Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 137

Wednesday 16th May 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. First at school it was assembly, then we had to do a description of a car. At 12.00 we had dinner, then after dinner we played American football. When we came in we did maths, then we all went out and played Bulldogs. 

Came home at 3.15 and typed, then I had tea and at 6.40 I watched Terry and June. At 7.30 I watched Coronation Street, then I went out and played on the bike. Came in at 8 and washed my hair, then at 9.30 I went to bed after typing again.



PS Forgot that at 3.15 me and Doug went to watch Ozzie play tennis

OK, we already have our suspicions that the week we spent copying out holiday brochures during the Winter Term of 1984 was in preparation for Mr Hirst’s forthcoming summer break in Tenerife. Given that, which of our teachers do you think was now contemplating buying a new car? My money’s on Mr Millward, and a Volvo 360 Estate.


Mr Hirst was (by his own admission when I saw him the other week) entirely responsible for the outbreak of American Football at Levendale Primary School, though. Although he thinks it began when he (ahem) ‘encouraged’ us to re-enact the famous Shrove Tuesday ‘Mob Football’ game that has taken place in Sedgefield since medieval times.

You can read more about this here and, indeed, here

This might, he suspects, also be the origin of the phrase ‘Shivering Sedgefield’ which was in widespread use at our school during Carlton Camp week (have a look from Friday 30th March 1984 onwards!) I like the way that these facts have become lost and distorted in the mists of time, rather like Simon Bentley’s front teeth and David Malyon’s jawline after this particularly vicious and violent encounter.


BUT HOW HARD WERE WE?!?!? Not content with sticking Start-Rite Trainers into each other’s faces in the name of exercise, we followed it up with a game of BRITISH BULLDOGS!!! I was sure this game had been outlawed at Levendale Primary School by this stage in our development, but maybe the ban had been lifted after the Amazingly Hairy Mr Chalkley initiated the playground games equivalent of the Treaty Of Versailles.

Namely ‘You can play, but play nicely’. Pretty much exactly what we said to the Germans in 1919, then.  

I loved British Bulldogs. For those too old (or too soft) to remember, a group of 11-year-old sociopaths would gather at one end of the playground, with one hapless sap (usually chosen by dint of coming last in a cross-playground pre-qualifying race) stuck on his own, staring them out from the middle.  

Our hero would then nominate one punter from the group to attempt to race across to the other side of playground, and try his best to wrestle his victim to the ground in No Man’s Land. If he was successful, the poor prisoner would become part of the team in the middle, and another punter would be nominated.

If he wasn’t, and our slippery victim somehow managed to make it to the other side, the whole of the rest of the group would then pelt across in celebration, amidst a flurry of flailing elbows, swinging boots, and grabbed handfuls of Debenham’s jumper being stretched out to inter-continental proportions.

Actually, put like that, the Treaty of Versailles sounds a bit less complicated. The game would continue until either a) everyone in the group had been captured by the swelling masses in the middle, b) The Amazingly Hairy Mr Chalkley decided another month-long ban was appropriate, or c) Christopher Herbert was taken to hospital. Again.

I’ve been trying to work out what nonsense I’ve been typing every night for the last couple of weeks, and I think I’ve cracked it. The issue of the Fighting Fantasy magazine ‘Warlock’ that I bought on this day had a competition, inviting pale 11-year-old boys to submit their OWN Fighting Fantasty stories for possibile publication. (Boys with overly-ruddy complexions were disqualified, they clearly spent too much time outdoors, probably mixing with ‘girls’)

The closing date was the 31st May, and as such my co-writer Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald and I were racing against time with nerve-racking, mind-shredding vigour. Apart from today, when Ozzie pulled on his whites and trotted down to a Yarm Tennis Club for a gentle knock-up, and Doug and I idly pottered along to watch.


I do have a clear memory of a strange snippet of conversation from this occasion lodged in my head. It was a beautiful, sunny evening, and Ozzie cheerfully said ‘Fancy a game?’ to Doug and I as he effortlessly lofted a backhand volley into the trees next to the cricket pavilion.

‘I can’t,’ I replied. ‘I haven’t got my tennis whites. Apart from (guffaw) my underpants. They’re (titter) nice and white’.

At which point a rather foxy-looking woman on the adjacent court (tight top, Susan Hampshire hairdo) flashed me a saucy smile and said ‘I heard that’, as she effortlessly powered a thunderous second service between the legs of a weedy Frankie Howerd lookalike. This tickled me, and I prided myself on having attracted the attention of a sexy, middle-aged lady.

She was probably about 24.


(By the way, I love the fact that I missed this out of my initial diary entry, but felt compelled shortly afterwards to stick it in as a postscript. Who’d ever have thought I’d have grown up to be an anally-retentive collectormaniac?)

