Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 338

Monday 3rd December 1984

I got up at 8.00, and at 8.30 Doug and Gaz came. We went to school, and at 9.25 we were meant to have rugby but Mr Anderson had skived so it was Gym. After that It was Maths, then History, and at 12.00 I had dinner.

When we came in I swopped seats and had French, then it was English, geog and maths. At 3.40 I came home and I started writing a ‘Sea’ Fighting Fantasy. At 7.00 I watched Harty, then Max Boyce.

At 8.00 I saw Rising damp, then I did homework, and at 9.00 I watched Laugh??? I nearly paid my licence fee. I went to bed at 9.30.

Am I really trying to feign a touch of bitterness and resentment that Mr Anderson had ‘skived’ from our rugby lesson? As soon as it became apparent that I wouldn’t be spending an hour being physically abused in the freezing mud and murk of a dark, rainswept Monday morning, I’ll have been punching the air and doing my Happy Snoopy Dance. Instead, while poor Mr Anderson coughed and sniffled at home, we spent an hour in the warm, cosy enclave of the school gym, arsing around aimlessly on the ‘apparatus’.


Oddly, I have a vague feeling that our stand-in drill instructor on this occasion was one of the school’s female PE teachers, which was a strange and terrifying prospect. Female PE teachers are, as everyone knows, THE SCARIEST TEACHERS IN THE WORLD, far moreso than their male equivalents, who are – let’s face it – just blokes who like playing football and blowing whistles. Female PE teachers always look as though they’re just a successful interview away from being sadistic Bond villains* with secret lairs hidden beneath the Sports Hall, and sliding trapdoors to the Shark Pits ready to open beneath any hapless oiks who wear ‘Outdoor Shoes Beyond This Point’. 

(*insert your own ‘stroking a white pussy’ joke here)  


We’ll also have done this impromptu gym lesson in our outdoor rugby kits, which will have upset my burgeoning adolescent Obsessive Compulsive Disorder no end. It’s JUST… NOT… RIGHT… (slaps forehead repeatedly and rocks back and forth)

I also feel I owe an apology to regular blog contributor (and my former 1CW classmate) Chris Byers, who it seems – oh, the shame – I deserted exactly 25 years ago today. For the first three months of my Conyers school career, I shared a desk with Chris on the right hand side of our form room, directly behind the rabble-rousing tag-team that was Alistair ‘Burton’ Burton and Marc ‘Thompson’ Thompson. We’d had a great laugh, and got on really well, but – I fear – I’d spent a lot of my time casting sideways glances to my traditional partner-in-crime Doug, marooned two desks to my left, at the very front of the classroom.


Clearly, on this day, an opportunity arose for me to shift over to Doug’s desk, and I seized it. Hence ‘I swopped seats and had French’. I’ve no idea how this came about, but Chris – I’m sorry. I’m so shamelessly fickle. Any idea what happened? Why was the seat next to Doug suddenly vacant? And did anybody move next to you, to take my place? I hope you weren’t stuck with anyone nasty (not that there was ANYONE nasty in 1cW, oh no. Sterling, upstanding ladies and gentlemen all. The kind you’d want in the trenches with you. Unless it was the trench outside Alistair Burton’s farmhouse chicken sheds, which I fell into in March 1991 aged eighteen and wearing my best suit. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone…)

And great to see me racing home to start writing the opening paragraphs of yet ANOTHER Fighting Fantasy book! None of this ‘sea’ adventure seems to survive, but I did recently find another project that I worked on for Mrs McDonald’s English class, and it’s got SUCH a Fighting Fantasy feel that I can’t help but wonder if I shamelessly adapted one into the other. It has ‘1CW’ on the front, so it’s definitely from around this time, and it’s in a seperate folder containing lots of different scribblings, all with a definite maritime theme…

THE LEGEND 

13 hundred hours, July 14 2003, 605.3 miles East of Bermuda. The warm Atlantic was calm and my submarine was running smoothly. However, the peaceful atmosphere was soon shattered.

A blaring alarm cut through the air. Lights blinked and men struggled furiously to bring the submarine under control. Their attempts, though, were in vain. The room seemed to lurch sideways and I saw the floor rush towards my face. What happened next, I never knew.

I opened my eyes. I was still in the submarine but all the instruments were dead and the bodies of men were strewn around the room. I did not know whether they were dead or not.

My mind in a daze, I strumbled to my periscope and peered into it. I could see the sky, deep blue with wisps of cloud. We must be on the surface of the Atlantic. I looked again. Yes, I could see the ocean but there was something else – a wide, grey blur on the horizon. As my sight returned to normal, the blur turned into a high range of mountains fringed by miles of forest. This type of land should definitely not be in the centre of the Atlantic Ocean.

Somehow, I managed to steer the submarine single-handedly to the rocky shore. As I emerged onto the beach a sudden wave of heat hit me. Wherever I was, I was certainly very near the Equator.

I took food and water from the submarine and decided to journey over the mountains in search of civilisation. I travelled for three days over the mountain range, eating and drinking only when I was desperate. Soon I was out of water and I slowed down terribly.

On my fourth day I looked to the East and my heart leaped. On the horizon was a huge red and black castle, brightly coloured flags flying from the turrets. Guarding a large portcullis were two men with spears. They were dressed in the uniform of ancient Greek soldiers…

END OF PART ONE

You can have Part Two tomorrow, if you’re all good. The mention of the word ‘Equator’ made me laugh out loud in the middle of transcribing this rubbish, purely because it reminded me of an occasion in Mr Hirst’s class, back at Levendale Primary School, when one of my erstwhile classmates wrote proudly in her exercise book that ‘the Equator is an imaginary Lion that runs right around the middle of the Earth’. As ever, names will be withheld to protect the not-so-innocent… 

The homework that I did, meanwhile, seems to have been a suspiciously-impressive looking pencil rendition of ‘Prince Henry’s Caravel’ (lovely with a cup of coffee)

This is far, far, far too detailed a drawing to be a Fischer original, so I MUST have nicked it from somewhere. Probably traced through the page from an illustration in my Big Boy’s Encyclopaedia of Everything (Pages 38-39, ‘Human Reproduction’, looking suspiciously well-thumbed). I guess half an hour of Max Boyce had got my creative juices flowing.

