Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 344

Sunday 9th December 1984

I got up at 10.00 and did homework, then at 11.00 I looked through the christmas decorations. At 12.00 I had dinner, then I hung some cards on the window frame and put some posters up.

After that I helped mam wrap some presents, and then we took the dogs for a run on the field. At 2.00ish we came back and I put the last of the decor up, then I played out till tea at 5.00. At 6.00 we took Grandma home, then at 7.15 we got back and watched Ever decreasing circles.

At 7.45 I saw Big Deal, then I went to bed.

Aaaaaah, what a classic piece of emotional blackmail concocted by my scheming mother! I never ever EVER did my weekend homework on a Sunday morning, it was ALWAYS left until the very last minute. To the extent that Sunday evening TV became pretty much a full night’s worth of displacement activity for me… ‘I’ll do my geography homework after Songs of Praise… ah yeah, this is actually really good… brilliant tunes. And isn’t Roger Royle great? Right, homewo – oh no, I’ll have to watch the Antiques Roadshow. I love Hugh Scully to bits. 17th century, you say? How interesting.  Right, that geography ho- wait a minute, Last of the Summer Wine!!!!’

And so on, and so on, with a mounting feeling of dread, until the final hand-drawn credits of That’s Life (by cartoonist Rod Jordon, as I recall… oh, I’ve lived the life alright) faded. But then I could always get up early on Monday to do it, couldn’t I? If I set my alarm for 7am then that’s plenty of time. No, hang on… let’s have a sleep in, and I’ll do it in the tennis courts during morning break…*

Clearly my mother, keen to steer me away from this slipshod, half-arsed approach to schoolwork, thought quickly on her feet 25 years ago today…

Her: Oh alright, but on one condition…
Me: What?
Her: You do your homework first, and get it out of the way…

And I slunk upstairs and grumbled my way through an hour of perfunctory (slipshop, half-arsed) geography and maths homework before finally (YAY!!!!) being allowed to retrieve our ancient cardboard box of Christmas decorations from the bottom of the spare room wardrobe. A box still – aw, bless – coated in the shaky, felt-tip drawings of R2D2 that I’d excitedly scrawled during the run-up to Christmas Day 1978.

(*No matter what strength of hurricane was blowing across the exterior of Conyers School, you would ALWAYS find at least one hapless oik sheltering in the darkest recesses of his Navy Blue parka against a wire mesh fence, scribbling some desperate bits of utterly ramshackle homework into a sopping wet exercise book. Going by the principle that so long as SOMETHING was handed into Mr Dillon in the Physics lab, the accusation of ‘NOT HAVING DONE YOUR HOMEWORK, LAD!!!’ could never be laid at his door. My half-arsed attitude to homework reached a peak mid-way through my second year, when I’d estimate that at least 40% of my scribblings were conducted al fresco.  Our school might has well have gone the whole hog, and issued us all with laminated textbooks and waterproof pens)

Anyhow… with the coal fire roaring in the grate, and my Mum and my Gran pottering excitedly around the front room, we started ‘work’ on the Christmas decorations. We’d clearly already received a little smattering of Christmas cards from far-flung relatives and friends (and – every year – we’d receive at least one card whose sender remained a mystery forever. ‘To Doreen and Geoff, from Cliff and Eileen. Geoff, who’s Cliff and Eileen? Did they live in Patterdale Avenue? No? Hmmm… are they friends of Ian and Sandra’s? No? I don’t know, then…’) and it was time to show them off.

Christmas cards in our house were always displayed in one of two ways…

1. Hung sideways on a six-foot length of string, stuck to the wall with drawing pins (‘Mind your fingers’) and stretching from one side of the front room to the other.

2. Sellotaped at a jaunty angle to any door or window frame with half an inch of space to spare. Clearly the tactic I adopted on this day. And the ‘posters’ that we had were cheery 1960s-looking things that were religiously stuck to any unfortunate wall without fail during every single year of my childhood. Lovely, brightly-coloured paintings of rosy-cheeked Santas and cartoon reindeer, that kind of thing. For the previous 15 years, they’d ALWAYS been stuck to the blown vinyl wallpaper with a little strip of sellotape in each corner, which was – of course – ALWAYS impossible to remove in the New Year, so by 1984 the resulting build-ups of yellowed sticky tape made it look as though each poster was fastened to the wall with a wasps’ nest in every corner.

(Bizarrely, as I wrote the words ‘rosy-cheeked Santas’, I’ve just had a strange flashback to an earlier Christmas at Levendale Primary School, with the late, great Paul ‘Wacky’ Whitehead being singled out to sing ‘When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney’ to the school’s visiting Father Christmas impersona – erm, sorry, little helper. Complete with brilliant, theatrical, ‘ACHOO ACHOO ACHOO’s! Either Christmas 1980 or Christmas 1981 I reckon, although I’m veering towards the latter.

