Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 90

Friday 30th March 1984

CARLTON CAMP

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. Then I rang Grandma and then I went to school. I did my  brochure and then we went in about Carlton. Had dinner at 12.00 and at 1.15 We set off for Carlton.

Arrived at 2.00 and got our cagools and boots in the barn, Then we went out in the playground, then we went for a walk around a farm and some manky paths. Arrived back about an hour later and cleaned our boots, then we had tea with two Seaton Carew girls called Amanda and Karen.

Then we had to be shown how to make our beds. Then we unpacked and me and Gazzie made our beds, then we wrote our diaries, and after that it was supper. Then we went to bed.

Right, a little change of format required here… the above is, of course, my OFFICIAL diary entry, written in the WH Smiths Desk Diary that I used every day in 1984. However, every day of our week at Carlton Camp, we were taken into the centre’s musty-smelling classroom as a group, and (ahem) ‘encouraged’ to write our ‘Carlton Diaries’ in an exercise book, detailing our days activities complete with illustrations and vaguely amusing captions!

Naturally I’ve still got mine, so for the next week we’ll have two entries for the price of one! So here you go (and yes, these are the actual illustrations…)

Friday 30th March 1984

We left school at about 1.30 and when we arrived at Carlton it was raining. Everybody staggered up the path with their cases but Huggy gave in and splattered a box full of paper in the mud. Then we dumped our cases outside the building and went into the barn to be put into our groups.

Me and my partner Gazzie (Gareth Jones) were put into the blue group by Miss Burnett, then after showing our boots and getting changed we all got our cagouls. After that we went into the playground for a muck about, and then we set off for a short walk.

small-friday-1

We went along the coach road to Busby Manor, which was all manky and muddy and on the farm we went through, everyone was up to thier ankles in cow ****. When we got back to the camp we had to clean our hiking boots with some yellow stuff called Dubbin, which looked rather like school custard, then we had tea, which was Beans on toast.

Me and Gaz had to sit with two girls called Amanda and Karen. After tea Miss Burnett showed us how to make our bed, then me and Gaz went and made ours frantically because it was inspection soon. After inspection, everyone went in for supper, which was a biscuit that wouldn’t come out of the wrapper and some Drinking chocolate.

small-friday-2

When we’d finished, we went to bed but didn’t get to sleep till about midnight because everyone in the other dormitories were making rude noises, and I hope they weren’t real. The best bit was getting through the mud in the farm, and the worst was sitting with them two girls.

Blimey, where to start…?

OK, for newcomers, this was the first day of my school’s week at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre, an Outward Bound camp at the foot of the North Yorkshire Moors. It looked (and still looks) like this…

carltoncamp4

I love the fact that I phoned my Gran before I left for school in the morning. I guess a little context might help here…. I was eleven years old, and I’d never been away from my parents for more than a single day before – and even that was just a night at my Gran’s house, or a stopover at Paul Frank’s farm.

The prospect of spending a full week away from my parents, Poggy Doggy and all of my usual home comforts filled me with a mixture of excitement, trepidation and downright terror.

On the plus side… Doug was going, and so was my mate Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones, who had the misfortune to be saddled with me as his official partner for the week. Our teachers Mr Hirst and Mrs Keasey were coming too, and the plan was to spend as much time as possible yomping around the North Yorkshire Moors getting cold, wet, dirty and… well, fit I suppose.

For reference (and remember this face) here’s Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones in the mid 1980s…

garethjones

The centre itself is based in the picturesque village of Carlton, a mere ten miles from my parents house at the time, although it may as well have been ten thousand, so remote and isolated did it feel. So who could resist, exactly 25 years on, a little trip back there?

