Grange Hill. Series Three – Episode Twelve

grange hill s03e12

Written by Alan Janes. Tx 15th February 1980

It’s half term and Tucker, Alan and Benny have gone to work for Alan’s father at his builders yard.  Whether this is work experience or simply a way for the three of them to earn a little extra pocket money isn’t clear, but it’ll probably not come as a great surprise to learn that things don’t quite go to plan.

The day doesn’t get off to a good start when one of the workmen trick the trio into removing a large selection of timber that had already been correctly racked up.  As the irritated Mr Humphries later tells them, they should have been putting the loose timber into order – not removing what had already been sorted.  It’s very clear that Mr Humphries is an intimidating character – even the normally ebullient Tucker is rather subdued in his presence.  When he later asks Alan how he copes with a father like that, Alan airily tells him that his mother is worse!

Another misadventure sees them larking by a van with a fire extinguisher.  When they spy Mr Humprhies approaching they find the only cover available – the back of the van.  Unfortunately for them, the van is on the way to the tip – which is miles away from the yard.  Quite why they didn’t wait until the van slowed down before jumping off is a bit of a mystery (surely three rough-and-tumble characters like Tucker, Alan and Benny could have braved a few bruises?!).

Alas, they have to walk all the way back to the yard, but the ever eloquent Tucker is able to spin an elaborate tale about how his mother was rushed into hospital with “acute something or other” but is thankfully feeling much better now.

Elsewhere, Duane along with Benny’s younger brother Michael (Mark Bishop) pops round to see Tracy.  There’s a competition in the local paper to win a minibus – if they win, says Duane, it could be donated to the school, since they need one for the proposed Outdoor Centre.  The only problem is that there’s ten tough questions to be answered, so they need to use Tracy’s encyclopedias.  Ah, those far-off pre-internet days, when answers weren’t simply available at a click of a button!

Sadly their fact-finding is brought to an abrupt end when Tracy’s mother returns home.  She’s clearly not happy to find Michael in the house and tells her daughter that he has to leave.  The conversation occurs outside the living room, but it’s loud enough for Michael to hear – and we see the camera slowly close in on his hurt face.  It presumably wouldn’t have been the first time in his young life that he’d suffered discrimination due to the colour of his skin, but this scene (understated though it is) does have something of an impact.

Although Tracy lives in a nice house and her mother appears to be a pleasant-enough person, her casual, inflexible racism would have been very common in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and it still packs quite a punch to hear such views expressed in a children’s tea-time series.

With Tracy’s encyclopaedias out-of-bounds, the trio decide to break into school and find the information they need there.  For some reason, Mr Keating is about and catches them – since they’re not prepared so say why they’re on school premises he tells them to report to him on Tuesday morning.

If Tucker, Alan and Benny’s morning didn’t quite go as planned, they do knuckle down to some work in the afternoon.  This impresses Mr Humphries and when the trio discover that one of his staff is pinching materials he’s even more impressed.  He gives them twenty five pounds as a reward (watch their faces fall though when he says, after a beat, that it’ll be donated to the Outdoor Centre!)

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