver that they wouldn’t spend the night alone in the school.  Oh, no, not the Grange Hill ghost ….

Speaking of Trev, he seems to have fallen into bad ways again. Matthew and Clarke spy him taking multiple cans of lager out of his locker and decide to follow him to find out what he’s up to. Okay, this begs the obvious query about how they’ve missed the fact he’s been boozing his life away since the start of term.

There’s a happy-ish ending to this tale though, as Trev didn’t plan to drink the beer – he firstly tried to sell it back to the off licence and when that failed poured it into the canal. This wanton waste of good-ish alcohol enrages a random passing group of late teens who decide to duff him up for a laugh.

Matthew and Clarke come racing to Trev’s rescue (untying him and rescuing his trousers). Hurrah! But they have to leave him in the lurch (and let Trev’s trousers go floating down the canal) when Clarke realised that someone had pinched his bike again. Boo!

And so the saga of Clarke’s bike rumbles on. Goodness knows what’s so special about it.

The unholy quartet of Robbie, Ziggy, Mandy and Gonch are working on a computer dating scheme for the end of term prom. Robbie and Ziggy have already handed out a questionnaire (much to Mandy’s irritation). Robbie reacts to her criticism …. well, you can probably work out exactly how he reacts by now. He’s nothing if not totally predictable.

Mr Bronson only has one scene in this episode but it’s an absolute corker. He arrives in Mrs McClusky’s office and proffers his resignation with a certain flourish, telling her that he plans to take early retirement. The pair have had some battle royales in the past and today’s confrontation rekindles happy memories of days gone by.

Mrs McClusky clearly can’t find it in her heart to pretend that she’s sorry he’s going (on the contrary, she declares it’s for the best).  The conversation then merrily rattles downhill, concluding when she tells him that “you never supported me in any of the changes I wanted to introduce. It was as if you felt your job was to obstruct me”.

Mr Bronson counters that he’d offered her the benefit of his experience, only for Mrs McClusky to respond that it wasn’t experience she was short of. He has no answer to that and exits.

These are the sort of scenes I’m going to miss ….

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