Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 154

Saturday 2nd June 1984

Woke up at 9.15 and watched Tarzan, then at 10.15 dad went to Yarm and I got up. I touched up the bike, then Doug came and we mucked on with the bike till dad came back. Then we went for a ride but it started to chuck it down so we sheltered in Conyers for a bit, then raced home and had dinner.

After dinner we went through the Meadowings to the mud track, where we met two kids and turned the Rocking horse into a rodeo. When we came back we got the boomerang, then played with that at Conyers.

Came home at 5.20, Doug went home and I had tea. At 6.00 I watched The pyramid game, at 6.30 I watched The Grumbleweeds. Then I went outside till 8.45, when I watched some of the Price is Right. Went to bed at 9.30.


What better way to start the day than with a bit of Tarzan? I think this would have been the mid-1960s American TV series, with the actually-slightly-weedy-looking Ron Ely in the title role…

With it being half-term, BBC1 will have cranked out a few cheap childrens’ shows to fill the early schedules and keep us entertained while we messed about with Frosties, Sugar Puffs and huge glasses of sugar-filled lemonade at ridiculously inappropriate times of the morning. The Red Hand Gang was probably in there somewhere, and I’m convinced that we still got the iconic slab of Yugoslavian genius that was ‘White Horses’ shown on school holiday mornings until at least the early 1980s. I refuse to believe there’s anyone over the age of 35 who doesn’t go all mushy when they hear this theme tune…

I find childrens’ TV these days to be almost obsessed with the ‘now’, and terrified of presenting anything to children that isn’t utterly contemporary, but there were no worries about such nonsense in the 1980s… we were regularly treated to TV shows that were at least 20 years old, and lots of us had grown up watching the black-and-white exploits of Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy as part of our holiday schedules – films from a full five decades earlier.

It’s the unthinkable equivalent of putting Cliff Richard films and Ealing Comedies into today’s CBBC line-up, but I don’t think it ever actually crossed our minds that this was stuff from an entirely different era… it was on, and we liked it, and that was good enough for us.


And another day of proper, full-blooded rain! I remember this morning really well. It was around this time that my parents first started to feel comfortable going out and leaving me in the house by myself… so when my Dad went to Yarm in the morning, I was left alone to make my own breakfast and potter around in front of the telly. And then Doug turned up and it all seemed fabulously exciting, because inwardly I could pretend it was ALL my house, and we were adult mates hanging out together enjoying a day off work. Although you’ll notice we couldn’t actually GO anywhere until my Dad came back – undoubtedly because he didn’t trust me with a front door key!

But yes, we made it as far as Conyers comprehensive schoool, two minutes ride away, before the skies darkened and the heavens opened. There were no electrified, twenty-foot fences around schools in those days, so we were able to dive into one of the red brick doorways leading into the French department, drag our bikes undercover, and shelter from the summer storm. 

And it felt utterly thrilling. Just to be out with my best mate, stranded together in a (slightly) strange place in the midst of (mild) adversity. If we’d been brave Tommies together in World War I, we’d undoubtedly have shared a cigarette and played the harmonica together at a moment like this. But we weren’t, so instead we shared some filthy talk about Debbie Jarvis and whistled the theme to The Red Hand Gang. Two strange, disconnected memories from this very moment…

1) There was a photocopied side of A4 on the locked door to the French Department, stating in no uncertain terms that ‘TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED’. I wondered if this applied to the little brick enclave we were hiding in, and started to mentally prepare my legal defence (it was coming down like stair rods) already. The notice was headed with the old ‘CCEC’ logo (Cleveland County Education… something?), with the four letters worked into the shape of a scary-looking section of chain. All of our most important school letters came with this logo at the top, and it always sent a little frisson of terror down my backbone.

Do kids still get letters to take home to their parents, or is it all done via e-mail or Skype or something these days? The hometime buzzer at Levendale sounded at 3.15pm, and frequently at 3.14pm we’d be gathered together by our form teachers and given letters to present to our parents (‘AND DON’T LOSE THEM, THEY’RE IMPORTANT’) when we got home. They were ALL invariably opened by us within nanoseconds of leaving the school grounds, and were usually invitations to PTA meetings or performances by the Levendale Singers or notifications of school trips for which their acceptance of ‘Loco Parentis’ had to be signed.

