Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 269

Tuesday 25th September 1984

When Doug came over, we went to school and first it was assembly. Then it was English, then RE, then English again. Lastly we had drama and at 12.00 we had dinner.

Then, when we came in it was French, followed by Maths. Lastly we had HE and I made an apple crumble. Luckily Doug carried my bag for me so I got home in safety.

At 5.00 I had tea and at 5.10 I watched Star Trek. Then Doug came and we went to the youth club disco. After a good lark on down there I came home and went to bed at 9.00.

Ooooh, Conyers assembly! As far as I recall, these were rare and hallowed occasions, conducted only once every few weeks and usually at times of great moral outrage. Outbreaks of mascara-wearing amongst the lower sixth form boys, reports of pre-pubescent heads being inserted into toilet bowls, that kind of thing. The entire school population would pile into the gym, where our headmaster – the terrifying Mr Metcalfe, a towering, black-clad, bald-headed man with scary slits for eyes – would lecture forth about the importance of the school community spirit.

(I should add in his defence, that I got to know Mr Metcalfe a little bit better during my sixth form days, and he was an undisputedly charming and fair-minded chap. And once complimented me on my shirt, which put me in a good mood for the rest of the week. Until a Boro home defeat to Watford intervened)

No idea why such an assembly had been called on this particular morning, but there’ll have been the few usual warnings of vile retribution on boys that tucked their jumpers into their trousers, and undoubtedly someone will have enthusiastically broken wind during our recital of the Lord’s Prayer. If Alistair Burton was on form, he could often even get one in before we reached ‘Hallowed be thy name’.

In RE, our whistle-stop tour of the world’s religious beliefs had moved onto Animism, which led me to draw this – let’s face it – rather offensive depiction of (ahem) a modern, 1980s African village…

25 years on, I apologise unreservedly. I think I based my entire knowledge of African tribal life on the conversations between Rigsby and Philip in Rising Damp.

Aside from the occasional ‘helping out’ spell in the kitchen with my Mum, this was the first time I ever attempted anything approaching a serious bit of cooking. Our Home Economics department consisted of a dozen, upright gas cookers hidden amongst the 1984 World Tupperware Mountain. The gas hobs required lighting using a ‘clicker’ (basically a plastic gizmo with a bit of sparking flint at the end) which was also – we quickly discovered – also pretty good at singing the edges of school jumpers.

apple crumble3
Alistair Burton, Ian Farrage and Marc Thompson were all in my HE class, and somehow – between endless arsing around and some expert margerine-flinging when the feared Mrs Gillson wasn’t watching – we managed to concoct three slightly pathetic-looking apple crumbles between us. Here’s the recipe if anyone fancies making a better job of it… 

Notice a generous whitewash of Tippex sloshed across the page. The fact that I made a complete horse’s arse of WRITING DOWN THE RECIPE doesn’t bode extraordinarily well for the actual cooking process, but I’m sure my parents manfully struggled their way through it in front of Northern Life. 

And God bless Doug for helping me home with the interminable thing. That’s what mates are for… he carried my ubiquitous Puma sports bag while I teetered along the main road with my crumble-filled Pyrex dish in my hands. That’s what I mean when I say I ‘got home in safety’ although my dramatic turn of phrase suggests that I was expecting to be ambushed by Yarm’s notorious Apple Crumble Highwaymen somewhere between Conyers School gates and Crossroads Petrol Station.

It was probably still repeating on me at the Youth Club Disco. 

PS Thought it was worth mentioning that last Saturday, I saw my old 1984 English teacher Mrs Macdonald for the first time in years! She was crossing the street outside the Princess Alice pub in Middlesbrough as I was walking back from our 5-0 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion. I wasn’t sure she’d know who I was, so I didn’t say hello, but she doesn’t really look any different.

PPS I’m away for a couple of days now, so it might be Sunday evening before I can do a proper catch-up. But have a fun weekend, and don’t flush anyone’s head down the bogs until I get back to supervise.


  Chris Byers wrote @

As far as I can recall assembly’s were split into two, junior assembly (1st,2nd and 3rd years) were on a Tuesday morning, senior assembly’s (4th,5th and 6th form) on a Wednesday morning.

Like you I didn’t get to know Mr Metcalfe very well till later on, but I always found him supportive and encouraging. God help you though should you have got on the wrong side of him, as he was capable of giving what I can only describe as an Alex Ferguson style hairdryer treatment that would turn the biggest and toughest fifth former into a quivering wreck.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yeah, that sounds right with the assemblies! Did we have them every single week? If so, it’s strange that I haven’t put them into my diary more regularly. Unless I blanked out all those hairdryer treatments. 🙂

I was always terrified of Mr Metcalfe until fourth year, when I appeared onstage in one of Mr Harrison’s drama productions, playing a headmaster myself. I was duly despatched to Mr M’s office to collect the traditional headmaster’s gown… I’d been told that he had agreed I could use it for my costume.

I was absolutely petrified waiting outside his door, and I seem to remember a really complicated series of buttons and lights on the wall… red meant you had to wait, amber meant it was OK to knock, green meant you could enter, that kind of thing.

But when I went inside, he was utterly charming and had a nice chat with me about the play, and then – a couple of years later – he started taking small groups of sixth formers into regular ‘life skills’ type classes, and proved to be a rather genial and softly-spoken chap. He said he enjoyed doing a bit of teaching for a change, which headmasters sometimes seem to miss.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I still bake flapjacks from a recipe one of my Bro’s (now 43) got at junior school. It’s the tastiest flapjack I’ve ever had! The recipe is still on his original piece of paper with his scrawly handwriting on. I have kept it all these years :O)

  bobfischer wrote @

That’s bizarre, for the last few weeks I’ve had an insatiable desire to make my own flapjack! I absolutely LOVE the stuff. Go on, post the recipe up and we’ll all have a go…

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