Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 310

Monday 5th November 1984


I got up at 8.00 and at 9.00 Doug, Gazzie and Burton and me went to school. First was maths, then it was history. after break it was rugby, and I won the 2 lap race.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then it was French, followed by English, then geog, then maths. at 3.40 I came home and did maths till tea was ready, and after tea I did more maths.

At 6.30 mam and I watched the bonfire and the fireworks over the road, then we went to the cricket club just in time to be late for the display. At 8.00 I came home and watched Rising damp, and at 8.30 I watched Lame ducks.

At 9.00 I watched Laugh??? I nearly paid my licence fee, and at 9.30 I went to bedybyes.

I won a two-lap race? What?!?!? There must have been some sort of debilitating leg plague sweeping Teesside over the weekend, rendering the rest of the adolescent population incapable of running more than 10 yards without crashing to the ground like baby giraffes. I’d spent the weekend mapping Caverns Of The Snow Witch in the quarantined cloisters of my bedroom so I was clearly  unaffected.

Either that, or the rest of my rugby class were just overweight, lumbering buffoons who’d spent the entire weekend stuffing their faces with cakes and roast beef, and… ah….

Anyway, I no doubt undermined my new-found sporting prowess by dancing around wildly as I crossed the finishing line, making stupid ‘whoop-whoop’ noises and gnashing my teeth. Like Gollum in rugby shorts. And I celebrated my new-found sporting prowess by writing a nice little nostalgic feature in my English lesson…

5th November 1984

My memories of primary school

I can remember standing at the brown gates on my first day at primary school, holding my mam’s hand and not wanting to go in on my own. Eventually I ventured inside with about six of my old friends from play school, and I was told to draw something nice and colourful. I must have sat at my little table for about half an hour, just looking around, before I drew a clown with a big red nose. I was mad on clowns when I was little, and was furious when the teacher ticked my drawing, because I thought she had scribbled on it!

My very first school dinner was probably my worst.  I was sat on my own by a dinner nanny, and although I was first in for lunch, I was last out. It was horrible. All I could smell and taste was that awful, lumpy school stew.

I cannot remember any more about my first day, but I know that when I was six or seven I went through an accident prone phase. Evert day I would get off the school bus, trip over my little leather satchel and cut my knee open. The next think I would know was that I was in the medical room among the smells of disinfectant and with a whopping great piece of elastoplast on my knee.

Probably my favourite time at junior school was when I was a first year junior. My best friend and I (whose name was Paul Frank) used to do really silly things like write out six pages of English upside-down in our maths books. However we never got told off and I enjoyed every minute as a first year.

At about the same time as that, a football craze swept over the school. Everyone in our class (even the girls!) either supported Nottingham Forest our Liverpool, and all the boys turned up after the winter holidays with Forest bags and kits.

So although people say that school was the worst time of their life – I must admit – I really enjoyed it!

‘8/10. Merit. Keep up the good work’ Wrote Mrs McDonald, in red Biro, at the bottom of my scribblings. I don’t know whether to find it endearing or slightly worrying that, at the age of the eleven, I was already getting soggily nostalgic about events that had happened barely three years earlier. I remember that Levendale Primary School stew, though… September 1977, and it was so far removed from anything I’d EVER eaten in the first five years of my life that I didn’t even recognise it as food. I prodded it around my tray for the best part of an hour before giving up the ghost with a few defiant tears running down my face.

Anyway, Bonfire Night! Yay!

Like Halloween, I think Bonfire Night was considerably less commercialised and ostentatious in the mid-1980s. Nowadays – judging by the constant deafening explosions in the skies above Teesside – the 5th November seems to start sometime in mid-October, and continues for at least four weeks before melding seamlessly into the Christmas party season. If I stand under the Leylandii on a rainy night and look up, it’s like being in Apocalypse Now.

Back in the 80s, my Dad would stack a little pile of garden rubbish and general unwanted gubbins (old bits of wood from the garage, mouldy piles of 1970s Radio Times*, etc) down by the compost heap, and my Mum would pop into Robinson’s Newsagents in Yarm High Street and spent £1.99 on a little cardboard box of ‘Standard Fireworks’ (which looked like they’d been issued by HM Government) and a paper packet of sparklers.

