Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 199

Tuesday 17th July 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. At school we sorted out our trays, then we emptied and gave in our files. At 12.00 I had dinner, then in the afternoon it was our Sports Competition.

Ozzie and I entered for the Wheelbarrow and came last, the Three legged race and came last, and I entered for the all fours and came third. At 3.15 I came home and started writing a fighting fantasy, then I had tea. Then I typed some more and at 6.40 I watched Star Trek.

At 7.30 I watched Little and large, and at 8.00 I went out. At 9.00 I watched Film buff of the year and at 9.30 I went to bed.

Aaaaaahhh… what a poignant reminder that our seven year stint at Levendale Primary School was finally coming to an end. Four days worth of teeny, junior education left to go, and already we were ‘sorting out our trays’, and ‘emptying and giving in our files’. The primary school equivalent of the tired, old football manager clearing his desk. It’s symbolic enough to feature in an Ingmar Bergman film, with Max Von Sydow playing Mr Millward. Truly, this was the end of an era.


Our ‘trays’ were the Levendale equivalent of the more traditional school lockers. Basically, everything we needed to keep safe at school was stored in our own personalised grey, plastic drawer… stacked up in towering columns, each with our name stuck to the front with sticky-backed plastic. Mine always contained, at any one time, the following…

1. A battered Doctor Who Target Novelisation, with an 84.7% chance of being written by Terrance Dicks.


2. A crinkled bag of aniseed balls, several of which had melted and become inextricably welded together, meaning they’d have to be eaten four at a time alongside a healthy portion of grubby, fingerprint-ridden paper.

3. Four Berol Notewriter pens, with red bodies and blue nibs. At least one of these would have leaked liberally over the cover of the Doctor Who paperback, rendering the author’s name as ‘Terrace Dick’

4. One Nuffield Mathematics Textbook (unopened)

5. My ‘file’. Not, thankfully, compiled by MI5 (that was in fourth year seniors) but a hardbacked ring binder covered with cartoon drawings of ‘Loonymen’ and containing pretty much all my schoolwork for the year, all neatly handwritten on A4 foolscap lined paper and filed away in an orderly fashion. We were told by Mrs Keasey that we could ‘keep anything you want to take home, bin the rest, and hand your empty files in to me when you’ve finished’.

In the spirit of reckless nihilism, I binned everything. Somebody stop me sobbing, please. I could have had six months worth of blog-related fun out of that bloody binder. 1984 was firmly in the pre-recycling age though, so my beloved stories, cartoons and aborted attempts to write Fighting Fantasy books are probably all still languishing at the bottom of a vast, noxious landfill site in the Far East. Along with forty million sticky Wham Bar wrappers and several hundred tonnes of discarded Spam Fritter from the same era.


And so if any proof were required that our work at Levendale was over, that was it. Our files had gone, our trays were empty. Walking around the ‘Upper Band’ area in these final few days felt like taking one last stroll around the family home before the last removal van pulls away and the new occupiers arrive. The smell of empty melancholy was everywhere, and the patter of Start-Rite trainers on the polished floor tiles seemed to echo to eternity and back.

Thankfully, we had the School Sports Day to occupy us. It was pointed out on this blog last week that these events were great for kids who were less adept at the more traditional, blokey school sports – yer football, cricket and rounders – because, let’s face it, a three-legged race pretty much levels the playing field for everyone. Unless you’re me and Ozzie, in which case it’s plain to see that we were just as bloody useless at the silly sports as we were at the proper stuff. I think we were overtaken by a stampeding herd of slugs towards the final stretch of the Wheelbarrow Race.

Oddly enough, my clearest memory of this day is sitting at the side of the school field as Ozzie asked me if I’d heard the latest Michael Jackson single, ‘Farewell My Summer Love’.

‘No,’ I replied. ‘Is it any good?’

He proceeded to sing it for me in a breathy, high-pitched approximation of Jacko’s voice, prompting a passing Doug (who seemed to have somehow avoided taking part in any kind of sporting activity at all… I think Mr Hirst was just past caring by this stage) to comment that he sounded ‘like Fischer’s got hold of your knackers’. If that had been an event in the School Sports Day, then no doubt we’d have come last in that, as well.


Incidentally, around this time, I was inspired by Weird Al Yankovic’s brilliant Jacko spoof ‘Eat It’ to try my a hand a bit of my own satirical songwriting. Predictably, I also used ‘Beat It’ as the basis to come up with the following rather unfair ditty…

‘How come Levendale is the worst school around?
There ain’t one kid who likes it, I bet you a pound
At the end of just one day we’re banging our heads on the ground
Can’t stand it…
Can’t stand it…’

I managed to get a full lyric out of it, but that’s all I can remember. I’d like to point out that this was an entirely shameless early attempt to play to the crowd, as I’d thoroughly enjoyed my time at Levendale and have always looked back on the place and my time there with great affection. But hey – who cares about that when a few cheap, satirical shots set to a popular tune of the day would doubtless have my snotty-faced classmates rolling around the lino with laughter?