And more bloody repeats on the BBC! There were no new episodes of Terry and June in 1984, so I’m guessing I watched a repeat instalment from the classic 1983 series, including the brilliant ‘Day In Boulogne’ two-parter (complete with cliff-hanger!) in which – no, honestly – a girl who’d written in to Jim’ll Fix It asking to be in the show got to say ‘Poo, what a pong!’ to Terry Scott as he attempted to smuggle a saddle-bag full of cheese onto the Cross-Channel Ferry.

No wonder I smudged my Berol Notewriter after all that excitement.



  Mark Hirst wrote @

Over the last 29 years and based on first hand experience, I can say without hesitation, that boys at primary school generally enjoy a `pile up` or `pile on` and will make any excuse to engineer one. American Football, Bulldog and `Sedgefields` were particularly popular at Levendale at this time. Slack and Mason were genetically programmed to lead such events and everyone else would join in at their own level. The more psycopathic lads could get in hard and do some real damage. I distinctly remember Carl Tinkler bouncing someone’s head off the grass on many occasions!
Your average Joe would ususally be quite comfortable under a pile of flailing bodies and the more gentle characters could stay roughly on the periphery, just administering the odd slap and then moving swiftly out of harms way.

At my next school, (in the 90`s) it was WWF’s Royal Rumble that captured the boys imagination. Same socio-violent groupings as above.

Presently, I am dealing with an outbreak of `Berserker` behaviour, after describing, in assembly, how these Viking madmen would lead the marauding hordes into general mayhem.

I never learn. Just light the blue touch paper!

Bulldog still exists…fact. When you ban it, the children just re-brand it and call it something else…….Bulldog is banned, but lives on, rules unchanged, accidents aplenty.

What a sad mine of educational information I have become.

  bobfischer wrote @

There’s nothing sad about that lot Mr H, it’s veritable gold dust! And you’re right, Slackie and Mason always seemed to start our regular pile-ons, and it WAS remarkably comfortable being stuck at the bottom of one. Great to know that the tradition is still maintained!

And I think I was previleged enough to have my head bounced off the grass by Carl Tinkler on more than one occasion.

Is there an ‘official’ list of banned games, then? Go on, what else is on it?

  PJE_UK wrote @

Did the Red Rover craze ever hit Yarm. Twas a bit like Bulldogs, just as tough but sounds camper when written down.

Two lines of about 7 lads linking arms about 10 yards apart. One guy was nominated to break down the enemy and then ran full tilt at the opposing line. If he broke through he went back to his team if not he joined the defending line.

Banned at Northfield School after three broken arms within a month.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yes! We definitely had that, and it was definitely still called Red Rover at our place. When the poor victim was nominated, it was done via the medium of verse… ‘Red Rover, Red Rover, send FRANKIE over…’, that kind of thing.

And yep, it went on our list of banned games as well… all of which were typed on school headed notepaper and left on the notice board. This would be around Summer 1983 I think.

British Bulldogs and Red Rover were on there, along with at least half a dozen others whose names completely escape me. Basically anything more robust than Tig and Kiss Chase.

  PJE_UK wrote @

What about “Kingy” ? Throwing a tennis ball at running targets arounf the playground – get them below the legs and they became “it”.

Normal Kingy with the tennis ball was pretty mundane and nothing for Health & Safety to get concerend about. Make it “Super-Kingy” with a golf ball and your wounded count was comparable with Passendale.


  bobfischer wrote @

Hahahahahah! Fantastic. Kingy was commonplace, but I don’t think we ever graduated to Super-Kingy. The only think I ever did with a golf ball at school was pick it apart and fling the laggy bands at Christopher Herbert.

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Come to think of it there isn’t an official banned list. Bulldog in the purest form is outlawed. Red Rover and Kingy live on in various forms. My 21 year old son has re-affirmed that most playground games that involved throwing objects or picking people up were banned and then quickly rebranded to fool the likes of me!!. Thus, juniors throwing infant boys, as happened at his school, would obviously suffer serious rebranding.

These days, older children can be trained as `junior play leaders`, an official award, which means that they are responsible for guiding younger children into well organised, safe games and activities. This seriously cuts down the opportunity for violence and `inappropriate behaviour` by the boys in particular. ( It also creates a nice `family` atmosphere, much loved by Ofsted and other Health and Safety types!)

What you are missing in this `boys own world`, is the fact that most playground trouble involves girls and their `falling outs`. These can last for several months and involve some really perverse behaviours. I often think that the `girly` issues could be quickly resolved with a good old `pile on` and a quick round of Super Kingy. But what do I know? I just work with kids.

  bobfischer wrote @

What kind of world are we living in when bigger boys are no longer permitted to pick up smaller boys and throw them violently to the ground?

This country’s going to hell in a handcart… bring back national service… etc… wibble.

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