Richard Littlejohn's England (as imagined by John Walsh): Our writer predicts what the Daily Mail columnist will reveal in his memoirs

Littlejohn's new book, which is published next week, is a paean to the England of his childhood; an England that has, in his own words, gone to hell in a handcart

The local Mixed Infants School was a mile away, and we had to walk to it, and walk home, every day, through the bucketing rain, the howling tempests, the incessant hail and the snarling of the wall-eyed Staffordshire at No 27 Grim Terrace. There was no expensive, top-quality Range Rover to run us to the school gates in comfort, I'm glad to say. Just imagining it makes me sick.

The school itself was a minimally adapted Victorian lunatic asylum with a torture chamber, padded cells and glacial radiators. I don't ever remember it being closed, even in the most freezing winters, just because snow had locked us all inside what was effectively a refrigerator.

What a happy contrast to the pathetic modern habit of shutting a school just because the classrooms are too cold to teach the pampered little darlings!

My teacher, Eric Sutton, was probably the most important man in my life after my father. An ex-Army NCO, he liked bellowing at small boys in the playground. A fearsome cane hung on the wall of his study. I seem to have forgotten whether he ever actually used it, on me or anyone else, but he was, to me, the living embodiment of the headmaster in the TV shows Whack-O! and Bottoms Up!, played by Jimmy Edwards as a bullying, alcoholic, manipulative sadist.

Whatever the weather, we were sent into the playground to play football and cricket. The school didn't have a playing field, but the headmaster thought it was character-building for us to play on the hard concrete surface and he was absolutely right. Halfway through the lunch break, the First Aid room would fill up with casualties – scraped flesh, split lips, damaged knees, broken elbows, gashed heads, gouged eyes – and the floor would be sticky with blood. We didn't mind. A few scrapes, fractures and maimed limbs were the currency of childhood. Any boys caught fighting would be sent to the gym by the headmaster to put on boxing gloves and punch each other's heads in for six minutes. These days, I suppose, the local education busybodies would come round and try to ban this manly practice on the grounds of neglect or cruelty. Ridiculous, isn't it?

Holidays at home – far better than France (Getty) Holidays at home - far better than France (Getty)
I loved sweets, but I ate far too many Black Jacks (am I even allowed to say the word "black" these days?) and wine gums, until my teeth rotted in my head. God knows what the health Nazis would say in 2014 about giving kids sweets all day long. They'd probably try to advise against it or something.

Anyway, going to the dentist at the local Town Hall was like being taken to jail or an execution yard. Everything smelt of disinfectant and terror. The equipment was scary, the dentist was Satanic and his assistant, far from resembling Barbara Windsor with a white uniform displaying 6in of cleavage, looked like she swabbed the floor in an abattoir.

They gave me a local anaesthetic which didn't work until the treatment was over, and I was dragged away: bleeding, groaning, retching and half-dead. Happy times. Now, of course, you're expected to sit in a comfortable chair, listening to soothing music and watching a ceiling video screen while an Australian chap anaesthetises you thoroughly and makes your teeth better without pain or fuss. I ask you. It's elf-n'-safety run riot.

And don't get me started about trips to the seaside. They were paradise. There we'd be, the whole family in Grandma's Ford Popular, driving down to Southend – they hadn't invented poncey child safety seats in those days, so if Grandma stamped on the brakes, we'd go flying through the car and smash our heads on the windscreen – with picnic hampers full of ham-and-egg sandwiches, and thermos flasks full of tepid tea. Gale force winds came roaring up the Estuary, scouring our faces and chafing our chins. We often had the beach to ourselves, because some people didn't like the artillery shelling at the Ministry of Defence firing range on Pig's Bay, next door.

Rose-tinted memories: the Fifties were a time when boys were boys and toys were toys Rose-tinted memories: the Fifties were a time when boys were boys and toys were toys (Getty Images)
Southend Pier, more than a mile long, was crammed with fruit machines to fleece the dim and gullible day- trippers. It truly was a Golden Age of British seaside holidays. I can't imagine how it could have been forced to close because people started taking cheap flights to southern Spain and France, where the beaches are sunny and sandy and all that rubbish. Ah, the bliss of munching a saveloy when you're just out of the chilly sea. They were made of mechanically recovered pig intestines, mud and roofing nails, shoved into a condom and fried in batter, and regularly gave you tetanus. These days, modern, risk-averse 'elf snoopers would try to get them banned, on the grounds of allowing people to live longer.

Yeah, yeah.

We learned all about girls' bodies from discarded naturist magazines, showing naked men and women hiking across the moors and playing volleyball. But the ladies' genitalia were mostly airbrushed out. It was 'Elf'n'Efficiency gone mad.

In swimming pools, there was enough chlorine to turn your hair white. It was supposed to stop you getting verrucas, but it didn't work and gave you conjunctivitis as well. These days, needless to say, if the local council thought there was something dodgy in the water – polio, say – they'd probably drain the pool and get some environmental wallahs to clean the thing before letting the kids go back in.

You know what? I'd rather have the old days back. Fresh air, civic pride, innocent fun, shouty teachers, corporal punishment, sliding tackles on concrete, black eyes, terrible food, North Sea beaches, Watneys Ale, rotting feet, nudie mags, conkers, doing what you were told by your elders and betters. A simpler time with simple pleasures, before the Sixties came along and spoilt everything.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?