Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 14

Saturday 14th January 1984

Woke up at 8.30 and got up at 9.00. At 9.10 We went out for the bus and got the 9.20 bus to Middlesbrough. First we went to Littlewoods and after that we went into Tescos. Then we went to Smiths and I got my Dr Who comic. I also looked downstairs to see if they had the Doctor Who book ‘Mawdryn Undead’ but they didn’t.

I had a hamburger from Breadwinner and we went to my gran’s house later. I had a bacon sandwich and then I drew a castle. Then me and mam took Tina (Poggy doggy’s poggled mutt of a sister) down devil’s bridge and nearly got blown off our feet by the wind. When we came back it started to snow and I drew a picture of a dungeon.

Later I went out and played with that Poggled pooch of  a mutt, Tina. Came in and had tea and then we went home. 5.55 Watched Little and Large. 6.30 Watched Child’s play 7.00 Watched 3.2.1, 8.00 Watched the two ronnies. The best bit was the bogle of  bog fell. 9.45 Went to bed.

Right, let’s get the Doctor Who stuff out of the way first. The ‘Dr Who comic’ I bought was Doctor Who Magazine No 85, which looked like this…


The free poster (shown in the bottom left-hand corner) was a brilliant painting by Doctor Who stalwart Andrew Skilleter. It showed The Master kidnapping the Fifth Doctor’s celery, and backing off with the TCE (Tissue Compression Eliminator) in his other hand. It was blu-tacked to my bedroom wall by the end of the day and stayed there for at least the next two years until I decided, aged 13, that I wanted my Star Wars wallpaper and Doctor Who posters stripping off and replacing with an achingly bright red and white striped number that gave my mother migraines. I never thought I’d see her yearn for the gentle fawns and yellows of the Skywalker family farmstead.

It’s amazing how much the landscape of Britain’s town centres has changed over the last 25 years. Of all the retail outlets that I mention, only WH Smiths still remains. This was my favourite shop in the whole wide world, with enough books in there to fire my imagination to the edges of the known universe  and blot out the humdrum forever. They were kept downstairs, down a winding staircase that brought you straight to the Children’s Fiction section, and – as I descended it virtually every Saturday – the sense of anticipation would mount in my stomach with every downward step.

What if there was a new Doctor Who book out? In these innocent days before home video, Target Books provided the only way I could ever envisage of reliving my favourite TV adventures, and I would scan the glistening, multi-coloured spines on the grey, plastic shelves with a greedy, hungry eye.


Sadly this day I was denied, but there was always next week…

Littlewoods was huge, a slab-like chunk of the 1970s-built Cleveland Centre shopping arcade, filled with clothes for my Mum and Gran and pots and pans and other sundries. Grown-up stuff, with little to interest me. The whole national chain has been gone for a couple of years now, and I can’t even remember what took its place in Middlesbrough town centre. The 1984 Tesco is a complete mystery to me, as I can’t actually recall where that was – amazingly, in an age where even the sun-baked plains of the Serengeti have a 24-Hour Tesco Express, there isn’t a proper branch in the town centre in 2009. Anyone any ideas where the Eighties version was, and what happened to it?

Anyway, here’s the Cleveland Centre in its prime. I might be on the back of this bus somewhere, with my nose stuck in the middle of the Gallifrey Guardian…

And Breadwinner, incredibly, was (I think) the only takeaway burger outlet in town. McDonalds was something we’d seen fleetingly in American blockbusters, but never in the flesh. There might have been a small Wimpy Bar further out into town, where tattooed Teesside men served up hamburgers on china plates with knives and forks, but Breadwinner was a bona fide takeaway, a very British burger bar where the Westler’s Quarter Pounder (a thin, pink frisbee of meat that I’d only ever previously seen in cinema foyers) was served in tough, rain-resistant buns dotted with sesame seeds.

They were gorgeous, but I’d never seen sesame seeds before Breadwinner, and I was deeply suspicious of the prospect. All the bread products in our house in 1984 were blindingly white, and didn’t look like they’d been anywhere near anything as organic as an actual SEED. So these things were like thousands of unblinking bread bun eyes boring into my very soul. I asked myself would The Master would do, and vanquished them into my guts. 

