Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 193

Wednesday 11th July 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 7.55 to see the charts on Brekky Telly. Neil off the Young Ones is Number 5 with Hole in my shoe! At 8.30 I went to school and it was assembly, then it was maths groups and Doug and I did some shapes using circles.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then we played cricket. At 1.00 we came in and did a Topic experiment with a liquid that turned blue when heated, then we went out and did the 4th year sports day heats. Ozzie and I qualified for the wheelbarrow race and the three legged race, and I came second in the four legged race.

Came home at 3.15 and played out, then at 4.30 I had tea. Then I went out all night till 8.00, when dad came and took some penalties at me. Came in and went to bed at 9.15.

‘Hello shoes… I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to stand on you again…’ SQUELCH!

Oh wow, like, heavy. If proof were ever needed that The Young Ones had invaded our consciousness and taken over the playground by the summer of 1984, it’s the fact that Neil (surely every schoolkid’s third favourite Young One) managed to make the Top 10 with a cover of an old Traffic song. It’s the 1984 equivalent of Simon from The Inbetweeners smashing into the charts with his punked-up version of ‘Mr Boombastic’ (actually, don’t rule that out…)

Anyway…. like, wow, man. Watching the above video is the biggest nostalgic 1984 head-rush I’ve had so far while compiling these diaries. I guess it’s because I’ve not really heard the song at all since it was in the charts, but even a few seconds of that clip feel like injecting the pure, sunshine essence of that 25-year-old summer directly into my sleepy, 36-year-old brain.

Here’s the fast, frenetic spinning-wheel of images that it’s just brought back into my head…

1. Sitting in the ‘middle room’ at school trying to transcribe the lyrics from memory with Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald, and getting stuck on the ‘One Hundred Tin Soldiers’ bit.

2. Sprawling outside on the school field on this very day (waiting for our heat in the sports competition) and attempting to do the same for Alexei Sayle’s recent hit ‘Ullo John Got A New Motor’ (and failing equally dismally)

3. Walking through a endless field of long grass with Doug and trying to convince him that we COULD ACTUALLY BE in the song, as this was – obviously – a ‘field that just wasn’t real’, the rustling leaves, shimmering in the stifling heat were – naturally – on ‘bubblegum trees’ and – if we closed our eyes and let our minds drift – we could indeed ‘fly through a crack in the crowds to a place where happiness reigned all year round’.

sunnyfield

It all seemed part of the glorious, daily sunshine and the constant, oppressive heat, but the mid-summer of 1984 seemed to have an odd hallucinogenic quality to it… and this song, and my endless ramblings through woozy fields and woods with Doug at my side, still have a bizarre, unreal quality to them… like a vivid, meandering dream on a hot, sticky summers night. It’s lovely, and evocative and – at the same time – slightly melancholy. I love it, but it makes me sad.

4. My Mum, on another blistering day with the radio switched on, hearing Neil’s strangulated cry in the middle of the song and tutting ‘This sounds like a right load of old rubbish, this…’

5. Just a flickering kaleidoscope of disconnected images. Denim jackets with Frankie Goes To Hollywood badges. Poggy Doggy racing through a cornfield. ‘Ice pops’ from the freezer melting down my arm as I ate them. ‘Taking the tables outside’ with Mrs Keasey. The Red Hand Gang and Whiz Kids. Wielding tiny, scuffed-up cricket bats and picking scabs from my knees. Watching Junior Kick Start on a perfectly square TV. My best friends, who would be my best friends FOREVER. Awwww. 

(And just to bring the mood down a bit, I’ve just realised that – in 1984 – the Singles Charts must still have been announced on a Tuesday night rather than the now-traditional Sunday! Which makes sense, as I’m sure Radio 1 had a Wednesday morning run-through that became essential listening throughout the school holidays. And, obviously, if you were – ahem – ‘ill’)

We were now just over a week away from our final day at Levendale Primary School, and this was almost certainly the day on which the dreaded phrase ‘Can all the Fourth Years stay behind for a few minutes, please’ was heard at the end of assembly. This usually meant one of either two things…

1. Someone had created a dangerous biological hazard in the Boy’s Bogs again, and a stern lecture about the importance of hygeine in the school lavatories would follow (while stifled giggles swept around the male contingent as Philip ‘Slackie’ Slack pulled a string of devastating ‘straining for a poo’ faces)

toilets

2. OUR SEX EDUCATION FILMS WERE ABOUT TO START NOW, WITHOUT ANY WARNING, AND I HADN’T MENTALLY PREPARED FOR THEM OR ANYTHING AND WOULD BE SCARRED FOR LIFE AND NEVER SPEAK TO A GIRL AS LONG AS I LIVED!!!!!!

