Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 356

Friday 21st December 1984

I got up at 8.00, then Doug and Gaz came and we went to school. It was £PE, then A. At 12.00 I had dinner then it was A and £TP. At 2.30 Gaz and I came back to my house and at 3.00 Gaz went but invited me over tomorrow.

I had tea, then played out for a while. When I came in we did the Xmas cake and at 9.00 I saw Tell the Truth. I went to bed at 9.30. 

£ Free Period
TP Tutor Period
A Assembly

Blimey! Good job I devised that crafty bit of shorthand, otherwise that diary entry would have gone on for EVER!

Anyway… come on, the last day of school before Christmas. Always brilliant fun – filled with games of Dirty Hangman, crafty swigs of cider and fumbled tonguey snogs beneath the mistletoe. And that was just in the staff room. It was a freezing morning when my best mates Doug and Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones rolled up at our peeling white back gate, and – if I recall – we walked to school singing selections from Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. No idea why.

I remember scribbling out last minute Christmas cards in our morning tutor period (or ‘TP’ for those who need to read this in a hurry). At Levendale Primary School we’d had a fabulous kiddy-run ‘post box’ for our cards… basically a cardboard Tudor Crisps box wrapped in bright red ‘crepe paper’* and coated in cotton wool ‘snow’ dabbed in splodges of Copydex. We’d drop clumsily-sealed cards to our schoomates into the slot, and – at the end of every day – a specially-selected school elf (usually Alex James sporting a Santa hat and a dot of red lipstick on his nose) would deliver them carefully around the open-plan classrooms.

(*Any mention of ‘crepe paper’ at Levendale did, of course, result in widespread titterings from the lads because – OBVIOUSLY – it sounded a bit like ‘crap paper’. Pffffffffffffttttt!!! Chortle! Chortle!)

There were no such niceties at Conyers, so I spent the morning working my way through a family pack of 250 Presto Supermarket charity cards (99p the lot), and dropping them awkwardly onto the desks of my classmates. Vague obscenities written into the cards for all the lads, and any of the (yikes!) girls who’d been brave enough to give me a card got an incredibly formal and staid Christmas missive (Dear Debbie, Best Wishes from Robert) in return.  

Anyway, as you can see, a second consecutive day on which NO WORK WHATSOEVER was required in any of our lessons, although I’m intrigued about the ‘Free Period PE’. Can any passing Conyerites remember what we did on this day? Much as I’ve taken the piss out them these last couple of months, Mr Nielsen and Mr Anderson were both utterly top blokes, and I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have arranged a few stupidly fun games for our last PE lesson before Christmas! (Especially as this was Mr Anderson’s last day at Conyers School… he was moving to ‘pastures new’ as he put it, and would be replaced in the New Year by the legendary Ron ‘Any more for Spennymoor’ Ledgerwood) 

And, as you can see, we had no less than two extended assemblies on this day. An hour each, either side of dinnertime! The first of these was the usual first-third year assembly (assemblies were held in our modest school gym, and tended to be split into two groups to accomodate everyone comfortably rather than squashing 1000 sweaty oiks and their associated teachers into a space the size of an average five-a-side football pitch). The other was… well, alright, a full school assembly. Squashing 1000 sweaty oiks and their associated teachers into a space the size of an average five-a-side football pitch. I guess Health and Safety and our local Fire Officer turned a blind eye over the festive period…

The small assembly was far more formal, with our shiny-domed headmaster Mr Metcalfe running through his usual array of announcements, prayers and forecasts of doom, danger and global cataclysm if the person who stole the stuffed weasel from Mrs Holley’s Biology Cupboard didn’t return it with a full apology by the end of school today. One of the announcements, though, concerned us directly – our lovely young form tutor Miss Wilson was getting married over Christmas! And so, when we all returned in the New Year, we’d have to call her by her new name… ‘so get used to having the new Mrs Bush as your form tutor!’ (Cue more widespread titterings from the lads, etc etc…)

During the ‘huge’ assembly, we were treated to a really rather risque Christmas revue, put together by the artier members of the sixth form. A spoof nativity play, the ONLY thing I can remember about it is a running joke in which the Angel Gabriel appeared ‘with a puff’. At which point, said winged messenger would dash onto the stage accompanied by a mincing Mr Humphries-style figure, complete with limp wrist, pursed lips and pink, wide-brimmed hat! I suspect this is a routine unlikely to make it into any 2009 school Christmas production, but – in 1984 – it raised widespread hilarity amongst pupils and staff alike. Come on, we’d been brought up on Are You Being Served? and Larry Grayson’s Generation Game. Cut us some slack here, people.

(Can any 1CW veterans remember any more about this play? I’m sure it went on for quite some time, and I think a few of our teachers might have had cameos in it… I’m sure I remember Mr Maggiore sauntering across the stage in dark glasses, for one! Possibly as an unfeasibly cool Wise Man?) 

