Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 313

Thursday 8th November 1984

I got up at 8.15, then Doug and Gaz came and we went to school. First was Science, then Music. Last was Geog, then at 12.00 I had dinner. Next was DT and after that was RE and History.

At 3.40 Doug came and borrowed a spanner from my house, then I did some more of the cover for Iceworld Adventure. At 5.00 I had tea, and at 5.30 I watched Grange Hill. Then I did homework.
At 8.00 I watched Don’t wait up, at 8.30 I watched Zoo 2000, and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Bless you, Mr Warren! One of the most amazing and downright fun hours of science I ever had at school. Why? Because this was the day we looked at wibbly-wobbly grotties through a microscope!

(We had to write the boring theory first, of course. This is what we were looking for, a few cheeky Protozoa floating around on little plastic slides dotted with drops of pond water…)

protozoa
Amazing though it sounds for one so geeky and downright swottish, I’d never looked down a microscope before. They were contraptions that I’d only ever seen in bubbling laboratories in Children’s Film Foundation productions (usually with a grumpy, whiskery Patrick Troughton shooing flare-clared 1970s kiddies out of the door) or in boring Programmes For Schools and Colleges on BBC2 during rainy, illness-cursed afternoons at home.

I couldn’t wait to have a shuftie down a REAL LIFE MICROSCOPE though, and – fantastically – this is what myself, Jo Spayne, Chris Byers and Vince Potter saw on this dreary, overcast morning 25 years ago today… 

protozoareal
Yep, some real-life Parameciums floating around before our very eyes! Really, I was HUGELY excited by this. It felt like looking through a portal into a different dimension, a whole secret world of monsters and aliens living on a parallel plane of existance to my everyday humdrum universe of beans, chips, schoolwork and Spandau Ballet*. I think even Vince Potter got a bit over-excited and did a little Vorticella dance by the bunsen burners.

*Actually, I take that back. There’s nothing humdrum about beans and chips.

Amazingly, this spirit of exciting classroom discovery continued into Music, where we studied a rum little tune that’s since become one of my favourite pieces of classical composition…

Yep, the amazing ‘Danse Macabre’ by Camille Saint-Saens. As played to us on a portable cassette recorder by Miss Stainsby, whose untamed, frizzy hair stood visibly on end as she enthusiastically talked us through the Grim Reaper fiddling wildly in a graveyard (cue titters from the lads) and leading an army of rotting skeletons into a frenzied jig around the tombstones. A bit like Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, but French. And with a better tune.

I was intrigued by the gruesome premise, and threw myself lustily into the comprehension exercise that followed…

saintsaens 

A! Get in! Incidentally, prior to this, we’d studied Saint-Saens slightly-lesser known work ‘Carnival Of The Animals’, and I was equally fascinated by the brilliant sense of humour that runs through the whole fourteen-movement suite. Saint-Saens’ ‘animals’ include, perversely, both fossils and trainee pianists, whose movement consists entirely of discordant keyboard-hammering and the faltering practice of scales. I’d considered converting the whole lot into a ZX Spectrum game at one point. The only drawback being that, at this point in my life, I didn’t yet own a ZX Spectrum.

(Incidentally, Saint-Saens was also a fabulously grumpy and sarcastic old sod who – according to Wikipedia – stormed out of the première of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, infuriated over what he considered the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet’s opening bars. Yay!)

So a fruitful school day all round, and with a bit of mystery and intrigue added right at the death. Why did Doug stop at my house on the way home to borrow a spanner? And why didn’t he just grab one from his own Dad’s copious toolkit? I can’t remember a single thing about this, so I guess we’ll never know.

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