Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 9

Monday 9th January 1984


Woke up at 7.40. First day back at school today. 8.00 got up and at 8.35 I went out for the school bus. Got to school at 8.45 and went in at 9.00. A few minutes later all the 4th years had to go into the hall to meet the new headmaster Mr Chalkley. When he had finished we all had to go into the hall to sort out Topic groups, maths groups, P.E. groups and swimming groups. I’m in Mrs Baldwin’s Topic and Maths and Mr Hirst’s swimming and P.E. I go swimming on Thursday.

THen Mrs Keasey wanted to see us, and we went in for P.E. Then I drew a picture of the robot for Mrs Mulhern. Then I did Maths. 12.00 had dinner and in the afternoon I did some more maths and language, and went home at 3.15.

3.40 Went down to Doug’s and came home at 4.50. Said I would go back at 6.30. 5.00 Had tea. 5.15 read Buster and played with Poggy Doggy. 6.30 Me, Dad and Poggy walked down to Dougs but there was nobody around so we came back. 7.00 Tidied the sideboard 8.00 Had hair washed and cut 8.45 Played darts with dad. 9.25 had a bath and went to bed.

Brace yourselves, first day back at school!

A morning always anticipated with dread in the days leading up to it, but then filled with a strange sense of relief and comfort when it finally arrived. I went to Levendale Primary School in Yarm, which looked (and still looks) like this…


…and, as much as I grumbled about being there, it was a place filled with familiar things and people that combined to make the days warm and comfortable, a womb-like protective dome of Berol Notewriter pens, black elasticated plimsolls, school assemblies spent singing ‘Water of Life’ and Nancy Drew books with yellow school library stickers on the spines.

And, of course, by this stage in my life I was into my final year there – a big, galumphing fish in a little educational pond. We were Fourth Year Juniors now, treated with a certain cameraderie by the teachers who would even – gasp – sometimes share the occasional risque joke with us. I sometimes felt as though I could slap Mr Hirst manfully on the back, and the fact that I couldn’t quite reach his back yet was merely an inconvenient detail.

I lived a mile away from the school on the outskirts of Yarm, and so the school bus that came in from the well-off, outlying village of Worsall picked me up en route. A few years earlier there had been a little raggle-taggle coterie of kids and parents waiting at the same spot for the bus every morning, but by this point it was down to me and me alone.

I’d cross the main road outside my house, snuggle into my grey ski-jacket, hitch up my straight-legged trousers from British Home Stores and slump against the struts of the road sign, breathing fire and smoke from my mouth and watching the patterns it made against a slate-grey sky. A matter of yards away was the football field belonging to Conyers School, the sprawling, noise-filled comprehensive that filled me with dread. In nine months time, THAT would be my daily destination. Every time I glanced towards its giddying infinity of windowed classrooms, a pang of intestinal terror richocheted up my gullet. The prospect of leaving the cloistered familiarity of Levendale Primary for this cold, hostile factory of learning filled me with dread, and constantly rumbled over my head like a rumour of impending war.  

Still, I drew a picture of ROB-E the robot for Mrs Mulhern, so that was good! She laughed and gave me a playful punch on the shoulder. I liked Mrs Mulhearn, especially when she made us sing ‘Water of Life’ in assembly.

Buster was another comic. In 1984, it looked like this…


…and it featured work by one of my favourite-ever cartoonists J Edward Oliver, a truly subversive character whose work – even in kids comics – was anarchic, hilarious and startlingly original. Go on, check him out here…


And how many kids today get their hair cut by their mums? Not many I’ll wager (unless your mum is a professional hairdresser, in which case you’re disqualified) but in 1984 it was… erm, actually probably not that common either. But every couple of months I’d happily slump into a dining table chair in front of the TV and let my mother lop off bits of my barnet with a pair of kitchen scissors until it was short enough to allow me to see properly.

It had the irresistable 1980s recession quality of being free, with the added bonus that neither of us had to make awkward small talk about where we intended going on holiday in the summer. 

And heaven only knows what we found in the sideboard that night, but I bet most of it has been transferred to my loft over the last year or two.



  Roy wrote @

‘Mr Chalkley’ is a brilliant name for a headmaster – or were chalk and blackboards a thing of the past by then?

  bobfischer wrote @

I’ve had 25 years to think of that and you’ve still beaten me to it!

And yes, we had chalk and blackboards! And board rubbers that were occasionally thrown at grotty ten-year-olds and would impact in a spectacular flurry of dust.

‘The board is black, the chalk is white, together we learn to read and write…’

Another of Mrs Mulhern’s favourites. 🙂

  procrastinatrix wrote @

The Mater regularly cut our hair when we were little. She wasn’t much good at it though – one reason my hair was very short was mom’s ultimately futile attempts to get both sides the same length. Hope your ma was a bit more successful.

  bobfischer wrote @

She wasn’t bad! I never thought anything of it, and I think I was about 17 before I saw fit to venture out to a proper hairdressers. I did used to wildly overestimate her prowess though, and would regularly sit down on the dining room chair with a ludicrous list of requests.

‘Can you taper it up the back and sides please, and then feather it a little bit on top? And then maybe trim the sideburns a touch, and add a few subtle highlights at the front?’

‘Yeah, just sit there and I’ll get the pudding bowl from the kitchen…’

  Fiona Tims wrote @

My comics got destroyed a few years ago. They were in the shed and the roof got damaged and water leaked in. I’m still gutted. I had boxes full 😦

  bobfischer wrote @

Fiona, that’s tragic. All of mine are in the loft, together with pretty much everything else I owend in the first 12 years of my life, and I keep putting off sorting them all out until a rainy day. I just hope it’s not the rainy days that have done for them.

I’d have got round to it sooner if it wasn’t for the spiders up there. Brrrrr.

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