Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 279

Friday 5th October 1984

At 8.20 I got up and at 8.30 Doug came and we set off to go to school, meeting Gazzie on the way. First lesson was PE and we had a sweat session. Then it was French and we saw a film, and after that it was Geography.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then in the afternoon it was maths then music. Lastly was Science (we had a test and I got a merit) and at 3.40 I came home. I played football till tea at 5.00, and at 5.15 I watched Crackerjack.

At 6.00 I played out and at 7.00 I watched Blankety Blank with Kelly Monteith. At 7.30 I watched Play your cards right, and at 8.00 I watched Me and my girl. At 8.30 I watched We Love TV, and at 9.00 I watched Tell the Truth. Went to bed at 9.30.

A Sweat Session! Gor blimey. Basically Mr Anderson’s sure-fire method of knackering the lot of us and guaranteeing a trouble-free Friday for the rest of his teaching colleagues. I’m sure the occasional shady deal must have been done behind the staff room door… ‘Do a sweat session with the little buggers on Friday morning, and I’ll make sure there’s something at least 40% proof in your pigeon hole first thing Monday…’  

In a nutshell, as far as I remember… take thirty 11-year-old oiks in ill-fitting white vests, shorts and ‘pumps’ (titter) and set them off jogging around the school gym (complete with folding-out ‘apparatus’) in a nice, orderly fashion. And then, every 30 seconds or so, the nice Mr Anderson would sound a deafening parp on his whistle and shout out the name of a randomly-selected old school exercise… ‘TEN SQUAT THRUSTS!!!’ or ‘TEN PRESS-UPS!!!’ or ‘TEN STAR JUMPS!!!!’ or ‘TEN BURPEES!!!!!!’ (a ‘burpee’ being a star jump followed swiftly by a squat thrust, as any grotty herbert will tell you). At which point we’d have to stop dead and perform said exercise (amidst all manner of groaning, wheezing and farting – and that was just Mr Anderson) before resuming the jog.

This went on for the full hour. By the time we slouched back into the changing room at 10.30am, and feebly turned around twice beneath the freezing showers, we looked like extras from Dawn of the Dead. ‘Have a nice weekend, lads…’ Mr Anderson would shout cheerily, as we slung our Puma bags over our shoulders with hollow eyes and shuffled painfully over to Block 2 for French. And I can’t remember the film at all though, so it’s just possible I dozed off at the back of the classroom.

There’s no record of either a test or a merit in my science book, but we do seem to have continued our quest to measure every single thing in the universe, ever. Mainly by dropping them one-by-one into a beaker of water and taking note of the displacement…

Thanks to Jo Spayne, 25 years ago today, for making pointing out (not unreasonably) that my displacement can looked ‘like an auld feller’s knob’. I hooted with laughter and received a barbed glance from Mr Warren, who was clearly weighing up a refund from Mr Anderson over breach of Sweat Session contract.

And lovely to see Crackerjack still going strong! My peak era as a Crackerjack fan had probably been around 1981/2, when the mighty Stu Francis had made the show his own, and the plinky-plonky tones of that great Chas and Dave theme tune meant that half an hour of hilarious, high-octane nonsense was pretty much a given. Take A Letter, Double or Drop and more gunge than any of Noel Edmonds’ wildest nightmares…

Sarah Greene, Geoff Capes and Russell Grant! Bestill my beating heart. I ALWAYS associate Crackerjack with the darkest and coldest of dark winter’s evenings… banging a football around the frosty garden in the pitch black at 4.55pm before racing inside to warm up by the open fire and get a brilliant dose of expert grape-crushing and dolls house-vaulting. And all the while filled with a glorious bubbling of mounting excitement as we raced towards another tinsel and toy-filled Christmas.

I must have spent a few early 80s Friday nights around my Gran’s house as well, as I definitely also associate Crackerjack with cold winter evenings staring out of the window onto the mist-shrouded streets of Acklam, watching dull orange street lights flickering into life at 5.30pm. I’ve a distinct memory of watching a Crackerjack Halloween special in my Gran’s front room while my Dad carved a jagged, scary face into a knobbly turnip and dripped candle wax into its hollowed-out skull.

The only Halloween that fell on a Friday around that time was on 31st October 1980, which sounds about right. A fortnight away from my eighth birthday, and traipsing around Acklam doing the old ‘sky is blue, grass is green’ routine with Lisa Wheeldon from the house round the corner. Face coated in red greasepaint, with the hood up on my brown parka. Bliss.

NB A little mention to mark the passing of Leonard Rossiter, who died on this very day, mid-way through ITV’s run of his final, forgotten sitcom Tripper’s Day. My Dad will no doubt have flicked over to BBC1 to catch the Nine O’Clock news, and we’ll have been confronted by a gloomy-looking Moira Stewart in front of a still photo of a smiling Leonard. As soon as you heard the opening lines – ‘The actor Leonard Rossiter, known to millions as grasping landlord Rigsby in the TV comedy Rising Damp…’ – you KNEW what was coming.

It was a huge shock, and a tragic loss to British comedy, as Leonard Rossiter was a sensational actor who managed to combine almost supernatural comic timing with a pretty much unparallelled gift for bringing heartbreaking frustration and despair to his performances. Let’s remember him this way…



  Stuart Downing wrote @

I remember this day – poor Leonard Rossiter. He was a big favourite in our house but I can’t say I appreciated his work until much later on. Watch his superb undertaker in Billy Liar – genius. Fair to say I probably saw you on that Hallowe’en, Fischer as I roamed the streets of the Acklam Hall Estate. But with you being a full 50 weeks younger than me I wouldn’t have bothered with you. I didn’t talk to the little kids…

  bobfischer wrote @

Yeah, he’s superb in Billy Liar. ‘A vair clever man, Danny Boon… a vair, vair clever man…’

I’m sure I’ll have seen you on the streets of Acklam on Halloween 1980… in fact Lisa and I probably ran away from you, as we were terrified of the bigger kids. I’m pretty sure we did the Acklam beat again the following year, as Halloween 1981 fell on a Saturday. But after that my legitimised begging activities were restricted to Yarm.

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