Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 160

Friday 8th June 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. Got the bus at 8.30, then at school we went into the hall to talk to some surgeon about the Cavatron appeal at tommorrow’s fair. When we came out it was maths groups, so I did maths all morning till 12.00, when I had dinner.

After dinner I played American football, then when we came in I read for the rest of the afternoon. Me and Sug made a geedy plasticine dog, then at 3.15 I came home and finished the Harley davidson. At 5.15I had tea and watched Diff’rent Strokes, then I went out till 6.30, when I watched Northern Life.

At 7.30 I watched Simon and Simon, at 8.30 I watched That’s my boy, and I just mucked on till I watched and recorded Billy Joel at 9.30. Went to bed at 12.00.

Is there a doctor in the blog? I need help!

Not that I’m ill, of course, just trying to deciper that opening paragraph. What I can tell you is that ‘tommorrow’s fair’ was Yarm Charities Fair, a lovely little annual event run by various Round Table and Womens Institute stalwarts… covering our High Street’s ancient cobbles with trestle tables that positively groaned under the weight of house plants, home-made coffee cake and second-hand James Herriot paperbacks. Clearly in 1984 the idea was to raise money towards a new ‘Cavatron’ for one of our local hospitals, and the ‘surgeon’ had come in to give us a pep talk, and encourage us to spend our hard-earned pennies on any of the above.

I can tell you that he was a tall, posh man who looked a bit like Geoffrey Palmer (which, as far as I’m concerned, should be the default setting for ALL men in the medical profession. And most of the women too, come to think of it). I’ve no idea what a ‘Cavatron’ is though, despite a few vague memories of it being a piece of equipment linked to heart surgery. Google doesn’t really help, although there does appear to be an ultrasonic peice of surgical equipment called a ‘Cavitron’, so is it possible I just got the spelling wrong?

Let’s face it, I was still struggling with ‘tomorrow’ at this point in my life, so it’s not beyond the realmes of posibbillity.


Good to see another day in which I ‘read’ for the afternoon, undoubtedly vanishing into the library with a Doctor Who paperback or a battered Fighting Fantasy. I brought this up when I met Mr Millward the other week… the fact that, well… there were lots of school days that seemed to pass by very pleasantly, with me pottering about idly and doing whatever the hell I liked. ‘That was the influence of Bill Watson,’ he said. ‘A headmaster so progressive it was almost surreal, and most of the kids at that school will never know how lucky they were to have him. Bill’s philosophy was that if a child shows an interest in ANYTHING… a book, or a song, or a comic, or an artist, we should encourage them in every way to develop that interest and gently help them in the right direction’.

And he’s right. Bill Watson was my headmaster for the first six years of my time at Levendale Primary School, taking early retirement in his mid-fifties in 1983. And he was an absolute gem… a diminutive, genial charmer with an eccentric streak a mile wide but an innate understanding that kids will ALWAYS find their own interests and unique talents, and any attempt to dogmatically steer them away towards more traditional educational spheres of reference is almost certainly doomed to failure.

And so we were regularly allowed our own time and our own space at school to pursue our own interests, and avowed sci-fi and comic fans like myself were postively encouraged to spend rainy mornings and afternoons, well… drawing our own sci-fi comics, which Mr Hirst and Mr Millward would then gleefully pin on the classroom walls for all to peruse. I was writing, I was drawing, I was learning and being creative… so were was the problem? It was a fine philosophy, and a truly special time to be a pupil at a brilliant little school. And, to be fair, Mr Watson’s replacement – the amazingly hairy Mr Chalkley – carried on those traditions admirably.

Mr Watson is still enjoying a healthy retirement, so if anyone knows him, feel free to point him in the direction of these ramblings!

 And the ‘plasticine dog’ I made with Andrew ‘Sug’ Sugden was bloody brilliant… a great little comic-book rendition  of Poggy Doggy. Aaardman Animations would have snapped our hands off if they’d seen it (they’d have done it one frame at a time though, and it would have taken ten days to get a five-second shot)

And Billy Joel! At Wembley Arena! Two and a half hours of it on primetime BBC1!!! I couldn’t wait. With Uptown Girl, Tell Her About It, An Innocent Man and The Longest Time all having stormed the UK charts in recent months, I’d slowly fallen in love with the slick, 1950s-tinged music of this, erm, diminutive, genial charmer with an eccentric streak a mile wide. I couldn’t wait to see the concert, and I pushed my little tape recorder up against the portable TV in my parents bedroom and set a TDK D90 rolling before tramping back downstairs to watch it on the ‘big telly’ in the company of (I think) my Gran, while my parents vanished to the Cross Keys for a couple of hours.

Those crackly TDK tapes (turned over by hand, of course, every 45 minutes) became THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY SUMMER, and I listened to them endlessly, so much so that even now, watching the clips  below, I can actually recite Billy Joel’s onstage banter and jokes word-for-word…

I’m SO glad these clips are online, as they’ve provided me with – beyond doubt – the biggest nostalgia rush I’ve experienced in six months of immersing myself in the sounds, sights and cultural ephemera of 1984. I actually feel a bit giddy watching these, and want to race straight out and knock on Doug’s front door to see if he fancies an afternoon mucking about down the mud track…



  Mark Hirst wrote @

Bill Watson remains one of my educational heroes and had a huge impact on my formative teaching years. He also took me under his wing to an extent, ensuring that as a `cocky southerner` I settled into the area and made new friends.

It was also down to him that I became a season ticket holder at Middlesbrough F.C, thus introducing me to 30 years of pleasure and pain! (mainly pain)

  bobfischer wrote @

I take it all back. The man’s clearly a sadist of the highest order. 🙂

  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

It must have been Cavitron, an ultrasonic aspirator which fragments and aspirates a wide spectrum of firm tumors of the central nervous system with little transmitted movement to adjacent normal neural structures.

Or maybe it was a Cavatron, one of a race of evil caved-dwelling robots who are forever plotting to bring about the subjugation of the known universe from their evil caves on Cavos, the planet of caves. A local hospital would benefit from having one of these around in 1984 if only to remind everyone that there were more terrifying entities out there than Norman Fowler, then the Secretary of State for Health.

  bobfischer wrote @

The latter is exactly the kind of thing Levendale Primary School would have raised money for back in 1984. With the amazingly hairy Mr Chalkley cackling and rubbing his hands together, just thinking of the robot-related terror that he could inflict on Yarm Charities Fair.

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