Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 85

Sunday 25th March 1984

Woke up at 10.00 and got up at 10.30 because Doug rang. Then I went down to Doug’s. First we had a muck around in the hut then we had a laggy band fight on the drive. After that we went to my house and had dinner.

After that we played a load of games on the ZX81 and when we got sick of that we went upstairs and I packed my stuff for Carlton. Then we went for a walk down on Woodlands drive and Clockwood Gardens, and met Sug and Clarkie. After that at about 4.20 We went home and had tea.

Then we played football outside and at 6.30 We went back to Doug’s house through the estate and came out near Yarm. Then Doug went home and I went back to my house and at 7.15 I watched One by One. Then I went in the bath and at 9.20 I watched That’s life. 10.10 Went to bed.

ALERT! ALERT! CLEAR THE AREA! LAGGY BAND FIGHT TAKING PLACE ON THE DRIVE!!!

Forget your Cruise, your Pershing and your Exocets, I still maintain that the most potent and effective ballistic weapon perfected by mankind is the humble ‘laggy band’. What a shocking testament to our drive for self-destruction…

laggyband2

In a nutshell… stretch one end of the laggy band over the index finger, pull the other end to its maximum extended length, aim at your opponent’s head (or, for extra spice, goolies) and release. The resulting explosion of power is such that scientists have calculated that if the entire population of China took part in a mutual laggy band fight at exactly the same time, the resulting tidal wave would be enough to destroy Jupiter.

Probably.

Anyway, laggy bands seemed to appear in our Parka pockets with alarming regularity. We never remembered actually obtaining them from anyway, they just seemed to be beamed in from the parallel Planet of the Laggy Bands, and occasionally became so numerous that a cull was required.

Hence a morning spent ducking behind Doug’s garage and garden hedges attempting to systematically maim, blind and sterilise each other. Yay!

It was, of course, important to select your weapon carefully. Thick laggy bands (like the one pictured above) could cause moderate amounts of pain over a wider area. But – for a ‘short, sharp, shock’  – then a thinner weapon was required, and was more likely to result in the much sought-after ‘stinger’ effect.

And if anyone at school really cheesed us off, then it wasn’t uncommon for them to be held down in the playground and shot ‘execution-style’ with a single thin laggy band drawn to maximum extension and fired ruthlessly to the temple at point blank range. Ah… simple, innocent times.

suitcase

I’m amazed to see that, with five days still to go, I was already starting to pack up a suitcase for my week at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre. The suitcase was a brown leather affair with rusty hinges that I think my Great Grandfather brought home from Ypres at the end of World War I. It certainly still smelt vaguely of Bully Beef and mustard gas, although admittedly that might have been from our aborted holiday in Scarborough in 1976. 

It spent the entire week laid out on my bedroom floor, being slowly filled up with luminous socks, white ties, Doctor Who novelisations and other essentials for a week spent sleeping in a dormitory in the middle of the North Yorkshire Moors.

I’m amazed at this, because nowadays, on the rare occasions I leave the house for any length of time, my policy is never to spend more than ten minutes in total packing a suitcase. Although admittedly, in 1984, my packing regime was aided somewhat by the fact that I didn’t seem to change my clothes any more than once a fortnight.

Whether I needed to or not, etc.

Clockwood Gardens and Woodlands Drive are rather nice, posh areas of the Levendale Estate, home – of course – to our school. Sug was Andrew Sugden, an hilarious, wild-haired genius who was always drawing comics and cracking jokes. He was like an 11-year-old Spike Milligan, and was the acknowledged creator of the brilliant ‘Loonymen’, strange, green aliens that looked liked this…

loonyman

That’s the first time I’ve drawn one of those for 25 years, and it feels utterly exhilarating. At least six of us drew them EVERYWHERE from about 1981-84, often accompanied by their bizarre catchphrase ‘Bow-De-Bow’. That’s ‘Bow’ as in ‘Take A…’ not ‘Tie A…’

I have no idea where any of this nonsense originated, but I absolutely love the fact that it did. I’ll sortly be copyrighting the Loonymen and using them as the basis for a series of million-selling children’s books. Sug, if you’re reading this, drop me a line and we’ll sort out the ownership rights.

And Paul ‘Clarkie’ Clarke was a firm member of the gang as well, a lovely, funny softly-spoken lad who (I think) had recently arrived at our school from a spell living in America, although he was from Teesside originally. Here he is on a school trip to Whitby in 1982…

clarkie

(Notice a mint condition Presto Supermarket carrier bag in the bottom left-hand corner, no doubt filled with blinding white Mother’s Pride egg sandwiches, some Monster Munch and a Milk Club biscuit…)  

It was around March 1984 that I became seized by a strange obsession. Our family dog, Jenny – a gorgeous rough collie – had died in November 1983,  after a series of illnesses. She was only six years old, she was Poggy Doggy’s mother, and it came as a huge shock to us all.

jenny

There was, however, a house in Clockwood Gardens that had two rough collies constantly pottering around the garden. And whenever Doug and I walked past, one of them would rush straight to the gate and bark maniacally at us. I managed to convince myself that this dog was, in fact, Jenny who had (in a kind of canine Elvis manoeuvre) faked her own death and simply moved across Yarm in order to begin a new life.

This wasn’t some sort of morbid in-joke that Doug and I concocted, I genuinely thought this had happened. I guess when you’re 11, and constantly immersed in fantasy books and ripping TV shows and adventure films, it’s easy to become convinced that real life is like that, too. In the movies we watched on TV, if an 11-year-old boy thought his beloved dog had died in heartbreaking circumstances, than you could bet your luminous socks that the shaggy pooch WOULD turn up alive and well before the end of the film.

Sadly, in real life, it wasn’t to be, but it was a nice fantasy for me to hold onto for a while. I dropped a few hints to my parents to see if they got all shifty at the conspiracy being uncovered, but in retrospect they clearly just thought I was bonkers. For a while though, I used to make a habit of walking past the house, and it was always lovely to see Jenny again… if only in my mind.

I’m just glad we never put into practice our plan to ‘spring’ her from captivity and keep her in our den in Doug’s garden.

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5 Comments»

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Being a girl, I never partook in Laggy Band fights!

I’m not entirely sure I’d know what to do! Once you’ve got it stretched-how do you make it jump off the thumb?!

Wow, as if by magic-I’ve just found a red Laggy band on my desk. I tried it-and stung my thumb instead!

  bobfischer wrote @

Once you’ve stretched the laggy band out to maximum length, you just let go and it shoots off into the distance at great velocity.

Your thumb shouldn’t be in the way, honest! snag one end over the tip of your index finger, and use the other hand to pull back before releasing.

Remember to inform the UN of your intentions before attempting a full-scale launch.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

AHA! That explains where I was going wrong. I was snagging it over my thumb and pulling back. I just did it your way and the band went flying 🙂
Still snaped my finger on the way through though!

  bobfischer wrote @

Keep practising, you never know when it might come in handy! 😉

  A Little Extra Treat! « Wiffle Lever To Full! wrote @

[…] for a story I was writing at the time, and if you look very closely you can see a Loonymen (see this entry) standing on top of the ring on the big planet! It’s perfectly possible the text of this […]


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