Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 352

Monday 17th December 1984

I got up at 8.00, then Doug and Gaz came and we went to school. It was maths and a Barn dance, then I came home and had dinner. It was French, English, Geog and maths and home at 3.40.

I had tea, then put the decor on the tree. Then I washed my hair, and at 8.00 I saw Rising Damp. At 8.30 I saw Yes Minister, and at 9.30 I went to bed.

Five days of school left before Christmas, so we were very much into ‘pissing about’ territory for most of our lessons. Although full credit to our stern, scary (yet oddly sexy) maths teacher Mrs Clark Without The E, who I remember telling 1CW in no uncertain terms on this very morning that ‘We have work to do today, I don’t believe in free periods just because it’s Christmas…’

This was slightly confusing to me, as we hadn’t yet HAD a completely free period in our school careers… although I had heard the occasional rumour from the older boys that such things existed – wild, untamed 35 minute lessons in which our teachers put their feet up on the desk and read the Daily Mirror, and we messed about playing Hangman and creating dirty wordsearches.

I think I’d pretty much filed the thought to the back of my mind, along with other obvious mid-1980s school myths (Foggie-Bashing Day, half-decent Spandau Ballet songs, that kind of thing) and the fact that we spent our maths lesson on this morning drawing Cubes, Cuboids, Tetrahedrons, Octahedrons, Dodecahedrons and Icosahedrons seemed to suggest I was right. And God help Doctor Who if that lot ever gang up and decide to take over Gallifrey one morning.

Still, there was always our Barn Dance to look forward to!!! Bloody hell. A week earlier, we’d been stunned to arrive at our Monday morning PE class (quite reasonably expecting an hour of bloodlust, extreme violence and homoerotic tension on the rugby pitch), only to discover that our male and female PE teachers had taken a leaf from that feared Dodecahedron and Icosahedron Alliance (‘KNEEL BEFORE US, TIME LORD!!!’) and teamed up to subject us to a Country Dancing practice in the Sports Hall… WITH GIRLS!!!

Seven days on, we’d been warned under threat of extreme sarcasm to ‘dress up in your best Wild West clothes’ for our ‘traditional Christmas Barn Dance’. Traditional in the sense that it never took place at Conyers school in any other year before or after 1984. My two main memories of this terrifying occasion…

1. I wore my British Home Stores jeans and an old checked shirt, and spent the entire lesson in near-silence, prancing hopelessly around the Sports Hall to tape recordings of endless fiddle-de-dee music played on a Casio keyboard and attempting not to trample on Claire Otterson’s feet.

2. My future top mate Paul Hayes (as immortalised in the Monty Python chapter of ‘Wiffle Lever to Full!’) turned up in a gigantic, comedy foam cowboy hat that, by the end of the day, had been passed around every head in Conyers School. Including the Head. And his deputy, Mr Dixon.

Great to see a little bit of love for Yes Minister as well, which – as a younger kid – I’d obviously thought was THE MOST BORING COMEDY EVER because it was just, like, men standing around talking in an office. Where was Paul Shane with his trousers round his ankles? Where was Frank Spencer, roller-skating under an articulated lorry? Pfffffft. 

I think though, by the age of 12, I’d started to appreciate its amazing witty genius, and its warmth and depth of character, and now – 25 years on – I think it’s one of the most astonishing bits of television ever made. The perfect backdrop to putting plastic Santas on our half-inched new Christmas tree on a dark, December evening.

And another great Ronnie Hazelhurst theme in which the name of the show can be sung along to the music… ‘Yes Min-is-ter….’



  Claire Otterson wrote @

I’d forgotten all about that bloody barn dance!!!

  bobfischer wrote @

So had I until I read the diary! Sheer child cruelty. I don’t think we ever did it again, so I’m starting to wonder if Mr Anderson (who left Conyers that Christmas) was responsible!

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