Not me and Gazzie for a start…

We were at a bit of an advantage as the camp manager Miss Burnett was a distant auntie of Gazzie’s, although she still had a slightly scary air of strictness to go with her friendly welcome. The ‘cagools’ meanwhile, were burnished orange affairs that looked like this…

friday-gazzie

…and yes, that’s Gazzie Jones himself, ‘mucking about’ in the playground on this very day! (Apologies for the rubbish picture by the way… I borrowed my Gran’s ancient 1960s camera for the week, and managed to load the film into it completely wonky)

Back to the site itself for a cheeky shuftie, then…

Our walk that afternoon took us on a little two-mile loop around Carlton village, down the old coach road and through Busby Manor. Our teacher Mr Hirst was a great guide. He was only (I guess) in his mid twenties at the time, and he was full of youthful enthusiasm, loud-mouthed vigour and an irresistable desire to scare the screaming habdabs out of us with terrifying ghost stories.

As Gazzie Jones will testify, as we revisit the coach road to Busby Manor 25 years on!

Amanda and Karen, meanwhile, weren’t from our school. Carlton Camp is a big old place, and the usual practice was for two schools to use it simultaneously. Namely us, and Seaton Carew Primary School, based in a tiny seaside resort on the watery edges of Hartlepool.

 We only mixed in the dormitories and at mealtimes, but  I still remember the outright terror at discovering that I would have to munch my beans-on-toast in the company of (gasp!) GIRLS. Amanda and Karen were perfectly pleasant, but I was never entirely comfortable sitting at that table.

This table, in fact…

dinnertable

And so to bed! I remember being utterly exhausted as I climbed into the bottom half of mine and Gazzie’s bunk bed. He had a teddy bear called Freddy Teddy. I had my three Alan Garner books. And we were sharing our ‘Blue Group’ dormitory with sandy-haired joker Jason ‘Tucker’ Tuck and sporty skinhead Robert ‘Harry’ Harrison… along with two duos from Seaton Carew who, as I remember, were…

1. A quiet bespectacled lad nicknamed ‘Luppy’ because his second name was Lupton. His first name, sadly, has been stolen from my mind by The Ghost Of The Grey Lady.

2. A tall, dark-haired lad called Davey Fountain who did a cracking Jimmy Cricket impersonation.

3. A well-built lad called David Davies who – no surprise to anyone – played rugby.

4. A cheeky skinhead called Lee who boasted, shaved into his all-over No 1 haircut, two completely bald tramlines that circumnavigated his ears. I made Gazzie Jones laugh into his ‘drinking chocolate’ by quipping at the supper table that he ‘looked like a tennis ball’.

In my fevered nightmares before coming to Carlton, I’d imagined lying in bed in a creaking, cobweb-strewn dormitory, the wind howling through shuttered windows and the skeletal fingers of the Grey Lady peeling back my blankets to take my mortal soul…

What actually kept me awake was the sound of fifty 11-year-old boys farting, giggling, slamming doors, singing filthy songs and throwing things at each others bunk beds in the pitch black until the early hours of the morning. If the Grey Lady had dared to put in an appearance, I think she’d have quickly backed off once Philip Slack had stuck a whoopee cushion up her cassock.

(NB If anyone from Carlton Outdoor Centre chances upon this and wonders how I broke in to take that ‘dinner table’ picture… I didn’t,  honest! A teacher friend of mine took his class to Carlton in 2007, and kindly invited me to come up and have a look round for old times sake… and all necessary permissions were obtained. Phew!)

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10 Comments»

  Chris Orton wrote @

Fantastic videos Bob! (couldn’t get ’em to play in Firefox, mind you and had to use Safari).

I have a colleague who goes hang gliding off the top of Carlton Bank. He’s a rather rotund bloke so I reckon he must have eaten far too many of those bacon sarnie that you mention before he takes off.

Just looking at the map for the area and there are some fantastic place names around that way – Potto (of Prestons of Potto fame), Sexhow (a question many Doctor Who fans might ask) and Skutterskelfe to name but three.

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks! And sorry for the fiddle on with the videos… they’re just embedded Youtube clips, so not sure why they’re causing problems! If anyone has trouble, all the videos on this diary are located at…

http://www.youtube.com/wifflelevertofull

Skutterskelfe is one of my favourite place names in the world. In fact the whole area is amazing, and well worth a ramble around on a Sunday afternoon. We had great fun making the films (and there’s lots more to come!)

