Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 335

Friday 30th November 1984

I got up at 8.00, then me and Gaz went to school. First was a run down to Yarm clinic and back, which I did in 18 mins, and after that was French and geog.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then it was Maths, music and science. At 3.40 I came home and I hung around till 5.10 when I watched Crackerjack. At 6.00 I did homework, then I went out till 7.00, when I watched Survival.

At 8.00 I watched Play your cards right, then I went out till ‘Tell the Truth’ at 9.00. At 11.30 I went to bed.

Aaaaarghhhh! The dreaded cross country run! The first one we ever did, with Mr Neilson and Mr Anderson joining dastardly forces to send their entire 60-man squad of pale, flabby, 12-year-old oiks through the Conyers school gates, over the frosty tarmac streets of the Kebble housing estate and down the terrifyingly steep hill that plunged past the ‘posh knob’s school’ towards the High Street. It must have looked like a scene from Zulu, albeit with all of Kamalandela’s hardy warriors sporting white PE vests from Rawcliffe’s and coughing up bits of Wham Bar into the beck.


The ‘clinic’ was (and is) Yarm Medical Centre, the doctors’ surgery at the bottom of the road. It’s probably a round trip of less than two miles, so 18 minutes is pretty poor form, really. My main memory is of beginning the return journey back to school, only to discover poor Gavin Wilkinson leaning against a traffic light and clutching his side with a look of pained anguish on his face. 

‘Whatsamarrerwiyou?’ I gasped, with all due concern. ‘Gorrastitchorsummat?

He pulled up his vest to reveal what was quite clearly a vivid, fresh scar from a recent appendix operation. I think I fainted momentarily into the beck and was only revived five minutes later when the cloud of aromatic herbs and spices that permanently surrounded Christopher Herbert wafted past me. So 13 minutes really, then… yay!

Oddly enough, I’m also sure that our cross country runs out of the school were pretty much unsupervised… I don’t remember either of our PE teachers coming along for the jog, or even driving down to Yarm Medical Centre to ensure we reached our turning-back-point safely. I think we got a bit of pep talk beforehand (‘No jumping on the bus, you little buggers’), a bit of a pep talk afterwards (‘Get in the showers, you horrible lot’), and I assume they spent the intervening 20 minutes Mr Nielson’s office, smoking cigars and laughing like Robert De Niro in Cape Fear.

Does this still happen these days? I can’t imagine for a second that any school in 2009 would allow sixty 12-year-olds to jog around the streets during a PE lesson without chaining them together, monitoring their every laboured, wheezing footstep with CCTV cameras, and sending an accompanying Health & Safety SWAT team to complete rolling, on-the-road Risk Assessments. While smoking cigars and laughing like Robert De Niro in Cape Fear.

Anyway, a bit of Geography to assist in the post-race comedown…

Yes, Noise Pollution 1984-style. Note not a single mention of car alarms and Thunderous Twatty Music, the two twin bugbears of my 2009 existance. And sometimes it’s difficult to tell them apart. I love the fact that ‘Neighbours’ Kitchen Gadgets’ are quite high on the list, though. ‘BLOODY HELL, IS THAT NEXT DOOR’S TOASTER AGAIN? TURN IT DOWN WOMAN, I’M TRYING TO WATCH WINNER TAKES ALL!!!!!!’

And, in Mr Warren’s science class, we were beginning a brand new topic, fiddling about inexpertly with dangerous-looking bits of electrical equipment…

All of this was, of course, meat and drink to me, as I’d spent much of the previous year tinkering with bits of exposed wire, mains adaptors and half-built wooden robots in Doug’s garage. There was NOTHING I didn’t know about electrical work, apart from all the bits that ensured you didn’t die in a blackened heap on the cold, stone floor. I wasn’t bothered about those, they were DEAD BORING.

Ironic that I spent much of the evening watching ‘Survival’.

