Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 173

Thursday 21st June 1984


Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. First at school I read, then at 10.10 I went to the baths and got my 100 metres certificate. At 11.10 I came back to school, and just mucked on till dinner at 12.00. After dinner we played cricket, then when we came in we watched Joseph on the telly (it had been filmed this morning on video tape).

When it had finished me and Ozzie did Indiana Jones stories, and at 3.15 I came home. I went to Levendale, then I went to Doug’s and met Doug and Frankie. Then Stan and Placie came and we went through Layfield school to the estate and met Horsey and Lavvy.

We went to the mud track, then along the river and to Goosepastures. Came home at 5.45 and had tea, then I went out till 7.15, when I watched Top of the pops. At 8.00 I watched Porridge and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Take note everyone – the pinnacle of my lifetime swimming achievements! 100 metres was, oddly, seven lengths of the freezing Durham Lane baths that we traipsed to every Thursday morning… although we hadn’t been for a couple of months by this point, and we didn’t go the following week, so I’m wondering if this was a one-off visit to allow stragglers, slackers and smelly scummers (and I had a bit of all three about me) to FINALLY collect some sort of certificate to prove that YES, we had actually picked up SOMETHING in the five years that we’d been visiting the place. Even if it was only athlete’s foot.


So, two things worth pointing out here…

1. SEVEN lengths made 100 metres? That means a length of Durham Lane baths was 14.285 metres. Who built the bloody thing, some sort of metric pervert?

2. I have never continuously swam a greater distance than 100 metres since this fateful day. In the (ahem) dozens of visits I’ve made to a public swimming baths in the last 25 years, I’ve done nothing more than splash about aimlessly, stopping sporadically to remove stray bits of elastoplast from my face. And never failing to inspect them afterwards to see if the little strip of white gauze has a tiny dot of red blood in the middle, for the full ‘Japanese flag’ effect.


It’s also safe to say that hardly any of my mates were there to ‘cheer’ me on (‘SCUMMER! SCUMMER! SCUMMER!!!’) as it seems our schools production of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat was actually being filmed (FILMED!) for posterity during the morning, and as pretty much ALL of my friends were amongst the main cast, I can only assume that my grand sporting achievement was witnessed only by Mr Hirst, Mrs Marlow from the baths (who, in the unlikely event of ‘Durham Lane – The Movie’ ever being greenlit, would undoubtedly by played by Miriam Margolyes), and the whiffy Christopher Herbert, whose doctor had prescribed complete immersion in chlorinated water once every six months as the only solution to his permanent aroma of urine, farts and Fine Fare sports biscuits.

Oh, the glory!

And it’s good to see that, after an untimely spurt of educational activity earlier in the week, we were now back to far more leisurely pursuits. Our school spent the morning filming a private performance of ‘Joseph’ (Mr Millward no doubt balancing a Matsui VHS video camera on top of a wobbly tripod and shouting ‘ACTION’ to Mrs Mulhern on the piano) and the WHOLE AFTERNOON WATCHING IT BACK!!!! This was, lest we forget, the third time I’d seen ‘Joseph’ in its entirety in the space of a week, a record only matched by the night in 1993 when me and my student friends, fortified by a night at the Stonewell Tavern, watched Carry On Behind back at the house, and enjoyed it so much that – as soon as the end credits rolled – we wound the tape back and watched the whole thing over again.

And then we watched it again the following evening. Eeeeeeeeeere, stop messin’ aboouuut!


And another en masse after-school adventure, pretty much retracing our steps from Monday 18th June, no doubt desperate for another encounter with the now-legendary ‘Knacker Man’ (he wasn’t there, though). The splendidly-named ‘Horsey and Lavvy’ were Richard Horseman and Richard Laverick, who (I think) might have been in the year below us. I can’t find a picture of ‘Lavvy’, but ‘Horsey’ is on the left of this picture (accompanied, of course, by the immortal Stan, and that’s Jason ‘Tucker’ Tuck down the bottom)

Sunday Faceby 1

A rare appearance in Yarm from Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank as well. He rarely popped up in our after-school adventures as he lived a few miles away on a farm in Ingleby Barwick, a brilliant rambling patchwork of fields, barns and woods that played host to at least three of my childhood summer holidays, and now – heartbreakingly – plays host to Europe’s largest executive housing estate. Bah.

Two strange, disconnected memories from this evening’s antics…

1. We looked for Jason ‘Tucker’ Tuck everywhere, but couldn’t find him. His mother said he was (and I’ve transcribed the quote in its entirety here) ‘out’, and an extensive search of Yarm’s streets, playparks, building sites and dangerous railway lines completely failed to locate him. We seemed to spend half our lives ‘looking for’ various wandering mates and acquaintances, a fun activity now undoubtedly completely vanquished by the fingernail-sized mobile phones carried ubiquitously by all children over the age of four.