As it happened, it was neither. Once the rest of the school had filed out of the hall, our headmaster, the Amazingly Hairy Mr Chalkley, gathered us veteran Levendalers around him in a little group and gave us the most charming, softly-spoken pep talk about leaving Primary School and moving onto the dreaded comprehensive.

‘It’s a very big step,’ he smiled, ‘and Conyers is a much bigger place than Levendale. So I’ll just say this… enjoy yourselves – because you will – and stay close to your friends. This is a summer you’ll remember for the rest of your lives, so put aside all those little niggles and grudges and squabbles that you sometimes have, and make sure you make the most of it…’

It was a lovely thing to do, and a gorgeous little speech, and one that resonates more with me now than it ever did back when I was 11 years old.

Still, no danger of niggles, grudges and squabbles emerging during the School Sports Day Heats? Was there…?

Of course not. An afternoon spent on the springy turf of the school field, with the distant rooftops of the Levendale estate wobbling hazily in the mid-day heat. There were girls (and the occasional soppy boy) making daisy chains, starlings swooping around the school kitchen chimneys, and forty 11-year-old knuckleheads being tied together with bandages by a giggling Mrs Keasey before going arse over Spam Fritter and plunging headfirst into the foul, chalky white lines of our tiny school athletics track.

spamfritters

I’m presuming the ‘wheelbarrow race’ consisted of holding the ankles of your partner-in-crime while he paddled along on his hands in front of you? And the ‘four-legged race’ (which took a bit of thinking about) was, I’m sure, just a doggy-style crawl. No wonder I ranked so highly in this, I’d spent my entire childhood creeping around the house on all fours, pretending to be K9. I think I was only beaten in this heat by the scary Justin Bentley, who had hairs on the palms of his hands and was strongly rumoured to have been raised by a family of wolves somewhere on the outskirts of Thornaby.

wheelbarrowrace

Which leaves us with one question, and one question alone, outstanding.

Which chemical solution turns blue when you heat it up? Science was never my strong point at school, and I still occasionally have nightmares about Van Der Graaf generators.

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3 Comments»

  Thing wrote @

Hole In My Shoe… I once had a copy of the 12′ record of that. One of the few records I’ve ever owned on vinyl. It had a beautifully icky close up photo of Neil in bright green on the front, with another picture of him playing the guitar on the back and a psychedelic rendering of the lyrics.

The B Side has to be heard to be believed. The Hurdy Gurdy Mushroom Man. If you’ve not heard it before, it’s a hypnotically bizarre parody of hippy folk rock which ends up with a soaring children’s choir accompanying, much to Neil’s dissatisfaction. See if you can find it anyway, it really is worth a listen.

  Chris Orton wrote @

Ah, primary school sports days! I was always fairly hopeless at sports, but at least at primary school you used to get to do fun events, rather than the real stuff that you had to do at secondary school (which I was even worse at!). We did stuff like the beanbag race, the egg (or ball) and spoon race, the relay race, etc, etc, I’d like to see some of these become Olympic events (they’d have to be better than synchronised flaming swimming), or at least like to see a comedic alternative to the Olympics featuring this sort of thing.

And the even better thing was that the winners were awarded prizes of… sweets from the tuck shop! Imagine that! Rewarding a bunch of skinny kids who had just used their athletic prowess to win races with sugary, sweet, E-number filled jelly sweets. That just wouldn’t happen now would it?

  bobfischer wrote @

I’ve just managed to listen to ‘Hurdy Gurdy Mushroom Man’! Sensational stuff. Wonder why they didn’t capitalise on the success and get, say, Ade Edmondson to do a heavy metal album in character as Vyvyan?

I used to dread school sports day as I was a) completely uncoordinated, b) completely unmotivated and c) unable to move any kind of spherical object in the direction intended with any part of my body.

However, having seen Middlesbrough’s attacking play for the entirity of last season, I’m, now convinced I had all the attributes required to make a £40,000 a week Premiership striker.


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