Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 83

Friday 23rd March 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. The bus was late again so I went to school with Slackie. First at school we had Topic groups and when we came out I started to draw a booking form for Topic but we went in for PE.

After that me, Ozzie and Frankie filled each other’s form in. then mam came in about Carlton. Had dinner at 12.00 and in the afternoon I started maths but had to show Mrs Baldwin my file. Then I did some more maths and at 3.15 I came home and played outside with the football.

At 5.15 I had tea and at 6.40 I watched Doctor Who. Then I played on the videopac for a while and I also typed some of the Fighting Fantasy book that I was writing. I did that for just about the rest of the night and at 9.30 I went to bed.

I’m not sure what disasters must have befallen our school bus for it to be late TWO mornings in a row, but clearly Slackie’s Mum (who’s lovely, and who still stops for a chat whenever I bump into her) took matters into her own hands and decided to drive Phil to school herself, picking me up on the way.


This seems utterly bizarre and outlandish now, but I’m sure in 1984 Mrs Slack was a bit of a rarity – being a Mum who could not only drive, but also had her own car. We were very much a one-car family, and my Mum didn’t pass her driving test until 1989, when she was 47. There seemed to be a general social assumption that it was Dads what drove (it’s men’s work, y’know… steering wheels are heavy, and driving requires LOTS of swearing) and the rest of the family should just tag along.

Or get the bus, obviously. Buses were for women. 


I can’t remember Mrs Slack’s make of car, but it was definitely a pale beige colour, which seems entirely in keeping with the rest of the early 1980s. It seems de rigeur now to stereotype the era as being filled with BRIGHT, PRIMARY COLOURS, but I remember it as being more washed-out and pastel-shaded. It was the era of the miners’ strike and the nuclear arms race, for crying out loud. Nobody was dancing around in luminous dungarees and Hawaiian shirts.  

(Apart from Timmy Mallett)  

The booking forms that we drew were all part of our attempt to construct our own holiday brochures, and when we ‘filled each other’s form in’ we were basically road-testing them with information about the holidays WE’D like to go on. Mine no doubt involving a week on Gallifrey with a pile of Fighting Fantasy books and Janet Fielding, although I’m not sure either Ozzie, Frankie or – indeed – Hoseasons would have been able to cater for me.

An indoor PE lesson as well, so it must have been raining, or Mr Hirst would surely have waited until the afternoon to drag us out onto the football pitch again. So no doubt we’ll have had the dreaded ‘apparatus’ out in the hall, together with a selection of pommel horses, blue foam mats, and school benches hooked onto slippery poles to make dangerous-looking slides.


And then we’d be left to our own devices to slog around them in a vague clockwise fashion. The system was foolproof until, well… thirty eleven-year-old fools got their filthy little mitts on it. It generally went tits up if Christopher Herbert was taking his usual twenty minutes to complete a forward roll on the blue mat, and Huggy or Frankie decided to overtake him on the inside (in a light beige PE kit) and press onto the next obstacle. Within minutes, social order had begun to break down completely, and by dinnertime it was like ‘Survivors’.

(I can hardly talk, mind. In the thirty-six years I’ve been alive on this glorious planet, I have never once managed to complete a satisfactory forward roll. I’ve just no idea how to do it. I start off OK, but I simply cannot help skewing sideways and flopping out into a mess of arms, legs and Debenhams pumps. I don’t suppose it’s a skill I’ll ever need these days, but it’d be nice to have it in reserve just in case the British Olympic Gymnastics team ever get REALLY desperate)  

And, hey – ‘mam came in about Carlton’. On the bus, obviously. I think she was making a special visit because – ahead of next week’s visit to Carlton Outdoor Education Centre – we’d been asked to declare any allergies, illnesses or special dietary needs. Naturally, for the latter two, I’d put down ‘cannot perform a forward roll’ and ‘needs fishfingers every six hours’.

For the former, though, I’d actually told the truth. ‘Allergic to open gas fires’.

It’s true. My Gran, in her legendary Acklam sci-fi HQ, had one of these…


…and within thirty seconds of it being turned on, I’d be choking for breath and producing enough thick, green snot to fill the average bathtub. So, until the day she passed away, the gas fire was never turned on when I went round to the bungalow. Friends parents had been tipped off too, and so it seemed sensible for me to declare my condition to Mrs Keasey. At which point my Mum was hastily summoned to the school to determine whether I was…

a) telling the truth, or
b) mental

After a brief discussion in the school’s reception, it was decided that, as Carlton Outdoor Education Centre didn’t have any heating of any kind whatsoever, I was probably on safe ground.

REALLY looking forward to my week away now.

(Incidentally, I forgot all about this strange allergy for decades. And then, one freezing January weekend in 2001, I spent the night in a mate’s flat in York city centre. It was sub-Arctic, and we conquered the conditions by drinking as much as humanly possible, the result of which was me falling asleep in an armchair in the front room.

At which point my mate put on his (very old school) gas fire for the night, before passing out as well. I woke up four hours later with what looked like two tins of mushy peas pouring out of each nostril)


And Doctor Who! ‘The Twin Dilemma’ Part Two, of course.

twinvhsBRILLIANT as ever, but this was the last episode of this story that I’d see until 2002, when I bought a second-hand VHS from Ebay. Suffice to say it wasn’t quite as exciting as a 29-year-old as it was when I was 11… but then what is?

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