Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Eleven

Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 6th February 1990

It’s been discussed for a while, but today we finally see just how wretched Matthew’s home life now is. He’s living in temporary accommodation along with his mother and sister (a single room with no bathroom in a rather squalid building).

And although no violence from the other residents is shown, we do hear it (the episode concludes with Matthew and his sister, Lucy, locked inside their room listening to shouts and screams elsewhere in the building). As ever, GH had to tread a fine line between attempting to display the reality of a situation and knowing that they very were restricted in what could be portrayed at 5.00 pm on a weekday afternoon.  Yes, everything could have been much nastier, but I think the point was still well made.

Throughout the episode Matthew suffers more and more – he’s unable to find the book Miss Monroe lent him (so he’ll have to pay for it), then he’s cornered by Justine and Chrissy who are looking for his t-shirt money (I thought he’d paid for that before) and finally he glumly looks at his bust shoe (which seems to be beyond repair).

Moving onto Tegs, it’s noticeable in the past that the series had often elected not to show certain dramatic moments, instead they simply reported them. This happens again here – the previous episode concluded with Tegs absconding from his mother’s house but today we’re told that he went back shortly afterwards and spent a fairly convivial weekend with her. It’s a very odd move – not only for the way it negates the tension of episode ten’s cliffhanger, but also because it’s a very offhand way to pay off a storyline that’s been developing over several years.

Elsewhere in the episode, Rod continues to turn a fast buck (selling cigarettes to the first years) whilst Mauler is still incensed that he’s not on Mr Hargreaves’ vigilance committee. The saga of the t-shirts also rumbles on, with arguments aplenty (the test shirts have run in the wash). Given how shambolic things have been so far, it’s hard to see how the girls are ever going to turn a profit.

Julie only has a few lines in this episode, but she still catches the eye. At several points she’s framed in the background, silent and alone. These shot choices seem to be intentional, suggesting that her lack of confidence and self esteem will be developed further in future episodes.

Miss Booth and Mr Hargreaves continue to clash, which provides the episode with a few minutes of entertainment. Today, she’s incensed that he’s chosen her to supervise a butcher, who’s come along to give a talk on the best ways to cut up meat.  That’s an odd sort of public speaker it has to be said.

Will this act as a red rag to Ronnie? Well, not really, although she’s clearly not best pleased about it and storms off to speak to Mrs McClusky (Mrs McClusky is unmoved though). Ronnie’s given the chance not to attend, but she does so anyway – although no outbursts are forthcoming from her. But I’ve a feeling she’s keeping her powder dry for future adventures.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Ten

Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 2nd February 1990

Last episode’s cliffhanger is casually negated after we discover that Justine and Chrissy are once again hale and hearty (which feels like a bit of a cheat).

They, along with Natalie, continue to ruminate over their t-shirt business, although it slips somewhat into the background today (only really surfacing when Matthew admits that he’s unable to pay for the shirt he’s ordered).

Matthew has regressed back to his series eleven persona – monosyllabic and with eyes downcast, he cuts a rather forlorn figure. Tegs comes to his rescue by offering to pay for his shirt, but when he hands over a fiver Justine is automatically suspicious.

The reason why he’s flush is quickly established (he’s going to stay with his estranged mother over the weekend). Justine is immediately contrite, but the fact she dithers so long before apologising is a mark of how much their friendship has fractured

Eventually she plucks up enough courage to speak to him, as he’s waiting for his lift. But before she can finish speaking, Andy pops up and acts like a bit of an idiot. In his defence, he didn’t know what was going on (although I doubt he would have cared anyway) but it once again makes you wonder what she sees in him …

The saga of Mr Hargreaves’ missing photo continues apace, although why he’s so intent on recovering a picture of a vintage car remains somewhat baffling. It’s slightly easier to understand why Mr Griffiths is happy to get his missing picture (a shot of a young him in uniform) back – especially if that was his only copy.

The plot then gets a little wooly. Mr Hargreaves, spotting that Mr MacKenzie has a photo (Mr Griffiths’, remember) wonders if it’s his photo (of his car, remember). Rather than asking Mr MacKenzie outright (and seemingly unaware at first that Mr MacKenzie could be found in the CDT room) he ends up rummaging in the bins, believing that his picture may have been thrown away with the other wooden rubbish.

Events are being manipulated by Rod, who has Mauler firmly under his thumb (he’s subcontracted him to get the empty frame). Since Rod also now has Mr Hargreaves’ photo, when he put it together with the frame no doubt he’ll be on a nice little earner. Today’s episode abounds with examples of Rod’s ability to make a profit – getting a bacon sandwich for Mr Hargreaves and then pocketing the change, for example.

Miss Booth’s new hairstyle causes a stir whilst Mr MacKenzie gets a nice scene (rummaging in a junk – sorry, antique – shop for a present for his wife). Even Mrs McClusky is the recipient of a few decent lines today (which is quite a rarity these days) as she ruminates on her early love life.

Aichaa’s dreams of becoming a model are shattered after she’s told she’s not the type. She takes the news quite calmly, deciding that after all it wasn’t the life for her. This seems slightly hard to swallow.

Georgina, who has accompanied her friend, seems much more the type though and may just have a future. Aichaa, after a momentary spasm of annoyance over the way her friend has manipulated her, forgets all about it. This seems slightly hard to swallow.

We meet Tegs’ stepfather for the first time (played by Brian Croucher). Mr Glanville (Croucher) has an uncomfortable discussion with Tegs, due to the boy’s inability to respond. As for Mrs Glanvile (Christina Avery), she has less screentime than her husband, so hardly has the chance to make an impression here.

This should be the conclusion of a long-running storyline (Tegs’ search for his mother) but his attitude all episode long suggests that today’s not the day for happy endings. So it’s no surprise when his mother discovers that he’s left the house via the bedroom window.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Nine

Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 30th January 1990

The episode begins with Akik in full flight. POV shots and dramatic music are to the fore as he desperately races across the playground and down a flight of steps to the basement. His pursuers? The Timpson brothers of course, intent on creating mayhem.

The interesting twist with this scene is that it doesn’t go any further – no sooner have the Timpson duo started to put the frighteners on, than they’re shooed away by Raju (Carl Pizzie) who’s in the company of Natalie, Justine and Becky.

One of those GH pupils who suddenly appears from nowhere (and will vanish just as abruptly in a handful of episodes’ time) Raju is something of an entrepreneurial wide boy. The spirit of Pogo and Gonch lives on.

