Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 324

Monday 19th November 1984

I got up at 8.10, and at 8.50 Doug came and we went to school. First was maths, then I got a merit in History. Next came Rugby, and at 12.00 I had dinner. 

When we came in it was a French test, and after that I got a merit. Next I got another merit in English, and after that was Geog. Last was maths, and at 3.40 I came home.

I had tea at 5.00 and at 5.05 I watched Blue Peter. After that I wrote some of Iceworld Adventure and at 8.00 I watched Rising damp. 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 bed.

I appreciate this isn’t the most dynamic way to start today’s blog, but that’s about as nondescript a day as it’s possible to get… I’ve had a look in my exercise books, and there’s nothing with ‘19.11.84’ scribbled next to them, and the merits that I got all seem to have been achieved by ticking off the ‘Good’ and ‘Very Good’ comments dished out by Mrs Ansbro and Miss Wilson over the previous few weeks.

So I’ll break with convention and reveal two events that MIGHT have happened on this day. They also might not have, but seeing as we’ve no evidence either way, where’s the harm? It’s my blog, I’ll do whatever I like. I might even eat TWO bowls of Butterscotch Angel Delight for my tea tonight.

1. First thing in the morning, on the way into our 1CW Classroom in the French department, I was stopped in my tracks by a bunch of towering fourth-formers loitering by the toilets that ALWAYS seemed to smell of Polos and cigarette smoke. ‘Oh, hello, a little Foggy*!’ they sneered sarcastically. ‘Are you wanting to be in your form room? You’ll have to do us a favour first…’

‘W-w-w-w-w-what?’ I asked, in a not-altogether-convincing act of defiance.

‘Ten press-ups,’ said their lanky leader, an emaciated youth in a tight-fitting blazer. He had a mop of fuzzy, expertly blow-dried hair that looked like it might have fallen on him from a tree. 

Convinced that this torture was destined to end in the feared ‘head-flushed-down-the-toilet’ treatment (I’d stink of Polos and cigarettes for the rest of the day), I reluctantly sank to my hands and knees and performed ten wobbly press-ups on the filthy tiled floor while my sniggering captors nudged each other disbelievingly and counted me down. Once I’d finished, I struggled back to my feet and went to amble on my way.

‘Uh-uh,’ said Lanky Boy. ‘Squat thrusts next…’

So I did ten squat thrusts, with beads of sweat now starting to form on my forehead. I think I went through star jumps and pull-ups before they ran out of recogniseable exercises to humiliate me with, and I was allowed to take my place in our form room. Hilariously, in the middle of all this, several of my classmates (hello Messrs Burton and Farrage) had walked through the melee untroubled, and even given me a cheery wink and thumbs-up on the way. Cheers, lads.

I was knackered by the end of it. No wonder I couldn’t repeat last week’s sporting prowess in Rugby.  

(*’Foggy’ was Conyers school slang for ‘First Year’. I think 1984 might have been its swanswong, as I never heard it much after this… ditto, ‘Foggy-Bashing Day’, the mythical annual fixture when teachers turned a knowing blind eye to weakling 11-year-olds being systematically punched, pummelled and poleaxed by older boys round the back of the tennis courts. I lived in mortal fear of this for a full year before realising that it didn’t actually exist)

2. Doug and I were collared, dressed down and punished for ‘fighting in the corridor’. Believe me, this came as much of shock to us as it will to you, because a) I’ve never fought anyone in my life (although I occasionally have a gentle tussle with the Inland Revenue) and b) Doug was my best mate in the whole, widest world. I really WASN’T going to fight him in a million years.  AT LAST – 25 years on – I’m ready to SPILL THE BEANS on this AMAZING, LONG-LOST MYSTERY…

In the queue outside Mr Flynn’s Geography lesson, Doug pondered on the prospect of him becoming a ‘Joey’. Now I’ve tried and failed to find out more details about this long-forgotten 1980s youth cult, but Google has thrown up precisely nothing. As far as I remember, a Joey was a distant mid-80s relation of the Mod, with a few basic rockabilly frills. A neat tie and shirt combined with a flat-top haircut, winklepicker boots and a bit of Ivy League-style vintage American clothing. It was a style being sported by a few casual lounge lizards in the fourth and fifth years, one of whom – a genial, softly-spoken lad called Andy – was going out with Doug’s sister Jen. 