*It breaks my geeky heart to think of this now.

The fire would be lit at around 7pm, and my Dad would send a little procession of farty fireworks into the night sky while my Mum and I wrote our names in the blackness with the fizzing ends of our sparklers. I can’t have held one of these for at least 20 years, but I can still remember the SLIGHTLY uncomfortable feeling of those dancing yellow sparks hissing so close to my bare fingers, and the strange, unearthly burning smell they produced (the sparks, that is, not my fingers. Although actually…)

Mind, it wasn’t quite as unearthly a burning smell as my Dad managed to create on Bonfire Night 1981, when he decided our garden fire was ‘taking a while to get going’ and flung the contents of an old can of Castrol GTX across the top of it.  The ensuing wall of flame is currently working its way towards Alpha Centauri, and I remember hiding in the side garden beneath a metal dustbin lid as flaming embers of John Craven’s Back Pages fluttered down to Earth. I’m only amazed that none of us made the opening story of Newsround the following afternoon.

(Can’t believe I found this clip, it’s amazing…!)

I also have fantastic memories from (I think) 1982 of Mr Hirst taking us quivering idiots into the ‘end room’ of Levendale Primary School and describing with relish the full grisly details of being ‘hung, drawn and quartered’.

‘So Guy Fawkes would have been hung by the neck until he was NEARLY dead, but still conscious… then dragged around the streets of London while the people kicked and spat on him… and then, still awake, he’d have his guts taken out and burnt in front of his eyes…’ I think we had to draw a picture by the end of the afternoon. Anyone got a red felt-tip?

Anyway, clearly our personal Bonfire Night celebrations were winding down a bit by 1984, so my Mum and I wandered across to the Young Offender’s Prison over the road to watch the traditional bonfire in the leafy square outside the officer’s houses, then – I think – caught sight of a spectacular firework display somewhere in the near vicinity, and decided to follow it. We wandered half a mile along Yarm Road to the Cricket Club, only to find the last whistly firework fizzling out into a dark blanket of cloud as we turned the corner into the drive.

So we went home and watched Rising Damp instead. Awwwwww.



  Mark Hirst wrote @

Did exactly the same story today with my 8-11 year olds. It’s one of my extensive repertoire and also a banker to get a few parental complaints in. Second only to my `inside the Spanish Inquisition` revelations, which was a mainstay of many a good drama session.

Evidently, young children don’t need to be kept awake at night as a direct result of my overly graphic history sessions.

Didn’t do the Levendale Class of 82 any harm now did it?

  bobfischer wrote @

No, we’re all perfectly fine… *gibber gibber mutter twitch*

It was a fine bit of education for me, as I seem to recall, prior to 5/11/82, the common consensus around Levendale Primary School was that the ‘drawn’ bit of the punishment referred to poor old Guy Fawkes having offensive pictures ‘drawn’ on his body, presumably by tittering Beefeaters brandishing felt-tip pens.

Surprised to hear about your other field of grisly historical expertise, though! I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition…

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Ha…nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

  bobfischer wrote @

I’ll set ’em up, you barge me off the ball and knock ’em in… 🙂

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I am glad to see that evisceration is still on the curriculum.

I worried it might have been replaced with tales of Fawkes and Catesby et al having to sit on ‘the naughty step’ for five minutes until the renounced their Popish schemes and were given a consoling Frube.

  bobfischer wrote @

I ate my first Frube recently. I think I’d rather be hung, drawn and quartered.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

There are, it is said, secret cellar taverns in which we can meet and discuss our Frube dislike without being overheard.

Also, certain sympathetic nobles will sometimes permit those who are persecuted (for rejecting cartoonish individual fromage frais in favour of honest-to-goodness Ski full fat hazelnut) to hide in secret chambers within their homes. It is thanks to just such brave folk that more of us have not gone the way of the Blancmange Martyrs.

  bobfischer wrote @

And what a great band they were. Although I prefer the earlier (pre-Hamburg) material.

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