Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Total Eclipse of the Muffled Fart

Earlier today, someone arrived at this blog after googling for the phrase ‘muffled fart’. This made me laugh so hard that I had to stare at a stern-looking picture of Mr Baxter from Grange Hill for ten minutes just to compose myself, and even then I found my mind wandering to similarly juvenile pursuits. And so, for your delectation and delight, please find below…


1. Fanny By Gaslight
Michael Sadleir’s original 1940 novel is a searing depiction of the exploitation of women in Victorian London, and the BBC’s four-part adaptation was a highlight of the 1981 Autumn TV schedules.  A highlight, that is, providing you were a nine-year-old boy reduced to hysterical laughter, rolling around the front room floor with a cushion clutched to your stomach every time a trailer popped up after the closing credits to Hi-De-Hi. ‘Fanny!!! Ha – ha – ha! By… Gaslight…! Titter! Guffaw! Oh god, stop it…!’ (I’d still be silently chortling and accidentally breaking wind during Points of View)

2. Le Coq Sportif

When Spurs completed a brace of FA Cup Final victories in 1981 and 1982, was it the silky skills of Richard Villa and Osvaldo Ardiles that captured the imagination of a generation of schoolboys? No. It was the side-splitting nature of their French shirt manufacturer, providing endless ammunition with which to goad the weak-willed school saps that had sided with these cheeky Cockernee knees-up merchants, despite never having travelled further south than Northallerton in their short, pitiful little lives. ‘You know that Ricky Villa? Eh? He IS le coq sportif. Geddit? He’s a cock who does sport…’

3. ‘In Case Of Fire, Strike Knob Hard’

The standard instruction on the side of EVERY publicly-housed fire extinguisher during the 1970s and 80s, including those at the front of buses… leading to much hilarity during school excursions, as Phil ‘Slackie’ Slack would inevitably shout ‘FIRE! FIRE! Quick, follow the instructions…’ and Stephen Mason would dutifully respond with a swift punch to Christopher Herbert’s knackers. Before, naturally, sniffing his fingers and attempting to insert the resultant whiffy digits into Herbert’s own permanently dilated nostrils.

4. ‘DICK’.
With a theme tune that still sounds like one of those cheery Ringo Starr songs from a latter-day Beatles album, ITV’s late 1970s adaptation of The Famous Five provided a generation of well-reared kiddies with a regular dose of wholesome pre-war rural adventure… smugglers coves, mysterious moors, fearsome pirates and lashings and lashings and lashings of ginger beer. But it was those opening titles that provided a classic pre-pubescant chortle as one of our heroes slipped and fell into a sparkling lagoon, only to be freeze-framed in mid-plunge and have his name super-imposed over his startled face… ‘DICK’. NB For added schoolboy snigger value, the show also played host to Aunt Fanny and Billycock Farm.

5. ‘I Was Cold, I Was Naked, Were You There?’
Poor Mrs Mulhern must have had the patience of a saint. Given that she was charged with educating a hundred or so eight-year-old idiots who would collapse into lung-bursting hysterics at the merest mention of ‘Fanny By Gaslight’ or ‘Le Coq Sportif’, selecting hymns to enrich our spiritual lives during morning assembly must have been a lyrical minefield. Suffice to say, the inspirational ‘When I Needed A Neighbour’ slipped through the barbed wire fences, and – at EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE of the line transcribed above being sung – a wave of hilarity would spread like an atomic shockwave through the male contingent of Levendale Primary School. If – as frequently happened – the massed, stifled giggles were accompanied by a well-timed Stephen Mason fart, then the resulting fall-out could be explosive enough to require Christopher Herbert’s knob being struck hard yet again. And again. And again.

6. ‘Round Yon Virgin’
See above, but with added Christmassy chortles. I have a sneaky feeling this particular line was eventually dropped from Levendale Primary School’s official rendition of ‘Silent Night’, after Mrs Mulhern’s eyesight was seriously threatened by the repeated, despairing rolling of the eyes she went through every single sodding December.

7.  Einar Aas
Experienced Norwegian international Einar Aas was doubtless treated with solemn respect by football fans in his native Scandinavia, but a 1981 transfer to Nottingham Forest cemented his legendary status amongst a legion of giggling, eight-year-old pillocks who would crease up with tear-stained cheeks every time his immortal Panini Sticker rose to the top of the playground pile. ‘Got… got… got… need… need… oh… ah-ha ha… ha ha ha… yak yak yak yak ha ha ha yak snigger snigger snigger snigger chortle… HA HA HA HA HA…’  Thanks, Cloughie. NB If I was eight years old in 2011, the prospect of Andrei Arshavin playing for Arsenal might actually make me physically explode.

8. Chilly Willy
On TV, he was a cartoon penguin in a woolly hat and mittens. In our filthy, fevered imaginations, he… wasn’t.

9. Sexagesima Sunday
Almost every child of the 1980s received a WH Smiths Desk Diary for Christmas at least once during the decade, although obviously only the most chronically anally retentive of us actually managed to write in the damn thing for 365 days running (see every blog entry for 2009). A select handful made it to early February though, at which point they’d inevitably be confronted by the prospect of ‘Sexagesima Sunday’, neatly inscribed in italics beneath the date itself. Apparently it’s an important Roman Catholic holiday, and not – as Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones once solemnly informed me – ‘the day on which you have to have sex with a geezer’.

