Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 201

Thursday 19th July 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. At 8.30 I went to school and me, Ozzie, Doug, Whacky, Horseman and Burden went down middle band and pulled out all the staples. Then we came back and Doug, Whacky and I started a card for Mr Millward.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then we were allowed out till 2.00. When we came in, we got Mr Chalkley, the dinner ladies, Mrs Fox, Mrs Parker and Mrs Powell to sign the card, then we hid it in Hirstie’s cupboard. At 3.15 I came home and went out, then I had tea.

At 5.45 Dad and I went to some Carpet shop, then to Grandma’s where I watched Kick Start at 7.00 and Top of the pops at 7.30. At 8.00 we picked mam up from hospital and went home and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Our penultimate day at Levendale Primary School, and if the place became any more relaxed it was in danger of actually fossilising. A two-hour lunch break! Unprecedented, and the perfect opportunity to catch up with the season’s backlog of British Bulldog fixtures, many of which had been postponed from the harsh winter. We came back into school at 2pm looking like returning Tommies from the Battle of Ypres.

(I also think this was the day when, I report with a strange mixture of pride and shame, I made Doug laugh hysterically by marching along the edge of the playground in time to my off-key rendition of Slade’s ‘My Oh My’, and provided drum effects by loudly breaking wind with every step. Amazingly, this was before I even contemplated becoming a vegetarian… nowadays, my flatulence is easily impressive enough to provide accompaniment to the entire second side of ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’)

Good to see me and my chums idly wasting a few hours by forming a crack staple-removing squad. Like The A-Team, but with safety scissors. Throughout the course of the school year, the walls became festooned with all manner of ‘displays’ (paintings, poems, large posters informing us that British Bulldogs was now BANNED from the playgrounds without further notice), all of which were attached using Mrs Keasey’s feared ‘staple gun’*. The displays had now been removed, but – in their wake – the walls were dotted, from skirting board to ceiling, with a virulent rash of staples that now required EXTREME DISENGAGEMENT.


I suspect Mr Millward had a slight motive of ‘this’ll keep six of the buggers out of trouble for a couple of hours’, but didn’t bargain on the fact that we’d responsibly recycle the 4,000 staples at our disposal on this day by flicking them relentlessly at each other in brutal outbreaks of cross-table staple warfare.  25 years later, a rogue staple still occasionally drops out of my hair.

(*I now firmly believe that the school had a secret ‘Staple Gun Range’ somewhere beneath the dinner hall, where our teachers could don ear-protectors, goggles and staple-proof jackets and loose off endless rounds of staples at automated cardboard cut-outs of Stephen Mason and Christopher Herbert. They had to access it by pulling five times on the rope of the PE Apparatus, and then a secret door would open in floor by the dinner hatch, and then… and then…)


And Mr Millward’s card! Now there was a work of art that would make Hallmark flush with pride. Our beloved Mr M, we’d become aware, was leaving Levendale at the same time as us… he’d accepted a deputy headship in the leafy Middlesbrough suburb of Marton, and Doug, Paul ‘Whacky’ Whitehead and I decided that we liked him so much, we’d make him a ‘Good Luck’ card. 

So a pristine piece of A3 cartridge paper was dutifully requisitioned from Mrs Keasey’s cupboard, and we got to work with the felt tips. The card we produced featured a cartoon version of Neil from The Young Ones (our new hero, complete with speech bubble in which Whacky scribbled the hilarious caption ‘vegetable rights and peace’) alongside a cartoon version of Mr Millward, complete with moustache and Reactolite glasses. Underneath Neil was written the legend ‘HEAD’, and beneath Mr M… yep, ‘DEPUTY HEAD’. A strange bit of junior wordplay, but we were proud, and dutifully started trawling the school for willing ‘volunteers’ to sign it. 

We all know The Amazingly Hairy Mr Chalkley, of course, and – as my Mum was working in the school kitchens at this point – getting the dinner ladies to sign was no problem either. We just did the secret knock on the Spam Fritter, and the dinner hatch swivelled round to allow us access to their jumping, Bugsy Malone-style Speakeasy.

