Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 191

Monday 9th July 1984

Woke up at 7.55 and got up at 8.05. Got the bus at 8.30, then at school it was assembly. When we came out, Doug, Frankie, Ozzie and I started a mini-topic on Mysteries. At 12.00 I had dinner, then it was maths and we did some work on rotating number squares.

At 3.15 I came home and went out, then at 5.00 I had tea. Then I went upstairs and played some tapes. At 7.00 I watched The krypton factor, and at 7.30 I watched Manimal. At 8.15 I went out till 9.15, when I came in, had a shower and went to bed.

There was – of course – one reason, and one reason alone, why my little motley troupe decided to cover ‘Mysteries’ as the final area of study in our seven-year primary school career. An unswerving desire to uncover the secrets of the Universe? Nope. An obsessive interest in the darkest realms of the supernatural and the unexplained? Pfffft. It was, of course, because Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald had a book that we could copy loads of bits from…

Britan Loch Ness Monster

I’m pretty sure it was ‘The Hamlyn Book Of Mysteries’ – a chunky, thick hardback affair full of kiddy-friendly write-ups about the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, ghosts, boggarts and (titter) ghoulies. To be fair, we weren’t being entirely cynical, as this sort of stuff had both scared and fascinated all of us from a very early age. A lot of which was undoubtedly down to the influence of one single, extraordinary TV show…

It sounds ridiculous now, but I used to literally shake with fear whenever those opening credits invaded our TV screen. I was seven when Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World was first broadcast in late 1980, and it gave me nightmares for weeks… I would lie awake at nights terrified that the Loch Ness Monster was about to CRASH THROUGH MY BEDROOM WINDOW at any moment, snap my Death Star Playset in half with a single bite and then back me up against the woodchip wallpaper as I screamed in terror with the bedspread held over my face.

I think my Mum – bless her – had to reassure me on a virtually nightly basis that the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman WEREN’T marching hand-in-hand up our drive to ‘get me’ as soon as the bedside light went out. ‘I’d be scared too if the Loch Ness Monster was coming up our drive, but it’s not…’ she once said calmy, tucking me securely into a web of flannelette sheets.

Of course, I didn’t hear this. What I actually heard was ‘Blah blah blah blah blah The Loch Ness Monster was coming up our drive blah blah blah blah blah’. I’m surprised I wasn’t in therapy by the age of eight.

ufo

By 1984, my fears had subsided a bit… I was still a bit edgy about ghosts (especially The Grey Lady of Carlton Camp) and I was always, inexplicably, a little bit wary of the extension bedroom that my Dad had added to our house during the summer of 1978. Which is odd, as it was the ONLY bit of the house that wasn’t over 100 years old. Maybe I thought the ghosts had fancied a change of scene, and a few modern furnishings to rest their spectral frames on?

Anyway, no doubt Doug, Ozzie, Frankie and I passed a pleasant morning tracing pictures of UFOs and writing nonsense about Atlantis before moving onto the equally inexplicable mysteries of ‘number squares’. I’ve never been great with maths, so can anyone remember what these were all about? I’ve got vague memories of wordsearch-type arrangements, with lots of numbers arranged in a grid, but I really can’t remember where we went from there. Can anyone help?

numbersquare

And to round off the day with another equally terrifying mystery, I THINK this was the day on which, as we threw our books into our ‘drawers’ and prepared to queue for the Worsall Bus, Mrs Keasey handed each of us Fourth Year Juniors a plain envelope addressed to our parents before stressing, with a stern face, that ‘THESE ARE NOT TO BE OPENED ON THE WAY HOME… GIVE THEM STRAIGHT TO YOUR PARENTS WHEN YOU GET IN TONIGHT’. 

Naturally, speculation, rumour and outright lies about the nature of their content spread like wildfire. The leading runners and riders being…

1. The school was being closed down with immediate effect and we would no longer be required to attend. As such, our summer holidays would commence tomorrow and no further action was required until our registration at Conyers School on Tuesday 4th September. HOORAY!!!!!

2. The school was anticipating an imminent attack from The Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowmen, and Messrs Fischer, Simpson, Oswald and Frank would be required to stay late every night this week to defend the integrity of the Third Your Juniors’ ‘Life In Ancient Egypt’ topic display. BOOOOOOOO!!!!!

bigfoot

3. Before the end of the school year on Friday 20th July, all Fourth Year Juniors were to be shown a series of Sex Education Films to prepare us for the explosion of hormonal frankness that was clearly RIFE around the corridors of Conyers Comprehensive School. Parental consent was required, and those without such permission would have to wait outside in the playground and learn it all in hilariously garbled second-hand snippets from those that had been lucky enough to watch animated footage of a bearded 1970s cartoon man heaving himself onto a pouting, curvacious cartoon Susan George lookalike.

thejoyofsex

As it happened, terrifyingly, it was Option 3 that was the truth. I handed the letter with trembling hands to my Mum when I got home (I was still a bit edgy in case it was Option 2) and she tore it open with an wry smile and said – unbelievably casually – ‘Oh, it’s your Sex Education stuff. You probably know half of it by now, anyway’.

She was right, but I’d acquired all of my knowledge at this point from conversations down at the mud track with Doug, and – as I discovered in later life – he’d liberally embellished the information at his disposal with some truly terrifying additions of his own. 25 years on, I’m still quite impressed that an 11-year-old boy could have such a vivid imagination. In fact, I hold him directly responsible for the fact that I barely spoke to a girl until I was nearly 19. I think it was the story about the cucumbers that put me off…

There was no date mentioned on the letter, so they were clearly intending to spring the films on us as a nasty surprise in case anyone was tempted to avoid them by feigning the latest ‘bug going round’ and hiding in the front room with Pebble Mill at One and the traditional bottle of bright orange Lucoxade. But they were (if you’ll pardon the expression) coming sooner than we expected…

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4 Comments»

  Thing wrote @

I think I must have been attending a fairly no-nonsense school when it came to sexual education. No videos for us, no separate lessons of that name, it was just covered in a ‘reproduction’ topic in science class, with a few diagrams of the body’s internal workings and the whole business being described as dryly as if they were talking about building a cupboard. I think there must have been a law that some of the kids had to giggle when the teacher described the, er, crucial bit,

  bobfischer wrote @

Was that in secondary school, or primary? We definitely had that approach in (I think) my second year of secondary school, aged 13-ish. It was absolutely presented as part of our normal Biology lesson – ‘this week, human reproduction…’, that kind of thing. All very matter-of-fact, although the entire class fell about when our teacher Mrs Holley (who always had a bit of a cheeky twinkle in her eye) said the phrase ‘the penis is inserted and enthusiastically jiggled about…’

The sex education we had at Levendale was definitely treated as a special occasion though – shrouded in permission from parents, drawn curtains in the hall (to avoid smaller boys peeping through) and whispered gossip. There was a definitely feel of ‘YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS BEFORE YOU GO TO SECONDARY SCHOOL’, as though the corridors of Conyers were going to be like a scene from the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

They weren’t, of course. That was more Egglescliffe Comprehensive’s sort of scene.

  Thing wrote @

That was in secondary school. If there was ever anything else, I must have been off that day…

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah! It does seem that Primary School sex education varied quite a lot from school-to-school. We obviously had a series of films in our final week at Primary School, but friends of mine that went to different schools are certain they got nothing at all.

I guess it must have been down to the individual schools to decide their own tactic, although I imagine there’s a unified national policy now…?


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