Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 198

Monday 16th July 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 7.55. At 8.30 I went to school, then Mrs Simpson got her group and we set off on the school trip to York. When we got there we went to the Castle museum, and after a boring walk around there we got on the bus and went to the railway museum.

Had our dinner in a stuffy old carriage, then we went in the museum and walked around electrocuting each other with Static from the carpet. Then Placie banged a postcard machine, and got 5 cards for 5p instead of one.

We then went in the cafe, and Whacky complained about the coffee. At 5.00 We went back to school, and at 5.05 I got a lift home with the Simpsons and had tea. At 6.00 I went out, and at 7.10 I watched Manimal. At 7.50 I went out and played football with dad, then at 9.00 I went to bed.

Into our final five days at Levendale Primary School, and what better way to completely waste one of them than with a school trip to historic York? Yay! This was quite an ambitious journey for us, seeing as all of our previous school excursions had been (just about) within a 20 mile radius of the school. The ones I can remember are, in order…

1. A trip to Castle Eden Walkway, a local woodland beauty spot, circa 1978. The first time I ever ate a fig biscuit (as part of my regulation school packed lunch) and I found it so unbelievably disgusting that I spat out the chewed-up remains of this foul, sickly sludge over the edge of a hump-backed bridge. So did Jo Spayne and Richard Moxham – solidarity, my fig biscuit-loathing brethren (NB I quite like them now)


Castle Eden Walkway, by the way, was utterly pointlessly ‘rebranded’ (their words) as Wynyard Woodland Park in 2004. Buggered if I know why, but it’s here…


(Predictably, it’s a bit less wild, rugged and exciting than it was in the 1970s)

2. A trip to Newham Grange Leisure Farm, an ’open’ agricultural centre specialising in school visits, circa 1980. I drank a full bottle of Panda Cola in one gigantic swig, then jumped around on a climbing frame with Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank and promptly threw the whole lot back up again. Our kindly part-time teacher Mrs Curtain (who my Dad once brilliantly told to ‘pull yourself together’ at a parents’ evening) looked after me.


 3. The now-legendary trip to ‘High Force’ circa 1981, during which Messrs Hirst and (I think) Millward dangled a succession of terrified kids over the edge of a 120-foot high waterfall before allowing us to eat our packed lunches on top of the highest, most jagged rock they could find, amidst a torrent of foaming rapids. Health and Safety would have… etc…


 4. Our week at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre, March 1984 – communing with nature, singing revolting songs in the showers and perfecting ‘Shivering Sedgefields’ in dormitories that smelt of damp and underpants. Go back to Friday 30th March 1984 in this very blog to read the whole, seedy story!   

Compared to these minor excursions, a 50-mile venture to York (incorporating an HOUR!!! On a COACH!!!!) seemed like an Apollo mission. So much so that clearly several ‘willing’ parents had been drafted in to add an extra air of authority to proceedings. I can’t remember who else was ‘volunteered’ (not my Mum for certain, she was probably hiding in the airing cupboard when the Amazingly Hairy Mr Chalkley came a-calling) but Mrs Simpson was Doug’s Mum. A tall, red-haired Australian woman with a loud laugh and a fabulously barbed wit, it seemed strange (but brilliant) to have her along as part of our school day.

Mr Millward, Mrs Mulhern and (I think) Mr Hirst came along too, and a definite feeling of ‘demob happiness’ had descended over us all. In accordance with the Natural Order of the Universe, us lairy lads immediately set up camp on the coach’s expansive back seat. Me, Doug, Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank, Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones, James ‘Placie’ Place, Paul ‘Whacky’ Whitehead, Jason ‘Tucker’ Tuck, Paul ‘Huggy’ Huggins, Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald and Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry were certainly all in there, together with a few younger mates from the second and third year… Nicholas ‘Nibbsy’ Nibbs (our resident Alfred E Neuman lookalike), Simon Thompson (the Sex Education film peeper, known to all in our year as ‘Cabbage Patch Kid’) and Scott Gray, the archetypal ‘cheeky little bugger’ who was never afraid to tell lads twice his size that they stank of widdle and Walter Wilson’s biscuits.

In fact, here we all are, on this very day, posing for the cameras…


CLICK HERE to see a much bigger version of this!

From the left (along the back)… Nibbsy, Placie, Whacky, Frankie and Stan, and then that’s Cabbage Patch Kid, Gazzie and Ozzie (striking a sensationally rugged pose for a man dressed entirely in burgundy) along the front.