And I still remember Stephen Mason stating authoratively that ‘Loco Parentis’ meant that your parents had given their permission for you to be taken on a train.


2) While we were sheltering in various doorways around the school, a little gang of learner motorcyclists were tootling around the grounds on small, farty bikes, all wearing black bomber jackets and led by a soaking wet, red-faced man who looked as though running a Teesside motorcycling school on a rainy Saturday morning was actually THE LAST THING ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH HE WANTED TO DO WITH HIS LIFE and, actually, he’d give anything to be at home, in bed, with a nice slice of buttered toast and the latest James Herriot paperback.

When the rain subsided, we followed them around for a bit on our pushbikes, and then – brilliantly – overtook them in a flurry of raucous laughter and a textbook demonstration of what every 1984 schoolboy worth his Um Bongo referred to as ‘Flicking the Vs’.


We then headed for the narrow pedestrian cut-through down to Grammar School Lane, just to make sure that they couldn’t follow us and batter us round the heads with their L-Plates.


I think, even a month after this, I’d have been unable to recognise the ‘two kids’ from the Mud Track in a police line-up, but we had great fun with them on this particular afternoon, and that was a fine arrangement for all concerned. They were a year or two older than us (which was always slightly thrilling), they were from a different school (Yikes! How exotic) and as well as turning the ‘Rocking horse into a rodeo’ (are you reading this, you Crips and Bloods? Hang your heads in shame!!!) they also taught us a brilliantly bloody stupid new trick to add to our already impressive repertoire of brilliantly bloody stupid old tricks…

Namely, jumping from the swings at their highest level onto the tarmac below. This firstly involved chucking the swing chains over the top of the bar, to lift the seat an extra three or four inches off the ground. Well, we weren’t KIDS, were we? Pffffft.

We’d then sit on them as per usual, and rock them back and forth with ludicrously violent ferocity, so that, at their highest point, our feet were probably six feet off the ground. And then, at this thrilling ‘biting point’, we’d hurl ourselves bodily from the seat and use the momentum of the swing to propel ourselves through the air, invariably landing in a crumpled heap on the rock-hard, grit-covered tarmac that was splendidly considered to be an entirely appropriate ground covering for children’s playgrounds until at least the late 1980s.   


Utterly stupid, completely pointless, entirely dangerous… and, as such, a totally irresistable pastime for Doug and I for around the next four months. Thanks lads! (Whoever you were)

And for those who didn’t see it first time around, here I am revisiting that very swing…

And I’d forgotten Doug had a boomerang! The first time I ever went round to Doug’s house was on his 11th birthday on October 13th 1983, and I remember three things from his room…

1) A Spiderman duvet
2) A Thompson Twins poster on the wall
3) A boomerang in a box under the bed

Doug’s Mum was Australian, and he’d spent a couple of years of his childhood living over there, so an ACTUAL boomering from ACTUAL Australia was a genuine thrill for me to see and hold. We took it onto the soaking wet school field at Conyers school and had endless fun trying to make it return to us, with limited success. ‘It’s broken,’ I shrugged, refusing to take into account the fact that the only things I’ve ever thrown successfully in my life are…

a) parties, and
b) tantrums

And, to be honest, most of my parties are pretty dreary affairs.



  Chris Byers wrote @

You mentioned briefly the school buzzer. Well I don’t know about you but I always thought this to be a rather strange noise. It always sounded to me like someone was sacrificing a chicken. I had visions of Mrs Metcalfe our school secretary strangling some poor bird to signal the end of another day. Perhaps that’s why chicken pie was on the menu for lunch so often.

I wonder if other schools used this rather strange device to mark the end of the school day or whether it was just us?

  bobfischer wrote @

It was definitely a noise that I’ve never heard anywhere else other than Levendale Primary School at 12pm and 3.15pm! It definitely had chicken-choking properties… a long, elongated, high-pitched squeal with a few buzzy bits in there as well.


Wonder how it was made? Was it on tape? If so (or if not) how was it set off? Did someone have to press a button, or was it on timer? Were there speakers dotted around the school so we could all hear it?

And how come I never even thought about any of this stuff in the seven years that I was actually there?

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