Pizzie’s performance is best described as average, although given his acting inexperience no doubt it wasn’t easy for him to have been flung into the deep end like this. Still, slightly annoying as Raju is, he pales into insignificance after we meet his older cousin Rikki (Dhirendra).

Raju sees there’s a profit to be made from the girls’ t-shirt printing process and puts them in contact with Rikki who can supply good quality clothes for a cheap price (no questions asked, naturally). Rikki’s character is deftly defined within a matter of seconds – blaring music from his van and the furry dice that dangle from his front mirror tell their own story.

This t-shirt plot has yet to get the pulse racing, although there are some good dramatic moments elsewhere today.  Highlight of the episode is Tegs’ interview with his social worker. It takes place in the social services office, which has an air of quiet desperation (reinforced when the camera tracks past several other unfortunates before locating the office where Tegs is).

Mr Hargreaves has announced the members of his Vigilance Committee – Ted and Trev are in, but several others aren’t. Some, like Robbie, couldn’t care less whilst Mauler quietly seethes at the way he’s been overlooked (a nicely played moment which helps to make up for some of Mauler’s more irritating “comedy” scenes of years gone by).

Ronnie and Calley are also annoyed at being overlooked, which is slightly more surprising – maybe they were looking forward to exercising a little authority? Mind you, given how many sixth-formers there must be in the school, it would stretch credibility to breaking point if they were all drawn from the eight or so speaking regulars in the series.

At long last there’s an article in the local paper about the pub fight. Since a number of days have gone by, I can only assume that news travels very slowly in that part of the world. Mike’s ever-so-slightly frantic, whilst Robbie doesn’t seem to twig at first what he’s on about. This handily allows Mike to explain to the audience exactly what happened. It’s a slightly clumsy scene, but back in the day when all the episodes of a series weren’t available at the touch of a button you had to sometimes bring latecomers up to speed.

A tired and listless Matthew is given a ticking off by Mrs Monroe. She believes he’s been staying up late at night watching movies. Although he doesn’t deny this, he doesn’t confirm it either – and since we know how wretched his home life currently is, it’s possible to draw a different conclusion from his current demeanor. It’s a slight mark against Mrs Monroe that she didn’t actually ask him what the problem was (even though what we know of him from past experience would suggest he’d lie or keep quiet anyway).

Chrissy and Justine begin spray painting their t-shirts in their workshop (a room in the basement found for them by Rod). If the audience were slow on the uptake that the room (lacking windows) was badly ventilated, then the ominous incidental music is there to provide them with a blatant nudge in the right direction.

And wouldn’t you know it? Just as the girls begin to find the fumes overpowering, the Timpson brothers return and lock them in. The discovery of Chrissy and Justine’s unconscious bodies provides the episode with its cliffhanger.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Eight

Written by David Angus. Tx 26th January 1990

Although a few other plots bubble along today, this is very much Ronnie’s episode – something that’s reinforced by the way it opens and closes with her (and on both occasions she’s in a tearful mood).

We begin with a camera pan around her bedroom. She’s lying in bed whilst the clock radio burbles out the jolly sounds of Radio 1 (a cover version of Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World). The choice of song is a nicely ironic one, as the viewer processes the fact that every inch of wall space is taken up with posters protesting at animal cruelty.

Coming downstairs to breakfast, she discovers a budgie in a cage. Her mother explains that they’re looking after it for a neighbour who’s had to go into hospital.  Ronnie instinctively goes to release it, but Mrs Birtles tells her not to – as the bird is happy in the cage. This moment of tension passes without Ronnie being able to articulate why she disagrees with this viewpoint, which in some ways is the episode’s theme – she wants to help all animals, but can’t find a way to do so.

Ronnie learns, via a chance meeting on the way to school with a couple of girls from St Mary’s, that they still dissect animals in their biology classes.  This reveal is done in a rather clumsy way – Calley happens to bump into a couple of St Mary’s girls she’s friendly with (although we’ve never seen them before) and the talk instantly turns to their biology lessons.

Grange Hill no longer uses animals in their classes, although they did in the past (series seven, for example). Possibly we’re missing a trick here – had Ronnie suddenly launched a crusade to stamp out this sort of thing in her own school it would have had more of a dramatic punch.

The scene we do have is still effective though. Ronnie storms over to St Mary’s, wanders through the corridors and finally finds the biology class  – whereupon she crashes in and hands out leaflets, to the bemusement of the pupils and the simmering anger of the teacher.

Few of the St Mary’s pupils seem that interested (although a few look slightly bashful). Possibly this because they don’t care or it might be that they don’t want to rock the boat – their grades mattering more to them than a handful of dissected animals.

This failure to connect only deepens Ronnie’s gloom and she goes off to wander up and down the high street, with seemingly every window (a butchers, a shop selling genuine leather handbags) causing her further pain.

In other news, we meet Mr Bentley (David Cann) for the first time.  Given the way he’s been talked about in the past, it’s no surprise that he’s totally single-minded where his son is concerned – treating Mike more like a machine than a human being. The affable Mr Robson (someone who’s never been that keen on ultra-competitive sports) is polite, but his real feelings are expressed by the various faces he pulls as Mr Bentley drones on and on.

There’s a chance to dig a little deeper into Neil Timpson’s character. Caught by Mrs Monroe with a video nasty (the rather tame looking Ninja Demon) she has a friendly chat with him in detention about his home life, which possibly helps to explain his poor attitude at school.

It’s once again noticeable how sidelined a figure Mrs McClusky has become. Once upon a time she would have been the one to argue about budgets and funding with the likes of Miss Booth and Mr MacKenzie, but these days she’s perfectly happy to delegate that sort of job to Mr Hargreaves. This is all well and good, but it does mean she rarely has the opportunity to tackle any dramatic scenes.

Having said that, today’s episode slightly bucks the trend as she provides Ronnie with a shoulder to cry on.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Seven

Written by Kay Trainer. Tx 23rd January 1990

Neil and Barry Timpson continue to provide a service of low-level irritation for their fellow pupils, something which they’ve been doing since the start of the year. Neither have yet to emerge as rounded characters (Neil never really would, as John Pickard jumped ship from GH to 2 point 4 children the following year).

Today they briefly sling a racial epithet Akik’s way, which infuriates Jacko (and to a lesser extent, Brian and Locko). These four are also rather underdeveloped at present, with Jacko (by dint of the fact he owns a troublesome dog and is always ridiculously cheerful) the most memorable at this point in the series.