Our coach journey was soundtracked by, naturally, the most raucous, out-of-tune singing we could muster. Off the top of my head we did ‘Karma Chameleon’, John Lennon’s ‘Nobody Told Me’ (a song with which Ozzie was obsessed, seemingly mainly down to its recent, rather raggle-taggle video), and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’. ‘Don’t do the rude bits!!!’ pleaded Doug, clearly concerned that his Mum would overhear. We did them, of course. A dozen insane 11-year-old boys laughing uproariously as we sang ’Relax, don’t do it, when you wanna come’ halfway down the A19 southbound. Social services would have… etc…

We also sang a song of our own composition, a charming ditty entitled ‘A-Herbert Went A-Stinking’. We reached verse number three before a clearly amused (but hiding it well) Mr Millward wandered to the back of the coach to assert some teacherly authority.

‘Entertaining though this is, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to stop…’ he warned.

‘Who do you like, Mr Millward?’ piped up a chirpy Paul Whitehead. ‘We can do requests…’

He pondered for a second. ‘I’m quite partial to a bit of Elton John,’ he mused, thus sparking us into a thunderous, off-key rendition of the latest chart smash ‘Sad Songs’…

We also indulged in the ultra-traditional school coach trip practice of forging cross-carriageway relationships with lorry drivers. Lurking behind us for at least ten miles of the A19 was a Presto Delivery Wagon being driven by a dead ringer for Ped Gill, the perm-haired, moustachioed drummer from Frankie Goes To Hollywood. He laughed uproariously at our sprawling, writhing back seat antics – a riot of cheeky waves, V-signs and grotesque face-pulling – and gave us two toots on his horn. Heaven.

And so to York! The boring bit, naturally. Some random memories…


 1. The Castle Museum contained Dick Turpin’s cell, although – naturally – the only part of this story that interested us was the makeshift ‘hole in the floor’ bog in the corner of the tiny, foul-smelling room. Cue a gaggle of grotty 11-year-olds celebrating their enthusiasm for history with a riot of constipated ’straining’ noises followed by an explosion of increasingly elaborate and spittle-fuelled raspberries. ’Enough of that…’ warned Mr Millward.

2.  Opposite the museum is Clifford’s Tower, an ancient fortification on top of a steep-sided, grassy mound…


This too provided the inspiration for some essential historical debate. ‘This is the hill that Roland Rat pushed Kevin The Gerbil down,’ mused Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald, sparking the rest of the group into a flurry of insane ‘Yeeeeeeeeeah ratfaaaans’ impersonations. We climbed up to the tower and rolled back down again, tumbling onto the pavement next to one of the busiest roads in York. Health and Safety are compiling their breezeblock-sized dossier as we speak…

3. At the railway museum, we ate our packed lunches in a stationary railway carriage which – as Paul ‘Clarkie’ Clarke correctly pointed out at the time – ’stank of armpits’. The pictures I have from this day were all taken around this time, amidst the railway paraphenalia…


(Simon ’Cabbage Patch Kid’ Thompson, Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald and Jason ’Tucker’ Tuck – notice genuine 1984 packed lunch, just on edge of shot)

In the museum itself, I remember Mrs Mulhern giving us a little potted history of the ongoing miner’s strike, which I actually found quite interesting. Naturally, though, all my curiosity about mid-1980s industial relations was instantly driven away when James ‘Placie’ Place discovered that if we frantically shuffled our feet on the nylon carpet, we could build up enough static charge to deliver crackling electric shocks to each other with our fingertips.


The museum became awash with 11-year-old boys shambling around the exhibits in bizarre, stiff-legged gaits before gently prodding the backs of their compariots’ necks and giggling insanely as the resulting *CRACKS* of electricity and cries of anguished pain rang around the assorted Mallards and Flying Scotsmen.

(Mr Oswald, in fine posing form once again…)

4. Postcards for 5p!!!! See, ‘Fatcher’s Britain wasn’t ALL bad. And Paul ‘Whacky’ Whitehead did indeed complain about the standard of the coffee, to a bald-headed gentlemen in a white laboratory coat, who presumably boiled the pot with a bunsen burner and added just a smidgen of sulphuric acid to the replacement mug. Ladies and gentlemen, Health and Safety have left the building…


A cracking day out, though, and probably the high watermark for being with THAT group of (brilliant) friends at THAT time. It’s both exhilarating and sad looking into the faces on those photographs… strange, mystical snapshots into a time that seems both incredibly distant and – at the same time – very vibrant and recent.

Strange days indeed, momma… most peculiar.



  Chris Orton wrote @

The Railway Museum at York is still fantastic, and best of all FREE! I visit nearly every time that I go to York. I think that schoolkids can still have their bait in one of the old carriages. They’ve got a section of a Japanese Shinkansen – or Bullet – train there these days, which is much wider than our skinny trains.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

You’re making me wish I was at junior school again!

