Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 3

Tuesday 3rd January 1984

Woke at 9.05 and got up at 10.00. At 10.02 It began to snow and within five minutes there was a blizzard and it was laying. 10.30 The snow stopped and I watched The ghost train. At 12.00 I rung Gareth to see if he could come tomorrow but his mam and dad were out so he said he would ring later.

At about 12.05 We had our dinner and then at 1.05 We went into Yarm and went in the library but there was no books I wanted in there so since most of the shops were closed we came home. By now the snow had melted so I stayed inside for the rest of the day. At 1.30 I read Starship Traveller and City of thieves, and then at 2.30 Gareth rang to say he could come tommorrow and that he was going to bring all his videopac games.

From 2.35 till 4.00 I read City of thieves then at 4.00 I played on Videopac and at 4.30 we had Tea and watched Grange Hill at 5.10. At 6.40 I played on Videopac and turned it off at 7.00. 7.35 Had a scrap with Poggy doggy 9.00 Watched a kick up the eighties 9.30 Went to bed.

The morning snowstorm is something I remember really vividly, although oddly I thought it happened a couple of years after this. I’m intrigued to see that I timed it at exactly 10.02am! Ah, the seeds of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder being planted nice and early. It was a fantastically dark and intense storm though, the ideal accompaniment to watching The Ghost Train – a film I’d never seen before this day, but it instantly became one of my favourites.

For those poor, deprived souls that are unaware of The Ghost Train, it’s a brilliantly creepy potboiler written by Arnold ‘Godfrey from Dad’s Army’ Ridley and starring Arthur Askey and Richard ‘Stinker’ Murdoch, the Lucas and Walliams of the 1930s. When a party of travellers are stranded overnight at an isolated Cornish railway station, they become increasingly terrified of the prospect of the line’s legendary phantom steam locomotive, thundering through the station under cover of darkness and dooming all who glimpse it to death… (insert dramatic stab of music here)

Here’s a little snippet, seemingly filmed from someone’s telly using a video camera…

Good to see a little namecheck for Gareth ‘Gaz’ Jones in my diary – the only other Philips Videopac G7000 owner in the world, remember (see my diary entry from 1st January). He’s still a good mate of mine now. We should get together sometime and have a bash at Quest For The Rings, a game presumably rushed onto the market while JRR Tolkien’s estate were cutting their toenails and looking the other way…


You’ll notice that Poggles the dog has now become the slight toe-curlingly cutesy-wutesy ‘Poggy Doggy’ so for all my bluff, dragon-killing fantasy fandom, I was still keen to live in a world of fluffy wuffness, pink moonbeams and dingly dells. Even if it did have the occasional Orc peering out from behind a fairy La-La tree.

A Kick Up The Eighties was a vaguely alternative BBC1 sketch show, bizarrely mixing up Rik Mayall and Robbie Coltrane with the occasional comedy vignette from Richard Stilgoe. Strangely, my fortysomething Dad loved the alternative comedy scene at the time, and while lots of my contemporaries were downright forbidden from watching dangerously subversive stuff like The Young Ones, we chuckled along to it together. Occasionally covering up Poggy Doggy’s ears to protect the innocent.

Here’s bit of Rik as ace investigative reporter Kevin Turvey (which my Mum’s friend Vanessa, who worked in my school kitchen, insisted was actually his real name…)



  Columbina wrote @

Despite me being 17 at this point in your life, I to was reading the Fighting Fantasy series (was I the only teenage girl to be doing so? Saddo!).

I was tiring of them by this point, though. I thought Starship Traveller was bland and when I got through the one with the crabs in one hit, I finally gave up.

On a recent trip to London, I happened to drop into Forbidden Planet when the authors were in doign a signing and couldn’t resist picking up a new one, for old times’ sakes.

  bobfischer wrote @

Starship Traveller was the one that always defeated me, too. In theory it should have been perfect as I liked fantasy roleplay and I liked science fiction, but there was just something about it that didn’t click with me.

And crabs? Crabs?!?!? I can’t remember that one, but I want to play it now. Did you really do it in one go? I bet you didn’t, I bet you always kept your finger stuck on your previous paragraph and went back to it if you died…

The oldest trick in the (game)book… 😉

  Gareth Johnstone wrote @

Was it “Island Of The Lizard King”? I remember a giant crab in that one. (The day I decided to get rid of my Fighting Fantasy books is one I’ve regretted…) “Starship Traveller” was a bit pants though – “City of Thieves” and “Deathtrap Dungeon” were great.

PS – Oh for the days when shops were still shut on the 3rd of January! That’ll never happen again!

  bobfischer wrote @

Well done! There is indeed a giant crab in Island Of The Lizard King, it’s paragraph 211, opposite a full-page picture of it! It picks up your mate Mungo, and if you want to fight it it has Skill 10 and Stamina 11. Come on, let’s knack it!

I meant to mention the shops being shut, yeah! Amazing. The world was definitely much less corporate in those days – shops were much more family-run, and they wanted time off over Christmas and New Year as much as anybody. Pubs were shut during the day. The only thing open on Sundays were garden centres. I rather liked it all.

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