Quite why Jacko should be so defensive of Akik is a slight mystery – presumably he’s just keen to get one over on the Timpson brothers and Akik has provided him with a good excuse. The selected method of revenge – chucking Mr Robson’s climbing net over them – isn’t one of those scenes to get the pulse racing, but it passes a few minutes fairly agreeably.

The best moment in the episode featuring Jacko, Brian and Locko occurs when Mrs Monroe spies them acting suspiciously. “Freeze like trees” she says – and they do …

Mr Griffiths is getting the hang of his dubiously acquired computer (thanks to Akik’s tutelage). Given the delighted way Mr Griffiths reacts to his new found tech skills, it seems rather sad that, unless he can come up with a plan, he’ll have to hand it over to Mr MacKenzie.

Elsewhere in the episode, already established plot-threads continue to bubble away. Mike and Robbie mention the fight yet again (and yet again they’re scouring the paper for news and coming up with nothing, which reassures them). Tegs and Justine have their latest difference of opinion – she’s convinced he’s spying on her (which he denies). Although later he does go and spy on her anyway. Matthew’s family fortunes continue to decline (it looks like they’ll be forced to sell their house).

Georgina tells the others that she’s seen Calley’s boyfriend (who she estimates to be forty!). Calley tells them that he’s only twenty four and that, yes, they are sleeping together. Ronnie pulls a disapproving face (similar to the one she pulled earlier in the episode when she spied meat being dished out in the canteen). Is Ronnie jealous or is she worried that Calley will end up being hurt by someone who’s simply using her? I’d say it was the latter.

Aichaa’s got some good news – her photo will be printed in the next issue of Just Seventeen, plus they’ve given her a cheque for £20. It’s fair to say that the stare Georgina gives her is decidedly on the icy side.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Six

Written by Kay Trainer. Tx 19th January 1990

Mike kicks off the episode sporting a very silly hat. He hasn’t lost his mind (well not completely) as this is his idea of a disguise. Mike is still fretting that they’ll be some comeback from the pub fight, so he’s keen to keep a low profile.

Of course, Georgina would have to come walking down the street just as he’s leaving the leisure centre with his tremendous tifter. What does he do? As befits a star athlete he runs away ….

Georgina, Calley and Ronnie meet up. Ronnie’s still fuming that Calley used her as an alibi to explain her all-night adventure (Ronnie is certainly a girl who knows how to hold a grudge). Bad feeling between the pair is still bubbling away then, although things calm down a little when the threesome go to look for some new cosmetics.

Although Ronnie’s been interested in animal rights since the start of series 13, it’s only today – when she’s given a leaflet about the testing of cosmetics on animals – that she appears to decide that this sort of thing is a very bad thing indeed. Calley half-heartedly agrees to boycott the offending shop, but Georgina sneakily still buys some of the make-up.

There’s something rather topical about the way Miss Booth despairs over her ever-shrinking art budget. Things are now so tight she’s been forced to re-use scraps of paper, which is hardly ideal.  The fact that Mr Hargreaves is able to fit out a new office with an up to date computer only sticks in her craw even more.  Clearly Mr Hargreaves is one of those people who believes the arts mean very little (presumably because they don’t turn a profit – or at least not one that he can quantify).

Mr Hargreaves’ old computer (a BBC B by the look of it) is snaffled by Mr Griffiths, who seems entranced with it. Taking it back to his office, he delightedly pushes a few buttons, although as yet he doesn’t seem to realise that it works better with a monitor ….

Mr Hargreaves’ crusade to stamp out unauthorised photo-copying continues. Both Mr Robson and Mrs Monroe are seen to have grabbed a few sneaky personal copies (although Ronnie and Calley are rather pushing things by running off 150 copies of anti-vivisection leaflets). Mr Hargreaves isn’t too pleased when he catches the guilty pair.

Ronnie and Calley join an animal rights demo outside the shop. Things get a little rowdy, especially after Ronnie daubs the shop window with red paint. I think she can count herself lucky that Mrs McClusky happened to be passing and was able to intercede with the police (although annoyingly we aren’t witness to that moment).

Mike and Georgina go on a date to the movies. Mike, a Western fan, is engrossed by the film whilst Georgina (looking round at the other couples getting rather friendly) sighs longingly. So Mike – a boy who’s slow on the uptake – doesn’t take up her blatant offer of a cuddle.

Later, when they head to the café for a coffee, Georgina spies Calley kissing a man. This closing scene confirms that Calley’s interested in men not boys, but it’s mainly interesting for the reactions of Mike and Georgina. He looks a little downcast whilst Georgina (who you might have expected to be shocked) responds with an enigmatic smile. She seems to be wondering why Mike isn’t kissing her in that way (or indeed, any way at all).

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Five

Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 16th January 1990

Some of the events from the previous episode are briefly touched upon. Robbie remains anxious about the pub fight (fretting that the man was badly injured) although Mike seems blithely unconcerned. Aichaa and Georgina are more than happy with their glamour photos while Ronnie is still seething at Calley (more than a little displeased at being used as an alibi to explain Calley’s all-night absence).

Mr Hankin takes the third-years down to the canal. As you might expect it’s a slightly chaotic trip, although the reassuring presence of Mr MacKenzie means that events don’t spiral out of control. Although Mr Hankin does receive a certain amount of teasing, there’s also frustration from the likes of Chrissy – who doesn’t understand exactly what they have to do and why, thanks to Mr Hankin’s rather vague utterances.

The trip also allows Tegs and Justine to have yet another argument, which leaves both of them frustrated. Later, they both pour out their troubles (Tegs to Matthew, Justine to Andy). This episode allows us to take the first proper look at Andy – who doesn’t impress. Not only does he come across as a jealous type (convinced that Justine and Tegs have a closer bond than mere friendship) he’s more than happy to leave Justine hanging when Trev breezes in with the offer of taking part in a card school.

Rod, of course, is running the card school – snugly ensconced in the caretaker’s office, with mugs of tea all round (although he won’t allow Mauler to smoke!).  Given that Mr Griffiths has previously been portrayed as a man who loves his office, it’s a little surprising that Rod feels so comfortable (although maybe Mr G, incensed at the presence of the younger man, has decided to work just a little harder – hence his more regular absences).

The lunchtime disco is in full swing, although they could do with getting some more up to date records (Always on my Mind by the Pet Shop Boys was heard drifting out of the door). And I was intrigued to see that the disco ran from 12.15 pm to 2.00 pm. That’s a very generous lunch hour, unless the school operates split meal breaks.