10. Frank Bough
I’m  reliably informed by my London-raised friends (some of whom even defiantly wore Le Coq Sportif football kits as Spurs-loving children) that the verb ‘to boff’ was rigidly defined in their Middle Band Playground Dictionary as an act of sexual congress performed by two consenting adults, either of whom may even be cold, naked or – indeed – ’round yon virgin’ at the time. Such decadent behaviour had yet to reach Teesside by 1982, though. As far as we were concerned, to ‘boff’ was to release a trump, a trouser cough; to pump, to let one drop. In short, any appearance of Nationwide’s genial Frank Bough on TV was the cue for raucous, raspberry-blowing hilarity, usually accompanied by a raised pre-pubescent buttock.

In fact, thinking about it, a ‘Frank Bough’ is pretty much just the opposite end of the flatulence spectrum to the muffled fart, which brings us nicely full circle. Found that funny, did you? Well maybe it’s time you took a long hard look at yourself. Or perhaps you’d like to explain the joke to Mr Baxter…


  Chris Orton wrote @

We’ve got something similar to No. 3 on some of the corridor swing doors at work. There is a device on them to keep them open, whereby you press down a lever which puts sort of brake on it. To release this lever in the event of a fire it says that you have to “kick the black knob”.

And to “boff” is most certainly to fart.

  bobfischer wrote @

I’m glad you think so! It clearly goes back generations as well, because I remember – when I was eight – my Dad building, in his own words, a ‘Boffing Machine’ for me… basically a little semi-circle of wire with an elastic band stretched tautly between the two ends, running through a small piece of cardboard. You wound the elastic band up to maxium tension, and sat on the whole contraption atop a suitably hard surface (the front room coffee table worked wonders)

When you sat up, the laggy band would spin round, rapping the cardboard against the hard surface and making the sound of a reasonably convincing-sounding eggy whiffer.

You had to make your own entertainment in 1981. The year of Botham’s Ashes, the Royal Wedding, Ghost Town, the Brixton riots and the patended Fischer Family Boffing Machine.

  Paisley wrote @

My entire education took place in catholic schools but I have never heard of Sexagesima Sunday. I’m going to complain to the Pope.

  bobfischer wrote @

Sometimes I despair at the quality of education in this country. I’ll come round on Quinquagesima Sunday and explain it all to you properly.

  Chris Byers wrote @

The only religious bit of my education I can remember is an end of term RE lesson filling in a crossword puzzle created by Stephen Mason of all people, It wasn’t very religious but it was an education.

  bobfischer wrote @

Surely all those early morning assembly hymns count as religious education? Where else would you learn that Jesus was the ‘lord of the dance settee’?

Mind you, I can only imagine what treasures Stephen Mason put into his end-of-term crossword! Would this have been at the height of his Salem’s Lot fixation? Nothing very spiritual about that, although it does have David Soul in it.

(David SOUL, see? Oh, the old magic is still there)

  Chris Byers wrote @

Regarding the crossword, If you have ever seen that classic episode of Steptoe and Son “Men of Letters” you’ll get the idea.

As for mourning assembly, I am still trying to block that one out.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ha! Yes, I know that bit of Steptoe well, and I can imagine! I think if you search in dark corners of the internet, you can find a screengrab of the Steptoe and Son scrabble board. It definitely has ‘Vibrators’ on there.

Remember Mr Wilkinson, RE teacher at Conyers? Great, passionate teacher with the broadest South Shields accent imaginable. I’ll never forget the way he said ‘Jesus spoke to the Pharisees’ but it’s impossible to transcribe.

  Chris Byers wrote @

Yes, I do remember Mr Wilkinson, but sadly never had him as a teacher. Wasn’t he the one who always got the job of putting up the stage lighting for the school productions? Wobbling away at the top of that long ladder, where was health and safety?

  bobfischer wrote @

Yes, that was him! A nice bloke and a very inspiring teacher. I’d forgotten about his daredevil ladder exploits, he was the John Noakes of the Conyers RE department (Mrs Mainwaring-Taylor was Peter Purves).

He also, in our later years at Conyers, took to cycling to school wearing the most staggeringly tight lycra outfit imaginable. He needed to watch himself… “I will punish all such as are clothed with strange apparel.” — Zephaniah 1:8

  Mark Hirst wrote @

I could write a book on this marvellous primary school pastime. In my lofty position as HT, I’ve heard them all………..well almost, there are always regional variations.

From my hazy recollections, Slack and Mason were true masters!

“Our farter,who farts in heaven…” etc

Once `reprimanded` a child for circulating the rumour that a `boffin` was a deft exponent of the farting arts!

Such things are always hard to deal with, as that `little boy` inside us all, resurrects himself at every available opportunity.

Mrs Mulhearn’s eyes would be rolling off into the distance.

  Mark Hirst wrote @

……and I’m ashamed to admit, that way back then, Mr M, one of my teaching heroes, would often compete with me to get as many double entendres into lessons, (or assembly) as possible……

all of which were way above the childrens’ heads of course. (Mind you, Mason would often be on the floor laughing and holding his ample girth)

On several occasions Mrs Mulhearn’s eyes would not just roll, …..they would be positively bulging!

`bulging`……phnaar! phnaar!

  bobfischer wrote @

I think we need some prime examples of said double entendres, Mr H!

Mind you, things arguably got worse at secondary school. I have fond memories of one (nameless) Conyers teacher entirely innocently warning his class of GCSE students that if ‘results don’t improve before the end of the year, I’ll come on you all from a great height’. Cue mayhem…

And I’m holding you personally responsible for this, but – brace yourself – I actually had a dream about Stephen Mason last night. He turned up at my front door dressed as Oliver Hardy. I’m still shaking.

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