2. At the mud track, there was a teenage couple snogging furiously, laid out completely prone on the dry grass by the swings and going at it hammer and tongs. When I was a kid, such grotty displays of public affection were reasonably commonplace, and me and my friends would react appropriately by hiding behind the nearest solid object, giggling into our sleeves, and offering up a whispered John Motson-style running commentary. ‘Are they just snoggin’, or are they actually DOIN’ IT?’ ‘They’re doin’ it, swear down, they are. Aw god, that’s DISGUSTIN” etc.

On this occasion, the received wisdom amongst our experienced troupe of sexual conquistadors was that our romantic couple were ‘doin’ love bites’. I’d never heard of this phenomenon before, and took it entirely literally. ‘WHAT?!?!? Really? They actually BITE each other? With teeth and everything? Doesn’t that KNACK???!?’

Whatever the answer, at least two members of Yarm’s teenage community would be sweltering through a baking ‘O Level’ English Literature exam the following day wearing thick, woolly scarves. Or possibly a snood.


And Top of the Pops! Presented by Radio 1’s own Burke and Hare double act of Simon Bates and Gary Davies and featuring the following motley selection…

• Associates – Those First Impressions [Performance]
• Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy [Repeat Performance]
• Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time [Promo Video]
• Elvis Costello – I Wanna Be So Loved [Performance]
• Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes [Performance]
• Gary Glitter – Dance Me Up [Performance]
• Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin [Performance]
• Ollie & Jerry – Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us [Promo Video]
• OMD – Talking Loud & Clear [Promo Video]
• Pointer Sisters – Jump (For Your Love) [Promo Video]


With (ahem) one notable exception, this looks like a line-up I’d love to bits now, but – Frankie aside – it probably held pretty slim pickings for the 11-year-old me. Although OMD’s ‘Talking Loud And Clear’ was the song that led Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald to attempt to convince me that the clarinet lessons he’d been taking since the age of five could YET result in him becoming an international pop star. Still waiting…

NB It’s just struck me that VHS copies of our filmed production of ‘Joseph’ were almost certainly sold to proud parents willing to cough up £3 towards the school benevolent fund – which means there must be copies of it out there somewhere!!! Does anyone think that their parents might still have a copy? Tom? Come on, this is Youtube gold in the making…


  Thing wrote @

There was one occasion at my school where they brought in a video camera to record us in music class, but I was off sick that day and so missed out. They showed us the recording the following week, and the quality was terrible! Black and white, shimmering with static, hissy as a distant radio broadcast that you kept losing touch with, and a vague impression of about half a dozen faces in the front row who could have been anybody. Similar to watching a monochrome choir suspended midway through the Star Trek beaming up effect. I’m wondering if there might have been something wrong with the tuning for the set, now I think of it. My memory might be exaggerating it though, admittedly.

  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

Urk! I had forgotten all about Gary Glitter’s mid-1980s ‘revival’ until now. Thanks very much, Wifflemeister. Leo Sayer and David Essex seemed to have a go at it too around the same time I think. And David Cassidy. We were lucky not to get a second dose of Flintlock really.

Fortunately you regain your pedestal by mentioning the magnificent Carry On Behind. My faith in this blog entry has been duly restored, just as Miss Vushka restored the mosaic of the Roman legionary showing his Wenus.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yeah, I suspect home video cameras were pretty basic back in 1984! The first time I was captured on one was in lower sixth form in 1989, when I had a small part in Guys and Dolls (insert your own jokes here). Even then, the quality wasn’t brilliant.

Yeah, loads of those early 70s stars made off mid-80s comebacks. Don’t forget Slade, of course… they had a run of Top 10 hits in 1983/4, ‘My Oh My’ and the mighty ‘Run Run Away’.

And Carry On Behind is genuinely one of my favourite films of all time, so it’s nice to find a fellow afficianado. In fact, Dr Parcel, I’ll go as far to say that I’m glad we are having it off.

  Tom S wrote @

Are you sure about the Durham lane pool measurements? Yes, it was a pitiful excuse for a swimming pool but that seems a very short length.

I did my mile certificate there (showing off now) and using your calculations, I would have had to do about a hundred lengths!

  bobfischer wrote @

Hmmmm… I’m confused now! I definitely had to swim seven lengths for one of my certificates, and I was convinced it was the 100m. A 14m pool is about 46 feet though, and you’re right – that does seem very small. And yet I’m sure that’s the highest cerfiticate I got, as I just ran out of time at Levendale!

How can we find out? I’ll have to try regressive hypnotherapy sometime. It’s worth it. 🙂

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