The key part of the second half of the episode revolves around Tegs and Matthew’s attempt to steal a photograph from Mr Griffiths’ office. Matthew is depressed about his home life, so Tegs decides that stealing the photo will cheer him up (hmmm).  We haven’t seen any criminal activity from Tegs for a while, so I did wonder if that character trait had been quietly written out, but today’s episode confirms otherwise.

Tegs has a touch of the Artful Dodger about him as he corrupts the innocent Matthew (Oliver). This whole plot doesn’t really go anywhere though – they drop the picture and break the frame, steal another frame from Mr Hargreaves’ office and return the picture with the new frame to Mr Griffiths’ office. Something of a waste of time then ….

The subplot of Mrs Monroe locked in the stationery cupboard did raise a smile though.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Four

Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 12th January 1990

Mr Hargeaves is still obsessing over the unauthorised photocopier use. Today he’s targeting Miss Booth – convinced that she knows more about the numerous animal rights posters dotted around the school than she’s letting on. She doesn’t of course, and his none-too-subtle probing only serves to irritate her all the more.

Mrs Monroe, present when he begins another round of questioning, warns her to “be careful, he’ll be taking your fingerprints next”.  Indeed, Mrs Monroe is the recipient of most of the best lines today – when the still trustingly innocent Mr Hankin tells her that he’s going to take a group of third years to the canal, she comments that “there’s one or two little heads in that year that I might be tempted to hold under the water a fraction too long”.

She also does terrible things to Mr Hankin’s tie – it’s wrapped around a dog’s neck and then dipped into custard – although she blithely tells him that it’ll perk up with a damp iron! Plus there’s the moment where she gives Mr Griffiths a brief restorative shoulder rub (a busy episode for her today then).

There’s a nice moment of continuity as Deirdre Costello makes her fourth and final appearance as Mrs Donnington (she was previously seen in both series eight and eleven). Her short scene kicks off another plot-thread in a rather off-hand way – Mrs Donnington casually complains that she was slightly worried when Calley stayed out all night. You might have expected there to be much more panic on Mrs Donnington’s behalf – so her resigned calmness suggests Calley is now a frequent absentee.

Calley’s excuse (she was spending the night with Ronnie) sounds rather feeble and when Robbie later spies her getting into a man’s car for a night out, all the pieces seem to be fitting together.

Georgina and Aichaa decide to enter a modelling competition and as luck would have it, Georgina knows a local photographer so high quality photos will be no problem. Ronnie looks on – content to observe but not participate – although she’s told that she could be a decent girl next door type. Flattering with faint praise there ….

Julie continues to be something of a wet lettuce, blubbing after forgetting her sports kit (she wails that she’ll be forced to do games in her underwear).  Becky and Alice offer verbal support (and Becky manages to find her a spare kit) but the message seems plain – Julie needs to toughen up or she’s not going to survive at Grange Hill.

The episode ends with a fight in a pub involving Robbie and Mike, which is another new plot-thread that will run and run. Mike, anxious not to get involved in any trouble, accidentally trips over an injured man but his action is interpreted as a hostile one. The whole scene is rather confusing, mainly because we’re only ever told about the injuries inflicted (it’s obvious why a children’s series would steer clear of graphic violence, but it does rather rob the moment of any impact).

The last scene – Robbie, having thrown a few punches during the melee, is approached outside the pub by a well-dressed man who compliments him on the way he handled himself – is a more ominous one though.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Three

Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 9th January 1990

Today’s episode opens with a race against time – Ronnie and Calley are using the school photocopier to run off more anti-vivisection posters, but Mr Hargreaves is getting ever closer to them ….

As the photocopier keeps ticking away agonisingly slowly, will they be able to escape before he catches them? Well yes. But he does find a warm photocopier, which sends him scurrying to the log to see who last used the machine. The total cost is probably just a drop in the ocean, but it’s plain that every penny counts for him.

I’m a bit baffled as to why the staff-room (where the photocopier is located) was unlocked. That just seems to be asking for trouble.

After a few years during which the teaching staff became fairly negligible characters, it’s interesting to observe that we’re entering an era where they become much more central again. Today that’s highlighted by an entertaining staff room meeting where Mr Hargreaves holds court to an air of general apathy.

Chief apathetic is Mrs Monroe, who masks her dislike of the man with an air of polite brutality. Mr Hargreaves has now emerged as a thrusting Thatcherite figure – eagerly espousing concepts such as economy and image, worrying about how Grange Hill is seen in the marketplace and attempting to find ways to provide good value for their consumers (i.e. the parents). He rounds off his speech with a rallying cry of “traditional values”.

Mrs Monroe later attempts to give him what he wants – a school song sung in Latin by R1 (her “empty-headed vessels” as she delightfully calls them). This leads to a nice beat of tension between the pair as he correctly assumes that she’s mocking him. Mr Hargreaves is a very different character from Mr Bronson then, but I’d say the change has done the series good.

Elsewhere, Mike and Georgina start to get a little closer, although this means that he misses his lunchtime training session (much to Robbie’s chagrin, who’s been working out on his own). Mr Hargreaves is displeased with Mike’s lack of application – as a star athlete he brings prestige to the school but without this skill he’s nothing.

Although Mr Hargreaves has been set up as a somewhat pompous and comic character (today he receives his nickname “Mad Max”) moments like this are illuminating. His single-minded drive to raise the profile of the school means that he has little interest in the pupils as people – only in what they can deliver for Grange Hill’s greater glory.

We also find out that Justine’s boyfriend is called Andy and that Rod is an extremely sharp type. Pretending to Trevor that he can’t play darts and then fleecing him in a money game isn’t very friendly.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode Two

Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 5th January 1990

Many things have altered at Grange Hill over the years, but Mrs McClusky remains the one fixed point in a changing age. At the start of today’s episode she’s quite taken with young Rod – who’s been able to repair her chair in double quick time (she makes her delight plain by spinning around a few times!)

Mr Griffiths can’t help but harrumph at the speed at which his young deputy has been able to attend to certain jobs. This is anathema to Mr Griffiths, who prefers to mull everything rather slowly (preferably with a nice cup of tea). Rods’s ability to get things done in double-quick time leaves Mr Griffiths feeling rather threatened – so he seeks reassurance from Mrs McClusky.

But it’s Mr Hargreaves who sets his mind at rest in a lovely little scene where he outrageously plays on the caretaker’s vanity (telling him that young Rodney needs the guidance of an older, more experienced man). Give George A. Cooper the comic material and he’ll never let you down.

