Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 142

Monday 21st May 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. First at school it was assembly, then Mrs Howarth gave us a maths sheet. Did that till dinner at 12.00, then I did some language out of a book. Came home at 3.15 and then I went to the valley and met Doug, Ramsay, Stan (with his yellow wellies) Whacky and Clarkey.

After a muck on in the VG we all went to the green and had a geedy lark. Came back at 5.00 and had tea, then I typed for a bit. Went out on my bike, then at 7.30 I watched Coronation Street.

At 8.00 I watched Points of View and at 8.10 I watched The Two Ronnies with Dr Who in. Went to bed at 9.30ish.

I remember Stan’s yellow wellies! They were amazing, and shone out of the dark undergrowth of Deadman’s Creek like little rubber lighthouses. And it had been raining during the day, so by the time we’d finished faffing around in the long grass by the riverbank, they were covered in tiny orange and black slugs. As a result, he wasn’t made enormously welcome in the VG corner shop, although I suspect that any stray slugs left on the shop floor were later dried out and sold from the sweets counter as cheap alternatives to Fizzy Cola Bottles.


Another new nickname for our collection as well… Whacky was the late, great Paul Whitehead – another good friend of ours whose larger-than-life personality and sensational Elvis-style quiff later earned him the coveted role of ‘Pharoah’ in our school’s production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. But more of that still to come…

A couple of curious TV bits here. I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever of watching Coronation Street at any point in my life, and yet I seem to have been tuning in regularly for several weeks now! Which is odd, as even the opening parps of the theme tune were usually enough to make my Dad roll his eyes, say ‘Not on this bloody telly, we don’t…’ and switch over for A Question Of Sport. I must have had a strange fretish for Fred Feast.

And ‘The Two Ronnies with Dr Who in’…? Anybody any ideas? There were no new Two Ronnies episodes being broadcast at this point, so it must have been a repeat from an earlier series. Was it a sketch in which they spoofed Doctor Who, or was it (as I suspect) this sketch, featuring Patrick Troughton as a comedy Judge?

Answers on the back of a dried-out slug to the usual address, please…

Anyway, it’s time for some more 1984 Blog Film fun. You might remember, a few weeks ago, I managed to track down my old teacher Mr Hirst for a few words for the blog. If you missed out on this historic occasion, it’s on this entry.

I was delighted when Mr Hirst said he was still in touch with his old partner-in-crime at Levendale Primary School, Mr Millward. And so today, with the deal clinched by the promise of a cup of tea and some chocolate digestives, I met Mr Millward for the first time since July 1984!

This, remember, is the man who introduced me to the work of Alan Garner, and his amazing book The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen. The full story can be found on this entry here. Here’s Mr M, hiding at the back of our class photo in June 1984…


And here he is 25 years later, once more waxing lyrical to an idiot child who can’t keep still…!

(By the way, the book featuring the non-lisping character Clio was ‘A Handful of Thieves’ by Nina Bawden. Took me 20 years after leaving Levendale to work out what it was… and then I forgot to mention it in the film. Chocolate digestives can do that to a man’s mind… )

And Mr Garner… I hope you don’t mind if you see this, but I couldn’t resist sneaking my battered, yellowing paperback of ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ into my satchel today, and asking the man who introduced me to this glorious stuff 25 years ago to re-enact a little moment of wonder from my childhood.

Jackanory really didn’t know what they were missing…

My head went all swimmy when we did this earlier today. I could have sat there and listened to him reading the whole bloody book.

Thanks for everything, Mr Millward – I had a cracking afternoon, and it was lovely to see you again!



  Tom S wrote @

Legendary is often misused – but if anyone deserves the title it’s Mr Millward.

What’s he up to now? I have a vague memory of my mum working with him at a school at some stage, but can’t remember where he went on to after Levendale.

Keep up the good work Bob – who’s next on the teacher stalking radar?

  bobfischer wrote @

From Levendale he went to Marton to be headmaster, with Mr Hirst as his deputy! And then moved onto a school in downtown Middlesbrough. He’s retired now, and spends his time being stalked by idiot former pupils.

