Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 74

Wednesday 14th March 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. First at school we went in for Topic Groups and had to look through some travel brochures. When we came out I did some Topic. We had to copy some maps and climate charts out of the brochures and at 12.00 I had dinner.

In the afternoon, me and Pond’s Eye had to do some Fractions out of a Nuffield book (5). After that I did some more Topic and at 3.15 It was Boy’s Games. It was indoor and we had a tournament. Me, Ozzie and Doug drew one, lost one and lost one.

Came home at 4.00 and me and Doug walked home down the cut with Huggy and Pitfield. at Doug’s house we had some orange then we went to my house and played on the Tarzie. At 5.30 Doug went home and I had tea and after tea I played on the ZX81.

At 7.40 I watched Day of the Triffids and at 8.30 I watched Fresh Fields. 9.00 Watched Minder and went to bed at 10.00.

Pond’s Eye! This was (I think) the lovely Ian MacDonald, who gets immortalised in Chapter Three of ‘Wiffle Lever To Full!’ when a friendly debate about whether the Daleks appeared in Blake’s 7 escalates out of control and ends in wanton Ski Yoghurt spillage in the school dining hall.


I have no idea why he was called Pond’s Eye, and it’s a nickname that I’d completely forgotten about until I read today’s 1984 Diary entry. Here he is in our 1983 Christmas Play dressed as… actually, what IS he dressed as?

(Sorry Ian… I couldn’t resist! A great look at our sensational red and black school hall curtains there, as well…)

The ‘Nuffield book (5)’, meanwhile, was kind of advanced maths for grown-up swots.  Doug had been working on the Nuffield books for a while, as he was really good with numbers, and Ian was really brainy as well, so no surprise there either. As for me, I still have to count on my fingers to work out what day of the month it is, so heaven alone knows why I was put to work on advanced fractions at such a tender age.


Perhaps it was to prepare for Boys Games, where it looks as though mine, Doug and Ozzie’s crack footballing trio shipped enough goals to make my Casio pocket calculator actually blow a sprocket. I think this might even have been the day when Mr Hirst blew his normally perfect sang-froid, and laughed us off the pitch as he leaned nonchalently on Mrs Mulhearn’s piano top.

On dark, lonely nights, I can still sometimes hear the unmistakeble squeak of trainers (or ‘pumps’ as our teachers called them, to much hilarity. ‘Has anyone seen Christopher Herbert’s pumps?’ ‘No, but we can smell them from halfway across the playground’) on the school hall floor.


I presume everyone wore these black canvas-with-elasticated-uppers design classics?

I loved our school hall floor, it was shinier than most of the mirrors in the Boy’s Bogs, and was buffed up specially by the cleaners using those amazing spinny-roundy-brushy buffing machines. It was made of marble-patterned tiles coated in coloured sticky tape to make the boundaries of at least three different indoor football/netball/gymnastics arenas. There was a loose bit of yellow tape near the door that I used to pick at relentelessly while singing ‘Water Of Life’ in assembly.

Then there were the delights of the ‘apparatus’, the tangled nest of wooden bars, shiny poles and ropes with chocolate-brown plastic bits at the end. Most of the time, this strange construction nestled unseen, flat against the walls of the school halls. But when Mr Hirst pulled it out (stop giggling at the back there), it was a joy to behold – and, at least once a year, Christopher Herbert would need to be treated for concussion (ie have his eyes examined with a Pifco torch and told to ‘sit down for five minutes) after falling from the highest bar…


Sadly I’m struggling to find a picture of any appropriate ‘apparatus’ but I have found one of the foamy blue mats that Mr Hirst would slide underneath it to attempt to prevent Christopher Herbert from causing any futher damage (to the floor rather than his head)

Anyway, our Boys Games nemesis team contained both the strapping Paul ‘Huggy’ Huggins and nippy goal machine Mark ‘Pitty’ Pitfield, so it was nice that we shook hands afterwards and walked home ‘down the cut’. Which was an ironic turn of phrase, as the bloody thing was steeper than the North Face of the Eiger.