As for Mr Hargreaves, he comes into sharper comic focus today. The new Deputy Head is emerging as a cheerfully single-minded type – he’s someone quite prepared to ride roughshod over everyone else whilst remaining convinced that it’s all for their own benefit. Efficiency is his watchword – at one point he regrets that the pupils don’t have numbers (which suggests he sees them as work units, rather than people).

Tegs and Justine give Mr Hankin a rather rough time in his science class, although that’s more to do with their on-going issues than any particular dislike for him. Tegs continues to fume that Justine has the temerity to go out with someone (whilst at the same time refusing to accept that he’s at all romantically interested in her). Hmm ….

Mrs Monroe has no such problems controlling her class – she’s more than able to hold R1 in the palm of her hand. From her first scene onwards she’s presented as an inspirational and left-field sort of teacher – whatever else she is, Mrs Monroe is certainly a one-off.

Anna Quayle had quite the career (A Hard Day’s Night, The Avengers, Basil Brush and Brideshead Revisited, to name just a few of her credits) before pulling into the harbour of Grange Hill, which turned out to be her last major television role.

Grange Hill. Series Thirteen – Episode One

Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 2nd January 1990

A new year, a new decade and a new producer (Albert Barber). All of which means that it’s easy to spot that the series has undergone a subtle revamp. There’s a new theme tune and opening titles for starters, which was a positive move – it’s good to see the series moving forward, rather than clinging onto the past with yet another regigged version of ‘Chicken Man’.

There’s also an influx of new characters – both pupils and teachers. Most make an appearance here, even if some (Mrs Monroe) don’t speak. Mr Hankin (Lee Cornes) has slightly more to work with – his debut scene (scrabbling on the floor for his textbooks, knocked over by an unruly pupil) is a deft shorthand move. He seems affable enough, but this moment marks him out as someone who will find class management a problem.

Mr Hargreaves (Kevin O’Shea), the new deputy head, seems to have no such problems on that score. Right from this first episode there seems plenty of scope to develop his character. Slightly surprising that O’Shea’s television career has been fairly limited (with only two regular roles – GH and The Gentle Touch).

The way Mr Hargreaves deflates Mr Griffiths’ affronted pomposity is very nicely played, as is his later encounter with Mauler. In time-honoured fashion, Mauler is changing the direction of the arrow on the blackboard, thereby attempting to confuse the first years. Luckily, Mr Hargreaves catches him and subjects the six-former to a lengthy and impassioned speech. Which impresses Mauler not one little bit ….

Mauler (unfortunately) doesn’t seem to have grown as a person since last year (ditto Trevor and Robbie – who are both as irritating as ever). Ted seems a little better adjusted though.

It’s always melancholy to witness the debut of actors (such as Jamie Lehane, playing Jacko) who have passed away. Although substantial plotlines in this first episode are conspicuous by their absence, Jacko’s misadventures with his pet dog (who’s roaming the school corridors, searching for his master) do provide some low-level comic relief.

Natalie Stevens (Julie Buckfield), is one of those characters who we are invited to believe has always been in the school (just out of shot for the last two years). Ditto René Zagger as Mike Bentley, although maybe he’s slightly more of a new arrival. Positioned as something of a heartthrob (and an athletics ace to boot) it’s plain he’s got his eye on Georgina.

Most contrived moment of the episode concerns Justine and Tegs. We see Justine waiting for someone – who else could it be but Tegs? That’s what we’ve been primed to expect (especially as when he appears, she smiles and moves towards him). But no … she walks on by (totally blanking him) and into the arms of another boy. Eek!

There’s plenty more plot-threads established – the loneliness of new-girl Julie Corrigan (Margo Selby), Aichaa’s (Veena Tulsiani) reluctance to hang around with her much younger brother Akik (Sundeep Suri), the arrival of shifty deputy caretaker Rod (Wayne Norman), Matthew’s straightened financial circumstances and Ronnie’s growing obsession with animal rights.

Phew! Hopefully now these have all been established they can be tackled in a less fragmentary way as the series continues. Time will tell.

Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Twenty

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Written by David Angus. Tx 10th March 1989

It’s the day of the prom and Ziggy and Georgina still haven’t got dates. This is an odd one, since it’s already been established several times throughout the series that they have a case of mutual attraction. Maybe the idea was to spin out the will they/wont they tension (i.e. will they/won’t they have a dance) right until the end of the episode.  Goodness knows why, as it’s hardly edge of the seat stuff.

Nothing of note really happens in this episode – it’s more a case of deriving enjoyment from small character moments.

Several revolve around the departure of Mr Bronson.  When he, Mr Griffiths, Miss Booth and Mrs McClusky are gathered together, the naturally garrulous Mr Griffiths can’t help but blurt out the clearly heartfelt sentiment that everyone will miss him.

That leaves a slightly awkward pause, with Mrs McClusky feeling duty bound to say something (“we wish you luck”) even if she can’t bring herself to agree with Mr Griffiths.  Mr Bronson responds with “you are very kind” and walks away without looking at her. That’s a perfect summation of their always icy relationship.

Later, Mr Bronson is called to the stage to receive his present (a strippogram who doesn’t actually strip – well this is kid’s tv).  He then makes a short and emotional speech in which maybe more of Michael Sheard than Mr Bronson was peeking through ….

So Ziggy is off, back to Liverpool. He at least gets a chance to say goodbye – Gonch, Mandy, Fiona, Vince and Susi also all bow out, but don’t have leaving scenes.

Gonch and Mandy have both scrubbed up very nicely – Gonch in his tux (which is later mangled by Mauler) and Mandy in a ballgown complete with tiara (her transformation from early series wallflower to prom beauty is therefore complete). Fiona doesn’t have much to do today, but then she’s been underused all year – which means that the loss of her character from the series will barely cause a ripple.

We get to meet Vince’s dad (played by Christopher Driscoll) for the first and last time. He gives Vince and some of the others a lift to the prom – although he could only run to a mini, rather than a limo.

Robbie’s date is finally revealed – it’s Ms Beatley from the radio. There’s a stunned reaction to this, which is fair enough (surely she’s a little old to be playing around with schoolboys?) Robbie, of course, is incredibly smug about it all – but then he’s been very smackable all year long.

The inevitable confrontation between Mauler and Trev (there can be only one Rambo, remember) is thankfully diffused when Mr Robson also comes dressed in the same garb. Indeed, the fancy dress aspect is one of the episode’s pleasures – especially spotting some of the odder costumes worn by the extras.

