Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 165

Wednesday 13th June 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. I got the bus at 8.30, and first at school it was assembly. When we came out I did some maths, then me and Ozzie went for a read in the library.

After that it was Topic groups and at 12.00 I had dinner. In the afternoon I had to make some flowers for Joseph, then I did topic. I had another read in the library when Ozzie came out of Joseph, then at 3.15 I came home and played out until tea.

After tea I sorted my tapes out, then at 6.30 I watched Northern life. At 7.05 I watched Film 84 special with Steven Spielberg in it. At 7.40 I went out and dad took some penaltys at me, then at 9.30 I watched Only Fools and horses. Went to bed at 10.00.

OK, open your textbooks and let’s attempt a bit of translation here. ‘I had to make some flowers for Joseph’. Any guesses?

Although I’m sure our teachers would have been delighted at the prospect, amazingly our school HADN’T been forced by government legislation to prepare a Hawaiian-style floral tribute for Mrs ‘Fatcher’s much-loved 1980s Education Secretary, Sir Keith Joseph. NO! This was, of course, a bit of last-minute set-dressing for our forthcoming school production of JOSEPH AND HIS AMAZING TECHNICOLOUR DREAMCOAT!!!

Mr Millward and Mrs Mulhern had taken full control of the the production, and showtime was now a mere week away. Off the top of my head, white-tie wearing farmer’s son Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank was playing Joseph, Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald was playing his little brother Benjamin, Paul ‘Wacky’ Whitehead was the Pharoah, and Steven ‘Mason’ Mason had the fine character part of Potiphar, whose main theme song Doug and I had already rewritten over countless giggling fits in the Upper Band playground… 

Potiphar was constipated,
This was one thing that he haaated,
All his toilets were ill-faaated,
He tried some prunes
And now his bum plays tunes

He can’t keep off the toilet seat
He has to take a sleeping bag and things to eat
You must admit this is an amazing feat
He’s broken the record, his wind as well…

…that’s as far as I can remember, but it’s probably for the best. Here’s the song itself, feel free to sing along with our (clearly superior) lyrics…

Doug was actually in the production himself, playing (I think) some kind of minder or bodyguard for Pharoah, and I know Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones was in there as well, but I can’t remember his part at all – although I do know he sang his number perfectly in an amazingly high soprano voice! Probably a talent that he kept reasonably well hidden while belting out ‘The Hair On Her Dickie-Di-Do’ in the rugby team changing rooms. 

I wasn’t in it. I’d taken part in the first sing-a-long rehearsals for the show back in February, which meant (as far as Mr Millward was concerned) that I’d signed a CONTRACT IN BLOOD to take part in the production. But then I bottled it and never went back, and spent the rest of the term denying that I’d ever intended to be involved. 

He clearly didn’t believe a word of it, and – on this very afternoon -actually stomped around our open plan classrooms shouting ‘Where’s Robert Fischer? He ducked out of the production, so I’m volunteering him to make some props. Robert Fischer??? Anyone seen him?!?!?’ 

I was halfway through digging an escape tunnel near the water fountain when the rancid Christopher Herbert dobbed me in, and as a result I spent the rest of the afternoon making red and purple flowers from tisssssue paper, locked into the ‘end room’ with Mrs Howarth and a dozen other hapless ‘volunteers’.


By the way, I’m assuming all other primary schools had a handful of traditional ‘water fountains’ dotted around their peripheries? Ours provided a ready stream of tepid drinking water that always, for no reason that I could discern, seemed to smell slightly of eggs. Maybe they were all powered by an ancient 1970s hard-boiled egg, stuck at the bottom of each porcelain pedestal and slowly decomposing, the resulting gasses being harnessed to push said tepid water towards our puckered lips? Or maybe Christopher Herbert had had his willy in them all again. Who can say…

What I can tell you is that, at Levendale Primary School at least, the water fountain was our equivalent of the Juke Joint or the Billiard Hall in providing a shady refuge for the school’s less savoury characters to conduct their various dodgy deals and endeavours. If there were Panini Football Stickers to be forcibly extracted from unwilling BHS shirt pockets, it would undoubtedly happen ‘at the water fountain’, amidst a flurry of kidney punches, chinese burns and Vulcan Death Grips, as one of the foul perpretators stood watch, ready to hiss ‘MILLWARD!!!!’ at the first sight of a moustache and a pair of Reactolite spectacles wading their way through the milling throng.