  Chris Byers wrote @

I can remember that trip to York very well and I think I must have some photographs somewhere I will have to have a look. But I can’t help get the impression that you didn’t enjoy it and found it rather boring. This of course might have had something to do with the fact we had been to York before. The first trip was several years earlier and I can remember on that trip eating our packed lunch on a boat cruising down the river Ouse followed by a tour of York Minster.

One other trip I remember was to Beamish where we all went down the coal mine and got the chance to dig for some coal. They did give us a hard hat to wear so there was something in the way of health and safety in the 80s.

  bobfischer wrote @

Chris O – I was really desperate to go to York before I wrote this blog, to revisit all the 1984 locations and make a few films… sadly proper work defeated me! This school trip was definitely my last visit to the Railway Museum though, so I definitely need to re-assess it as an adult.

Chris B – if you can find some more photos that would be amazing – mail them over to me if you like, and I’ll put them on here if you don’t mind?

I wasn’t bored really, I think I was just being ironically ‘cool’ when I wrote my diary. You’re absolutely right about our earlier visit to York though, and I’d completely forgotten about it! Early 1981, I think…? We were definitely in Middle Band. The following day, Mrs Keasey was presented with 30 scrawled write-ups of the day’s events, all of which boldly claimed that we ‘went up the Minister’… I remember her raising a few wry smiles as she read them out.

I definitely missed the Beamish trip, though – I’ve never been there in my life. I wonder why?

Fiona – that’s the idea… 🙂

  Chris Orton wrote @

Beamish is well worth a visit. They still do the mine thing that Chris B. mentions, and there are a load more attractions there these days than there were in the 1980s. Its great to see them making the old style sweets in the sweet shop, and the new masonic hall is impressive too.

If you’ve got any sort of interest in local history, and a fine day then its a great day out.

  janet haigh wrote @

ooh, i remember that trip to york. i wore my brand new ‘frankie says war – hide yourself’ t-shirt, which i bought at hmv on linthorpe road. i’ve still got it somewhere. i thought i was IT.

i also remember flicking v’s at the other coach on the way back up the a19. and mrs mulhern giving me the ‘disappointed in you’ and ‘what would you mum say’ telling off the next day. eeh, i was such a rebel back then…

i can remember york in middle band, and lunch on the boat. my mum was one of the volunteers. she went with us to beamish, and newham grange leisure farm as well. there was a farm at the end of our road, so i never really saw the point of that one.

and i can remember a weird trip in 4th year that only a few kids went on, to a school somewhere in middlesbrough, that didn’t have a nice big field like levendale, and being told how lucky we were… middle class guilt aged 10. although i’m starting to think i may have dreamt that one…

  bobfischer wrote @

I remember you in that Frankie T-shirt, and I SO SO SO desperately wanted one of my own. Never got one, though. About four years ago I was at the Students Union at the Uni of Teesside, and the girl behind the reception (age 18 if she was a day) was wearing one. I said ‘Blimey, I remember those shirts from first time around…’

She looked at me like as though I was mental, and clearly had no idea that it was a ‘retro’ thing.

And crikey, class tourism at work! I definitely didn’t go on the trip to the ‘other’ school… I thought Conyers looked scary enough, so that would have put me into the airing cupboard for months…

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Concerning the boredom factor at historical sites. After what seems to be an eternity of taking children on such trips, I have concluded that at the end of the primary years, any educational visit is akin to a stag or hen do. A chance to have a good laugh and arse about with your mates really. The museums and rich history of Amsterdam were irrelevant during my last visit, as twelve happy souls drifted about `avoiding responsible behaviour` as one of my old school reports famously stated. Much the same happened the last time I went to York as well!

I can report that the old carriages are still available for packed lunch consumption and there is also an `educational room` where you can build bridges and operate signals and such. Most older kids enjoy creating rail carnage by fixing the signals to the fatal configuration!

Nothing ever changes.

  bobfischer wrote @

Blimey, you’re right… that York trip definitely had a stag do ambience, and who needed Stella Artois when we had the raw amphetamine injection of Wham Bars and Vimto to fuel our insanity? We were all wide-eyed and grinding our teeth long before we reached the Dishforth turn-off.

I can’t remember us being allowed to operate ‘educational’ signals, so I think that must be a recent (ie within the last 25 years, which counts as ‘recent’ to me) addition. The last time I caught a train from York station it ran an hour late before aborting its journey completely at Grantham, so I suspect the modern-day equivalent of Sug or Slackie must have been operating the real controls on that particular morning!

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