This was Ronald Smedley’s fourth and final year as producer. Covering the period from Christmas 1985 onwards, there were some highs along the way (Zammo’s heroin addiction) and some pretty dispiriting lows (Harriet the donkey).

Indeed, although Smedley’s producership started quite brightly in 1986 (possibly inheriting material from Ben Rhea’s brief time as producer?) GH hasn’t been firing on all cylinders for a while, which suggests that a change of producer was overdue. Albert Barber would be in the chair from series thirteen to sixteen – a period when Grange Hill began to pick up momentum again ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Nineteen

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Written by David Angus. Tx 7th March 1989

The fund-raising for the prom is almost complete. That’s happened in double quick time – in series gone by you would have expected this to be a running plotline for some time (with sponsored events, etc). Given that elsewhere this year we’ve had the odd hint that life in the real world can be hard, the fact that an all expenses paid end of year bash can be put on with no apparent struggle sends out a strange sort of message ….

The pupils have only collected a fairly paltry fifteen pounds for Mr Bronson’s leaving present (out of a thousand potential donors).  You might have expected a few more to have chipped in, especially as he’s still acting in an unpredictably friendly manner.

I like the fact that the staff seem to have forgotten to do their own collection until the girls – Georgina, Helen, Fiona – reminded them. Judging by the number of notes in the jam jar they’ve all been quite generous in double-quick time – although this seems to be more out of politeness than love. Mr Robson, for example, suggests they buy him a copy of Hitler’s memoirs, although he worries that it may be too light! I wonder if this was an in-joke based around Michael Sheard’s multiple turns as the Fuhrer.

The way that Mr Bronson, upon entering the staff room, spots the collection in Mr MacKenzies hand and instantly makes a donation, without even asking what it’s for, is another obvious pointer that he’s a changed man. A slight pity we didn’t have a whole year of this new, improved Mr Bronson. That could have worked well in story terms (especially if the old Mr B came bubbling to surface every now and again).

Vince is furious because Trevor used his (Vince’s) name when rubbishing the standard of school meals on the recent radio report. This is an odd little moment, mainly because it’s so obviously Trev’s voice that I can’t see how anyone would think otherwise for even a moment

Vince is keen to extract his revenge and so persuades Trev to dress as Rambo for the prom. You’ll never guess, but Mauler will be going as Rambo and won’t be at all happy to meet a pretender. It seems crushingly obvious what will happen, but maybe for once it’ll be something less than totally predictable (I’m not holding my breath though).

Tegs’ quest to find his mother leads him and Justine halfway across London to an address where she used to live. She isn’t there anymore and the woman in residence doesn’t have a forwarding address.  The way the always outwardly tough Tegs crumples in distress on the bus ride home, resting his head on Justine’s shoulder, is a touching moment that plays in contrast to the rest of the episode (which is rather lacking in this sort of subtlety).

It’s interesting that Ziggy casually mentions he won’t be returning to Grange Hill next year and even more interesting that nobody really reacts. Still, at least his departure has been foregrounded a little – today’s episode sees Clarke make his final appearance, although there’s no great goodbye from him. His last words are a fairly feeble gag about the new mosaic.

Still, wherever he’s gone, I hope he managed to hang onto his bike.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Eighteen

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Written by Sarah Daniels. Tx 3rd March 1989

A reporter from the local radio station, Paula Beatley (Barbara Durkin, probably best known for her regular role in I’m Alan Partridge), is in the school, which causes both Mr Bronson and Gonch to go into overdrive ….

It’s noticeable that the comedy gets ramped up in this episode, and it works very well (there are some genuine laugh out loud moments).  They centre around the continuing efforts of both Mr Bronson and Gonch to get a moment alone with Ms Beatley. Gonch, of course, wants to chat about his dating service but I’m not entirely sure why Mr Bronson is so keen for a chat, that’s never elaborated upon.

Maybe he’s just smitten with her? The way he holds her hand when Mrs McClusky reluctantly introduces him is a case in point (he doesn’t shake it, just clings onto it for dear life).  After the heaviness of the Danny Kendall storyline, it’s surprising how quickly Mr Bronson has been transformed into an object of comic relief – today he’s capering around the school, always one step behind Ms Beatley.

The most notable comedy amount occurs when Mr Bronson pokes his head through a row of books in the library. There’s just something about this image (and the expression on Michael Sheard’s face) which tickles my funny bone.

As for Gonch, every time he gets close to Ms Beatley he finds himself apprehended by Mauler. Or Mauler’s just about to pulverise him when Ms Beatley comes into view. Either way, Gonch never gets a chance to explain about the dating scheme (Ziggy and Robbie gazump him on that score).

There are several reasons why Mauler’s never been in the Gripper class of bully. Partly because Mauler has mostly been played for laughs, but also because we’ve never really seen him attack anyone in the way that Gripper would (gleefully kicking Roland around, for example).

So when Mauler gives a piece of dough a good hammering (explaining to Ted exactly what he’s going to do to Gonch) you just know that we’re not going to see anything really happen – this bakery substitute will have to do. Mauler later corners Gonch and threatens to stick a whisk “straight up where the sun don’t shine”. Cripes, that’s a bit rude, although this painful image is quickly diffused when Mauler explains that he means his left nostril. Something of a cop-out ….

Robbie is rather smitten with Ms Beatley. By the smug grin on his face you can tell that the lad thinks he’s pulled.

The quest to find Tegs’ mother begins to pick up speed whilst I’m cautiously optimistic to report that we can finally put the saga of Clarke’s missing bike to bed. After all this time it’s drawn to an odd (and rather oddly directed) conclusion.

It looks like the bike was pinched by a vicar’s son. He doesn’t react when Clarke goes racing up to the vicarage window and plonks down a bugging device, allowing us to hear the conversation between vicar and son (a bit of a cop-out). Neither does the lad show any emotion when Clarke wheels the bike away. After so many episodes you could be forgiven for expecting a little bit more, but let’s not grumble otherwise the bike might get stolen again.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Seventeen

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Written by Sarah Daniels. Tx 28th February 1989

It’s revealed that Mr Griffiths was single-handedly able to subdue the intruder (well, after Ziggy, Robbie, Mauler and Ted all went screaming off into the night he had no choice).  The mystery individual is now safely locked up in Mrs McClusky’s office – although the rumour has still spread like wildfire that it’s actually a ghost.

