Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Archive for September, 2008

Whine and Cheese

I’m off on holiday for a week from tomorrow morning, so see you then. My parents were so ashamed of my Doctor Who merchandise collection that they moved to France in 2005, but I’m not to be deterred that easily and we’re heading to the Loire Valley to pester them. Sorcha has spent the whole day ironing our passports and I’ve just had to hurriedly check that my shirts are still in date. Something like that, anyway.

We’re driving because I don’t do aeroplanes and we like to take the dog. So anyone who’s read ‘Wiffle Lever’ will know exactly what kind of journey I’m in for. We’ll spend twelve hours screaming and throwing screwed-up packets of Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch at each other.

Back in a week’s time, once we’ve had our fill of red wine and Camembert. Somebody record ‘Merlin’ for me, my DVD recorder is playing up.

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Farewell to Acklam Shops…

I had a sad moment last night, and one that came about by sheer providence. I was driving away from BBC Tees at 10.30pm, and as I did so there was broken-down car blocking my usual lane home. So I took an alternate route back, and ended up driving through Acklam. For those of you unfortunate enough not to have an intimate knowledge of Middlesbrough’s outskirts (where have you BEEN?), Acklam is a leafy little suburb with a nice duckpond and a row of pretty shops.

That’s how I remembered it anyway – yes, if you’ve read Wiffle Lever To Full then you might recognise Acklam as the area where my Gran lived, in the little bungalow that I visited every weekend. She lived on Rievaulx Drive, and the shops and the Endeavour pub are just around the corner. I haven’t been round there for a lot of years, so I decided last night to park up outside my Gran’s old house and have a quick wander round the block.

And the shops are gone! All of them. They were once a little hub of activity, where the kids rode up and down on their Raleigh Choppers and the grown-ups eyed up naughty cream cakes in the window of Shipman’s Bakery. There was Mr Murray’s Newsagents (mentioned on Page 4 of Wiffle Lever!) where I had Doctor Who Weekly and Star Wars Weekly reserved for me – erm – weekly, and Hinton’s Supermarket, which always smelt of cats for some reason. And a butchers and a grocers, both of whose names escape me. Well come on, what do you think I am, some sort of compulsive retentive saddo?

But last night every single shop front was boarded up and disused, which made me feel far sadder than I was expecting.  30 years ago, when I was five, it was hard to imagine a day when the good people of Acklam would ever turn their backs on cream cakes. I leaned against a lamp-post (the same one that Lisa Wheeldon and I used to play ‘The Lion The Watch And The Wardrobe’ underneath) and indulged in a little melancholic reflection.

If I’d closed my eyes, I’d probably have been able to picture my Gran pottering out of the butchers with a nice side of pork for tea, and a free bone and bag of giblets for Tina, her wild-eyed dog. But I didn’t close my eyes, because it was after 11pm by this stage, and some of the characters lurching out of the Endeavour looked a little bit tasty.

Anyway, I had a wander round the block again then drove home. Maybe the past is sometimes best left untouched, kept safely under lock and key in a warm, sepia-tinted corner of the mind. I probably should have left Acklam Shops where they’d stayed for the last 15 years at least… in my head.

And I probably should have offered a hand to the bloke whose car had broken down in the slip road of Hartington Road 45 minutes earlier, but that honestly didn’t strike me until half an hour after I’d gone to bed.

There’s Only One Thing Worse Than Being Talked About…

…and in my experience, that’s Athlete’s Foot.

Anyway, I’ve just been wading through loads of newspapers and magazines that have accumulated in the special ‘Wiffle Drawer’ of my spare room filing cabinet over the last few weeks, and I’ve found some really nice reviews of the book – so I’ve scanned a few and bunged them in a ‘Really Nice Reviews’ page (look to your right). Apologies as well for the dust and detritus that seems to have crept into my scanner! Scientists have speculated that 96% of the universe is made up of a mysterious thing called ‘dark matter’, whose nature is so enigmatic that they’re not completely sure they’ll ever really know what it is. Apart from in our house, where it consists almost entirely of dog hair.

Anyway, here’s a few nice snippets…

‘Anyone who agrees that Star Wars was a defining moment of our collective childhoods will love this book’ – The Times

‘Witty and heartwarming… will give anyone from the era of Spam Fritters and Blue Riband biscuits a Proustian rush’ **** – SFX

‘Will have you hitching aboard the Millenium Falcon to a galaxy overflowing with infinite possibilities and fat beardy blokes in furry nappies pretending they’re in Discworld’ **** – Metro

‘Guaranteed to make you yearn for days of yore… don’t be surprised to find yourself laughing at more in-jokes than you care to admit’ **** – Focus

‘Amiable and amusing… what Bob Fischer offers is a glimpse into the world of fandom cranked up, on holiday, given licence to be sillier than usual’ – The Telegraph

These are the nicest things anybody has said about my writing since 1982, when Mr Millward told me my story about being trapped under the floorboards of a smuggler’s hideout on the North Yorkshire Moors was ‘a pleasure to read’. NB North Yorkshire is not especially noted for its smuggling trade, so heaven knows where I got that from.