This whole latter assembly had a very casual, laid-back feel… lots of in-jokes, bawdiness and heckling from teachers and sixth formers leaning against the ‘apparatus’ on the gym walls. I remember Neil ‘Bov’ Braithwaite’s handsome older brother Ian being singled out by a laughing Mr Dixon as ‘the only sixth former I’ve ever met who has actually claimed a merit mark. I had to sign it for him in his exercise book!’

And – although I didn’t make a habit of looking at our teachers’ legs* – I also recall petite, elfin biology-teaching nutcase Miss Murphy cracking jokes with the front row about her tights… festooned, as they were, with illustrations of holly and snowflakes. Six years later, Miss Murphy (or S’Murph as she became universally known) became our tutor as Mrs Bush went on maternity leave, and the raggle-taggle remnants of 1CW passed into Sixth Form themselves. She was a brilliant laugh, and –  shortly after leaving Conyers – I once got staggeringly drunk with her at a party held in a tennis club bar at Teesside Airport. I’m still pondering on whether my sixth form/university diaries are suitable for publication at any point (probably not…)

(*Unless it was Mr Dillon, obviously)

After this final assembly, we went back to our form class with the future Mrs Bush and, well… just hung around. Chatting amiably, swopping a very few last minute Christmas cards, and squeezing in that last vital third/fourth place play-off game of Dirty Hangman. On the way into the room, I found a sprig of mistletoe on the corridor floor, and scooped it up into my pocket. I hadn’t intended using it for any nefarious kissing (GAGGGH! THE VERY THOUGHT!)… basically, I just liked finding stuff lying about and keeping it for rainy days. Of which, let’s face it, there are no shortage on Teesside. However when I got home, my mother spotted it sticking out of my coat, and became instantly convinced that I was the Hugh Hefner of 1CW, a ladykilling playboy with a roving eye for the fairer sex (just the one – the other one’s glass) and nametags sewn into the back of my silk dressing gown. Utter bollocks of course, although a reasonably accurate description of Alistair Burton.

And then the bell rang! At 2.30pm… an early finish to the school day, engineered – I’m sure – as much to suit our teachers as to please us. I reckon the initial idea was to beat the traffic by stealing a march on the other schools in Yarm, but – inevitably – our rival establishments got wind of this and started finishing their end-of-term days even earlier, in response to which Conyers knocked theirs back a further 15 minutes, and so on and so on until the entire town was caught in some kind of temporal paralysis and had to leave school to go home two hours before the school day actually started. And you try telling that to kids today…

I’m guessing Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones had to wait a while to be picked up by his parents, so we shambled giggling back to my house for a while. On the way out of the school grounds, I heard the following shouted exchange between our ultra-cool drama teacher Eric Harrison, and equally ultra-cool 13-year-old scenester Rix ‘Trav’ Jordan…

Rix: Merry Christmas Mr Harrison, are in good shape?
Mr H: And to you Mr Jordan, and yes thanks – I’m great. Youself?
Rix: Fine and dandy, sir… fine and dandy…

I thought this was the funniest, coolest, smartest thing I’d heard for ages, and ‘fine and dandy’ became a little running catchphrase for me over the Christmas of 1984. Rix, by the way, is now the drummer in a rather successful (and brilliant) band called Jarvis Humby, who you can find out more about here… I’ve no idea where Mr Harrison is, but I wish somebody would tell me.

And hands up who really believes that ‘invited me over tomorrow’ as opposed to me just pestering him endlessly until he gave in for the sake of a quiet life? ‘Gaz! Gaz! Gaz! Can I come to your house tomorrow? Gaz! Gaz! Go on! Go on! Gaz! Gaz!’

Nobody? Not a soul? No, me neither. Well come, on… he had a snooker table and a Videopac G7000.



  Chris Byers wrote @

One bit of the play I can remember is the cast’s rendition of The Frog Chorus, with the amazing but utterly mad Mr Hindle. The vision of him bouncing up and down as he sang the chorus is a sight that has lasted with me for 25 years.

  bobfischer wrote @

Of course! Good grief, how did I forget that? Mr Hindle was, without a doubt, the maddest teacher at Conyers… a ginger garden gnome who would frequently throw his chemistry experiments at the wall if they didn’t work out. What a top bloke, and I think he did the ‘blurp blurp-blurp’ bits of the big fat frog, didn’t he? I can picture the look on his face now you’ve said it!

  Travis Fandango wrote @

Bloody hell! That’s me! I said a thing aged 13 and someone (you) wrote it down for posterity after remembering it. And for some reason that I can only imagine is my ego, this makes me strangely happy. Thank you nice memory man.

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