‘You’ll look bloody daft,’ I ventured, and Doug grinned and playfully flicked the back of my head. At which point, giggling all the way, I tried to lift his legs off the ground. At which point, with a face like thunder, the Geography department’s noted enforcer Mr Maggiore grabbed us both by the scruff of the neck and frogmarched us into his office.


‘We weren’t fighting, sir, honest…’ we mumbled, staring disconsolately at our feet. ‘I said I fancied being a Joey, and he said I’d look daft, and we just had a bit of a… laugh… about… it…’


‘Yes… sir…’

We shuffled out of his office and into our Geography class, where even the fluffy sheep on Mr Flynn’s jumper seemed a bit bemused by the whole affair. ‘I think he’s having a stressful day,’ smiled Mr F, which wasn’t hugely reassuring. Anyway I took my punishment like a man, and – marching sternly home at 3.40pm – proceeded to spent the next 20 minutes crying in the front room while explaining to my mother why I had some ‘extra homework’ to do.

You should not fight with your friends because they are your friends and fighting is a terrible way to behave with them. If your friend has been your friend for a long time, then fighting with him might mean he is not your friend any more, so fighting has put an end to your friendship…

That kind of thing. The next morning – after a troubled, sleepless night – Doug and I reconvened in the corridor outside our form room, where he – with the steely eye of a veteran – tore off the top corner of my ‘extra homework’ where, naively, I’d taken my usual conscientious approach to formality and written my name. ‘Don’t let him know who you are,’ he winked. After registration, we meekly took our essays to Mr Maggiore’s form room where – entirely predictably – he tore them up without a second glance and dropped them into the wicker waster paper bin.

And, on the way back down, I had to do another twenty press-ups.



  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

A strangely London-based take on the Joey had come to prominence a couple of years previously when the JoBoxers hit the charts.
It is a shame that this ultimately led to you and your friend being bawled at and having to write a pointless essay. I’d say you just got unlucky.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah yeah, that’s the kind of look! Good shout, Dr Parcel.

Incidentally, anyone know what a ‘toe-rag’ actually is? It was used widely as an insult during the 1980s, almost exclusively by teachers. I’ve been the proud owner of 20 toes* for the last 37 years but don’t recall ever requiring a rag for them at any point.

  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

It is Victorian prison slang, dear boy. Convicts could not afford stockings or socks and so they made do with wrappingtheir feet in bits of old rag which were discarded rather than washed and so came to be seen as objects of revulsion.

  bobfischer wrote @

As ever Dr Parcel, you’re a mine of information.

(So, in 1984, Mrs ‘Fatcher would have closed you down)

  Chris Orton wrote @

Quite surprised to see a gang called “Joeys” come to prominence anywhere in Britain, given the fact that the name was used in a derogatory fashion too after Blue Peter’s Joey Deacon…

  bobfischer wrote @

Yeah, and it didn’t go unmentioned at the time – anyone who said that they fancied becoming a ‘Joey’ was always open to getting a few gurning impressions of the man himself from their mates.

The whole Joey Deacon obsession might have been dying down by 1984, as the Blue Peter show that brought him his fame was broadcast in 1981 – and I think he actually died later in the year. There was definitely a period in 1981/2, though, when the Levendale Primary School playground was just FILLED with cruel, boggle-eyed impressions of him.

Terrible, when you look back. I guess we’d just never seen anyone like him before.

  Chris Byers wrote @

Your run in with the 4th years on the way to our form room has just reminded me why I used to sneak in the back door.

  bobfischer wrote @

So did I. From 20th November 1984 onwards. 😉

I’d actually forgotten about that back door! Were we forbidden to use it for a while? It just came straight out through the cloakroom to our form room, didn’t it? Can’t imagine why anyone would ever go the long way round.

