Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 128

Monday 7th May 1984

OCCASIONAL DAY

Woke up around nineish and don’t know when I got up but Doug rang and came down. We went on Levendale and to Deadman’s creek, then back up to my house at 12.00 and had dinner.

After that we called on Clarkie to see if he could play Cricket but he was out so we went on Conyers and played ourselves. We then mucked on in the long jump, and when we got back tea was ready so Doug went home.

After tea I generally mucked on, then at 7.15 I watched Hi-de-Hi. At 8.45 I watched The Two Ronnies and Three of a kind, then after a bath I watched the Snooker. Watched Jasper Carrot at 11.00 and at 11.30 I went to bed.

keithjoseph

An ‘Occasional Day’ off! Yay! These came around a couple of times a year, and were intended (I think) to give our teachers an intensive days training in school without the inconvenience of having annoying little buggers like us under their feet. I’m sure someone can confirm this, but did teachers refer to them as ‘Baker Days’ after the erstwhile Education Secretary? (Although they weren’t called that in 1984, because the positively vampiric-looking Keith Joseph held the job back then!)  

As I’ve serialised these diary entries, I’ve developed a bit of a running grumble about how the world isn’t quite as wild, woolly and exciting as it was in 1984. Lots of the terrifying, tangled wildernesses of my youth have been tarted up and replaced with executive housing or office blocks, and I feel as though a little bit of dangerous unpredictibility has been sucked out of the planet that I’ve been aimlessly shambling around for the first 36 years of my life.  

With this in mind, here beginneth… The Story Of Deadman’s Creek.

hogweed

 This brillantly-named danger spot was a wild pocket of nastiness on the very farthest frontier of the Levendale housing estate. As the spacious, modern homes of Valley Drive receded behind us, the path dipped into a thrilling nest of overgrown woods, tangled undergrowth, terrifying slopes and an infestation of Giant Hogweed that – ever since a John Craven’s Newsround Special Report in the Summer of 1982 – I’d been convinced could kill me with a single, fleeting touch.

It all plunged downhill to the murky brown expanse of the River Tees, and on the very waters edge was a fallen treetrunk that had jammed into a crook of the riverbank and protruded fifteen feet into the fast-flowing waters, providing a slippery, makeshift jetty for clumsy eleven-year-old feet to clamber along.

None of this was visible from the road, and as such it provided a brilliant, secluded hidey-hole for me and my raggle-taggle gang to attempt all manner of skullduggery and ‘double dares’. It was, of course, named ‘Deadman’s Creek’ because – yeah right, swear down, it’s true – many years earlier a kid OUR OWN AGE (taps nose sagely) had walked the plank on the famous log, slipped at the very farthest point, and been swiftly swept away to his death in the icy waters.

Of course,  nobody could EVER tell us a) who the kid was or b) when this happened, but IT WAS DEFINITELY TRUE because Thingy from Wotsit Street had once spoken to a mate of his older brother, and he said it was SIX MONTHS before they pulled his body out of the river, and they were only able to identify him by teethmarks in the Wham Bar in the back pocket of his jeans.

Anyway, I went back to Deadman’s Creek today, and found this…

Safe to say it’s been (booo!) smartened up considerably. All that glorious tangled woodland has been replaced by nicely-mown lawns on both sides of the river… the other bank was just as dark and twisted and claustrophic back in 1984, but now it all looks like a lovely location for a picnic, complete with stripy blazers and tip topper straw boaters.

Harumph.

(Sorry the film is so short, by the way – I was aware that two blokes trimming a hedge over the road were watching me, and I got scared. Well, they were big. And they had a nasty-looking pair of secateurs between them…)

I did manage to grab a quick picture as well, and I think this is the location where the fallen log was, although back in 1984 this too would have been surrounded by dense woodland and assorted nastiness…

deadmanscreek

The log itself provided ample opportunites for all kind of entertainment on top of our ‘walk the plank’ routines, because it also boasted two protuberances that – and there’s no other way of putting this – closely resembled a giant pair of knockers. Complete with nipples. I remember the brilliantly funny Paul Whitehead rubbing his hands over them and grinning ‘Blimey, cold today, isn’t it?’ in a manner that would have made Benny Hill glow with pride.