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6 Comments»

  Chris Byers wrote @

Believe it or not I actually remember doing that cross country run, as I can only ever remember doing that route twice. Our usual route was to Kirklevington and back wasn’t it? The only other time I can remember going down to the health centre was on the one and only occasion that a teacher ran with us, when the legendry Mr Ledgerwood came along.

As for messing around with electrical bits in Doug’s garage, I’m not sure that was a good idea. There is a rather shocking story which has never been told, that involves me, Doug and a street light. I don’t think there is any need for me to go into any further details is there?

  bobfischer wrote @

Did Mr Ledge come with us once, then? Fantastic – I can’t remember that at all. This is the only health centre run that I can recall, so I wonder if I was (ahem) ‘ill’ the other time. I definitely remember going to Kirklevington and back a couple of times, though… to the Crown pub and back again, I think? On one of those occasions, I do have vague memories of Mr Nielson turning up in his car at the ‘turning round point’ and shouting a few words of encouragement out of the window! Quite a decent little run, that one – must be at least 3 or 4 miles.

These were all in our first year… I wonder if some kind of early Health & Safety rulings came into place after that, as the only cross country runs I remember in second year and beyond were on the school grounds. We’d come out of the back of the PE block, then do two full circuits of all the fields. With Mr Ledge leaning on the tennis courts at the end of the first lap shouting a few motivational words at us! ‘Keep going, lads…. oooooh! Good lad… Any more for Spennymoor?’

I have no idea whatsoever about the street light story! Can it really be that shocking 25 years on? Drop me an e-mail first if you like and I’ll help you decide if it’s fit for public consumption… 🙂

  Chris Byers wrote @

Mr Ledgerwood definitely did come on a cross country run, but thinking about it, it may have been in second year so I think you would have been in a different PE class.

You are right though, I think it was in 3rd year when we started doing cross country runs around the school perimeter. I always assumed this had something to do with not taking kids out of school without there parents permission.

The story of the street lamp isn’t that bad. I can’t remember exactly when it happened, I guess it was about 81/82, it was before Doug went to Australia for the first time. All that really happened was we came across a street lamp that had its cover missing, so Doug ever the inquisitive one decided to find out how it worked and started prodding around inside with a stick, with fairly obvious results. He must have shorted something out as there was a bang and a flash, after which we ran like hell certain that we were going to be arrested any minute for vandalising a street light and possibly blacking out half of Yarm, so in a bit of a panic we decided the best thing to do was swear each other to secrecy and never mention it again. Doug came up with all sorts of wonderful stories as to what had happened, such as we had both been vaporised and instantly reincarnated, that sort of thing. With an imagination like that it’s no wonder you two became such good friends.

  bobfischer wrote @

Fantastic! Amazingly for Doug, he stuck to his vow of secrecy, because he never mentioned it to me!

I didn’t really know Doug that well the first time around, he was at Levendale until (I think) the Summer of 1981, then went to Australia for two years with his Mum and came back in September 1983. It seemed like he’d been away a lifetime, but we became good mates very quickly after that.

As for the Conyers cross country runs… I’ve got a feeling that for our final ‘out in the streets’ runs in second year, we had to take a ‘Loco Parentis’ form home to our parents so they could give their permission for us to leave the school grounds. I can vaguely remember Mr Ledgerwood dishing them out in the changing room one day.

It hadn’t happened in our first year, so I’m guessing that yeah, some new regulations came into place around that time. Which explains why we didn’t leave the school grounds ever again – since when did PE teachers ever want to be bothered by paperwork and red tape?

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I see on your graph that pets are the least troublesome! Not in my life they aren’t. My neighbours barking dogs drive me to want to commit murder!

Like you, I remember doing x-country runs out of the school grounds early on (1st, 2nd yr) but then only around the school field. Bizarre! Guess whatever was going on oop north, was happening down saaaf as well!

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah that’s really weird – must have been a nationwide thing, then? I wonder if some sort of national Health & Safety law was introduced around that time.


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