Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 342

Friday 7th December 1984

I got up at 8.00, then Doug came and we went to school. First we played on the apparatus in PE, then it was Francais and Geog. At douze o clock I had dinner, then it was maths, music et science.

At trois-quarante I came home and I had tea, then I watched Blankety Blank. At 7.30 I watched What a carry on, at 8.00 I watched Play your cards right, at 8.30 I played dad at chess, and at 9.00 I watched Tell the Truth.

I went to bed at 11.30.

Blimey, a touch of Gallic flair for today’s diary entry! Un petit peu de Francais. That certain je ne sais quoi. In a nutshell – me showing off that I’d learnt… hang on… (counts on fingers) five words of French since the intrepid Miss Wilson had started to broaden our linguistic horizons three months earlier.

It’s a shame that I can’t find my French exercise book anywhere, because I’m sure there’ll be some tremendous little nuggets of nonsense in there. For a start, back in September, Miss Wilson had given us all French alter egos… basically a list of French names that we had to adopt and use during our lessons. I was Philippe (who I always thought sounded like a soppy Mummy’s boy with a side parting and a daily pomme for his teacher), and I’m pretty sure Doug was Bruno (infinitely cooler, the kind of lad who rode motorbikes around the Loire Valley with a Gauloise cigarette hanging from his lower lip)


Any other passing 1CW members who can remember their nom-de-plumes? (that’s French for ‘name of the plum’, by the way. See, all that education wasn’t wasted in the end) 

By the end of our first lesson, Miss Wilson had taught us to introduce ourselves in our new language, and told us to go home and impress our parents with our new-found linguistic skills.  So I proudly strode through the kitchen door to find my Mum torturing a screaming fishfinger on a medieval rack, and stopped her in mid-interrogation with the entirely inaccurate declaration ‘Je m’appelle Philippe’.


‘Well Bonjour Philippe, now take your bloody shoes off before you make a mess of my nice clean kitchen floor’, she replied, without a great deal of Gallic flair in evidence. I think I spent the rest of the evening proudly claiming to be multi-lingual by sticking the word ‘Le’ in front of everything. Le television. Le dog. Le Blankety Blank Supermatch Game. By the end of the night, my Dad was ready to give me le bloody good hiding with le rolled-up copy of le Evening Gazette (le Late Final) 

All of our French coursework came from a textbook called ‘Tricolore’, whose exercises in basic Franglais centred about the coastal resort of La Rochelle. I think I was well into my French GCSEs before I realised tha La Rochelle ACTUALLY EXISTED and wasn’t just a fictional town invented by the writers of the books.

We also talked a lot about a place called Vernouillet, a little town in Northern France that was (and still is) twinned with Yarm. Although I’ve just discovered that Vernouillet is also twinned with Hainburg in Germany, and no less than two Austrian towns – Trumau and Alberndorf! What a tarty little town it must be. Here in Yarm, we’re faithful souls and WE haven’t spent the last three decades fluttering our civic eyelashes at any old European urban conurbation. I think it’s high time we sat down and had a serious talk about the future of this relationship. Harumph.


At some point during our time at Conyers, the official ‘Welcome to Yarm’ sign at the top of the High Street had a ‘Twinned with Vernouillet’ plaque screwed to the stone plinth beneath it, a move that sent myself and Chris Byers into one of our classic Statler and Waldorf routines. ‘Twinned with Vernouillet! What a bleedin’ liberty! I bet Vernouillet hasn’t put a Twinned with Yarm sign on the front of their bloody Maison de Ville!!!!’.

I bet they haven’t either, les buggeres miserables. Or, if they have, it’ll be in small print under Trumau and Alberndorf.

We were also starting to dabble with the occasional bit of ‘French Oral’ (cue titters from the lads on the back row), and Miss Wilson would produce from the Language Dept cupboard the kind of gigantic, wooden boxed, reel-to-reel tape recorder that Joe Meek made most of his early 1960s hit singles with. The kind of tape recorder that’s always whirring in the background during interviews with NASA personnel from the height of the 50s Space Race.


Et maintenent, nous arrivons a la gare.

Numero Un (beeeeeeeeeeep)

‘Je voudrais un billet pour visiter la piscine, s’il vous plait’
‘Un billet, ou un carnet?’
‘Ah… le carnet, c’est combien, s’il vous plait?’
‘C’est douze francs’
‘Ah, oui…’

Numero deux (beeeeeeeeeeep)

All clearly acted out by A-Level French teachers who’ve starred in ‘Whoops, Where’s My Trousers?’ at their local amateur dramatics society and now fancy themselves as budding Alain Delons. And all backed by the ‘Busy Railway Station’ track from the BBC Sound Effects LP Volume 471.

Regardez, ecoutez et repetez!

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3 Comments»

  Chris Byers wrote @

Je pense que mon nom francais pourrait avoir ete Jacque

Well something like that, I think.

  Claire Otterson wrote @

Bonjour! Je m’appelle Bernadette (!) J’ai onze ans.

  bobfischer wrote @

Tres bien! J’habite a Yarm avec mes parents et nous avons un chien. Il appelle Poggy Doggy.


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