Mrs Parker was quite possibly the most brilliantly sarcastic teacher I’ve ever met, and I believe in recent years she’s made a good living as the host of BBC1’s ‘The Weakest Link’. Mrs Powell, fantastically, is now a good friend of mine, and – as the feared enforcer of our local CAMRA division – regularly appears on my BBC Tees radio show to talk about forthcoming beer festivals. Usually accompanied by a carrier bag of clinking bottles that are discreetly imbibed throughout the course of the programme. Yes, it’s wild, rock’n’roll abandon all the way in the crazy, decadent world of BBC local radio!

Worryingly though, I’ve no recollection of a ‘Mrs Fox’ ever working at our school. Was she a figment of my imagination? Was her teaching style so traumatic that I’ve blanked her from my memory completely? Can anyone help? Mrs Fox, are you out there…?

dollymixturesMaybe my memory was short-circuiting around this time, as – oddly – I’m sure I have actually missed out a big chunk of (ahem) ‘action’ from my diary entry for this day. Having completed Mr Millward’s card, I know full well that Doug and I decided to buy him a presentation pack of Dolly Mixtures as a farewell present (he’d unwisely expressed his penchant for them on our school trip to York three days earlier) and dutifully trooped down to the VG Corner Shop, around the back of our school. We bought a little box of them there, accompanied in our quest by wannabe genetic researcher Debbie Stothard, who – get this – also bought two bags of aniseed balls and presented them to Doug and me as an ‘end of term present’.


I’d never seen anything so wildly extravagant and generous from one of my school contemporaries, and I kept them in my pocket for the rest of the night, frequently dipping into the bag in the hope that one of my parents would ask where I got them from, in which case I could stare enigmatically out of the window, sigh wistfully, and reply ‘a girl bought them for me…’

They didn’t ask though, and by the end of the night I was being followed around the streets of Middlesbrough by a drooling pack of wild dogs.

warlock2Also at the VG Shop, I’m pretty sure I splashed out on the new edition of Warlock, the uber-geeky Fighting Fantasy magazine, and Doug and I cycled home via the newly-discovered magical kingdom of Guanderlarn, covered in a scary amount of detail in Sunday’s diary entry. I just remember sitting on top of a haystack reading it, while Doug wrestled with his conscience and debated whether it was morally wrong to nick a few of Mr Millward’s Dolly Mixtures and reseal the box again afterwards. (We eventually decided that it was, and – 25 years later – Mr M will be relieved to discover that his farewell Dolly Mixtures remained unmolested)

Sadly it seems my Gran was still in hospital having the latest of her unsuccessful hip replacements attended to, so when my Dad and I popped round to her bungalow for an hour, the place was empty and silent, with a fortnight’s worth of mail stacked up on the coconut doormat. On a hot and balmy night, I watched an episode of Top Of The Pops that I’m going to tell you now (and I promise I haven’t checked before I wrote this) contained a studio performance by The Kane Gang of their debut chart hit ‘The Closest Thing To Heaven’.

Right, off to check…

• Billy Idol – Eyes Without A Face [Performance]
• Blancmange – The Day Before You Came [Performance]
• Divine – You Think You’re A Man [Performance]
• Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes [Performance]
• Kane Gang – Closest Thing To Heaven [Performance]
• Prince – When Doves Cry [Promo Video]
• The Mighty Wah – Come Back [Performance]
• Thompson Twins – Sister Of Mercy [Performance]

I scare myself sometimes. You might as well have Kick Start while we’re at it…

Actually, another strange memory has just returned to me! When we met my Mum at the hospital, she asked what skullduggery I’d been up to at school the previous day, as she’d met Mrs Keasey on the bus to Middlesbrough, and been reliably informed that I was ‘very excitable yesterday’.

I assume this was a reference to my playfight with Simon ‘Cabbage Patch Kid’ Thompson and not the Naked Beach Volleyball that we’d watched on TV in the school dinner hall, but you never know…


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