And – hey – here it is! Another 1984 Diary travel film. Chew on this, Michael Palin…  

Good to see a mention for Fresh Fields, as well. A nicely traditional sitcom starring sarcastic redhead (and we all know one of them) Julia McKenzie and former Prisoner No 2 Anton Rogers as a middle-aged couple seeking new challenges. It was all a bit Terry and June, but good fun nevertheless. This was the second ever episode, so here… have this on me…



  Chris Orton wrote @

We too had those ‘pumps’, or ‘gym shoes’ as we used to know them as. They flaming stunk of rubber. At our school we used to have to keep them in a draw-string bag that had been made by yer mam. Mine was a brown corduroy bag with an orange draw string (the brown and orange colourscheme there, again). Each pupil kept their bag in a cupboard at school which contained an individual segment to put your shoes in. Sort of like a post room, pigeon-hole type affair.

Did you ever have to suffer the ignominy of having to do P.E. in your vest and pants though after forgetting your kit though? Thankfully I never!

  Patsy wrote @

I reckon that copying maps and climate charts out of travel brochures was just an excuse for the teacher to pore over the brochures and dream about where he was going to spend those long summer holidays away from you lot !

Could Pond’s Eye have been a bishop ?

  bobfischer wrote @

I think my mother was too organised to ever let me arrive at school without a PE kit, but I definitely remember other kids (including, terrifyingly, Christopher Herbert) having to scrabble around on the pommel horse in bare feet, flimsy paper-like Y Fronts and a white vest with a Debenham’s label sticking out of the back. Oh, the horror.

I had no recollection of having a personal cupboard at school until you mentioned a little section at the top specifically for pumps, and now that rings a really tiny, vague but nagging bell! I need to ruminate on this…

And Patsy – I think you’re spot on. Especially as the holiday brochures we pored over were all for nice hotels with swimming pools in Majorca and Tenerife.

And yes, I think the lovely Ian is a bishop! It’s from the same picture that my ‘Good King Wenceslas’ comes from on Volume 18 of this nonense. Not sure exactly where his diocese was meant to cover, but it probably extended at the very least to the VG shop in the middle of Glaisdale Road.

  Chris Orton wrote @

I should have said that it was one big communal, gym shoe cupboard with lots of individual cubby holes in which to store your shoe bag.

  fiona tims wrote @

I thought it was a Bishop too. Yes I believe everyone has the black pumps. Prob messed up everyone’s feet and caused flat arches ;p

Is that poor Sorcha panting up the hill with you? It didn’t look too steep till you looked back down it!

  bobfischer wrote @

No, honestly, it’s Sherpa Tenzing. He’s just not as young as he used to be. 😉

  bobfischer wrote @

Just had a text from Ian MacDonald, and he has no idea why he was called Pond’s Eye! I thought it might be something from a TV show, but all Google brings up are beauty products. What a charming enigma.

  Andrew T. Smith wrote @

We used to have ‘apparatus’ at the back of the hall as well. In all my years at primary school I think we used it once. The fact that it was made of solid metal with peeling green paint job and patches of rust probably had something to do with this.

  bobfischer wrote @

It had probably been there, rusting away, since the 1970s, the golden age of school apparatus! We used ours lots. I wasn’t good with heights as a kid, and I used to avoid the taller bits of it like the plague, but I do remember…

a) continually attempting to shin up the shiny metal fireman’s-style pole, and sliding back down again.

b) repeatedly burning my delicate handy-pandies on a rope the width of a tree trunk.

Oddly, my memories of this are of us doing it pretty much unsupervised… in that a teacher would be in the hall with us, but it was pretty much a case of ‘Right kids, go and climb over things and jump aroud a bit’. Mayhem inevitably ensued!

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