At which point all involved would scatter at the speed of sound to the four corners of the Upper Band and whistle innocently into their Nuffield Textbooks, as a gentle cyclone of Ray Wilkins and Trevor Brooking stickers fluttered to the ground in the resulting sonic boom.   As Obi-Wan Kenobi says of Mos Eisley Spaceport, ‘You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villiany’. I’ll wager Mos Eisley Spaceport smelt slightly of hard-boiled eggs as well.

Nice to see a bit of vintage Film ’84 on the telly as well! No doubt being interviewed by a genial Barry Norman in a pastel-shaded Pringle sweater. OK, these are the Steven Spielberg films that I’d seen (as a whole, or in part) by June 1984…

1. JAWS: Managed about the first 30 minutes during its debut terrestrial TV screening in late 1981, but watched most of it through my fingers and gave up shaking when Ben Gardner’s head popped up (BLURP!!!) through the underside of his chewed-up boat. Tried again sometime in 1983 but still didn’t make it to the end.

2. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND:  I definitely watched this all the way through on telly, but I got a bit edgy when all the toys in the bedroom started going mental. When faced with a plate of mashed potato, I still find it hard to resist sculpting it into the shape of the Close Encounters mountain. And if there are sausages present as well, I absolutely HAVE to stuff them randomly into the sides of the mash mountain, as that’s how Dennis the Menace always ate HIS bangers and mash. And if he jumped off a cliff, etc…

3. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: Watched it and loved it on the telly, and then (I think) before the end of the Christmas term 1983, we had a video screening at school, with forty of us hyperactive nerks shoved into the darkened ‘end room’ and a crackly Betamax copy stuck onto ‘play’ while our teachers retreated to the staff room to drink Harvey’s Bristol Cream and smoke Hamlet cigars (or was that just Mrs Moore?). As the bodies-on-spikes shot out of the walls during the pre-credits sequence, we heard Mrs Keasey whisper to Mr Hirst ‘Oh god, is it ALL as nasty as this?’.

At some point in proceedings, Mr H angrily requested that Doug and I leave the room as a punishment for ‘messing around’. ‘Write me a summary of everything that’s happened in the film so far,’ he shouted, so we did. Four sides of A4 each, in the deserted ‘middle room’. Two hours later, we handed it over proudly, at which point he tore up our work without a second glance and chucked it straight into the waste paper bin before threatening us with another packed lunch on top of High Force if we misbehaved again)

4. ET – THE EXTRA TESTICLE: As it became known at school. Saw it twice at Stockton’s Odeon cinema and loved it to bits, and immediately bought – from Leslie Brown’s toy shop – an ET action figure that stayed on my bedside table until at least 1996. The film that introduced the phrase ‘penis breath’ to an entire generation of giggling oiks.

Phil ‘Slackie’ Slack and Andrew ‘Sug’ Sugden also CLAIMED to have seen and loved the X-rated Poltergeist, but were surprisingly sketchy on the details. It didn’t sound like the sort of film that I’d ever ever ever ever EVER be able to watch, but when I did finally watch it all the way through, trembling in the front room with a cushion over my eyes (I was 26), lots of the especially gory scenes they’d mentioned seemed to be curiously absent. Presumably it was heavily cut for TV, then…? Hmmmm…



  Chris Orton wrote @

My primary school certainly had a drinking fountain, similar to the one pictured in today’s entry, but I was always quite wary of drinking from it. I’ve always had a dislike of drinking water that isn’t ice cold, and the stuff that these fountains dispensed were always as you say tepid. And there were always the stories about people using them as toilets of course…

And did all schools have a stinky kid like the aforementioned Christopher Herbert? Ours did and he came from an entire family of stinking rogues. Every year at the school must have had one member from his school in it. I’ll not mention any names as I believe that the person in question is now serving life in prison.