I remember a strange one-way system being introduced in that building at one point, so you could only use the staircase by the Geography rooms to walk down… if you wanted to go up, you had to use the staircase by the back door. On many an occasion I tried to walk straight up to Mr Flynn’s room using the front stairs, only to have him turn me away at the door to his classroom and order me to go back down, along the dreaded ground floor corridor, and up the rear staircase instead!

Then he’d tell me off for being late…

(I think Sixth Formers were exempt from the one-way system though – I remember, in my first weeks as an A-Level student, defiantly walking up the front stairs and laughing cruelly at the smaller boys still being turned away by Mr Flynn…)

  Chris Byers wrote @

I don’t think we were stopped form using the back door, it just wasn’t used very often.

And yes your right they did introduce a one way system in block 2, which as sixth formers we could ignore.

  bobfischer wrote @

I knew I’d become a man the day I could walk up the Block 2 front staircase and look Mr Flynn in the eye!

  Ian Farrage wrote @

I think your thoughts on the Joey scene at Conyers are slightly incorrect – but I often have memory problems, if pre-the last five minutes.
I think a Joey was either –
1) One of the very light coloured jeans, white trainers & Kappa t-shirt/jumper/bomber jacket types
2) One of the Spencer trousers wearing types – very two-tone dresses.
Number two sounds most similar to the google description, but in my mind the Joeys were the Kappa types.

  Ian Farrage wrote @

I also don’t remember walking past you doing any form of exercise / I don’t remember you doing any form of exercise (* delete as applicable).
Actually I do remember you doing some exercise, involving house rugby – and a truly glorious pass, by which I mean placing the ball in the hands of the opposite side coming towards you so you didn’t get pommeled.
But I certainly don’t remember any forced actions from 4th formers, however, not being the recipient of such n event, it is unlikely to be prominent in my memories. Sorry for not doing the honourable/matey thing.

  bobfischer wrote @

You know what, I think you’re absolutely right about Joeys. There was that little pseudo-rockabilly thing going on at school, but there was also the Kappa/Tacchini set, and yeah – I think they were the Joeys. Long, peroxide fringe over one eye as well, so you could flick it back with a twitch of the head. Pretty similar to the old early 80s football ‘Casuals’.

It was a strange time!

And yes, that sounds like one of my rugby moves! Get that bloody oval-shaped thing away from me so I can hide in the corner of the field. I can’t imagine I was EVER picked to play House Rugby, though – Mr Neilson was surely never THAT desperate!

  Ian Farrage wrote @

House rugby was a no choice things wasn’t it ?
Conyers vs Flounders etc – not sure if Neilson was involved in any choices. It might not have been house rugby at all, maybe just a normal lesson. The only reason I think it was house, cos I remember in the same game Mr Titler having a severe roasting and sent off for “tackling” someone by kicking their ankles/feet away whilst they were running away – as most people would have run away from him. Particularly dirty arse over tit tackle. Maybe not house – but I don;t recall playing rugby with Titler at any other time.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah, I remember that! And yeah, you’re right… I think that was house rugby. And it was compulsory for those selected, I just can’t believe I was one of them!

I do remember being drafted into our house football team in either second or third year, and – five minutes before kick-off – it becoming apparent in the changing room that somebody had made a bloody awful cock-up, and we actually had 12 men in the side. With nobody wanting to drop out, we just went out and played with the extra man. We were halfway through the second half before one of our opponents noticed… can’t remember who it was, but he spent the last 10 minutes of the game flapping his arms angrily and shouting ‘THEY’VE GOT 12 MEN!!!!’ to the utter indifference of his team-mates.

The house rugby/football took place over dinnertime quite a lot, didn’t it? I definitely remember one occasion when I was tipped off that Mr Ledgerwood was looking for me with minutes to go, as one of his first team had slipped over on a Spam Fritter (or something) and pulled a muscle. And I hid. I went and spent my dinnertime tapping away at an Acorn Electron in the computer rooms, constantly looking over my shoulder. Figuring that if I could last out until half-time, he’d probably give up on the idea of throwing me out on the pitch.

I made it. Just.

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