Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 284

Wednesday 10th October 1984

Doug came at 8.30 and we went to school. First it was Art, and I got a third of a merit, then History. Next was maths, and at 12.00 I came home and had dinner.

At 1.00 I went back to school and it was French, then English, then science. At 3.40 I came home and played out, then at 5.00 Doug came and we did homework.

At 6.00 Doug went and at 7.00 we went to George and Peg’s and yakked on, and I got some wine. At 9.00 I got back and watched Minder, and at 9.45 I watched The Black Adder. Went to bed at 10.00.

Still coming home for dinner, you’ll notice! Day three of the industrial action, and the chairs were still on the tables in the school canteen. My Mum, bless her, had now twigged that Doug was coming back home with me every day, and had started leaving out extra sausage rolls and biscuits to tide us both over. And it was SO cold in the house that I think we MIGHT even have made a pot of tea between us.

So we sat alone in the empty house, shivering in our parkas in front of Bod, clutching warm flowery 1970s mugs in our hands and eating Penguin biscuits as the rain blattered against the front room window. Our house. For an hour, at least.

Still, no room for sentiment when there’s copper sulphate waiting to be dissolved in a corked test tube. Yep, that was what genial, twinkly-eyed Mr Warren had lined up for our science lesson exactly 25 years ago today…

I remember this well, with myself, Chris Byers and Jo Spayne shovelling piles of salt and the excitingly-named potassium permangenate into the water-filled glass cylinder, and fighting over who got the impossibly daredevil task of shaking it about, while singing Wham’s! ‘Club Tropicana’ for bonus points.

Potassium permangenate, of course, goes an amazing bright purple colour when mixed with water, a fact that the entire class discovered simultaneously with a loud, breathless ‘WHOAAAAARRRRR!!!!’ Followed by Stephen Mason chasing Pippa Cheung back to the ‘girly table’ with five purple fingertips, somewhat innacurately claiming ‘IT’S RADIOACTIVE!!! PURE RADIOACTIVE!!! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! AAAAAARGHHHH!!!!!’

See, science CAN be fun!

Not sure which homework in particular Doug and I rattled off in my bedroom, with the gloom gathering outside, the dark shadows of tree branches clattering against the window, and our ancient plumbing clanking into life as my tiny radiator warmed up, but I do remember my Mum mischievously sticking her head around the door and asking Doug if he wanted ‘sausage rolls again tomorrow?’.

‘Yes please, and another Penguin biscuit would be nice’, came the reply. My Dad, emerging glistening from a post-work bath, laughed so hard that his wraparound towel became almost indecent.

And lovely to see a mention for George and Peg, as well. In the 1920s, when my Gran – as a teenager – had moved to Middlesbrough from East London by herself, she’d been adopted by Teesside’s sprawling Wilson family. George was born around the same time, and ALWAYS touchingly considered my Gran to be part of his blood family – and my Mum and me to be likewise. He and his wife Peg would have been in their early sixties by 1984, and lived barely a mile from our house, so we made regular visits to see them.

And they were great. George was a tall, gregarious, bespectacled man, who – till the day he died – reminded me simultaneously of both Eric Morecambe and Eric Sykes. He was hilariously funny, outrageously outspoken, had a raucous laugh and would – whenever he saw me as a kid – theatrically check that the coast was clear before magicking a brace of 50p pieces from his shirt cuffs and pressing them into my hand. Then making a series of ‘Pssst… don’t tell the missus…’ winks and clicks.

(Incidentally, Sykes was one of my favourite programmes when I was very small, and one of my earliest memories of Yarm is walking with my Mum around the ‘new estate’ on a very cold night, and racing back in time to catch a dose of Eric on BBC1. I must have been about four at the time).

Peg was warm, incredibly witty, incredibly generous with the wine and – quite frankly – a dead ringer for the Queen. So much so that my Dad would frequently initiate the following conversation on long, winter evenings.

Dad: I saw Peg today, by the way.
Mum: Really? Where?
Dad: I can’t remember. Where was it… erm… hmm… my memory. Oh yeah, that’s right. On the back of a five pound note.

Sad to say that George died in the Summer of 2007, but Peg is still alive and well in her mid-eighties, and it’s only a couple of weeks since we stopped for a chinwag in the aisle of our local Tesco. It’s always lovely to see her, and she STILL makes the most sensational apple pies I’ve ever tasted.

And ‘yakked on’, for crying out loud. George would have loved that, and would have topped up my wine glass when nobody was looking. Before playfully batting me over the head and slipping another 50p into my shirt pocket.


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