Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 291

Wednesday 17th October 1984

I got up at 8.00, and at 8.30 Doug came and we went to school. First was Art, and I got 2 merits, then it was History and maths. At 12.00 I had dinner, and then it was French.

Next was English and I got 1 and a half merits, and last was double science. At 3.40 Doug and I went to my house, I got changed, then we went to Doug’s house amd he got changed.

After that we went to Yarm to see what was at the fair, then we had a muck on at the mud track. At 5.30 I came back and had some tea, then I sawed some wood for K-9 Mark II. At 8.30 I watched The Goodies and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Yarm Fair! Yarm Fair! Yarm Fair!!!!

Not that we could actually GO to the fair yet, of course. It opened on Thursday night, but Wednesday was ‘setting up day’, when gigantic men in leather jerkins somehow constructed exciting, gaudily-coloured rides that soared above the rooftops of Yarm’s higgledy-piggledy Georgian High Street.

And didn’t we just know it. In Double Science, we were – according to my exercise book – conducting an experiment to see if Potassium Nitrate was more soluble in hot water than cold. Except, of course, we weren’t. What we were doing was excitedly discussing the perennial Yarm Urban Myth that… (hem hem)…

If you go down to Yarm Fair on the Wednesday, the fair people will let you have FREE GOES on all the rides while they test that they’re bolted together properly.

 Which was, obviously, AMAZING NEWS AND  – OH YES – ABSOLUTELY TRUE. And drove us virtually unsconscious with excitement. Because, obviously, the risk of being flung to a horrible, agonising death across the rooftop of Strickland and Holts was well worth taking for a 5op saving on your ticket price. Ah, but… obviously if you DIDN’T take advantage of this amazing, daredevil offer then you were a CHICKEN, and you’d spend the rest of your life being followed around by Ian Farrage making clucking noises and doing that ‘flappy wings’ thing with his arms. (And yes, it would be THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. He’d still be jumping out from behind the medicine trolley to do it, when you were old and dribbling in your Nursing Home)

In reality, of course, it was (brace yourself) absolute bollocks. Everyone knew that Nobby’s next-door neighbour’s cousin’s friend’s sister’s boyfriend had done it, but – surprisingly – he was unavailable to comment. Presumably because he was in an Intensive Care unit after being scraped from the pavement outside Strickland and Holts.

(I also think, oddly, this was the Double Science lesson when Doug received a billet-doux from one of the girls in our class, passed on – obviously – by a third party. It said – and I quote directly –  ‘I love you, and I want you in my bedroom’ and was scrawled on a torn-out page of exercise book folded in two. Doug – ever the romantic – wrote ‘I don’t, and I’ve no desire to listen to you snoring all night’ underneath and passed it back. I honestly can’t remember which girl was responsible, but she visibly wilted by the gas taps. We, naturally, collapsed into helpless, hissing laughter. What callous, heartless swines we were)

And so the fair! Magical. As the skies bruised and gloom descended on Yarm High Street, we spent an hour wandering amongst shuttered-up hoopla stalls and lorries filled with blank-faced Galaxian machines. There were two Crows waltzers, the Dodgems outside The Green Tree pub, the Wall Of Death (or ‘The Cage’ as it was known amongst our circle) and ‘The Eggs’ right at the entrance to the High Street. Brilliant, and heart-pounding, and terrifying all at the same time.

And, at the opposite end of the street, gathered around Cartmell’s Electrical Store and the stone bridge over the River Tees, were the gypsy caravans. Olive-skinned girls with raven-black hair leaned nonchalently against lampposts, skinny dogs scavenged outside the chip shop, and tousle-haired kids lit fires inside metal braziers. Walking amongst them was a scary pleasure for me – a glimpse into a totally alien but incredibly exciting way of life a million miles away from my cosy, safe-as-(detached) houses, middle class existance.

As Doug and I pottered nonchalently through the throng, I saw a tiny gypsy boy light a match with his thumbnail and hold it, burning, between the middle fingers of his hand. Of course, in my fevered, Fighting Fantasy-loving imagination, there was no match present – he had MYSTICAL POWERS, and was conjuring flames from the ether. I told Doug this excitedly, and he nodded sagely before looking away and rolling his eyes. Oh bloody hell, Fischer’s off again…

And then we sat on the swings at the mud track, in near darkness, and talked shite before heading home for tea. Invisible beasties rustled in the bushes, and a freezing Autumn wind drove flecks of drizzle into our parka hoods. Lovely.

And K-9 Mark II? Who was I trying to kid? Put the sharp instruments down, Fischer, and get in the warm to chortle at The Goodies.

(PS All the pictures above are Yarm Fair, honest! They’re my shots from ‘setting up day’ in the High Street last year. But tonight I’m heading down there for real, so I’ll get some pictures and films for tomorrow’s blog – yay!)



  Ian Farrage wrote @

Mr Fischer – I would like to lodge a formal complaint to the suggestion that I would ever walk round, ney jump out at people waving my arms in a chicken style. I think this is a false projection as to what may, or may not, ensue following you being such a chicken. This would have been purely verbal abuse, on a regular basis, until your death bed days, but ne’er would I have any physical actions that were Norman Collier or Bernie Clifton related.

On the small issue of fire bells, Metcalfe, Mrs Bush & any bollockings or letters home – you were 3/4 years out. We were in 4th or 5th when that happened & Bush never new anything at all ………. this actually turns into a lengthy story in it’s own right. Only Ali B got the letter – took it for the team as it were – but only because Metcalfe asked the wrong questions. However, the “chats” with Metcalfe did generate a level of respect for the man, previously he had not be given. Good, decent, fair man – who could see through his eyelids.

  bobfischer wrote @

Oooooooooh… I’m going to suck my teeth and shake my head and insist that the Fire Bell Controversy happened in our third year at the very latest. It definitely started in a French or German lesson when we were still being taught together as a form class… and that didn’t happen after third year, as we were all scattered around in different classes doing our chosen GCSE subjects.

You’re right about Mr Metcalfe, though – the sight of him in full rant with his eyes closed is still one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m sure he learnt it from Davros.

  Ian Farrage wrote @

Once again I will disagree. It may have been second half of 3rd year, but I think not. I was dragged out of Chemistry, not a language. The mighty Bush saw several of us being removed from lessons across the “quadrangle”. I think this was with Mrs Addison & I didn’t have her until 4th or 5th. In the assembly that took place, we were right near the back of the gym – so I believe it was in year order from front to back. Metcalfe refused to tell Mrs Bush why we were dragged out of lessons, just there was an issue to discuss. She got the arse cos we were all in her form class – so nicely asked my parents at the parent-teacher evening why we had all been to see Metcalfe – home mayhem followed. I think this is the last year my dad was at Layfield – and him and Metcalfe had a good relationship. Metcalfe also refused to tell both parents what it was all about – however, he relented after 30 minutes of “we’re not leaving until you do”.
However, there’ only one way to find out (Harry Hill style foggie + other fight) – call in the referee Mr Burton – I propose that his decision is final and the loser buys the other a pint (whenever we’re next on the same continent)

  bobfischer wrote @

Oooooh… you’re casting the seeds of doubt in my mind no, you bugger. Although if we were right at the back of assembly, then that suggests third year to me… there was a junior assembly for 1-3rd years, and a senior one for 4-6th years. On different mornings.

I’m happy to abide by Mr Burton’s rulings, though! 🙂

  Rhonda Civic wrote @

The contents of that note were confidential.

You heartless beasts!

  bobfischer wrote @

You brought it on yourself, you feckless tart.

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