Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 91

Saturday 31st March 1984

We got up at 8.30 and went outside for a bit, then it was breakfast. After breakfast we made our bed and tidied our lockers for inspection. After inspection we had to put our hiking boots and cagouls on, and we went outside for a muck around in the playground.

Me and Gazzie got a go on the see saw, and I took some photos. Then we set off for a walk up the hills, and everybody got up to the eyes in mud going down a path and over the stiles. We went through a wood and came out on the hills. We could see Middlesbrough and Carlton.

Then we could do anything we like, so we all rolled down the hill. Then we went back and had dinner, and after a go on the swings we had tea. Then we went in the den and played Pontoon, and me and Sug fiddled the cards and won thousands of pounds.

Then we had supper, and after a sing-song we went to bed.

So, there’s my official diary entry, but my ‘Carlton Diary’ (written in an exercise book in the camp’s classroom) is decidedly different in tone. I think I was acutely aware that this version had an audience, and would be read by my mates and teachers, so I started to ‘play up’ a little bit for laughs…

Saturday 31st March

Paul Whitehead woke us up by shouting in the morning, then to top it all Tucker let rip and that really got everybody’s eyes open. When the smell had cleared we chucked Gazzie’s Teddy around to the distant sounds of Slackie doing a Sedgefield. Then we got up and dressed and went out for a king size muck around in the playground.

small-saturday-1

Mason mangled everyone’s lugholes with the breakfast bell, and we had a vomit-brewing plate of something unrecogniseable. After a film on the Country code we yanked our boots on and pulled on Cagouls, then set off on a feet-blistering walk. We weren’t half way when Mason said he’d collapse. Some hope! We dragged ourselves up a big bank which was a complete waste of time because we had to roll down again.

small-saturday-2

When we got back it was ‘dinner’ which was something that resembled a frisbee and chips. After that we had another muck on and after that it was supper. A cup of hot chocolate (1% chocolate, 99% milk) and a round thing. After that we went to bed and choas started.

small-saturday-3

Whacky shouted some more unmentionable words, Slackie did a Sedgefield, Mason and Sug played Space Invaders and Tucker polluted the air again. Hundreds of people went to the toilet and when the lights went out someone did an earth shattering pump, but I think it was Mason’s whoopee cusion.

Oh dear, a hint of political incorrectness raises its unwelcome head. A ‘Sedgefield’ (or, to use its full title, a ‘Shivering Sedgefield’) was a craze that swept our social group around this time, and consisted of jumping up and down wildly (bashing into as many bystanders as possible) making insane ‘WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP’ noises. I’ve no idea how this started, but I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that the name undoubtedly derived from the Durham County Asylum that was a famous Sedgefield fixture from 1875 to 1996. 

What can I say? It was 1984 and we were 11, and the complexities and tragedy of mental health issues were lost on us. They were just an excuse for us to inflict minor injuries on as many bystanders as possible while jumping around making silly noises.

Anyway, here’s another one of my wonky photos from the Carlton playground…

saturday-playground

These are undoubtedly the rings mentioned by Mr Jones in yesterday’s film. I’d forgotten all about them until I saw this, so well remembered, sir! (And I think that’s Gazzie himself, on the left)

Mason was Stephen Mason, an undoubted eccentric and a brilliant artist who was thrillingly outspoken if there was something going on at school that he didn’t agree with. Including walking up bloody big hills, of which this was the highest point…

I was utterly entranced by this strange plinth and its accompanying stone seat, little beacons of ancient (well, 1968) civilisation in an incredibly remote and windswept location. I think my 11-year-old mind was inevitably jolted back to Alan Garner’s books, and no doubt I’ll have been warily glancing around the moors in case an advance party of Svarts came to kidnap us…

These walks had a lovely feeling of freedom about them, though. Despite being accompanied by all of my schoolfriends and two of my teachers, it didn’t FEEL like school at all. It was much more unhinged, and unleashed and ‘off duty’, and I remember chatting with Mr Hirst and Mrs Keasey in a more informal manner that we ever managed in the cloistered environment of the classroom.

In fact, this was the day of the 1984 Grand National, and I distinctly remember Stephen Mason asking Mr Hirst if we could all have ‘a little flutter’. To which Mr Hirst replied by wiggling his fingers in Mason’s face and grinning ‘There you go, there’s a little flutter for you…’

Great to get a bit of hill-rolling in, as well! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of plummeting down a sheer slope, tangled up in a burnished orange cagoul with the remains of fifty packed lunches careering recklessly around you.

Just so long as we didn’t contravene the Country Code. I can’t remember the film we watched at all, but in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, you might as well have this…

The sing-song is equally vague, but I do remember the pontoon! It was a game we played a lot during school ‘downtime’, although Doug and I were once ‘knacked’ for playing ruthlessly for half-penny pieces one indoor dinnertime. Sug was, of course, Andrew Sugden, inventor of the Loonymen (see Volume 85 of this nonsense) and a man easily capable of secreting a few spare Aces up his Debenham’s sleeve. I probably helped out in return for a go on his ‘Space Invaders’, which was a hand-held LCD version, looking a bit like this:

spaceinvadergame1981

And yes, Stephen Mason had a whoopee cushion that he gleefully let rip with every time Mr Hirst entered the domitory. And it NEVER EVER EVER EVER stopped being hilarious.  (And it still hasn’t, I’m slightly ashamed to admit… giggle giggle, titter….)

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5 Comments»

  Chris Orton wrote @

A Sedgefield! Ha! The asylum was called Winterton, and was somewhere that we were often told scary stories about. Gone now, of course and there is a housing estate in it’s place. I think that Mark Gatiss often mentions the place in interviews as he was born in Sedgefield.

In fact, one of the inmates/residents/prisoners used to live near us when he wasn’t interred. We were told that he was committed because he had chopped off his dog’s head with an axe because it wouldn’t stop barking. I’ve no idea whether this is true or not, but I do no that this person had to be taken away each week to have ‘special injections’.

  bobfischer wrote @

I’m was surprised to discover that it was still ‘officially’ being called an asylum until the 1990s, as I thought that term had long since fallen into disuse by then. I’ve no idea what the place was actually like in 1984, but naturally our fevered 11-year-old minds depicted it as some kind of hellish, Victorian Bedlam.

And yes, I’ve definitely heard Mark Gatiss talk about its ‘dark windows’ and so on. I guess buildings and institutions like that make big impressions on your childhood because they’re so far outside your normal sphere of experiences. Thankfully.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

We don’t like being PC, so it’s all good!
There’s a difference between humour and malice-I’m not sure the PC brigade realise this!

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The twin diaries show off the fact that you had developed the freelancer’s knack of switching easily between registers at a young age! I think there are twice as many adjectives and qualifiers in the public version as in the private one.
Was there an absurdly short lapse of time between ‘dinner’ and ‘supper’ or were you playing on the swings for many hours?

  bobfischer wrote @

Terrifying, isn’t it? I clearly spent my eleventh year indulging in a shameless quest for superficial attention and cheap laughs.

It’s a good job I’ve grown out of it now (hem hem)

‘Mucking about’ for several hours, I suspect. Swings, iron rings, see-saw escapades and playing pontoon in the den. Although I’m sure ‘lights out’ was at 9pm or somesuch, so we won’t have had THAT much time to fill.


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