(I’m such a tart)

And, yay! If it’s Tuesday evening, and it’s BBC2, and it’s a point in human civilisation somewhere between 1977 and 1989 AD, then there’s a reasonable chance that a random episode of Star Trek will be showing. This week, it was the excitingly-titled ‘The Naked Time’, the famous Season 1 adventure in which Mr Sulu strips to his waist and takes to the Enterprise corridors wielding a sword…


This is also, fabulously, the episode in which Scottie actually DOES used the immortal line ‘Ye cannae change the laws o’ physics’, which I think resounded around the Levendale playgrounds during the, erm, three lunchtimes that we had left…


  AJ Garrett wrote @

I’m going to use the comprehensive impression of your young psyche illustrated by these blog posts to authentically synthesise what your Fighting Fantasy book would be like. I’ll publish it under ‘AJ writing as Bob Fishcer (circa 1984)’. Unfinished of course.

  Mark Hirst wrote @

The trays are still an integral part of most, if not every primary school. We had our `tray moving ceremony` just this week. Every child carries their (very tidy) tray up to their new classroom and inserts it into the tray storage unit. Occasional fights break out over who’s on top! (Phnarr!) The children who are leaving, empty their trays and give them a good wash and scrub up and then take them down to the class for the new starters. The recycling brigade would love it!

And yes Bob, the grey trays still exist, but are gradually being phased out by multi-coloured versions designed to motivate you into working harder! Just think, if you’d had a red one, where would you be now??

  bobfischer wrote @

AJ – I’d love to see that. Make sure it contains elves, Spam Fritters and Frankie Goes To Hollywood and you won’t go far wrong.

(Although I’m delighted to report that another historical treasure has come to light in the loft… I’ve found an original, badly-typed Fischer Fighting Fantasy in a long-lost folder! It’s dated 26/10/84 though, so you’ll have to wait…)

Mr H, great to hear that the traditional school tray is still thriving, although I’m disturbed by the frivolous-sounding colour scheme! This sounds like a firm step on the road to juvenile delinquency. The utilitarian grey treys of the 1980s made us the respectful, rounded citizens that we are today.

By the way, on opening Teesside’s best-selling newspaper The Evening Gazette yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice a certain Guisborough-based headmaster splashed across a whole page, musing upon the thorny issue of school sports days and the associated dangers of childhood sunburn… both subjects covered in some depth on this blog within the last week.

Coincidence? Or something more sinister? I think we should be told.

  Chris Orton wrote @

Our school trays worked along similar lines. In the Infant school we had the tray stacking units previously mentioned at the side of the classroom, but in the Juniors our trays sat underneath each desk in a stacking unit that was connected to the desk.

Two people sat at the desk and the trays went in the middle. The unit could also accommodate shelves too, so it was something of a badge of honour if you could achieve two gunmetal grey trays and a shelf as there was only space for five things in the unit. Getting two trays and a shelf left only two spaces for the other person!

  bobfischer wrote @

Similar situations to the above led to the early stages of World War II.

  Chris Byers wrote @

Surely the simple solution to stop any arguments over who’s tray is at the top is to place them in alphabetical order. My name would have placed me somewhere near the top, Bob you would have been a bit father down. I would feel sorry however if anyone else’s name had began with the letter H though that would have placed them next to Christopher Herbert.

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Bob- There is definitely something going on with the Gazette. After years of flaunting every rule under the sun, I have decided to redress the balance and present as an upstanding and responsible voice of reason. They often ring me for a pithy quote. You will not be disappointed with my `soon to be published` rant on the dangers of blogs and subversive radio shows!

Chris- This may sound a simple solution, but in these days of human rights, equal opportunities and litigation, such a move would not be tolerated. You could damage the self esteem of a generation of alphabetically challenged children who are always `at the bottom` and we would have a rush of deed poll name changes to try and rise up the pecking order. (As witnessed recently at my own school, where overnight, Daniel Zak became Daniel Aardvaark, just to top the register!)

A much fairer system would be for the kids that we like to have new trays near the top and those that we dislike to have the `well worn` trays at the bottom. Everybody would be able to see exactly where they stood within the classroom dynamic. Or does this smack of `trayism`?

Can’t believe where we’ve gone with this tray thread!! I need a holiday before the Gazette get hold of me!!

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I was always at the bottom as I was a T surname. I’m still scarred.

  bobfischer wrote @

I think ours were in alphabetical order, actually. I remember mine nestling snugly against Paul Frank’s.

Nothing wrong wiith a bit of Tray Fascism, Mr H. That just sounds like a nifty variation on government league tables!

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