Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 202

Friday 20th July

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. At 8.30 I went to school and played Ozzie at Pontoon on his Sharp. Then we played World Cup but they put the stoopid fire drill on! When we came in we played Towering Inferno, then I got Mr Millward and Mrs Keasey’s autographs.

At 12.00 I had dinner and in the afternoon we all went out and had a roll down the hill in a barrell. At 3.15 the buzzer went and I came home, leaving Levendale for ever!!!!

When I got home I played Caverns of the Snow Witch in Warlock, then at 4.30 I had tea. At 5.15 I watched Diffrent Strokes, and at 5.45 I went out. At 7.00 I came in and watched a fifty-minute version of Doctor Who and The Awakening. At 7.50 I went out and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Well, there you have it… there are very few entries in my 1984 diary that I can look back on and think – ‘Yep, that was a critical moment in my life’. Mostly they’re just filled with computer games and Doctor Who and arsing around outside with my mates. But here’s a bona fide turning point – my LAST DAY AT LEVENDALE PRIMARY SCHOOL!!! And… erm… it’s filled with computer games and Doctor Who and arsing around outside with my mates.


Still, why change the habit of a lifetime? (Although I wish I could stop picking my nose, it’s disgusting)

Looking back, I think I felt almost duty-bound to celebrate, a kind of ‘everyone-knows-school-is-rubbish-so-I-must-join-in-and-punch-the-air’ type of feeling. In actual fact, even at the age of 11, I felt a bit melancholic about my last day at Levendale. I knew full well that the rumbling black stormcloud of Conyers School was lurking on the horizon, and it filled me with terror, especially with rumours of the legendary ‘Foggy-Bashing Day’ starting to gather strength amongst my peers…

Still, this was a glorious, sun-drenched morning, with the luminous green of the school field stretching away to infinity (or, more accurately, the back of Goulton Close) so all thoughts of impending nastiness could be pushed to one side while we, erm, stayed indoors and played on Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald’s Sharp MZ80K computer, a gigantic, buzzing contraption that took 20 minutes to boot up with a version of Pontoon constructed entirely from green blocks, and running at a third of the speed of an ACTUAL game of Pontoon, with… y’know… cards…


My contribution to ‘Bring In Your Toys And Keep Out Of Our Way’ Day consisted, rather embarrassingly, of my ancient, portable audio cassette recorder (still coated with flecks of silver paint from where Doug and I had spray-painted ROB-E the robot back in January) and a Hinton’s Supermarket carrier bag filled with TDK D90 cassettes. I gathered James ‘Placie’ Place and Paul ‘Whacky’ Whitehead around it in the End Room, and we listened to my crackly, muffled recording of Frankie’s ‘Relax’, obtained by shoving the recorder up against my equally ancient transistor radio during Radio Tees’ official chart countdown a couple of Sundays earlier.

It sounded like it had been recorded underwater. ‘When does Holly sing “Hit Me With Your Laser Beam”?’ asked Placie, peering studiously over the top of his glasses.

‘Erm… he’s already done it…’ I blushed. ‘You must have been distracted…’


It felt unfeasibly naughty and thrillingly rebellious to be playing A BANNED RECORD in school (even if the quality was so bad that we might just as well have been listening to the Prague Symphony Orchestra’s version of The Epic of Gilgamesh), and we sniggered with evil, anti-establishment vigour. We were adults now, fully-formed grown-ups who could do EXACTLY AS WE PLEASED, and none of our teachers could make us do anyfin’ we didn’t wanner do. ALRIGHT?

And then the fire alarm went off, and we dropped everything and marched obediently into the playground.

Looking back, ‘Bring In Your Toys And Keep Out Of Our Way’ Day was the perfect opportunity to see how disciplined our fire drill routine was… if a fire had broken out on an ordinary school day, none of us would have been racing desperately back into the raging inferno to retrieve our Nuffield textbooks and Shatterproof Rulers. (‘But Mr Hirst, my Topic Work on the Ancient Egyptians is in there… I’m going back in… FOR TUTANKHAMUUUUUNNNNN…..’)