No, I don’t think this is terribly plausible either. It certainly stretches credibility to breaking point to see Robbie and Ziggy continuing to believe in supernatural occurrences (I know they’re not supposed to be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but still).

Thankfully we don’t have long to wait before the truth is put out there – a former classmate of Zammo’s, Gareth (Adrian Jeckells), has been forced to sleep rough in the school. There’s an obvious missed opportunity here as the storyline would have had a great deal more impact had the sleeper been a Grange Hill old boy we’d previously met – Zammo, Kevin, Banksey, etc.

That way, the brief tale of his life post GH would have carried a great deal more resonance.  But there’s still a certain weight to this scene – in earlier years it was suggested that life after school could be hard, but it’s never been spelt out in quite this fashion. It certainly makes you stop and wonder which of the current crop of pupils might find themselves in a similar position a few years down the line.

Gareth’s current choices seem limited, with no hostel accommodation available (plus he’s too old to be taken into care).  But Mr Bronson comes riding to the rescue (another sign of his recent change of personality) as he tells Mrs McClusky that Gareth can stay with himself and his sister on a temporary basis.

You have to say that Tegs is probably the most likely candidate to find himself on the streets once his time at Grange Hill is over. But for now he’s landed on his feet – fostered in a comfortable and welcoming home where he’s treated very well. But as he confides to Justine, there’s still something missing – the love of his real mother.  This sets us up nicely for a decent storyline – Tegs’ search for his mother.

Elsewhere, Clarke and Matthew are still on the trail of Clarke’s missing bike (I’m getting rather tired of typing that). Their next lead is a vicar (don’t ask) but they’re unable to follow him after he hops onto a bus. Tune in next time for the next thrilling installment ….

Helen’s knuckling down to some serious study, intent on getting the grades she needs for her engineering course. This leaves Georgina feeling a little sidelined, as she just wants to have fun.  Poor Georgina has had the short end of the character stick this year – either she’s been mauled by Trev or has had to suffer Ziggy’s faltering line in seduction. Either way it’s not been much of a role.

As I work my through through series twelve, I’ve pondered a few times about whether the standard of plotting had fallen over the last few years or if the audience is supposed to pick up instantly the way certain plots would develop. The blind date between Mauler and Big Tel is a case in point.

As soon as Big Tel’s name was mentioned, followed by the appearance of Mauler slapping his date form down, my senses began to prickle. That was certainly enough for me, although for those not paying attention everything was sledgehammered home later (Gonch has a dating slip from a Mau …., who likes cooking. It has to be a girl of course, so it must be Maureen).

Things wind their way to their inevitable comic conclusion, although as this is the last time we see Big Tel it looks as if Mauler will need to seek retribution from Ziggy, Robbie, et al all by himself next time.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Sixteen

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 24th February 1989

Mr Bronson appears to have undergone a change on several different fronts today. Not only does he tell Tegs (who’s still in care) that he hopes his run of bad luck will change soon, he also gives Trev a tenner towards the prom (Mandy quickly takes the note into protective custody).

A ripple of heated discussion has already gone around the fifth formers about Mr B – mainly concerned with the fact that he’s no longer wearing “it”. The attentive viewer will no doubt have already worked out what “it” is. The way Mr Bronson’s early scenes were framed exclusively on his lower half was a bit of a giveaway on that score ….

Yes, he’s now sans hairpiece. With immaculate timing, Mr Bronson saunters over to Trev and mutters that “it’s at the cleaners, Cleaver” in response to the unasked question.  Easy to imagine that Michael Sheard relished that little moment.

Helen continues to find that things are hard at the factory. Although there’s a happy ending to her time there (she gets valuable experience on the machines after she points out that Neil used the wrong drill-bit, thereby costing the company a small fortune) the most interesting part of this storyline was her earlier discussion with Mr Aldridge.

He shows Helen the computer room again and commiserates with her about the fact she’s had a tough time. The scene initially seems to be suggesting that Helen, as a woman, probably shouldn’t have been at the sharp end anyway and a nice, comfortable office job with the computers would be the best thing for her.

But that’s not the case. Mr Aldridge continues by bemoaning the fact that there simply wasn’t the time to train her to do anything useful (which isn’t their fault, it’s more to do with the way the placements are designed). This is a subtle but definite strike against the government, which was a little surprising to see (the series had been quite political in its early years, not so much recently).

Mandy and Gonch, in order to prove to Ziggy and Robbie that their computer dating questionnaire was hopelessly flawed, have arranged a blind date for Robbie and a lucky young lady (selected by the computer at random).  Robbie believes he’ll be stepping out with Emma Thompson (not that one) but he’s going to be disappointed. Can you guess who the computer believes is his perfect mate? Although the mystery is strung out for a little while, it should come as absolutely no surprise to learn that Calley is the (un)lucky girl.

Neither are delighted.

The episode ends with a mob – Ziggy, Robbie, Mauler, Ted, Mr Griffiths – chasing round the school at night, all intent on finding the intruder.  This may not be the most engaging storyline ever (thankfully though it hasn’t lingered quite as long as the saga of Clarke’s missing bike) but it’s just about worth it for George A. Cooper’s weary expressions of resignation.

You can tell that Mr Griffiths was looking forward to a nice quiet evening tracking the culprit down all by himself. But that went for a burton once the boys turned up as now it’s all hollering and a general testosterone overload.

The episode ends with Mr Griffiths running straight into the mystery man or woman. But in current time-honoured GH fashion (stretch those plotlines to breaking point, why don’t you) we don’t see who it is. Fingers crossed that next time this not-very-interesting mystery will be solved.

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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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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Fourteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 17th February 1989

Gonch and Mandy’s relationship hits a slightly rocky bump after he asks to borrow a fiver. That he does so immediately after giving her a birthday present can be marked down as very bad timing indeed.

She soon bounces back though and is full of ideas (whether they’re good or not is debatable). She muses on the possibility of Grange Hill throwing an American style Prom (do we have Grange Hill to blame for introducing this horror to the UK?) whilst she doesn’t think much of Gonch’s computer homework scheme. Mandy believes that computer dating will be a much more profitable venture ….

The episode has some incidental pleasures, most notably the revelation that Mauler is afraid of cows. Maybe one mooed at him when he was a small lad. Whatever the reason, when a group of bovines begin to stare at him in a threatening way, he falls over (straight into a cowpat). Shame.

The main dramatic beat of the episode is Trev’s fall and rise. It’s lunchtime and Trev’s drunk once again, so the well-meaning Vince and Fiona leave him to sleep it off behind a rock on the beach. The only problem is that the tide quickly goes out and before Trev knows what’s happening he’s been swept out to sea with only a rubber tyre for company.

