Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 145

Thursday 24th May 1984

Off school again so I stayed in bed till 9.30. When I got up I got the cards out and played patientce and clock, then I went outside on the bike. When I came in I drew some pictures, and at 12.00 I had dinner.

After dinner I played  patientce all afternoon, then at 3.30 I went down to Huggy’s house with Doug. We mucked about on a ramp outside, then at 5.45 I had tea straight after coming home.

When I’d done that I played on a ramp outside, then came in at 8.5 to watch Porridge. That was geedy, then at 8.35 I watched We got it made. Went to bed at 9.00 and read till 10.00.

Uuuuuurgh! Ugh! Aaaaaaaaargh! Woe is me! Oh, will this foul malady ever leave me in peace? Aaaaaargh! I’m so ill!

(And so on, and so on, all delivered in a feeble, moany voice as I half-heartedly pushed porridge around a Basil Brush cereal bowl and sneakily pressed myself against the front room radiator to get my temperature up)

This last trick was something I’d learnt from my early 1980s bible… The Whizzkid’s Handbook, by Peter Eldin. An amazing paperback treasure trove of japes, wheezes, dodges and skives passed down from generation to generation of grubby oiks like me, it must have sold forty squillion copies via school Book Clubs alone.


I assume everyone’s school had some sort of Book Club? Every month we’d be presented with a new brochure of potential titles, and could – with our parents’ consent – tick a few boxes on the order form and bring our pennies in to pay for them the following day. Within the week, an exciting-looking box of spanking new paperbacks would appear in Mrs Keasey’s cupboard, and we’d vanish into the library for the rest of the morning and pretend to read them. When in actual fact we were pushing Blu-Tack up Christopher Herbert’s nose and making disgusting pencil additions to the ‘human reproduction’ diagrams in the Children’s Encyclopaedia (before rubbing them out again with the Blu-Tack… we weren’t completely stupid)

Books that I can remember DEFINITELY buying from Levendale Book Club…


1. The Secret Passage by Nina Bawden

2. You Can Do The Cube by Patrick Bossert

3. The Whizzkid’s Handbook by Peter Eldin

4. Skool Graffiti by Peter Eldin (he must have been coining it in!)

5. The Puffin Book of Flags by JCG George

6. The Snow Kitten by Nina Warner Hooke

7. Gobbolino The Witches Cat by Ursula Moray Williams

8. Super Gran by Forrest Wilson (the wee Scunner)

9. Super Gran Rules OK! by Forrest Wilson (nice try, but you’ll never be able to match the Eldin millions)

10. The Crack-a-Joke Book


Throughout 1981, it was impossible to move more than four feet in any direction at Levendale Primary School without stumbling across a copy of The Crack-a-Joke Book. It’s basically a collection of the most fantastically groanworthy (clean) jokes in existance, collated after endless appeals on local radio stations and with a lovely, warm-hearted foreward by Tim Brooke-Taylor. And all proceeds went to early 80s charity-of-choice Oxfam, who must have raked in the gross national product of Venezuela from our class alone.

Q: What do you call an Arabian diary farmer?
A: A milk sheik.

Q: What did the mayonnaise say to the fridge?
A: Close the door, I’m dressing.

Q: What’s than raining cats and dogs?
A: Hailing taxis.

Genius! I’ll be reading this for the rest of the day now. That and the Whizzkid’s Handbook, which contains a five-page article about improving your memory skills, all centred around the reasons why elephants don’t like tomato soup (it stains their trunks, it reminds them of blood, they prefer oxtail etc). You really had to be there.

And even I cannot BELIEVE that after two days off school ‘ill’, I was allowed out at 3.30pm to arse around with Doug and Paul ‘Huggy’ Huggins, making ramps for our bikes. Mother, you are an UNBELIEVABLY soft touch. I can only assume that at 3.29pm on the dot I dragged myself away from the radiator, polished off a packet of Golden Wonder crisps (smoky bacon flavour) and a Wagon Wheel, and said ‘Actually, I’m starting to feel a bit better now…’

And my mother will have reluctantly let me go out to play rather than risk an argument in the middle of Sons and Daughters…

Only time will tell whether I would suffer an extraordinary relapse the following morning to enable me to merge my ‘illness’ seamlessly into our forthcoming half-term holiday. ‘Gosh, just when I was starting to feel well again… I probably tried to do too much last night…’ etc. When it came to emotional manipulation, my 11-year-old self was easily up there with Niccolò Machiavelli and Old Man Steptoe.

