8 · Where Did It All Go Right?

Unless you’re some kind of celebrity or had a terrible childhood, good luck getting your autobiography published. Andrew Collins must have good luck, then, because Where Did It All Go Right? is the intentional opposite of the terrible-childhood memoir: a “blissful middle-England childhood” memoir. Granted, he might count as a minor celebrity—BBC radio presenter, ex-editor of Q—although I’d never heard of him. I’d heard of a surprising number of the things he grew up with, though: all those elements of UK pop culture that made their way out to the other side of the world, like The Goodies, IPC comics, and the New Romantics. It helped that Collins is only a couple of years older than me, but Jane grew up with none of that stuff and yet also enjoyed this.

Collins’s nostalgic romp is made all the more enjoyable by his inclusion of childhood diary entries dating back to the age of six or seven. It gives hope to all of us who wrote thousands of words of no interest to anyone but ourselves (although I didn’t start mine until I was fourteen). The trouble is, now that he’s done it there’s no point in anyone else doing it. Not that this has stopped visitors to his website from leaving their own stories of custard and trifle, holidays in Wales, and so on.

This instalment in the countdown should really be two books, because the “difficult student years” sequel, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, is just as entertaining. Collins was a pretty unbearable teenager: at one point he acknowledges that he’d turned into Rick from The Young Ones. He went to Art College in Chelsea, wrote awful poetry and an even worse rock opera, and lived in a run-down flat with a dodgy landlord. But he also stopped a friend from killing herself, and did a lot of growing up. I’m glad the first book was successful enough to warrant a second, because it completes the picture perfectly: Collins was everychild in Where Did It All Go Right?—all of us went to school and played games, after all—but in the second he’s more specifically himself.