I’d love to speak to Mrs Keasey next, but she might be more of a challenge, as everyone seems to have lost touch with her 20 years ago!

  Thing wrote @

Could the Two Ronnies with Dr Who in also have been the one with the Adventures of Archie sequence, which features the TARDIS being piloted by Worzel Gummidge, as played by Ronnie Barker?

  Tom S wrote @

Chances are it could have been either of those – she did supply at a lot of places.

Don’t have many memories of Mrs Keasey – I’m also mixing up a lot of Levendale and Conyers teachers in my addled memory.

Only Levendale teacher I’ve seen recently is Mrs Mulhurn – she’s now living in Wales, so bit of a trek if you want an interview!

Does anyone else remember the hugely complex, turn-based, Red…sorry Native American Indian role-playing game Mr Hirst (I think) ran in one of his classes?

  Chris Byers wrote @

Well done Bob on catching up with Mr Millward. He really was a legend and like you i can remember his excellent storey telling. I can also remember very well our class rendition of The Night Before Christmas poem in the Christmas play. With Mr Millward waving his arms around trying to conduct us as if we were the London philharmonic.

I had a fantastic time at Levendale and that in part has to be down to the great teachers we had. And they didn’t get any better than Mr Millward and Mr Hirst.

  Geoff Millward wrote @

There has been much made of yellow wellies and slugs in this blog but it appears that one rogue one somehow found its way on to my top lip in the summer of eighty four! Maybe I should have eaten it as a coca cola bottle. And there was I thinking that I looked like the bees knees, the happening teacher of the day – how terribly sad is that? I am almost certain that should I seek legal advice I would be assured that I have a strong case for suing (sic) re the use of pronographic pictures of me without my prior consent.
And is this it then? The moment I have waited for all my life – the promised Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame – well, I know that numbers are not my strong point but my addition suggests that the two clips combined total only 9 minutes 7 seconds. It would seem that you owe me a further 5 minutes 53 seconds.
But hey this media superstardom musn’t go to my head. Huge thanks for looking me up and reminding me of some ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ – apologies to Dennis Potter

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Thanks for the kind words Chris, now that I’m `in charge` I rarely get such positive feedback!

Mr M was a great bloke to work with and like I said to Bob when we met up, I learnt a great deal from him and he shall always be one of my guiding lights. He really was/is a truly great primary practitioner! (That said, when I was his Deputy, I must say I carried him to a massive extent!)

Watching and listening to him read `Weirdstone` reminded me of his natural ability to totally engage a group of children , masterful! ……………. and also reminded me of his ability to disengage and reduce a full staffroom into a deep stupour. Listening to detailed recounts of his fun filled gardening weekends, was usually enough to have everyone reaching for a sharp implement or length of strong rope, to end the interminable misery. Going back to the class of Slack, Mason and Herbert for the afternoon session, was a positive joy!

Mr Stainer, (hello again Tom),even I cannot remember the full details of the role play game! it was probably a highly complex activity designed to develop the personal and social aspects of a child. Or just an excuse to have a bit of a laugh together. I honestly can’t remember!

  bobfischer wrote @

You were both bloody brilliant teachers, and I wouldn’t have swopped a day of it for anything. There, I’ve said it. I’ll now revert to my standard mode of raised-eyebrow sarcasm for the rest of 2009. 😉

Blimey, loads to catch up with!

Thing – very possibly that’s The Two Ronnies sketch I was writing about, although I must admit I can’t remember it! Any idea when it’s from?

Chris – you’ve just jogged a splendid memory! I’d completely forgotten about reciting ‘The Night Before Christmas’ in our school production, but I was definitely part of it. There were about thirty of us chanting it in unison, with Mr M desperately trying to make us sound halfway decent. I think this might have been Christmas 1981…? A really nice Christmas, not least because I got same table football from Leslie Brown’s toy shop that Paul Frank had been bought the previous summer.

