Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Archive for March, 2010

Mr Millward and Mr Hirst… Reunited!

Here’s a little treat for all you Levendale Primary School veterans of the 1980s. I’m afraid – for reasons of national security – that I’m unable to reveal the exact date and location of this meeting, but I recently found myself in the same room as our former teachers Mr Millward and Mr Hirst! The first time such a gathering has taken place since July 1984, when I was sent grumbling down to Middle Band to ‘help Mrs Keasey take the staples out of the walls’.

I did indeed comment that our mini-reunion was like seeing John Lennon and Paul McCartney back together again, although this probably means that Mrs Keasey is George Harrison and Mrs Mulhern is Ringo. And I’m not convinced that either of them would be entirely chuffed about that. Anyway, here you go…

I should probably send out a little apology to Glenn Conroy – he was a perfectly pleasant young lad from my school year who just happened to crop up in conversation a couple of times that night! Glenn, if you ever see this, and you require expensive therapy to deal with it, just send the bill to Mr G Millward, c/o Levendale Primary School, Mount Leven Road, Yarm…

Nuggets from the Loft… Volume 2

As threatened, I’ve been rummaging in the loft again, and this time I’ve unearthed two long-lost early 1980s artefacts that would have the Antiques Roadshow team… well, let’s be honest, they’d be rolling their eyes and muttering ‘for f***’s sake’ under their breaths. But, to me, these antiquities are as priceless as any dusty oriental remnant. After all, who wants a Ming vase when you can have a Ming The Merciless Weetabix card?

Weetabix… breakfast cereal of choice on the Planet Mongo! Found rattling around the bottom of cereal packets along with stray offcuts of mouldy biscuit, these cards were – of course – a shameless marketing tie-in with the BRILLIANT Flash Gordon movie that the velvet-curtained fleapits of Britain were showing during… well, thereby hangs a tale. The official US release date for the film was December 5th 1980, but I’m convinced it can’t have hit the UK until at least Spring 1981. The impeccably-researched evidence that I’m using to back up my theory is that I remember swopping some of the above cards with Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry on a bright, breezy summers day at Levendale Primary School, with the sun blazing through the grubby window pane upon which Paul Frank and I had recently made a bloody awful pig’s ear of painting the Loch Ness Monster.

Presumably Stan, like me, was attempting to gain the full set by eating seven Weetabix for breakfeast every morning (‘Burppp… farrrt… keep ’em coming Mum, I’m REALLY hungry today… blurrrp’) before arriving at school with a waistline like the Michelin Man. And a complexion to match.

Anyway, it’s a great film. Now remembered chiefly for Brian Blessed’s towering performance (‘GORDON’S ALIVE??!?!?!?!?’), but it also contains the sobering sight of nubile twentysomething Italian sex siren Ornella Muti (a woman once voted the world’s most beautiful, and reputed to have insured her all-conquering breasts for $350,000) snogging Howard from Ever Decreasing Circles.

All of this passed me by at the time, naturally, although I was intrigued by the fact that Flash Gordon himself was a professional footballer, as he didn’t bear any resemblance to any professional footballer I’d ever seen in 1981. Where was his bubble perm, moustache, beer belly and permanent haze of Lambert and Butler smoke? Amateur.

Anyway, I lied, it isn’t a Ming The Merciless card at all. It’s actually dedicated to his sidekick, the slightly dubiously-named Klytus…

As portrayed, splendidly, by former Jason King lothario Peter Wyngarde. ‘Klytus, I’m bored… what plaything can you offer me today?’

‘Well Masterful Ming, I’ve got a slightly rusty badge* featuring one of the Weetabix skinheads…’

(*stop giggling)

Yes, this is today’s second Nugget from the Loft. This was Weetabix’s other concerted early 80s attempt to win the hearts and minds (and waistlines) of gullible eight-year-olds.. a gang of loveable, cuddly Weetabix skinheads (or ‘Bovver Boys’ as they were often affectionately known at the time). I think these came a little later than the Flash Gordon cards, possibly in 1982, and you can see them in full action here…

Again, they bore little resemblance to the ACTUAL skinheads that I’d seen in 1982, who were usually to be found gently inserting barbed wire into innocent bystanders near the perimeter fence at Ayresome Park. I’m guessing the Weetabix Frontline were mainly influenced by Madness – who were EVERYWHERE in 1982 – although I’d like to think there’s a little bit of Ian Dury and the Blockheads in there as well. And, equally, you’re perfectly entitled to think that I should get out a bit more and stop contemplating this rubbish in such detail. As my former Levendale teacher Mr Millward once said to me with a flabbergasted glare, ‘Do you not sometimes think you’re a little bit… anal?’

I’d like to pretend this happened 25 years ago, but it was actually this Tuesday night, when he and Mr Hirst joined me for a cheeky pint (more on this to follow soon)

Anyway, ‘Brains’ was the intellectual giant of the Weetabix skinheads, and we knew this because – obviously – he wore glasses. Early 1980s optical science had proved beyond doubt that ALL specky four-eyed freaks were DEAD CLEVER, like.  It was all that swotty book-reading and squinting down microscopes wot did it, although admittedly there was ONE OTHER WAY in which it was possible to lose your eyesight in the early 1980s. This was – as any self-respecting fishcake-toting mother would tell you – ‘sitting too close to the telly’.

I spent most of the first ten years of my life being warned repeatedly about this. ‘Get away from that telly, you, or your eyes will go bad and you’ll have to wear glasses when you’re older’. I’d get this at least three times I week as I pressed my face up against the concave screen of our four-channel, wood-panelled Granada behemoth to drool over Sarah Greene. I’m now 37, and I’ve still yet to join the intellectual specky elite.

I need closure on this… is there any evidence whatsoever to suggest that watching TV from a short distance can have a detrimental effect on the eyesight? Surely it’s no different to looking at anything else from close-up? Will my ‘eyes go bad’ if I also sit ten inches away from the front room wall and stare at that all night instead? The other Saturday I caught 15 minutes of ‘Celebrity Mr and Mrs’, and was sorely tempted to do exactly that.

NB For the record, I’ve spent most of the last 37 years talking absolute bollocks, and my tongue has yet to split either. Although those who’ve met me in the flesh could make a reasonable case for the wind having changed, and me staying like that.