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…)

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… 

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…


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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