Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 277

Wednesday 3rd October 1984

Got up at 8.15 and at 8.30 Doug came. Then Gazzie came and we went to school. First lesson was Art, then History. After that we had maths, and at 12.00 I had dinner.

In the afternoon we had to go to the art room for French, then we had history. Last was Science, and at 3.40 Doug and I went to my house. I got changed then we went to Doug’s and he got changed. Then we rode to Yarm and got a book on Phonicia from the library.

On the way back we went to the mud track, then Doug went home and I came back and had tea. After tea I did homework, and at 7.10 I watched Hotline. At 8.00 I watched Benny Hill, and at 8.30 I watched Fresh Fields.

Then I went in the shower, and at 9.30 I watched The Black Adder. Went to bed at 10.00.

I’m intrigued by the fact that poor Miss Wilson had to traipse us all reluctantly over to the Art department for our French lesson, presumably as a result of our usual language classroom (the cheek of it!!!) being double booked. I’m guessing there was some specialist equipment in there that was required by someone else, and I’m narrowing the field down to either…

a) The page from Paris Match stapled to the notice board that had a photo of a naked woman sporting boxing gloves on the reverse side, or

b) The headsets!

Yes, the headsets! Dotted around the edge of the room were a couple of dozen pairs of gigantic 1970s-style headphones, with a small RAF pilot’s microphone attached to each one. The intention being that our class could split into pairs and practice our ‘oral work’ (snigger, snigger) with the distractions of the outside world completely blocked out.

Naturally, what this actually resulted in was a classroom of 11-year-old idiots making screeching aeroplane noises at each other, and shouting ‘Dive! Dive! Squiffy’s been hit, and Curly has Fritz on his tail! BOMBS AWAY!!!!!!!’ into their microphones. And then Stephen Mason would cut across us plucky Wing Commanders with a terrifying, Germanic ‘SCHNELL! SCHNELL!!! ACHTUNG SCHWEINHUNDS!!!!!’ and the sound of rapid, spittle-fuelled machine gun fire.

At which point Miss Wilson would press a special button on her desk and silence us all with a caustic ‘Can we have a bit less World War II and a bit more Ou Est La Piscine, PLEASE GENTLEMEN????’ and we’d mumble and go silent for a few seconds before the whole thing started up again. 

A little later in the school year it was also discovered, by a gleeful Alistair Burton, that the small, silver metal discs on the outside of each headphone were actually removable, and so the race was on to collect as many of these as possible from the four ‘language labs’ scattered around our form class building. And then – even better – it was discovered that shoving a single metal disc into the underside of one of the school bells ACTUALLY STOPPED IT RINGING!!!!!

I’ll hold my hands up and admit I was far too much of a sickly, annoying teachers’ pet to ever indulge in this myself, but I did look on and laugh uproariously as Messrs Burton, Farrage et al managed – over the course of a day – to take out pretty much every single school bell in the building.

This was BRILLIANT for two reasons…

1. We could justifiably be late for our lessons after break and dinner by claiming, quite truthfully, that we ‘didn’t hear the bell, miss’, thus giving us five crucial extra minutes to garrotte each other with our ties and deface any stray textbooks with amusing depictions of male genetalia, often attached to the foreheads of important historical figures.


2. It made all of the teachers working in that building look at their watches with a confused frown thirty seconds after the official end of their lesson, and say ‘That’s strange… there must be a problem with the bells in this building… right… well… I suppose you’d better go…’ amidst a riot of stifled titters and smirks from those of us ‘in the know’.

Towards the end of the day, however, I started to get a bit nervous about the whole caper, and so it came to pass that – the following morning – the dreaded ‘Special Assembly’ was called. Our headmaster Mr Metcalfe was virtually spitting fury, and roared that ‘SOME PUPILS have decided that THE DEFACEMENT OF SCHOOL PROPERTY provides INSUFFICIENT AMUSEMENT to carry them through the school day, and as such have INDULGED in QUITE the most STUPID, IRRESPONSIBLE, IRRATIONAL, and DOWNRIGHT DANGEROUS act of VANDALISM I have EVER SEEN in ALL MY YEARS AS A TEACHER. I REFER, for those of you who are unaware, to THE DISABLING OF THE SCHOOL BELLS in BLOCK 2 that took place THROUGHOUT THE COURSE of YESTERDAY. Clearly this school has an ELEMENT that considers THAT, IN THE CASE OF A FIRE, it would be SOMETHING OF A CRACKING WHEEZE for THEM AND THEIR FELLOW CLASSMATES to DIE in the ENSUING BLAZE, having NOT HEARD THE ALARM BELL!!!!!! I DEMAND that those responsible MAKE THEMSELVES KNOWN TO ME IMMEDIATELY, and IF THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN then REST ASSURED I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN MYSELF’

(Slams fist on lectern, storms out in silence)

My memories of what happened next are vague, but we shuffled out of the school hall looking very guilty, and I think there was a general feeling that if lips were kept sealed, then all might blow over. Somebody (not me) must have cracked, though, as – during a science lesson later in the day – Miss Wilson appeared unexpectedly with a face like thunder and silently tapped on four or five male shoulders (not mine), and jabbed an angry thumb towards the classroom door.

I think blood, sweat and spit ran down the inside of Mr Metcalfe’s rattling windows for a good half hour, as ‘Order Marks’ were freely and furiously distributed, letters to parents were typed (clack-clackclackclack-clack) and the possibilities of (yikes!) being EXPELLED (AND THIS ISN’T AN ACTION I TAKE LIGHTLY) were brought up. (Before being gradually dismissed… no-one got out of Conyers that easily)

Anyway, that was all to come. For the time being, we had the mysteries of the Phoenician traders to entertain us in Mrs Ansbro’s history lesson (and I remember her pronouncing the name ‘Erastothenes’ with a spectacular theatrical flourish…)


According to my homework from 25 years ago today, the Phoenicians sailed from Canaan to Cornwall to trade glass beads and purple dye for tin. No mention of little silver discs from language lab headphones, but I bet they still had a few tucked away at the back of their galleys.


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