Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 66

Tuesday 6th March 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. First at school I read, then I did Maths when everybody went in to see the play, and when they came back we all went in the playground. At 11.50 we came in and at 12.00 I had dinner.

At 12.30 I went into computer club and we did the fighting sequence. Then all the Fourth years got the letter for Carlton and then me and Frankie started some Topic. At 3.15 I came home and got some wood down (Doug was at Stan’s) and at 4.50 I watched Charlie Brown.

Then I had tea, then I went outside again and cut some wood out and nailed it on the hut. Came in at 6.40 and watched Tucker’s luck and then I wrote my story again. 9.00 Watched Alas Smith and Jones 9.30 Went to bed.

A morning of pure mystery!

What was the play that ‘everybody’ (apart from, seemingly, me) ‘went in to see’? Answers on the back of a Frankie Goes To Hollywood 12″, please. I have absolutely no recollection of this at all, and no idea why I was excluded. And what?!?? Into the playground before dinnertime? We never had any other break at school apart from dinner, so this was unprecedented.


It’s possible, I suppose, that we had the much-anticipated ‘fire drill’. These came out of nowhere, and were BRILLIANT because it meant we could muck about outside for ten minutes instead of being stuck inside doing rotten old Topic or long division. (NB, 25 years later, I STILL can’t do long division. What a shocking indictment of the 1980s education system. I blame Mrs ‘Fatcher)

The fire alarm was pretty much the same as our ‘dinnertime’ and ‘hometime’ alarm – a high-pitched, elongated squeak, like a stoat being throttled. On helium. Not that I’ve ever throttled any helium-guzzling stoats, we can’t blame Mrs ‘Fatcher for that.


There would be a second of confusion while everybody in the school (including Mr Hirst and Mrs Keasey) looked confused and thought to themselves ‘Spam Fritters? Already?!?!’ and then the penny (or the half-penny, this was 1984, remember) would drop.

These were the standardised Levendale Primary School routines for fire drill…

1. All pupils to put down their work and WALK (DON’T RUN – CHRISTOPHER HERBERT, STOP RUNNING!!!!) to the nearest exit.

2. All pupils to WALK SENSIBLY to the playground and assemble into an orderly line in front of their respective form teachers.

3. Mrs Keasey to call eight names on the register before rolling her eyes and shouting ‘WHERE’S CHRISTOPHER HERBERT? WHERE’S CHRISTOPHER HERBERT?!?!?!’ to the heavens.

4. Phil Slack to dance around singing ‘He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s snuffed it in the fire’ until being shot a withering glance by Mr Millward.

5. Tracy Marlow to start crying because Christopher Herbert had ‘snuffed it in the fire’.

5. Mr Hirst to retrieve Christopher Herbert from the Boy’s Bogs where he’d been hiding ‘for a laugh’.

6. A special emergency school assembly to be called by Mr Chalkley to impress upon all pupils the importance of taking fire drills seriously, as ‘if you were burnt in a real fire, you’d be laughing on the other sides of your faces’. 

Repeat every six months.   

Good to see our Fighting Fantasy project in Computer Club carrying on apace (Jason Robson was now up to Level 7 Necromancy), and – gasp – the official Carlton Camp letters being sent out to our parents, informing them that in a mere three weeks time we would be sent to the dreaded Outdoor Education Centre with Mr Hirst and Mrs Keasey, and left at the mercy of the ghost of the Grey Lady.

Time, then, to celebrate with another terrifying ghost picture from the ‘Myths, Monsters and Legends’ book in our school library…


Did anyone else have their childhood haunted by these spectral (and, let’s face it, with the benefit of cynical adult hindsight, slightly rubbish) photos, or was it just me?

No such terror to be found in Charlie Brown, which I loved to bits. I’d grown up adoring Charles M Schultz’s Peanuts books (I stole my Uncle Trevor’s entire collection from my Gran’s house in 1980, and I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I’ve still got them all… they’re six feet away from me now, on a shelf in the spare room), but this was contemporary stuff… ‘The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show’ ran from 1983-85, and looked like this…

…I still identify with Charlie Brown and his hapless, rubbish-at-sport world-weariness, and I still want one of those jumpers. I don’t like the music though, it’s a world away from Vince Guaraldi’s amazing mournful jazz piano from the original 60s films. Booooooo!

Then back outside into the freezing inkly blackness to arse around with more big bits of wood. When I say I ‘got some wood down’ what I actually mean is that I retrieved it from a strange contraption of ropes and string that my Dad had constructed around the garage ceiling to allow more storage space for stolen household materials, sporting equipment and crash helmets. 

Your average B&Q Warehouse would give anything to have such a wide array of stock – I swear there was everything from plasterboard to mahogany to loft lagging and ragged lumps of asbestos up there.

And you’ll notice that our ‘treehouse’ has passed through its minor phase of being a ‘den’ and has now metamorphosed into a ‘hut’. It still looked like a coffin though, which was probably appropriate given the dangerous quantities of asbestos, fire and school theatre I had to wade through on a day like this.

Still, if the worst came to the worst, Jason Robson would be on hand to ressurect and zombify me.



  Patsy wrote @

We still have ‘strangulated stoat’ noise fire alarms, the difference being nowadays though is that instead of wanting to get out of the building the students all moan that it’s too cold to go out, don’t know where their coats .are, and someone might pinch their laptops ! and I have to admit to saying that they would laugh on the other side of their faces if it turned out that it was a real fire and they got burnt , so some things don’t change 🙂

  Patsy wrote @

Forgot to say, ‘Myths, Monsters & Legends’ and ghost photos made such an impression on my (still) immature brain, that at least twice a year I consider taking out a subscription to ‘Fortean Times’. You’ve reminded me that it’s time to check out their website again..

  bobfischer wrote @

Laptops! LAPTOPS! In my day you had to have a letter from your parents to be allowed to bring a pocket caculator into school. Good to see the tradition of ‘laughing on the other side of your faces’ continues, though! Any idea what it actually means? I tend to use both sides of my face when I laugh. It’s symmetrical.

I used to buy the Fortean Times for years, but I’ve lapsed as well. Used to be a great, read though.

I think I’ll continue with the classic ghost photos for a few weeks… there’s the great one with the ‘ghost of the mother-in-law in the back seat of the car’ still to come!

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