The same year that the legendary Mr Millward (above)  gathered together all the boys in our year to perform an amazing, rhythmic, chanted version of ‘T’was the Night Before Christmas’ as part of the school’s nativity play. Our run-throughs for this remain the most tense and fraught rehearsals I’ve ever experienced for ANYTHING… I can still picture him going purple in the face and whirling his arms around frantically, trying to conduct us in the school hall.

‘No, no, NO!!!! Lord, GIVE ME STRENGTH!!!!! Come DASH-er, come DANCE-r, come PRANCE-r, come VIXEN!!! Good GOD, it isn’t brain surgery!!!!’)

And then there was the tree… which, at this stage, was still a five-foot plastic, artificial affair clearly bought sometime in the mid-1970s from Uptons or Binns or Woolies. I can still remember the surprisingly soft feel of those wavy plastic ‘needles’ as I clambered underneath it to retrieve my presents on any number of impossibly exciting early 80s Christmas mornings. Our version was green, but My Gran, oddly, had a very 1960s-looking silver tree that was slightly smaller and looked like a prop (or indeed a costume) from The Tomorrow People.

I’ll have covered the tree so thoroughly in tinsel, baubles and other assorted shiny nick-nacks that – by the time I’d finished – not a single inch of Christmas tree would have been visible whatsoever, and any visitors to the house would have been forgiven for thinking that we’d just stacked up a giant pyramid of Christmas decorations on the coffee table in the corner of the room. I’ve no idea why, we just like shiny things in our family. I think one of my uncles on my mother’s side was half Jackdaw.

So there you go… Christmas decorations done and dusted and sorted for another year! Or so I thought… (tantalising cliffhanger for a forthcoming diary entry there) All of this meant – of course – that it was now OFFICIALLY Christmas, a feeling compounded when my Mum and my Gran and I spent the rest of the afternoon wrapping the first of the family presents… nothing crucial at this stage I imagine, just a small smattering of booze and nick-nacks and ‘smellies’ for various far-flung relatives and neighbours, all trussed up tightly in bright red wrapping paper and sellotape, with cartoon Santas and dancing Christmas trees all present and correct.

Only 16 sleeps to go!!! (Squeeeee….)



  Mark Hirst wrote @

Loved this Fisher!

Geoff (Millward) was a creative genius at times and I Iearnt a lot from him over the years. But, his twelve days of Christmas turn, is as clear in my memory as Slackies Moonie on Carlton Bank. Geoff loved to try something challenging with children and this was a real challenge, based on the group he had gathered together!

I have fond memories of walking through the hall as he was `rehearsing` you lot and taking the proverbial pee. He loved `orchestrating` the whole shambles with such gusto, that my impression of his efforts was legend in the staffroom. Once he walked in as I was in full swing and pronounced (Kevin Turvey style)that I was an “utter, utter bastard!”

Classic, thanks for reminding me!!

He also did a `turn` where he would sit on stage and kids would bring him gifts, as school sang “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”.
I sabotaged this one year, by substituting the package containing “two pairs of gloves” with a similar package containing two boxes of condoms. Ever resourceful, he hid this small trick from the audience and carried on regardless. What a pro!

  bobfischer wrote @

Ha haaaa! Fantastic. ‘Something for the Christmas weekend, sir?’

It’s a testament to Mr M’s patience and perseverance that I think our final performance of ‘Twas the Night…’ was actually pretty good. And now you mention it, I’ve got a strange, vague memory of you two exchanging a few cheeky words as we went through our Dashers and Dancers in the school hall one chilly afternoon!

I think myself and the legendarily cheeky (and startlingly ginger) Mark Foster came dangerously close to incorporating your exchange into our Christmas ‘Frosty’ comic, stapled to the upper band wall later that week!

I’ve also just had a flashback to the brilliant decorations that went up in Levendale School hall every Christmas. Sometime, in the dim-and-distant past, a group of pressganged oiks had made lovely, painted representations of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ that were staple-gunned to a long freize, right the way around the top of at least three of the hall walls.

It was great – lots of hand-painted Lords A-Leaping, Pipers Piping and Ladies Dancing. Like the Bayeux Tapestry, but done with powder paint and tissue paper. And it bailed me out of trouble during many a Christmas sing-a-long with Mrs Mulhern by acting as a handy prompt for the lyrics!

Come to think of it, was it there all year round, and I only noticed it at Christmas?

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Yep, and quite bizarrely, I remember that frieze (note spelling Mr F !!) as well! I think it went up on December 1st to be honest, and it came down as soon as you lot left for the hols and we left for the pub.

The Twelve Days Of Christmas turn was pretty good to be fair, so much so that it found it’s way into several of my `shows`. Of course, as a plagiarist of some note, I took the plaudits and claimed it as my own!!

Mark Foster remains one of the most ginger children I’ve ever encountered….and there’s been a few!! Andy Campbell (ex Boro) probably being the most well known.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah, bless him! I think I’m responsible for the whole ‘Ginja Warrior’ thing that blighted his life. I made the phrase up while attending a Boro reserve match in 1995 (I know how to live) and seeing him for the first time. I put it into Fly Me to the Moon after he made his first team debut, and the rest is sordid history…

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