Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 187

Thursday 5th July 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. Got the bus at 8.30 and at school I did maths. Then me and Ozzie read and at 12.00 I had dinner. Then it was silent reading. After that we played rounders and won 11-9! (At last) At 3.00 it was assembly and at 3.15 I came home.

I went out and played football till tea at 4.45. At 5.00 I went out and played on the tarzie, and stayed out till 7.30 when I watched Top of the pops. At 8.00 I watched Hi-de-Hi and at 8.30 Dad took some penalties at me. Went to bed at 9.00.

Silent reading! How marvellous, I’d forgotten all about this long-lost, hilarious phenomenon. With Levendale Primary School being a progressive, forward-thinking school staffed entirely by Guardian-reading, left-wing maniacs, naturally we were allowed to read our own books any time we liked during the school day. But we bookish types HAD to accept that our own, private reading might – at any moment – be interrupted by Christopher Herbert attempting to set fire to his Y-fronts to avoid an afternoon on ‘the apparatus’, or Philip ‘Slackie’ Slack crashing through the wall of the library on a demolition ball.


So, once in a while (usually when the noise of chatter, babble and raucous 11-year-old laughter had reached ‘Iron Maiden headlining Castle Donington’ decibel levels), Mrs Keasey would silence the entire Upper Band with a piercing ‘RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHTTTTTTT’, follow it up with a screaching ‘FINGERS ON LIPS EVERYBODY’ (which had to be adhered to under pain of death – or, even worse, being sent to the Amazingly Hairy Mr Chalkley’s office) and then declare that we would have to endure AN HOUR of SILENT READING.


At which point a deathly hush would descend upon the school as we sheepishly snuffled into our Doctor Who, Fighting Fantasy and (if you were a girl) Chronicles of Narnia paperbacks. The ‘hour’s silence’ would usually last for about thirty seconds before the first muffled fart piped up from the boy’s corner, swiftly followed by an outbreak of stifled giggling, and then a high-pitched shriek as an upturned compass was prodded into Stephen Mason’s arsecheek by a maurading Slack or Sugden. Within two minutes, the hubbub had ascended back to ‘Judas Priest soundchecking’ levels, and Mrs Keasey would be forced to intervene. ‘RIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHTTT!!!!’ etc… and the whole, sorry business would start over again.

It’s amazing how much funnier things can seem when you’re actually not ALLOWED to find them funny. Moderate, ‘Green Alert’ farts that would have barely raised a titter in the safety of the noisy classroom became the source of tearful hysterics when transposed to a tense assembly situation. At which point, you had three potential options…

1. Ride out the giggle storm by doubling over in the customary ‘Mahatma Gandhi Lotus Position’ that we adopted on the shiny hall floor in assembly, and trying to laugh silently without being noticed. This resulted in your bright red, snot-caked face being inserted between your knees while the rest of your body shook uncontrollably like some kind of epileptic dung beetle.


2. (Dodgy tactic, this) Attempt to ‘expel’ the giggle by ACTUALLY LAUGHING, but disguising it as a cough, and repeatedly patting your chest with your open palm afterwards and feigning an athsma attack. I once threw myself into this approach when Stephen Mason inexplicably whispered the phrase ‘Pig’s knackers’ into my ear during a school play based on the Parable of the Talents, and earned myself a FILTHY look from Mrs Mulhern.

3. Thinking deliberately of horrible subjects that were guaranteed laugh-free zones…  dead puppies, the Yorkshire Ripper, Spandau Ballet, that kind of thing. This was usually enough to stave off a moderate giggle attack until the next whispered obscenity was passed along the back row.

I love the fact that I was able to race outside for two hours thrashing around on my garden tarzie at the very second that I’d finished eating my tea. I was probably still stuffing a slice of Battenburg down my face as I raced through the back door. My parents found this utterly inexplicable, and the feeling was mutual… my Dad was usually still mopping up the last of his gravy with a slice of Mother’s Pride when I started jumping up and down shouting ‘DAD! DAD! DAD! COME AND TAKE SOME PENALTIES AT ME! DAD! DAD! DAD! over the closing credits to Willo The Wisp…

‘Bloody hell, give my dinner a chance to go down…’ he’d reply, wearily. I had no idea what this meant, and – as far as I was concerned – your dinner ‘went down’ the very second that you swallowed it. After that, it had surely ceased to be your concern? I’m sure exactly when my body started to make the switch over to the dark side, but now – after a full meal – it’s usually a matter of seconds before I’m asleep in front of The Weakest Link with an open copy of the Evening Gazette on my knee. I am 36 years old.

And Top of the Pops, yay! Here we go, on with the motley…

• Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time [Repeat Performance]
• Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes [Performance]
• OMD – Talking Loud & Clear [Performance]
• Prince – When Doves Cry [Promo Video]
• Shannon – Sweet Somebody [Performance]
• Thompson Twins – Sister Of Mercy [Performance]
• Ultravox – Lament [Performance]

Presented by the still-going-strong Jimmy Saville, no doubt bouncing Radio 1’s young pretender Mike Smith up and down on his knee…

You’ll notice it took three and a half hours before my Dad’s tea ‘went down’ and he was able to come outside and take penalties at me, which doesn’t sound too bad at all to me these days. DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD!!!


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