As for footy stickers, these were HUGE back in the day. Not a playtime seemed to go past then without phrases like: “got, got, got, need, got, got, need, need, got” being recited as people showed off their swaps. I remember that foil badges were worth three normal stickers. I only ever came close to completing one album – the 1985 one. I seem to remember that I was about eight stickers away from filling it, but never got around to sending off for the ones that I needed. And for some reason I ended with about ten Alan Hudsons and about fifteen Colin Wests.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yep, I’m firmly convinced that every mid-1980s school had at least one ‘stinker’ on its books, hence the importance of THE SCUMMER CLUB (Est: 1984; Life President: R Fischer Esq) in raising awareness of these issues. The foul Herbert’s unique aroma consisted, I recall, of 32% stale urine, 45% lingering flatulence, 21% mouldy fig biscuits and 2% wet cabbage (just to flavour).

I’ve no fear whatsoever about naming and shaming him and his foul brood, as I refuse to believe that any of them can actually read. (NB This is no reflection whatsoever on the sterling efforts of Messrs Hirst, Millward etc. Lord knows they tried their best)

As for Panini Stickers, I actually completed Football ’81! All of it! It’s still one of the proudest achievements of my life, and even then I had to cheat… you were allowed to ‘send off’ for a STRICT MAXIMUM of 50 stickers to complete your collection, but I ordered 30 to go to my house, and 30 to go to my Uncle Trevors. Boooo! Hisssss! What a rotter!!!!

Great fun though, and I did indeed spend most of the first half of 1981 completing the bloody thing – me and Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank had an amazing race. And yes, ‘Got, Got, Need, Got, Got, Need, Need, Need, Got’ was absolutely the order of the day!

(Wild rumours would also circulate that ‘Frankie’s brother’s friend’s neighbour saw the Nottingham Forest badge lying in the alleyway round the back of the VG, and Frankie’s going to run out of school when the buzzer goes to get it…’ Who’d have thought there’d be Panini Urban Myths?!)

My completed Football ’81 is here, present and correct, on my desk and I’m happy to scan and post any teams on request… 🙂

  Chris Byers wrote @

I am sorry to say I can’t remember the infamous Christopher Herbert. Was he really that bad? He certainly seams to have left quite an impression with you and Mr Hirst. I must have managed to wipe my memory of him.

  bobfischer wrote @

That’s more than HE managed to wipe in the seven years he spent at Levendale Primary School…

  Chris Orton wrote @

I’d love to see any Sunderland piccies from the album Bob! I’m fairly sure that they were in the top division in 1981, but with Sunderland it is often difficult to tell…

Ally McCoist was on our books back then you know!

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I managed to complete a ‘Love Is’ sticker album. I think it may still be in the attic. None of that Footie crap for me ;p

I’ve never managed to watch poltergeist. I dunno why as I watch a lot of horror. I’ve just convinced myself it’ll scare the crap out of me, despite having watched Exorcist, omen etc!

  Chris Byers wrote @

Bob, I got in contact with an old friend this morning to ask about Christopher Herbert and like you he remembers him as a rather unpleasant individual. I think I must have been lucky in avoiding him.

  bobfischer wrote @

Him and his four-mile exclusion zone… 😉

Let me have a bash at the Sunderland pics, Chris… I’ll try and get them online today. No sign of Ally McCoist, but Sam Allardyce is in there!

Poltergeist’s not really that scary, Fiona – certainly not if you’ve seen The Exorcist and The Omen. Just a good, solid creepy film – it’s actually more akin to The Twilight Zone than ‘proper’ horror.

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