Incidentally, I’ve just remembered that Max Boyce was something of a favourite of my mate Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones, who – despite his name, his love of rugby and this startling new piece of evidence – still maintains to this day that he was no Welsh blood in him whatsoever.

The last time I saw him was about three weeks ago, when I popped round one Sunday afternoon and he gave me some fresh leeks from the vegetable plot in his back garden. True, that. There’s lovely.

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6 Comments»

  Chris Byers wrote @

It’s ok Bob I forgive you. I did actually end up sitting next to Stephen Mason and then for a short time at the end of the year Mark Chapman. Of course we did end up back together again after Doug left ( I knew you would come crawling back) after that I think we sat together in registration pretty much all the way through school, except for a brief time when you sat next to Chris Selden? A really nice lad who sadly didn’t stay very long, with me sat just in front.

  bobfischer wrote @

Thankyou for your forgiveness, I feel I now have closure! 🙂

Yeah, I think I sat with Doug from this day in 1984 until Christmas 1985, when he left for Australia. And then did we the sit together for the rest of our second year?

Chris Selden arrived a few weeks into our third year, and I definitely sat with him until the end of that school year, in the Summer of 1987. We became really good mates and spent most of that summer playing two-man cricket and quoting ‘The Hitch Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy’ endlessly at each other. Then, before the end of the summer holidays, his Dad’s job moved to Morecambe and he was gone. And I never saw or spoke to him again.

I think we then sat together for the rest of our time at Conyers, didn’t we? Although we moved form room from the start of fourth year onwards – oddly enough, I can remember the room but I can’t remember where it was! Was it one of the maths rooms?

I do remember, every single morning, looking forward to having a REALLY GOOD MOAN about school life with you. Honestly, we were like Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets. Crossed with Blakey from On The Buses. We spent both of our form periods every day whingeing about everything under the sun, and I seem to recall NOTHING set us off like a letter to our parents from the PTA. ‘Wine and cheese evening? £2.50 a ticket? Baaaaaah! Who do they think they are???’

Brilliant fun. 🙂

PS I told little white lie about Chris Selden. I did never see or speak to him again… for 21 years. And then, when ‘Wiffle Lever to Full!’ was about to be published, I thought I’d better find him to check he was OK with getting a few mentions in it! All down to his Hitch Hikers’ obsession.

It took me a hell of a lot of internet sleuthing to track him down, but he’s now living in Essex and is a high-flying financial consultant! Married with two kids. Suffice to say he was rather surprised to hear from me after all these years, but he’s still a lovely chap, and we’ve stayed in touch. It’s been brilliant to be in touch with him again, and I finally got to meet him again at a little book party in London last summer! Exactly 21 years since we last spoke.

He hasn’t changed a bit. I’m still at work at the moment, but I’ll dig out a photo when I get home.

  Chris Byers wrote @

We moved form rooms in fifth year when it was decided that all the fifth year classes should be together in the maths department. I am surprised you can’t remember ours, as it was the same room we had been in with Mr Rolf for maths in first year.

You are so right though, we were exactly like Statler and Waldorf, even at 15 we were grumpy old men. I think we spent our entire time in registration moaning and complaining about anything, but the PTA were our usual targets. They always seemed to come up with such crackpot schemes to raise money, there probably having a Christmas BBQ at this very moment.

And that’s amazing if you managed to find Chris Seldon, I bet that certainly came as shock to him.

PS Thought I would add a little clip of a couple of dodgy characters. Remind you of anyone?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14njUwJUg1I

  bobfischer wrote @

Of course it was Mr Rolfe’s old room! How weird… it just never struck me that it was the same place. Feels very different in my mind, somehow.

I think this time of year usually saw the PTA gearing up for their Christmas Dickensian evening, didn’t it? ‘Dickensian evening… bah bloody humbug, more like…’

Anyway, here’s me (looking mental) and Chris Selden at the Wiffle book launch in London, July 2008. About an hour after meeting for the first time in 21 years. As soon as he walked in, I realised who it was. It was utterly lovely to see him again, and we just seemed to pick up talking where we’d left off, at the front of Mrs Bush’s form room two decades earlier.

http://img687.imageshack.us/i/chrisselden.jpg/

  Chris Byers wrote @

Great photo Bob, your right he hasn’t changed a bit. It was a shame he didn’t stay at Conyers longer.

I have to say that when I look at that photo of Chris Selden, or have watched the video’s of Mr Millward and Mr Hirst, I can’t explain how strange it feels to be looking at people I haven’t seen or spoken to in well over 20 yrs. It really does feel very odd.

  bobfischer wrote @

Terrifying, isn’t it?

I tend to think of anything from 1990 onwards as being ‘recent’, as I was pretty much an adult (well, 18 anyway) from then on, and I still don’t feel like I’ve been an adult for very long.

I post on a couple of old TV and sci-fi forums, and it’s been pointed out that today (6th Dec) is the 20th anniversary of the last ‘old’ episode of Doctor Who being broadcast. I remember watching it really clearly, and what I was doing before and after, and it all seems very fresh in the memory. Like something that happened ‘a couple of years ago’ rather than something buried deep in the mists of time.

And yet in the same amount of time again, we’ll be pushing sixty. Yikes!


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