Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 162

Sunday 10th June 1984

Woke up at 8.30 and got up at 9.00. I rang Doug to see if he could come swimming, but he couldn’t so we all went on our own. We went to Stockton baths and after a muck on in the big pool we went in the learner pool and got warmed up. Then we swam one more length of the big pool and came home and had dinner.

Then I clipped a load off the lilac tree and mucked on with my bike in the garden. At 3.30 Doug rang and came down, so we went to the mud track and played on the tarzie. I came home at 5.40 and had tea, then we took Grandma home.

Came back at 7.15 and watched Go for it, then at 7.45 I watched Surprise Surprise. Then I had a bath, and at 9.10 I watched football – England v Brazil. 2-0 to us! At 9.50 I watched That’s life, and at 10.35 I went to bed.

Sunday morning swimming! A few years earlier, this had been a weekly fixture for me and my Dad… we would roll our trunks up into two bath towels and set off in the Triumph Toledo for an hours worth of splashing around in the fabulously bleak and ramshackle Stockton Municipal Swimming Baths. This morbid, unwelcoming facility had been hewn from pure concrete in the late 1960s and then left to fester, so by the early 1980s it was in a bit of a state. I’m not even sure that the water had been changed since then, gathering – as it did – in two pools… the tiny, sub-Arctic ‘learner pool’ (two feet deep, and with native Inuits lurking in each corner, blowing their hands together and stamping their feet), and the terrifying vastness of the ‘big pool’. Which was slightly colder.

Stephen Mason once claimed to have seen a penguin walk nonchalently past the window that looked over this larger body of water, but we were never sure if he’d just seen Gregory’s Girl a few too many times.*

We WOULD often see, at the little kiosk on the way in, a friendly fortysomething woman called Cassie, who had been a workmate of both of my parents during the 1960s, and was the proud owner of a sensational dark brown beehive hairdo. She also had, in her kiosk, little cardboard tubes of coins that absolutely fascinated me, looking – as they did – like Lord Snooty’s Smarties. We’d stuff our clothes into a rusting locker, my Dad would pin the key onto his chequered trunks, and when we got back we’d ALWAYS have beans-on-toast for our dinner.

This is the OLD Stockton baths, as I remember them, before its 1990s demolition and subsequent rebuilding into a modern, state-of-the-art family lesiure amenity thing called ‘SPLASH!’ with lots of whirly slides and fountains and temperatures that actually rise above the freezing point of mercury…


Obviously by 1984 my Dad and I had got out of the habit a bit, but we were still making the occasional Sunday morning foray to lower our body temperatures to dangerous levels. I have two bizarre, vivid memories from being in Stockton Municipal Swimming Baths on this very morning…

1) Listening to ‘Street Dance’ by Break Machine on the tannoy, and attempting a few subtle robotic movements in the shallow end

2) Two (slightly) older boys wading up to me in the corner of the learner pool, and asking me, rather angrily, ‘Is your name Peter Luss?’
‘No,’ I replied.
‘Alright then,’ they said, and waded away to the other end of the pool. Exactly 25 years on, I still have no idea what my apparent doppelganger Peter Luss had done to upset them, but I hope he took his splashing like a man.

By the way, can anyone remember the full list of prohibited activities that was a fixture on the walls of ALL swimming pools in the late 1970s and early 1980s? It famously included ‘No Petting’ (complete with cartoon rendition of a bouffant-haired couple swathed in love hearts) and ‘No Divebombing’, and I think ‘No Ducking’ was on the list as well, but what were the others? We need to know!


PatronsPosterSpotChannelsSmoking? Banned? In a public swimming pool? It’s political correctness gone mad.

The lilac tree was a lovely, permanent fixture in our garden, and – at no more then ten feet tall, provided an ideal climbing opportunity for a feeble 11-year-old weakling like me. I can’t find a picture of our ACTUAL lilac tree anywhere, but this one looks vaguely similar…


…on this particular day, I was – I’m slightly embarrassed to say – having an imaginary game of ‘The Doctor hiding from The Master’ as I wrapped myself around its flimsy branches, and on the frequent occasions when I lost my grip and tumbled to the ground, I was duty-bound to mentally act out my own regeneration (with Doug, Frankie, Ozzie, Gazzie and Stan all floating around my head in a haze of BBC special effects) before climbing back up again. If Steven Moffat is reading this, then I’m more than willing to work on my two-part epic ‘The Secateurs Of Doom’ for inclusion in the 2010 series.

