Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 113

Sunday 22nd April 1984

Woke up at 9.00 and got up at about 10.00. When I went downstairs I wrote some Fighting Fantasy, then I read my Eagle and after that I went outside and played on the Tarzie and on the bike. When I came in a bit later, I played on the videopac, then I had dinner.

After dinner I had a few more games on the videopac, then went outside and jumped off logs onto the Tarzie. After a run on the front garden with Poggy Doggy and a race around on the bike I typed some more of the Fighting Fantasy till I had tea.

After tea I played on the videopac, then me and mam went on a ride round Saltergill school and saw Mr Tunstall. When we came back I typed, then I had a bath and at 9.00 I watched Clive James. Went to bed at 10.00.

I was a comic slut. There, I’ve said it.

Like the proverbial sailor with one in every port, I had different comics reserved for me by different newsagents all over Teesside. Murray’s Newsagents in Acklam provided me with the bulk of them during our visits to my Gran’s house… Whizzer and Chips, Whoopee!, Nutty, The Beano and Star Wars Weekly. However I also had Buster and Cheeky Weekly put aside in Yarm’s musty Newsfare, and – oddly – my weekly dose of Eagle was reserved by the VG, the little corner shop around the corner from Levendale Primary School. I always seemed to collect it on a Saturday after returning from my Gran’s, which explains why I often read it on a Sunday morning. There’s nothing better than a bit of Dan Dare to liven you up after Play It Safe! and Farming Outlook.


(The former, by the way, was one of the scariest programmes in the world, and not only because it was presented by Jimmy Savile. Presumably produced in response to a Government Think Tank report that discovered kids were bloody stupid and always falling off/under/over things, it was a series designed purely to scare the living ab-dabs out of anyone under the age of 15. We were treated to explicit footage of children running through glass doors and putting sizzling irons on their foreheads, and then shown the gruesome consequences in full, gory-tastic detail. It was enough to put anyone off their Coco Pops).

I’m not sure which Fighting Fantasy I was working on at this point, no doubt The Guardian of the Woodland Jewel of Elfin Village with Added Magick or somesuch nonsense. All of my half-hearted, aborted efforts to write a book tended to merge into one after a while. And they still do, ho ho! 

Nice to see a mention for Mr Tunstall, though, who had been a teacher at Levendale for a few months the previous year. Strangely, it was part of an unprecedented teacher exchange, the likes of which I’ve never heard of before or since. In a nutshell, ‘our’ Mrs Keasey went to teach at Kirklevington Primary School for a couple of months, and ‘their’ Mr Tunstall came to us. Kirklevington is a small village barely a mile from Yarm, so it wasn’t done for any geographical reasons, and I’m still a bit bamboozled as to how and why this happened.

We liked Mrs Keasey, so it was a shame to see her go, but Mr Tunstall was a genial, softly-spoken chap who made himself very popular at Levendale. The exchange also gave rise to a priceless bit of schoolboy wit, as I was later told by a former pupil of Kirklevington School that Mrs Keasey became the subject of a wickedly barbed school song.

Her car was pretty distinctive for 1984… she drove a vintage 1960s Humber, and you could see it coming a mile off as you pottered around the streets of Yarm. The boys of Kirklevington School apparently used to sing this little ditty, to the tune of the classic Madness hit ‘Driving In My Car’…

I like Mrs Keasey’s car
It’s a C reg Humber
She looks like a bloody fool
Driving up to Kirklev School…

Cruel, BUT… in retrospect, Mrs Keasey clearly had the last laugh. Because C registration cars were produced in 1965, and a 1965 Humber looks like this…


…which now, to me, is the very epitome of elegant, distinctive retro cool. So, with the benefit of hindsight, Mrs Keasey drove the bestest car in Yarm and we were a bunch of philistine twats. If you ever see this, Mrs Keasey, then I apologise on behalf of all the pupils of Kirklevington School circa 1983!

Saltergill School, meanwhile, was a residential school in the middle of the countryside about a mile from Yarm. It was noteable to us 1984 kids for two things, really…

a) It was at the top of an astonishingly steep country lane that plummeted towards a bridge over a trickling beck, and as such was THE GREATEST VENUE FOR WINTER SLEDGING IN THE WORLD.


b) It was, to coin a very old-fashioned phrase, a ‘special school’, for boys with learning difficulties and other issues that made mainstream schooling tricky for them. As we didn’t know anyone who’d ever been there, the place – to us – was shrouded in dark mystery, and naturally became the subject of all kinds of bizarre rumour. There was a boy there who bit the head off his Dachshund! The Yorkshire Ripper lived there and was one of their form tutors! If you walked past and looked in the windows, they’d run out and kidnap you and turn you into a scarecrow!!!

As far as I can see, the school was closed in 2004 and is now scheduled for demolition, but I still remember the little frisson of nerves (and, if I’m honest, excitement) that I used to get when we cycled past its high fences and dark windows. The 11-year-old mind is a strange and terrifying thing sometimes.

And Clive James! He was legendary to us kids for his ‘Clive James on TV’ shows, bringing cheesy foreign adverts and jaw-dropping Japanese reality TV to a generation who little suspected that, 25 years later, British TV would be nastier and more cynical than the whole sorry bunch put together.

I miss Clive James, and wish he’d magically reappear on TV. In the meantime, here’s a little snippet…


  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The magnificent Clive James will be 70 this year.
Far, far too old to be allowed on today’s television.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yegods, I thought he was that age back in 1984. How did everyone manage to look so old in the 1970s and 80s? Was there global industrial action amongst the moisturiser and exfoliant industries?

He is magnificent, though. Someone once sent me a CD of the lovely late 1960s songs he composed with Pete Atkin, and it’s glorious.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

What a very kind someone that must have been. Tasteful and intelligent too, I expect. Incidentally all of Clive and Pete’s albums have just been painstakingly restored, remastered and re-released on CD:
http://www.demonmusicgroup.co.uk/content/59.chtml?Type=QS&SearchType=Artist&SearchText=pete atkin

  Gary wrote @


I went to Saltergill Residential School For Boys, I have set up a web site for all who went to the School, I know you did not go but I woul love to add you Memories of Saltergill School to my site!

Or you are more van welcome to join my forum at: http://www.dhea-forum.org.uk and post your Memories of Saltergill School, in the Saltergill School sekshon.

Sorry if there is any spelling mistakes I am Dyslexic!

  Andy wrote @

How do you get a copy of this diary book as it is very interesting cheers Andy

  bobfischer wrote @

Hi Andy, there’s no book of the diary, it’s all just here on this blog! I did write a book about my love of Doctor Who and Star Wars though, if you click on some of the ‘Wiffle Lever To Full’ links you can find out more about it. Thanks for asking!

  Graham Parker wrote @


We must write that sit-com!

Mr. P

  Philomena wrote @

Nice posting but I’m not sure that I agree. But then, folks consider me challenging at the best of times! Thank you.

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