Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 230

Friday 17th August 1984

Woke up at 9.50 and got up at 10.20. Had some toast, then I went out and played football in the garden. After that I put some posters up on my wall, then I went down to Doug’s and fed the rabbits.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then I inked my map of Deathtrap Dungeon and put it on my wall. At 1.00 I took the dogs right the way round the field, then at 2.00 I came back and put the light shades together. After that I painted some of the lounge, then I played football outside till 4.15, when we had tea.

At 5.15 I watched Diffrent Strokes, then I played out till 6.15 when I watched Dr Who. At 6.40 I watched Bugs Bunny, then at 7.00 I watched Winner takes all. At 7.30 I watched the film of the Likely lads, at 9.00 I watched Babble and at 9.30 I went to bed.

Another landmark day in the summer – the first time in 1984 that I went ‘right the way round the field’!

This probably needs a bit of explanation… when I was a kid, our garden backed onto a vast field of swaying crops belonging to Robert Smith, the towering, bearded farmer whose elderly mother lived next door to us. The crops literally started on the other side of our rusty, iron garden fence. Naturally this meant that the field was out of bounds for most of the year, but – once he’d harvested the crops – Robert was happy for me, my Dad, the dogs and any of my passing friends to race around on there to our hearts’ content. Yay!

brian blessed
We were even allowed to climb on his haystacks so long as we didn’t do any damage, and the Augusts of my childhood are filled with glorious, sunbaked memories of clambering up wobbly, ten-foot towers with my Dad and jumping around on the top while two noisily frustated dogs yelped away on the ground below. We’d even occasionally make ‘hay houses’… Robert’s bales of hay were very much of the ‘oblong block’ variety rather than the modern, cylindrical affairs, and it was possible to stack them into all kinds of dens and shapes.

I definitely remember Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank and I building a full-scale haystack den during the summer of 1981… we piled up four tiny walls of hay bales and placed an old wooden door from the garage over the top, and suddenly we were soldiers of fortune hiding out from Yarm’s evil occupying Nazi forces… pointing our Palitoy Star Wars rifles through the tiniest of gaps, lustily singing the theme from The Red Hand Gang, and ‘taking out’ my Dad as he mowed the lawn forty yards away in the garden.

haystacks

Sometime in 1983, the bits of the field immediately outside our garden had been bought up by Yarm Grammar School (the posh, independent school, not the grotty Conyers comprehensive that us snotty oiks were being sent to) and turned into a pristine rugby pitch. As the new sporting establishment’s only close neighbours, we’d given permission by the headmaster to use the new field for dog-walking, which – naturally – we did. Making certain that Poggy Doggy left a regular supply of steaming poo at the foot of the rugby posts to ensure that Yarm’s teenage sporting toffs regularly gained a little extra character-building experience from their sporting activities.

rickyHowever, the other three quarters of Robert’s beautiful, swaying crop field remained intact, and the fact that I ‘took the dogs right the way round the field’ suggests that he must have finished harvesting, and I was able to give Poggy Doggy and Poggles Ponsonby (I know, I know…) an extra-length tramp around the edges of the outer field.

This was a brilliant, rare treat, and felt like a true expedition. It took about an hour to walk all the way around, trampling over the stubby remains of severed wheat stalks and eating brambles from the hedgerows. At the furthest point from my house was a long-dead, fallen log that nestled in an overgrown corner of the field and provided the ideal place to stop for a rest. 

brambles

This was about as remote and tranquil a spot as it was possible to find on my solo adventures around Yarm… the nearest house was probably half a mile away, and the only sounds to be heard were the constant chirrup of birdsong and the rustling of buzzy things in the bustling, surrounding woodland. I used to go to the log quite a lot throughout my teenage years, often on lazy summers afternoons, just to get away from the hubbub and hassle of traffic and TV and people and parents. I’d often take a sketchpad or a camera, and stretch myself out along the curvy contours of the fallen trunk, gazing for hours at the loping white whales of clouds in an azure blue sky, and often dozing off into drowsy, dream-filled afternoon sleep.

It must be 15 years since I last ventured out that way, but the field is still there and unspoilt so I’ll have a wander down with my camera sometime tomorrow and see if I can make a little film. In the meantime, here’s a picture that I took while idling langorously on the legendary log in the summer of 1991 (aged 18, and no doubt hopelessly mooning over some uninterested teenage girl or other…)

log1

Anyway, snap out of it Fischer – there are light shades to be assembled. We hadn’t bought new ones, these were our classic 1970s front room light shades, seemingly constructed from at least 459 seperate bits of magnolia-coloured plastic that clipped together into a shape that was just about spherical enough to pass for the Death Star if I was playing with my X-Wing Fighters while bouncing up and down on the settee.  And if my Mum instructed my Dad to ‘put the big light on, Geoff’, then that was my signal that Alderaan was about to be destroyed.

‘What’s the matter with you, have you got wind again?’ my Dad would say, settling into his favourite armchair and unfolding the bath towel-sized Evening Gazette Late Final.  

‘No,’ I’d reply, clutching my chest. ‘I felt a great disturbance in the Force… as though a million souls had cried out, only to be suddenly silenced’. 

‘Well, bugger me…’

deathstar

We must have taken the light shades apart to paint the ceiling, and now it was time to reassemble them again, by which time I would have undoubtedly acquired a Dickie Davies-style streak of white Matt Emulsion across the top of my hair.

Anyway, tonight’s TV – Episode Four of the BBC1’s inexplicable ‘cut-up with school safety scissors’ summer repeat of The Five Doctors, and then… oh boy, The Likely Lads film! Still one of my favourite films of all time, although SURELY the Beeb can’t have allowed Bob Ferris’ immortal boutique-based line ‘I couldn’t give a shit’ to be broadcast on primetime television at 8.15pm…? Could they…?  

Write to…

Barry Took,
Points Of View,
BBC Television Centre,
Wood Lane,
London
W12 8QT

(That’s off the top of my head, anyway… I think that was right though, wasn’t it?)

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3 Comments»

  Chris Byers wrote @

I am surprised at your reference to the independent Yarm Grammar School as it was always drummed into us at Conyers that we were Yarm Grammar School and we were not to forget it. They were simply Yarm School. I believe they did want to call themselves Yarm Grammar School but this was blocked by Conyers as they have the rights to the name

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

You write most evocatively of these bucolic vistas of yore. Reading your descriptions is almost as good as being there.
But oh dear, about 1991: mooning at a girl will almost never make her interested in you! I published a paper on that very subject once. No, you’re far more likely to win fair heart if you can demonstrate chemical change in a really memorable way.

  bobfischer wrote @

Chris – you’re absolutely right! I’d forgotten all about that. Conyers was a state school that was just desperate to be a public school, wasn’t it? It had all the trappings… the house system, the rugby, the history (founded in 1590, which I will NEVER forget) and the Latin motto – ‘Perseverando’, I think? I should know, it was embroidered onto my blazer badge for enough years.

The only thing that let the whole facade down were the legions of grotty oik pupils arriving at the school gates every morning…

And thankyou, Dr Parcel, it’s nice to finally have some recognition for my bucolic vistas. Although they’ve cleared up nicely since I started using the ointment.

Sadly I spent all of my late teenage years writing achingly tender poetry about a succession of doe-eyed, silken-haired posh girls from our sixth form, most of whom were entirely unaware of my existance. I’d have given my right arm to demonstrate chemical change to them in a really memorable way…


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