How come I could spell ‘patience’ on the 23rd May, but not on the 24th? I must have been ill or something… Uuuuuurgh! Ugh! Aaaaaaaaargh… oh, woe is me…


  Chris Orton wrote @

We certainly had a book club at our school – I seem to recall that it was called the Chip Book Club, and Chip was a cartoon badger. You got a free book mark if you were a member.

The only books that I can ever remember getting from it were: The Ha-Ha Bonk Book (a joke book, not a sex manual), Peter Davison’s Book of Alien Planets and an I-Spy Cars book.

I got wrong for the I-Spy Cars book, as my Mam had been led to believe that I was saving up for a Thomas the Tank Engine book to add to my collection. In a very rare act of defiance I spent the accumulated tokens on the I-Spy book instead and ended up getting told off. I wouldn’t care, but I never bothered to look at the I-Spy book ever again.

Our house had the Rubik’s Cube book pictures above too, although I think that it belonged to my Dad who was trying to master it. And never did to the best of my knowledge.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Peter Eldin has written under a variety of noms-de-plume including the memorable “Jason Quark”. I have often wondered why so many people adopt a pseudonym.

  Chris Byers wrote @

I think it really shows how times have changed in the last 25yrs. When you think a few cases of swine flu cause mass media hysteria. Yet an outbreak of skiveritis ( a horrible illness with the only known cure being large doses of daytime TV) in a primary school doesn’t even get mentioned in the Evening Gazette. Had the school known about your illness i am shore they would have closed for at least a fortnight to pervent an epidemic.

Good to see the Crack-A-Joke Book get a mention. It was a fantastic book and I think every one in Levendale had a copy sadly i lost mine a long time ago.

  Tom S wrote @

Clearly your mum a much softer touch than ours. The rules were set in stone about days off ill – day of school not only meant not going out to play in the evening, but early bedtime as well.

  bobfischer wrote @

I don’t remember a badger being involved in our book club, I’m sure it was just the corporate branding of the humble penguin. Or did the kids books have Puffins?

What a shock to discover that Peter Eldin was even MORE prolific than he appeared to be! This so-called ‘Jason Quark’ seems to have written strange guides to the, erm, galaxy in the early 1980s. Can’t even beging to imagine where he got that idea from.

And you’re right, Mr Byers – in retrospect, I think a bit of shameless media attention was probably what I was after. Some things never change. 😉 I still have my Crack A Joke Book, as well!

Tom, within seconds of this blog entry going online, my Mum was on the phone confirming that she was indeed a soft touch, but that – and I quote – ‘everyone else was doing it as well’. I’ll point her in the direction of your comments. 🙂

  Darren Micheal Maher wrote @

I’m going crazy trying to remember the full ten reasons why elephants don’t like tomato soup: any help on this much appreciated.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ha! Ha! Superb. It’s good to know we’re all spending our lives doing something worthwhile.

1. It stains their trunks
2. Tomato soup is not sold by their local supermarket (or should that be soupermarket?)
3. It reminds them of blood
4. They can’t get the cans open
5. It is against their religion
6. It makes them see red
7. They prefer oxtail
8. They do not like the taste

Only eight reasons, not ten! Clearly they’re not as averse to it as you thought…

  donna wrote @

I would love to see some old copies of the ‘Chips Club’ magazine from the 70’s/80’s – I loved getting this at school and looking at all the books (Don’t think I was lucky enough to be able to order any though. Maybe only one but I can’t remember which book it was). I’ve searched all over the net and I’ve contact Scholastic. Would you believe, they do not have archives copies of their own magazine! Such a shame. There are a few pics online of the American version of the flyer in the 80’s, it was called Arrow or Lucky there apparently.

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