Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 25

Wednesday 25th January 1984

7.50 Woke up and got up at 8.00. The first thing we did at school was go into Topic groups and we were given two sheets on Longitude and Latitude. Me and Ozzie did them in about five minutes, and after reading some of the Dark Crystal I did the last piece of work on the maths bit on scale.

12.00 Had dinner, and then after dinner just about all the fourth year boys had a great big match of American football. It was Tucker, Huggy, Stan, Placie and Gazzie take. In the afternoon I finished my maths. Came home at 3.15 and played on the videopac and then at 4.45 I had tea.

At 5.10 I watched Think of a number and then I played on the videopac until 7.00 When I watched Name that Tune. At 7.30 I went out and messed around in the snow. At 9.00 I watched Minder and then at 10.00 I went to bed.

It’s probably worth a quick mention for the mysterious ‘Topic’ that I keep referring to. I’m not sure if schools still do this but as well as having to slog our way through various ‘Language’ and ‘Maths’ textbooks, every term we’d also be split into different ‘Topic’ groups, and be given a little theme to work around. 


So we’d done ‘Ancient Egypt’ (dozens of times, and I spent at least four sleepless nights convinced that Tutankhamun’s Curse was about to strike my bedroom because I’d touched a picture of him in the Oxford Children’s Encyclopaedia), and judging by the references to maps and ‘Longitude and Latitude’ in my 1984 diary, we’d now moved onto a bit of simple geography.

Oddly enough, the only bit of this I can recall is our teacher Mrs Powell telling us of an easy way to remember the locations of the Topics of Cancer and Capricorn. ‘Cancer is the one highest up,’ she told us, with a devillish grin. ‘Just think of it being high up on your body. A bit like Lung Cancer’.

We were 11.

She was clearly still reeling from a morning in the staff room, from which billowing clouds of Benson & Hedges smoke erupted whenever some hapless sap was sent in there to ‘run an errand’ for Mr Hirst or Mr Chalkley.

Regarding school dinners, I think for this final few months at Levendale Primary School I reverted back onto hot food, having spent the previous two years bringing my own packed lunch. Or ‘packy’ as we invariably called them, without even the vaguest hint of political inappropriateness crossing our tiny minds.


The daily contents of my packed lunch, for TWO FULL YEARS, consisted of the following…

1 x Egg Sandwich, made from one mashed egg drenched in salad cream and slapped between a halved slice of Mother’s Pride bread more blindingly white than the Sun, and only to be safely viewed through your school jumper, like magnesium ribbon. Or Glenn Conroy’s legs.

1 x packet of Cheese and Onion Monster Munch.

1 x Jacob’s Club biscuit, either orange or mint flavour, the minty variant inexplicably being illustrated by a picture of a golf ball on the wrapper. Is there some insane connection between golf and mint-flavoured biscuits that I’m unaware of? Did Tony Jacklin wipe down his Four Irons with them, or something? Also, what was the Club biscuit illustrated with a playing card (possibily the Jack Of Hearts) on the wrapper? And why?

1 x Carton of Um Bongo, liberated from a Hinton’s multi-pack. They drink it in the Congo, you know.  Presumably importing it wholesale from the Libby’s factory in Milnthorpe, Cumbria.

I’d relinquished the delights of the ‘packy’ by 1984 though, and taken my place back with the shuffling queue of misfits waiting in the hall for steaming spam fritters, boiled cabbage and goulash. We’d collect an empty tray on the way through and then slouch along the serving hatch, grumpily telling the yellow-coated dinner ladies (one of which was my Mum, remember) what we wanted.

I remember, around this time, being ten seconds away from the hatch when Doug started regaling me with some intricate details of human reproduction from his encyclopaediac knowledge of all matters sexual. His lecture went like this:

‘So then you need to put your willy in the lasses thingy and once you’ve jiggled it about – corned beef hash, please – you take it out again – and chips – and put it back in your undies. Semolina, please. Have you got that?’ 

I think was 24 before I realised that corned beef hash, chips and semolina weren’t an essential part of the process. Still, what a weekend that was.



  illegibleme wrote @

“We’d collect an empty tray on the way through and then slouch along the serving hatch, grumpily telling the yellow-coated dinner ladies (one of which was my Mum, remember) what we wanted.”

Was your Mam a dinner lady during the two years you had packed lunches? Surely that wasn’t the best advertisement for school dinners!

That Club advert is fantastically spot on. You’d never see anything with that much effort put into it these days.

  bobfischer wrote @

Indeed she was! I don’t think she took it personally. In fact, it was probably a compliment to her egg sandwiches that I preferred those to the usual school fayre of terracotta ghoulash and semolina you could stand a spoon up in. After all, she wasn’t responsible for cooking any of that stuff, she just slopped it around with a ladle.

I actually have a vague memory of my packed lunch period starting with a bit of vintage 1980s industrial action in which no school dinners were available to anyone. Although for some reason the National School Dinner Lady Strike didn’t attract as much media attention as the miners and the binmen. I can just picture them forming a little yellow-coated picket line outside the kitchen, shouting ‘Maggie Maggie Maggie! Out Out Out!’ while huddled around a burning oil drum. Probably with a spam fritter roasting over the top of it.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

For the full story on the connection between golfing prowess and the leaves of Mentha sachalinensis, I heartily recommend the thesis “Anaerobic Performance and the Vulgar Herbs” by my great friend and one-time colleague Professor Julius Playhour. You should be able to find it easily enough in the Bodleian Library. It is a fascinating read.

For myself, I can only help you with your second Club-related query. The variety of biscuit whose paper sheath boasted a Jack of Clubs was ‘Milk’. Rather disappointingly, no milk would ever trickle out of it whichever way one held it up above a beaker of Mellow Bird’s.

It is my belief that these were the first two varieties of Club biscuit to be marketed, after which the Nabisco designers could think of no more easily recognised representations of play on the ‘club’ name. A sketch of a club foot was made for possible inclusion on the raisin variety and a crude jemmy was proposed for the adornment of the Orange club but when James Callaghan devalued sterling late in 1967 all such extravagant ambitions fell by the wayside.

  bobfischer wrote @

MILK!!! Of course it was. The lesser-spotted Milk Club, which I think has now disappeared from our supermarket shelves. It’s all Orange and Mint these days, and I suspect if we want to sample the rarer delights of the Milk variant, we’ll need to create a time portal that ends in Aisle Four of the Stockton branch of Fine Fare sometime before early 1986.

Dr Parcel, I can’t believe that I was previously unable to fathom the link between the words ‘golf’ and ‘club’. I believe that, sadly, this is the first tell-tale symptom of Early-Onset Stupidity.

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