I also remember our afternoon ‘mucking around’ in the Long Jump sandpit at Conyers School, for two main reasons…

a) Doug and I had a sand fight with each other. It had been raining, so the sand was a bit wet and claggy, and therefore absolutely perfect for rolling into revolting dark orange balls and chucking at each other’s faces. And groins. And… well, actually the windows of the house behind us.

I remember gazing in terror as one of my lobbed, sandy missiles soared into the grey sky in a graceful arc, disappeared over a garden fence, and then exploded with a dull thud against a fragile pane of glass.

As it did so, a disembodied voice cried ‘OY!!!!! YOU LITTLE SODS!!!’ and Doug and I scattered in different directions like tiny, mop-headed meteors.

sandpit

And… b) We departed the scene of the sandy crime so quickly that we left my prized cricket bat buried six inches deep in the sand. And completely forgot about it until the end of Hi-De-Hi, at which point I think I made a vague excuse about wanting ‘some fresh air’ and snuck back to retrieve it.

And what a splendid evening of vintage 1980s comedy! There was no new series of Hi-De-Hi in May 1984, so it must have been a repeat of an early episode, and the same goes for The Two Ronnies. Oh, and Three Of A Kind. And… erm… Jasper Carrot as well. Actually, what the hell was going on here? If anyone ever complains to you that ‘Telly is all just repeats these days’ then point them in the direction of this entry. I want a refund on my licence fee for May 7th 1984, and I’ll have the cheque for 3.7p made out to R. Fischer Esq.

(Actually, a little word for Jasper Carrott, whose early Eighties show ‘Carrott’s Lib’ had been a naughty pleasure in the preceding years. It was screened incredibly late on a Saturday night, and seemed alarmingly topical, daring and often downright rude… Proper Adult TV, in a nutshell, and I felt incredibly grown-up being allowed to watch it. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for his influence on modern stand-up…)

Oh, and the snooker. It was the World Championships Final between Steve Davis and Jimmy White, and the Romford Robot won it by 18 frames to 16. It was absolutely nailbiting stuff, and – clearly – also a bloody good excuse to stay up late on a school night. In fact, I think the match finished at 11pm, at which point I was about to be unceremoniously packed off to bed until my twinkly-eyed Dad pointed out that ‘Jasper Carrott’s on BBC1, Doreen…’ and I switched into cynical begging and pleading mode.

I’d have to be good tomorrow though, or ‘it’s the last time, I promise…’

Zzzzzzzzzzz…

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8 Comments»

  Justin wrote @

Baker Days – so named because he introduced the in-service training days for teachers somewhere between 86 and 89.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah right, so they weren’t training days back in 1984? Wonder why we had a day off, then? Not that I’m complaining!

  PJE_UK wrote @

Probably the May Day Bank Holiday. Like the one we had earlier this week !

The holiday was introduced in 1978.

  bobfischer wrote @

Durrr! *slaps forehead* Of course… it was Bank Holiday Monday. Thankyou! Most Bank Holidays got swallowed up by Easter, Christmas and Half Term breaks, but this one didn’t.

We did still have occasional days off though, and I’m sure they were for teacher training… just looked ahead in my diary, and there are a couple in October and November.

  PJE_UK wrote @

We used to get occasional days at our infants school as it was our estate’s polling station for local and general elections in Billingham

  Mark Hirst wrote @

To stop the speculation. Baker Days aka Occasional Days are now called PD Days, as us teechus undergo Professional Development.

Schools can have 5 of these a year. They are separate from Polling Day and Bank Holiday closures. And closures due to swine flu etc.

I personally feel that we should have a PD Day at least once a week, for Perpetual Drinking.

  bobfischer wrote @

The voice of authority! Thanks, Mr H. I imagine swine flu is rife in Guisborough.

I’d forgotten about polling days, our school was definitely used for those as well! Although oddly, I don’t think it ever closed, as I’m sure I remember sitting on the school bus at the end of the day watching voters wandering into our school reception, which had a temporary ‘POLLING STATION’ banner strung across the entrance.

I was very confused about the whole thing, so I think I was quite young… probably the 1979 General Election, when I was six.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

What a very evocative description of The Creek!


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