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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone