Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 251

Friday 7th September 1984

Woke up at 8.00 and got up at 8.05. At 8.45 Doug came and we went to school. First lesson was PE and after some MAD races we played a short game of rugby. After a shower we had French, then Geography.

At 12.00 we had dinner, then it was maths and music. Lastly we had science, and at 3.40 I came home. At 4.30 Doug came and we did homework, and at 5.00 I had tea. Then we finished homework, and at 6.15 Doug went home.

At 7.00 I watched Blankety Blank, and at 7.30 I watched Play your cards right. Then I mucked on till 9.00, when  I watched Babble. Went to bed at 9.30.

Nothing, but nothing, but nothing in my eleven years on the Planet Earth had prepared me for the sheer, soul-crushing bleakness of secondary school PE. I could have spent the summer of 1984 eating gruel in front of Ingmar Bergman films while listening to Joy Division, and my reaction to playing rugby in the pissing rain at 9.30am would still have been ‘Blimey, this is a bit grim, isn’t it?’

I hasten to add this was no fault of our PE teacher Mr Anderson, a smiling, clean-cut sporty type with the compulsory PE teacher line in laddish sarcasm. He was very encouraging and friendly though, so it was a shame that we never got to know him too well… I’m pretty sure he left Conyers at Christmas 1984, to be replaced by insane, barrel-chested comedy genius Ron ‘Any more for Spennymoor?’ Ledgerwood, whose hilarious deeds and antics are probably worthy of a blog of their own.

Three reasons why secondary school PE came as something of a culture shock…

1. Changing rooms. We didn’t have changing rooms at Levendale Primary School. We carried our PE kits in little drawstring bags and quickly slipped in and out of them in the cloakroom, occasionally laughing genially at each others’ underpants. Conyers had cold, damp changing rooms that stank of mud, sweat and Deep Heat. They opened out onto a tiny strip of concrete at the back of the tennis courts, a windswept hidey-hole for idle fourth and fifth-formers bunking off from O-Level responsibilites and sharing ten-packs of John Player Specials between them.

If you forgot your PE kit at Levendale, you shrugged your shoulders and went back to the open-plan classrooms, where you could do some finger-painting in the warm instead. If you forgot your PE kit at Conyers, you were frogmarched to a filthy basket in the corner of the changing room and made to rummage amongst a nauseous pile of filthy, wet, abandoned ‘lost property’ for a replacement ensemble, inevitably taking to the pitch in a stinking, mud-coated rugby shirt large enough to house an entire pack of Girl Guides, and a tiny pair of dubiously-stained shorts whose seams cut into your thighs like rusty Gillette Contours.

2. Rugby. We didn’t have rugby at Levendale Primary School. I’d never played the game before, but I’d naively assumed that it was exactly the same as football, with the added bonus of being able to pick the ball up and run about with it. Yay!!! What I hadn’t realised was that rugby is only ever played on freezing mornings in monsoon conditions, has an arcane, complex system of rules and set-pieces devised by a lunatic throwing moonbeams onto shifting sands, and is invariably won by the team with the highest proportion of psycopathically violent Fuckerknuckles prepared to trample small boys (me) into the ground until their mouths filled with shards of frozen mud.

3. The showers. We didn’t have showers at Levendale Primary School. ‘NOBODY IS LEAVING THIS CHANGING ROOM UNTIL THEY HAVE HAD A WASH’, bellowed Mr Anderson, genially. And so it came to pass that thirty mud and blood-splattered 11-year-olds peeled off their soaking kits and crammed their foul, rubbery bodies into a mud and blood-splattered shower block the size of a Ford Cortina. Six jets of freezing, slate-grey water then spouted fourth from the shower heads with a vicious, violent hiss, and we were required to turn around twice and rub off any excess filth before returning to our benches and towelling ourselves off in sub-Arctic temperatures.    

I’d enjoyed the mad races, mind. ‘And now… race to the end of the 100m track with one hand over your eyes and the other hand touching the ground after every five steps…’, that kind of thing. Worth the entrance money alone.

Anyway, bless Mr Flynn, sheep-jumper-sporting Geography genius, for easing us gently back into civilised society. Settling back into the classroom with half-soaked hair sticking out at a jaunty angle and streaks of mud still plastered across my forehead, we got stuck mercilessly into some serious socio-economic colouring-in. Exactly 25 years on, I’d like to apologise unreservedly for the bloody awful mess I made of the below pie charts. I’m guessing my hands were still shaking from the rugby…

You’ll note that Mr Flynn generously gave  me a merit mark for the above page of scribblings, although I thought for one glorious moment that he’d gone pure Teesside and written the word ‘Mint’ at the bottom of my work. (Which would, of course, have been grammatically incorrect. The approved Teesside phrase is, as any linguistic scholar will tell you, ‘Proper mint as’)

And good to see Mr Warren’s always-fun science lessons swiftly moving onto attempted arson!

Sharp objects and setting fire to things! What more could any self-respecting 11-year-old boy ask for? (Answer: Space Dust and Debbie Jarvis’ knickers)

And the telly… clearly Friday night had become TV quiz night as far as the 1984 schedulers were concerned… so a bit of vintage Blankety Blank, with grumpy Les Dawson now having taken over the mantle from genial Terry Wogan (although, scandalously, we never got a regeneration scene)

I still occasionally wake up in the dead of night with ‘Supermatch game, supermatch game’ running through my head. And good to see Play Your Cards Right going strong, with the legendary Bruce Forsythe still telling a hysterical studio audience that they were ‘so much better than the one we had last week’.

Years later, I found out that dozens of episodes of Play Your Cards Right were filmed on the same day, the in-joke being that the studio audience WAS the same crowd that they’d had in ‘last week’. He knew how to work his punters, old Brucie.

Now, what percentage of school-age rugby players said they WOULD trample a Doctor Who-loving geek’s face into the mud if the opportunity arose…? Sharon and Mike said 47%, what do we think? Higher? Lower? Higher than 47%…? Lower…?



  Chris Orton wrote @

Hmmm… the “any more for Spennymoor” line wouldn’t work in Spennymoor of course, because around these parts we say “Spennymoo-er”. They always pronounce it posh like that on the News, just like they do with “Redka” (Redcar), and “Coxer” (Coxhoe).

Common as clarts round here we are.

  Ian Farrage wrote @

Ledge was one of the only teachers who I believed inspired kids. If you tried, he had time for you, regardless of how many left feet you had or lack of hands to catch a ball. If you were the best there was, but didn’t give a shit and try, he wasn’t interested.
One of the only teachers that did actually relate to the kids and accepted that we were our own people, had our own thoughts and we were a bunch of cheeky little bastards and allowed us to give it some back.
It is very difficult for me to acknowledge a Geordie as being a thoroughly decent chap, but he was…… for a Geordie.

  Chris Byers wrote @

We have used the term legend to describe our teachers before namely Mr Hirst and Mr Millward. But if any other teacher deserved this title it has to be Mr Ledgerwood. He was simply a great teacher and a total legend and I cant thank him enough.

  bobfischer wrote @

Chris O – I remember being at University in the early 1990s and talking to a friend from the Midlands about the Boro player Alan Moore, which – at the time – I virtually prounced ‘Moo-wah’. He had to make me spell it out for him, he just had no comprension of what such a bizarre-sounding word could ever be. I think my accent was a fair bit stronger in those days, before I started ruthlessly social climbing and eating my fried egg sandwiches from a doyly.

And yes, just to echo what’s already been said about Ron Ledgerwood. I was never a sporty kid, and always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with PE, but he was one of those rare teachers that you always felt you could talk to as a friend, and you knew that a word of congratulations or encouragement from him was always going to be heartfelt. I remember busting a gut in some interminable cross-country run in around 1987, and him taking me aside very discreetly and telling me what a great job I’d done. I felt ten feet tall for the rest of the day.

I guess this diary project will just fall short of his time at Conyers, but I’m tempted to see if I can find him for a little filmed interview anyway if enough people are interested? A little basic online digging suggests he’s still at Blakeston School in Stockon…

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Bleurgh I hated school showers. Enuff said!

  bobfischer wrote @

Did any school ever actually have any facility to heat up the water for the showers? Or did it all just come direct from a big vat on the Sports Hall roof?

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I’m pretty sure we had hottish water, it’s just the thought of having to shower naked in front of other people. It’s a terrifying prospect as a teen! All the girls used to cheat and just keep their towels on and get their shoulders and legs wet haha!

  bobfischer wrote @

Hot water!!! Unbelievable luxury.

If it’s any consolation, the boys showers were pretty similar… stare straight at the wall, turn around twice and get out as soon as possible, trying desperately not to brush against any of your fellow classmates on the way out, or years of torment would surely follow.

All bets were off afterwards, though… I still have a few pale scars on my legs from being struck by the wet edge of a violently flicked towel…

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