Mr Bronson (lovely bobble hat, sir) has nipped into town to a local estate agent, clearly keen on buying a holiday (or retirement?) home. But the main reason for this scene becomes clear when the estate agent has to quickly proffer his apologies and leave – he’s one of the lifeboat crew.

Having the cooperation of RNLI Bembridge helps to give this part of the story considerable verisimilitude, as we follow the crew each step of the way – from the launching of the lifeboat to the rescue of a rather sodden Trev.

Sometimes Grange Hill‘s moral messages were subtle, other times they were rather forcibly hammered home.  Today’s is a rather forcible one, as a deeply contrite Trev promises to lay off the booze from now on.

Recovering in the dorm, Helen pays him a visit and the pair have a measured and quiet conversation. For Trevor this is something of a novelty, since he’s been unpleasant and bolshy for so long. To hear him speak with a measure of self awareness was certainly unexpected, but if a near death experience couldn’t shake him up, then I daresay nothing could.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Thirteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 14th February 1989

The fifth formers are off to the Isle of Wight, although Trev’s trip gets off to a bad start after Mr Mackenzie discovers his not so secret stash of beer. Initially I thought Trev was being cunning by hiding it in Vince’s bag, but it seems that their labels were just mixed up. Which leaves Vince shouldering the blame and Trev wondering where the next off licence might be ….

Mandy arrives without her glasses (she’s trying out a pair of contact lenses). Gonch, who’s been interested in her anyway, perks up even more at this new, improved model. Quite what message this gives out to spectacle wearers I’m not sure, but it’s not really a positive one.

After learning that it’s Mandy’s birthday tomorrow, Gonch is desperate to buy her a present. He has a brief window of opportunity – ten minutes – before the ferry departs, so nips off rather smartish to the shops.  He doesn’t make it back in time though and so the ferry sails without him.

Odd that he didn’t think that the ferry (or indeed the island) might have a suitable present. There’s no real damage done though as Gonch – ever resourceful – simply hops onto the next catamaran and then takes a taxi to the outdoor centre. Mr Mackenzie, left behind to locate the missing boy, is far less impressed with Gonch’s antics.

If Gonch and Mandy are drawing ever closer, then Calley and Robbie seem to be somewhat fracturing. His attempt to place a friendly hand on her leg meets with icy disapproval (Robbie, of course, reacts in the only way he knows how – he gets angry).  I can’t really blame Calley, I think she’d be well shot of him.

Ronnie now goes into extra catty mode whenever Gonch and Mandy appear whilst the fine Isle of Wight air seems to have done Mr Bronson the world of good. He’s very avuncular, particularly with Joan Hamilton (Rita Davies), the head of the outdoor centre. Indeed he’s so smitten that he even elects to take a dip with her in what clearly is a rather chilly swimming pool. Love knows no greater sacrifice than that.

There’s another school party nearby and it doesn’t take Calley and the other girls long before they’ve got very pally with the boys. Can you guess how Robbie reacts to this? Yes, he’s pretty much apoplectic. Some geezer trying to steal his bird? They’re taking real liberties.

I like the way Trev keeps buying beer and Vince keeps throwing it away. Especially when Vince starts to mess with Trev’s mind by telling him that he must have drunk it all and then forgotten! Poor old Trev’s so addled at this point that he might even begin to believe it.

Another of those mysteries which never really was a mystery is solved. Trev was the one sending Georgina notes, so she decides to take offensive action – giving him a good kicking. Presumably she’s picked up some decent tips from the self awareness class.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Twelve

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Written by David Angus. Tx 10th February 1989

Georgina receives a disturbing phone call – a heavy breather. Who can it be? Trev’s been pestering her all year, making him fhe most likely suspect, but Helen decides that Ziggy is the guilty party. Nope, don’t understand that. I’m undecided whether we’re seriously supposed to think that Ziggy might be a phone pest or whether this is just another slightly misfiring plot point.

Helen’s all dolled up as she’s off to start her work experience. The affable Mr Aldridge (Jack Galloway) gives her a whistle-stop tour of the engineering plant. She takes in the drawing office, the accounts department and the C.A.D. (computer aided design) room before finally ending up on the works floor.

There’s a vague hint of sexism along the way. A computer chap gives her a wink (steady on fella, she’s underage) whilst we’re also set up to expect some shop-floor dissent from her fellow workers next time. However, I’ve the feeling that Helen will easily wipe the floor with the bolshy lad who thinks that women and heavy machinery shouldn’t mix ….

Susi finally confesses to her mother about her catalogue borrowing habits, which is good news as it means we can draw this storyline to a conclusion. You have to feel a little sorry for Lynne Radford (Susi). Her two years on the show were drawing to an close and this was her most substantial contribution.

Possibly it was her decision to drop out after series twelve or maybe the production team felt Susi was unlikely to develop much further. With both Justine and Chrissy already established as strong characters, it’s easy to imagine that Susi would have been pushed even more to the sidelines next year.

Calley continues to be something of a lone voice in support of Mr Bronson. She makes the very reasonable point that Danny was no saint (and quickly dismisses Fiona’s rather feeble defence that Danny only acted like he did because of his illness).

A slight plot contrivance later finds Calley and Mr Bronson alone in the classroom. She attempts to breech the awkward silence, but her well meaning comment of “we don’t all hate you” possibly wasn’t the most tactful remark ever! This encounter, whether indirectly or directly, does seem to spark Mr Bronson back into life though.

Later, he decides that he will attend the Isle of Wight field trip after all (which was in jeopardy after he decided to pull out).  The way he doesn’t react when Mrs McClusky mentions that she’s thinking of allowing the pupils to bring their motorbikes into school is also interesting.

Mandy has devised a plan, which Mrs McClusky is considering, re the bikes. Ronnie seems less than impressed when she finds out though (but I think we can chalk this down to the fact that Mandy and Gonch are increasingly becoming an item). Does Ronnie still pine for Gonch? It seems hard to credit, but this is Grange Hill – where strange things happen every day.

Speaking of strange things, we learn who’s been hiding out in the school. It’s Tegs of course, and now he has Justine for company. But this storyline suddenly becomes a little less predictable when the camera reveals that there’s someone else left in school besides the two of them. It can’t be Mr Griffiths, as we’ve already seen him leave, so who is it?

Hopefully it won’t be the Grange Hill ghost.

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