75p pints and girls in Def Leppard T-shirts – student life was better in the 80s, trust me: OPINION

Simon's brief stint as a student was the most fun he has ever had
Simon's brief stint as a student was the most fun he has ever had
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IT’S an oft-used cliche that ‘the school days are the best days of your life.’ Not for me, they weren’t. But my further education days once I’d moved away from the place I grew up in? Now you’re talking.

On this corresponding third Monday in September 32 years ago, my life was to change. I was to slowly shed my slightly shy, socially awkward 18-year-old persona and emerge as a far more confident young adult nine months down the line.

On this day in 1987 I moved to Cardiff, to start a one-year National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) course. It was only a 36-week course, but it was the best 36 weeks of my life. For it set me up to embrace life. 

I needed to move away from home, to meet new people who remain friends to this day. And, inevitably, to drink far, far too much. We were training to be journalists, don’t forget.

I wouldn’t say I hated my secondary school days, but I certainly didn’t enjoy them. In total contrast, I loved my all-too-brief time in the halls of residence at the South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education. I still can’t believe pints of lager in the student union bar were 75p. I could balance one on my forehead and sort of limbo dance my way around a pool table without spilling it. I was so full of youthful energy I could leapfrog over postboxes.

Now two pints in a Portsmouth pub can cost the best part of £8. Eight quid! I could get 10 pints for that price in Cardiff (with 50p left over). And no, I can’t leap over postboxes any more, I’d do myself a serious injury. 

It was all great, it really was – especially when we had a 1am pillow fight and my mate was knocked unconscious into a flower bed. Happy days.

And get this – all my drinking was paid for by you, the taxpayer! Back in 1987 Devon County Council happily gave me several thousand pounds to pay for my student halls, and living expenses (alcohol), to enable me to go to nightclubs and attempt to chat up blonde-haired girls in Def Leppard T-shirts.

All a bit different from today. Now, of course, there’s huge debts. And girls probably don’t wear Def Leppard T-shirts any more. Student life was better in my day, believe me …

Knowing dull cricket facts can be worthwhile at times

Due to the fact I’ve been a sports journalist for most of my working life, I have accumulated a stack of statistical knowledge.

All these facts lodged somewhere in my brain are generally useless with regards to wider society.
Until, of course, it comes to pub quiz time.

I love pub quizzes, but I very rarely win them due to the fact my knowledge of music post-1999 is appalling and I have no idea about films other than Star Wars.

But last week I’m pretty sure I was the only person in the pub to know who was the first man to take 500 cricket Test wickets. And we ended up winning the 80-question quiz by a point! Yay, our team won – wait for it – £34.

Cheers, Courtney Walsh! 

I wasn't rich or famous after winning two TV quiz shows

Talking of quizzes, have you ever applied to go on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I have, numerous times, and now it’s been dropped I’ll never have a go.

I’m always full of jealousy when I watch contestants win big money. That’s everyone, therefore, as even £1,000 is big money – huge money – compared to my TV quiz win history. Back in 1998, I won two episodes of 100 Per Cent, a fantastically low-budget show with (surely) the lowest prize money in worldwide TV history – £100 per episode.

In addition, it was shown on Channel 5, which hardly anybody watched at the time. The viewing figure for the first show was 37, including a family of six in Barnsley. So I didn’t become remotely rich, or even famous, as a result.