And yeah, the hang-gliders have been there for as long as I can remember, and were out in force on the day me and Mr Jones (good song title) visited. I think we counted ten of them in the air at one point!

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The Fischer of a quarter century past certainly had a talent for drawing characterful sheep. This kind of prowess rarely pleases a careers officer but it impresses me. What a loss you have been to Science!
The scene has been set very well for the unfurling of the terrifying Grey Lady story…

  bobfischer wrote @

I’ve always been proud of my sheep-drawing skills. It’s a niche market, but I’m available for anyone who needs them.

The Grey Lady pales into insignificance compared to the Beating Black Heart of Whorlton Castle, but you’ll have to wait until Wednesday for that…

  Sue Stredwick wrote @

Blimey – just found this site and you’ve taken me back a few years. I had the honour to share a dinner table with Lee and his mate (I’m not sure but I think it was Davey) with Michelle Mortimer. What a fab week. I managed to pull a tooth out on a Highland toffee bar from the tuck shop one evening watching one of the films on the projector screens (was it Gentle Ben? – I’ll have to read on to find out – haven’t quite got down that far). Just read on a bit further, the photo on Monday 2nd April – the two girlsyou can’t name were me (in the fetching green hat), and Sian Jay. Glad to see I remembered the film right too. I was looking to find out when Slackie had his seesaw accident, when Sarah Dixon did a sudden leap off her side of it and Slackie was caterpulted onto the hard concrete below, chin first. As I recall, he was back at the camp within a few hours of visiting A&E (were his parents even informed of the accident or was the row of black stitches that gave it away?).

  bobfischer wrote @

Crikey, hello! And huge apologies… I can’t believe I didn’t recognise you in that photo!

Yeah, Lee and Davey were teamed up that week, so it’ll definitely have been them that shared your dinner table. And yes, I’m sure Slackie’s parents were aware of the Great See-Saw Disaster of 1984, but were clearly keen that his week of Outdoor Education continued uninterrupted! The man himself tells me that the legendary Mr Hirst (a regular visitor to this corner of the internet) drove him to Stokesley A&E to get stitched up, stifling laughter all the way there and back.

  Jim Place wrote @

Class of 84, would you believe it!!

Only found my way to this site earlier in the week and even then it was through a colleague I’ve worked with for nearly twenty years who has put the pieces together and realised we were in the same class at Levendale.

Talk about a trip down memory lane, reading the diary blog has just made it all come flooding back. Top marks for all the effort you must have put into this.

Yes, the trip to Carlton Outdoor Centre was the highlight of the school year. I seem to recall that the chap in charge of the centre had rather sadistic tendencies (probably ex forces)and took no greater pleasure than marching us into the ground.

I still can’t believe how much sport they allowed us to play back in 1984. Every week we got at least one afternoon off to play football against a rival school.

Conyers was one big anti-climax after Levendale. We left the area in 1986 for Leicestershire.

I don’t buy that ‘school is the best days of your life’ routine but Levendale was about as close as it got.

Did we ever find those ghosts at the railway hut?!

  bobfischer wrote @

Mr Place! Blimey, how lovely to see you around these parts. I think the last time we spoke was on Conyers hockey pitch in 1986, when I promised to make a dodgy TDK copy of Knight Lore for your ZX Spectrum.

Glad you’re enjoying this rubbish, sorry for taking your name in vain several thousand times during the course of last year! The ghosts at the railway hut send their regards.

  melissa wrote @

bit of a randomness here perhaps. I’m in the US and happened across your ‘diary’ here by google searching Busby Manor.

I’m trying to look into my family geneology and an ancient ancestor of mine is reported to have been born at Busby Manor. Just curious if that is an estate, if it still exists, if this is even the same thing?

By the way I think its pretty awesome that you have all this and memories from some 25 years ago.

  ジャム wrote @

Weird man, I camped there in the 90’s with my school. Was the shed on wheels still there? I’m gonna go camping up there soon I think.


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