And, wow… footballing history! England’s 2-0 victory over Brazil in a friendly match at the Maracana Stadium was the game in which John Barnes scored a goal that’s still regarded as one of the finest ever to have been notched by an England player…

Naturally I made no mention of this in my diary, because – in 1984 – I was a complete footballing pseud who’d only ever seen a handful of games and had no idea that stuff like this didn’t happen in EVERY SINGLE GAME (although I think I’d guessed from my Dad’s usual post-match comments that this level of skill wasn’t widely on display at Ayresome Park in the mid-1980s)

Good fun though, and I always enjoyed staying up late for football matches beamed in from abroad because they had a rare flavour of exotica about them, brough about by three main contributing factors…

1) Weird kick-off times, with matches often played at ludicrous hours of the morning or night
2) Bad-tempered foreign players with amusing facial hair and names that sounded like minor characters from Return of The Jedi
3) Curiously empty stadia with strange, other-worldly atmospheres

Who’d have thought, 25 years on, that all three factors would be the cornerstones of a season’s worth of entertainment at the Riverside Stadium? Ah, the heady smell of progress… 

*I’m joking, obviously. It is, of course, impossible to have seen Gregory’s Girl ‘a few too many times’ because it is THE GREATEST BRITISH FILM OF ALL TIME. Don’t touch the ravioli, it’s garbage!



  Fiona Tims wrote @

hehehe I remember that swimming sign. Another blast from the past.

And I’m going to hang my head in shame here, because I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Gregorys Girl!

  bobfischer wrote @

Whhhhhhhat? Go on, give it a whirl, it’s magnificent. ‘Run along, you small boys…’

I can’t believe found that swimming sign online, I thought we were going to have to scrape it together from vague, collective memories.

Obviously it was the ‘NO PETTING’ bit that caused the most hilarity. I’m sure it was inspired entirely by that very cartoon, but in 1983 a rumour swept Levendale Primary School that if you went to XXX swimming baths at Ypm on ZZZ the Zth of ZZZ, you were GUARANTEED to see a young couple regularly ‘doing it’ for all to see, up against the railings in the deep end.

Naturally, XXX was a swimming baths that no-one at the school was ever going to be able to visit, Ypm fell outside any swimming baths’ normal opening hours, and ZZZ the Zth of ZZZ would be a day on which the entire facility was guaranteed to be closed down for a public holiday.

  Chris Byers wrote @

If you thought Stockton Baths were a bit run down what about Durham Lane were our school swimming lessons took place. Every week Mr Hirst (or was it Mr Millward can’t remember now) would take us by bus to Durham Lane Primary School Baths for a swimming lesson with the wonderful Mrs Marlow in a building that can only be described as a prefab hut.

As for Gregory’s Girl your quite right it is a brilliant film. But the first time I saw Gregory’s Girl was in about 1986 when our arch rivals at Egglescliffe school were putting it on as a school play and Mr Harrison our drama teacher had arranged at the last minute for us to see it. So one lunch time we all had to walk from Conyers (mini bus wasn’t available what a surprise) to the other side of Yarm into enemy territory to watch this play. Even though it was putt on by Egglescliffe I have to admit it was rather good.

  bobfischer wrote @

Hi Chris, I did write a little bit about Durham Lane very early in the year (so you’re forgiven for missing it! :-))


Can’t remember the building at all, though, was it really that bad? I wonder if it’s still there… I’ll have a sneaky look when I get home.

My Mum went on a swimming night class thing at Durham Lane sometime in the mid-1990s, and Mrs Marlow was still working there at that time. And, implausibly, claimed to remember me. All I remember about her from that time was that, every week, she referred to me as ‘the little lad’, which always bemused me as I was never especially small as a kid.

Although I’ve got work colleagues now that sometimes refer to me as ‘big feller’, which is equally odd because I’m not especially big as an adult. Maybe people just don’t like saying ‘average bloke’ to my face.

  Chris Byers wrote @

I thought you would have mentioned our swimming lessons somewhere on here but I hadn’t come across it. Sad to say the building no longer exists. I am pretty certain that it was pulled down on health and safety grounds.

  Chris Orton wrote @

Cracking name for a book that Bob – “Is Your Name Peter Luss?”

  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

I know a fellow named Peter who actually lives in Luss. If I can remember the Helensburgh dialling tone I will give him a call and ask him if there is a quarter-century-old price on his head in England.
I also know a limerick about Luss. Perhaps if the conversation with Peter stalls at any point I can recite it to him down the telephone?
It might not bring us any closer to solving this sinister mystery but it would pass the time and give the Dunbartonshire operator something to listen to.

  bobfischer wrote @

Peter Lusses all over the country are trembling in their boots. And two burly 38-year-old Teesside men are still prowling the streets with a bucket of 25-year-old chlorinated water in their hands. Probably with a wrinkled piece of elastoplast floating on top.

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