However, marching out into the playground and leaving our treasured toys and computers and (ahem) state-of-the-art music systems in the classroom was far more of a test of willpower. As we assembled into raggle-taggle lines around the netball markings, I looked around and saw Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry awkwardly stuffing the entire Subbuteo Nottingham Forest team into his pockets (Tony Woodcock was putting up a good fight) and Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald calmly backing a forklift truck round the side of the Nursery School cabin to retrieve his 400-tonne Sharp MZ80K computer.

Still, ironically, showing the opening loading screens for our beloved ‘Towering Inferno’ game…

There was, of course, no fire. Our Connect 4s remained unblackened and our Ker-Plunks were, thankfully, unsinged. There was time for one last round of frisbee-sized Spam Fritters at the school dinner tables before Mr Hirst, with a wicked gleam in his eye, suggested that we ‘take some barrels out onto the hill and see what games you can invent with them…’

‘The hill’ seperated the back of our ‘Upper Band’ classrooms from the the luminous green of the school field stretching away to… etc etc, and you can see it briefly in this cheeky guerilla film that I made a few months ago – it’s about 1 minute 40 seconds in…

The barrels weren’t anything that a master cooper would have been proud of.. they were plastic blue affairs, open at either end, and just big enough to contain an average-sized 11-year-old with his knees and elbows squashed tight to his body (although I think the decidedly lanky Simon Malyon had his feet sticking from the end). I clambered in at the top of the hill, and Philip ‘Slackie’ Slack shouted ‘Woooo Scanners!’, made the sound of a head exploding*, and gave the barrel an almighty shove down the hill with the toe of his boot.

(*Pretending to have seen a dodgy Betamax video copy of the recent David Cronenberg film, naturally)


My world went ‘THUDBANGBOINKCLATTERTHUDBANGBOINK’ as a kaleidoscope of blue plastic spun around me, and I had the breath knocked out of my tiny chest as the barrel crashed against the wall of the school. And then I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed, and we spent the final three hours of our Levendale lives searching for ‘willing volunteers’ to inflict similar torments upon. And Doug and Slackie and Sug and Whacky and Placie and Stan and Huggy and oh… EVERYONE piled in, and on, and under, and over, and it seemed like one glorious, great, baking hot celebration of everything that was fabulous about the last seven years of our lives.

I was indoors when the final buzzer went, though. I was in the middle room of our Upper Band area, with Doug and Wendy Brunskill, and we were very deliberately waiting around to hear it. With five minutes to go, a palpable ‘atmosphere’ descended upon on the place… an electric tension mixed with stultifying excitement. Games and computers (and rubbish portable cassette players) were packed away, and the raucous shrieks of the afternoon dwindled into a murmuring hubbub.

And our buzzer – our weird, shrieky, chicken-strangling buzzer – sounded for one final time. And I jumped defiantly into the air and landed on Wendy’s foot. There were cheers, and a few stifled tears, and the traditional chorus of ‘We break up, we break down…’ that continued without gasps for breath all the way home on the Worsall bus.

And, somewhere near, Yarm’s newest generation of four-year-olds were paralysed with fear at the prospect of their first day at ‘big school’ coming just that little bit closer. It’s the circle of life, you know. The wheel of fortune. The leap of faith, the band of hope. Till we find…

Sorry, my mistake. That’s The Lion King.

The summer starts here.



  Chris Byers wrote @

It was always staggering to see how much kids bought into school on play day as we used to call it. There must have been a whole fleet of articulated lorries pulling up outside the school gates form 6.00am in the morning unloading Snooker tables Subbuteo tables not to mention Ozzie with his 400 tonne computer.

I think I should make a confession though on this 25th anniversary and admit I did like Spam Fritters.

  bobfischer wrote @

There was a definite class system when it came to play day… there was me, struggling on the bus with my battered cassette player and tatty Ker-Plunk, then there was Jemima Fortington-Smythe, whose parents would back a Land Rover filled with 34% of Leslie Browns’ annual retail stock up to the main doors of the school at 8.50am on every last day of term.

What do kids take into school now? Do they all wander in with their Nintendo Wiis?

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