Mr M – you’re welcome to do the extra 5 minutes and 53 seconds any time you like. Can you juggle? If so, you’re on, but I’ll insist you grow the moustache back before we start. It’s a great look, strongly reminscent of Dennis Weaver in ‘Duel’.

Mr H (and Tom) – I don’t think I can have taken part in the Native American Indian role-playing game, as I’ve no memory of it at all! I was probably in the library, battling Orcs and slaying Goblins with Ian Oswald. I feel like I missed out, though!

  Thing wrote @

The Two Ronnies’ The Adventures Of Archie sketch was, if I recall, where Archie (Ronnie Corbett) finds a magic lamp with a genie (Ronnie Barker) and he eventually gets his wishes which involve being stranded on an island with a bevy of beautiful women, but because he’s used up his wishes he can’t get back. After a few years, he’s homesick but doesn’t know how he can return, until suddenly the police box materialises, Archie jumps up and says “The TARDIS!”, and then it opens, with Worzel Gummidge (Ronnie Barker) emerging. There’s a bit of a discussion between them, with Archie saying “Jon Pertwee? No, you used to be Dr Who, now you’re Worzel Gummidge!”, and Worzel saying “Ooh aye, I must ‘ave got the wrong ‘ead on!” and going off to follow a Yellow Brick Road. Archie goes into the TARDIS and uses it to get home after making a few journeys to the wrong places at first. On eventually returning home, he finds the genie has been brought with him because he got caught on a nail sticking out of the side of the TARDIS.

I think it was in the 1983 Christmas special originally, and repeated in 1984. It was definitely during one of those years anyway.

  Patsy wrote @

1) That bit about dried out slugs made me feel sick – please have some consideration for those of a delicate disposition !

2)Do you think Mr M would appreciate a groupie 😉

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks, Thing! Sounds like that might be the one, actually. I remember the Ronnies doing a few sci-fi and fantasy-based things around that time, actually… including a great time-travelling sketch in the 1982 Christmas special! There must have been a Doctor Who fan lurking somewhere on the writing team… possibly David Renwick?

And get behind the barriers, Patsy… I saw him first.

  Tom Stainer wrote @

Mr H – I think I even suspected at the time that we were meant to be learning something more important about trade and founding alliances with other tribes, but generally most of us just liked it when we got to attack and scalp other classmates (purely roleplay of course – Levendale wasn’t quite THAT wild…not until my brother got there anyway…hope he’s not reading this)

I’d echo Bob’s non-cynical comments – and say: we were probably pains in the arse at the time, but you helped make us what we are today…whether that’s something to be particularly proud of is another question! 😉

  bobfischer wrote @

I can think of a few ‘haircuts’ at Levendale that would have benefitted enormously from a bit of expert tomahawk attention. Including my own ridiculous Neil-from-The-Young-Ones barnet!

  Joanne Oxley wrote @

Thanks Bob for bringing back so many memories on your blog not only of Levendale but the 80’s in general. Mr Millward and Mr Hirst were fantastic teachers I’ll never forget those 2 and I loved watching the interviews. It’s weird how I always thought they were really old in the 80’s, Mr Hirst can only have been young 20’s, great laughs especially when we had snow on the field. I moved away from Yarm in 1987 and now live in Dorset so I’ve enjoyed looking at your photo’s and video clips. Is Strickland and Holt still there? – I used to go in there all the time and buy pens and stuff.

  bobfischer wrote @

Hi Joanne, it’s an absolute pleasure, and it’s lovely to see you around these parts! I remember you well from Levendale, glad you’ve found this nonsense and are enjoying it.

And you’re absolutely right about our teachers ages, they seemed ancient us kids, but I think Mr H will have been in his mid-20s in 1984, and Mr M in his mid-30s. Terrifying!

And yes, ‘Strickies’ is still present and correct, and still stocking a fine array of pens!

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