Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 311

Tuesday 6th November 1984

I got up at 8.00, and at 8.30 Doug, Gazzie and Burton came and we went to school. First was English, then it was RE in the Science lab. After that was English again, and last was drama.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then it was French, Maths and HE. I came home at 3.40 and I had tea at 5.00. At 5.10 I watched Star Trek, then I got ready for Youth Club.

Doug came at 6.30 and we went and played Basketball with Potter and Faz, then we spent the rest of the time in the quiet room. At 8.30 I came home and at 9.00 I went to bed.

A rainy, overcast occasion, as the morning after Bonfire Night ALWAYS seemed to be. Thus allowing Doug, Gazzie Jones, Alistair Burton and me to pick our way through a little minefield of soggy, burnt-out fireworks on the pavement outside the red school gates. These sad, wet remnants of the previous day’s festivities were as melancholy a sight as it was possible to find during our collective childhoods, easily up there with…

a) a brief glimpse of lurid, screwed-up wrapping paper beneath a pile of potato peelings in the kitchen bin on the day after your birthday

b) The brightly-coloured waltzers being packed into a grey, utilitarian wagon in Yarm High Street on the pale, drizzly morning after the last night of the fair

c) A soggy, partially deflated balloon hanging from the front room curtain rail on the 2nd January, and a thin layer of fir tree needles dotted around the back of the settee on the 3rd.

We’d find charred, cardboard rockets still with the wooden stick attached, and fling them at each other in a vain attempt to recapture the freewheeling magic of the previous night. All to no avail, though. Normality, English, and RE in the science labs beckoned us like the grimmest of grim reapers. 

I don’t really have anything in my exercise books from this date, so there’s no clues as to why the location of our RE lesson with Mrs Mainwaring-Taylor shifted so dramatically. We’ll have been disappointed though, because our usual RE classroom required a voyage through the outer limits of…

(dramatic music)

…the Conyers Sixth Form area!

A strange, hallowed warren of haphazardly-arranged tables and amusing ‘artwork’, the sixth form area felt like the most exotic place in the world for two reasons…

a) it had music. At any given point, there’d be a languid, pouting 17-year-old sprawling across a pouffe and tapping his winklepickers to a tinny, portable cassette player hammering out The Smiths or The Cure or Simple Minds.

And b) it had a smoking room. Yep, read it and weep, callow youths of the 21st century! Our sixth form area had a dedicated cubby hole where 16-year-old lounge lizards could retire during their free periods and legitimately light up a Silk Cut while perusing the latest Melody Maker. Occasionally, as we passed through en route to RE, one of them would emerge amidst a noxious cloud that rolled across the rest of the open-plan enclave like a foggy night on the Irish coast. The room had clearly begun its life painted the same utilitarian magnolia as the rest of the school, but – by 1984 – had brown walls and a dirty green ceiling.

Brilliantly, the smoking room was still in operation at the end of my Lower Sixth year in the Summer of 1990. Yep, it was perfectly legal and permissable for teenage pupils to spark up a fag, indoors, on the school premises in the 1990s! And then the sixth form area was shifted to a different building, and the smoking room failed dismally to make the journey. Altogether now: ‘It’s political correctness gone mad…’

Anyway, a pretty nondescript day, and another night at Conyers Youth Club, idly smashing a basketball around the empty court with Doug, Vince Potter and Ian ‘Faz’ Farrage (hello!) before wandering home in the rain. Burnt-out fireworks getting soggier by the second.


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