Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 207

Wednesday 25th July 1984

Woke up at 8.15 and got up at 8.45. We went to Stockton and I got some new sandshoes for Conyers. When I came back I finished mapping Island of the Lizard king, then I went out till 12.00, when I had dinner.

After dinner I started to map City of Thieves, but I soon got sick and went out. I came back in at 3.30 and finished mapping City of Thieves and at 4.30 I had tea. At 5.15 I watched Who’s baby, then at 5.45 I went out and played football with dad.

At 8.30 I came in and had some supper, then at 9.30 I went in the shower. Went to bed at 9.40.

This was the day my Mum finally cracked. We were walking along Stockton High Street on the way to Rawcliffe’s, the ‘official’ Conyers school outfitters, and she asked me what my plans for the afternoon were.

‘I’m going to finish my map of the Island of the Lizard King, then move onto City Of Thieves…’ I replied, dreamily.

‘Oh COME ON, you can’t spend your whole summer holidays indoors messing about with graph paper….’ she exploded. ‘Give Doug a ring and take your bikes out somewhere. The weather’s bloody gorgeous. Go and get some fresh air, for crying out loud…’

stocktonhighstreetBut I was lost in a world of my own. Mainly Middle Earth, with little bits of Allansia and Gallifrey thrown into the mix as well. I think I was still day-dreaming about overthrowing Fire Island’s cruel Lizard Man overlords when we reached Maxwell’s Corner, the odd, semi-circular shop front at the very top of Stockton High Street.

This was the home of the aforementioned Rawcliffe’s, the austere and delightfully old-fashioned shop that had provided Teesside’s grotty oiks with smart school uniforms and assorted PE gear for several generations. There was no concession to idle browsing or any other kind of fancy retail chicanery. Approximately 87.3% of the shop consisted of wooden shelves upon which piles of starchy white shirts, blazers and ‘pumps’ were neatly stacked. The other 12.7% was taken up by a little, grey-haired man with spectacles on a chain, who would silently purse his lips as you presented him with your requirements (this actually came in the form of a typed list that had already been posted to us by Conyers School) and then fuss around the shelves, nimbly piling the required attire into your outstretched arms. 

pumps2In 1984, the prospect of wearing school uniform seemed amazingly alien and arcane to me. There had been no dress code whatsoever in my seven years at Levendale Primary School… we just wore whatever we wanted. Within the limits of British decency, of course… I still fondly remember the day when Simon Bentley was summoned to our headmaster Mr Watson’s office, proudly sporting a T-shirt that featured Buzby, the sprightly yellow bird starring in a series of early 1980s British Telecom adverts (and voiced by the legendary Lord Bernard of Cribbins, bless him).

All of which would have been fine, had the T-shirt not also boasted the not-entirely-inaccurate slogan ‘BUSBY IS A TIT’ in large, friendly letters. Teeth were sucked, heads were shaken, phone calls made, questions asked in the House of Commons… 


But the prospect of having to wear a uniform was one that appalled me slightly, even though I knew it granted me daily opportunities to pretend to be Turlough, the weird, green-eyed public schoolboy alien from Doctor Who. Luckily my Mum was breaking me in gently, and today we just bought a pair of white, brand-less utilitarian sandshoes, for use in Conyers School’s towering, sixty-foot high ‘sports hall’, with the sternly-worded warning ‘NO BLACK SOLES BEYOND THIS POINT’ Blu-Tacked to the main double doors outside.  

(They had accompanying ‘stuff’ with them as well, a kind of bottled ‘Tippex for sandshoes’ thing… basically, when your sandshoes became scuffed and marked after repeated abuse of the Pommel Horse, you could spread this sticky white glop on them in an utterly fruitless attempt to return them to their former glory. In actual fact, you just ended up looking as though a stallion had ejaculated all over your shoes. Can anyone remember what it was called?)

cityofthievesAnd then it was back home on the rickety, tartan-seated 294 bus to Yarm, ready to continue the ceaseless quest to ‘spend my whole summer holidays indoors messing about with graph paper’. I battled through the mean streets of Silverton, overcoming goblins, leaf beasts and serpent queens on my way to meet the wizard Nicodemus and overthrow the evil Zanbar Bone (this is in Fighting Fantasy book No 5, City Of Thieves, by the way. Not on the way back from Stockton. Although if you go to the High Street after 7pm on a Friday night, you’ll see similar scenes…)

At half-hourly intervals, my Mum kept popping her head around the front room door, offering such subtle interjections as ‘Phew! It’s bloody gorgeous out there! It’d be a lovely day for a bike ride…’

I think she was just desperate to get me from under her feet so she could do the hoovering.

And ‘Whose Baby?’… blimey, I’d forgotten all about this! Pure ITV mid-80s light entertainment madness, with Bernie Winters (and his permanently panting St Bernard, Schnorbitz*) presenting, and a celebrity panel (Kenneth Williams, Rula Lenska, Barry Cryer, etc) interrogating terrified-looking children in an attempt to uncover the identity of their famous parents. ‘Is your Daddy famous for music?’ (silent nod, thunderous applause from studio audience, cut to proud dad Alvin Stardust grinning in a hidden, darkened corner of the studio)

In fact, here’s a sensational clip!

I was convinced that one day, my own children would take part in this, silently confirming to a genial Willie Rushton that their Dad was, in fact, the recently-cast Eleventh Doctor Who. Sadly, 25 years on, I’m still childless, the new Doctor Who is ten years younger than me, and both Bernie Winters, Schnorbitz and Willie Rushton have long since joined the heavenly Light Entertainment panel game invisible. 

schnorbitzSometimes life just doesn’t turn out how you want it to. Best to stay indoors, out of harm’s way, and mess about graph paper all summer.

*I once knew a girl called Sonia who owned a hamster called Schnorbitz. I thought this was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard in my life. I was 22 years old.

1 Comment»

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I had to wear a school uniform all through infant and junior school (as I keep pointing out haha!)

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