It’s strange how so many ancient memories can still be evoked by the taste of food. Occasionally now, on chilly winter evenings, I like to curl up in front of a DVD with a huge, steaming bowl of sugar-drenched porridge, thick and solid enough to fill the cracks on the landing ceiling and still have enough left to weatherproof the garden shed roof.

And, every time I do, the taste instantly takes me back to Saturday 14th January 1984. Yep, this very night… because I can tell you without the slightest doubt that I watched this particular episode of The Two Ronnies while draped across the armchair nearest to the TV tucking into a similar bowl of deliriously delicious porridgey glop.

I know that because I almost choked on it while watching The Bogle Of Bog Fell, an utterly brilliant piss-take of an old Robbie Burns-style fable, with Ronnie Corbett deathly white as the mischievous ‘Bogle’ (that’s a ‘ghost’ to us wee Sassenachs) wreakin’ havoc aroond a wee Hee-land toon. Erm, small Highland Town. I managed to record a DVD copy of it from an ITV3 repeat of The Two Ronnies about two years ago, and it still made me giggle like a big soppy girl.

And yes, I watched it with a steaming bowl of porridge in front of me. How could I not? Can’t find a clip or even a picture anywhere, but here’s a bit of Little And Large, just to make up for it…



  Mister Roy wrote @

Just to be clear – Tina was an actual dog, right? On first reading I thought I was plugged into some good old fashioned sexism.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah yes! Four legs, wet nose, hair everywhere and given to inappropriate behaviour in front of polite company… definitely a dog. Our dog Jenny (or ‘Bags’ as my six-year-old self inexplicably called her) gave birth to a litter of pups in our front room in 1979 – one of whom was Ricky, or ‘Poggy Doggy’ – we’ve met him already – and another of whom was Tina, his slightly snarly, snappy sister who went to live with my Gran. Although by 1984 Jenny had gone to Woof Heaven, so we just had Ricky and Tina left in the family. They were rough collies, in fact extremely rough collies, and I’ll dig some photos out sometime in the next few days.

There probably is some good old fashioned sexism still to come in these diaries, but that wasn’t it. 😉

  PJEUK wrote @

Re: Tesco in the Cleveland Centre. It was where the HMV shop now is. In between Tesco and HMV it was an Iceland. Think there may have been a Geordie Jeans nearby too.

  bobfischer wrote @

Fabulous! Yes, you’re dead right. Great stuff, and well remembered.

I’m pretty sure the Geordie Jeans shop was next door to Iceland, from the late 1980s to mid 1990s. I used to pay £50 for Levi 501s in there circa 1989, much to my mother’s disgust. ‘But British Home Stores sell jeans for £10!!!!’

Oddly, I think when the HMV moved from their little town centre shop into the empty Iceland unit, Geordie Jeans then moved from their big unit into the old HMV spot. And then the vacated Geordie Jeans shop (next to the new HMV) became, oddly, some kind of American-themed drugstore? It sold American cream soda, and it was bloody gorgeous. This would have been about 1995.

  PJEUK wrote @

I remember that the original Boro Geordie Jeans shop was in the old Dundas Arcade near to the original Bill Gates Sports Shop and the Chelsea cafe.

I recall getting a pair of jeans from there with white coloured piping down the leg seam – they were acknowlegded as “the thing” about 1982.

Amazing the things you remember about the town. There was a cheap little chippy out the back of C&A which was a Saturday treat when out shopping with my folks.

Now in my mid-30s and living in Surrey this reminiscing is a fantastic alternative to work and mildly theraputic.

  bobfischer wrote @

I met Trevor Francis in Bill Gates shop in the Dundas Arcade, sometime in 1981. Still got the signed picture!

Can’t remember the C&A chippy at all, but we used to get chips from Angie’s Fish and Chips which was on the little road (Gilkes Street?) that runs from the bus station to the Cleveland Centre. Possibly right next to the Middlesbrough Music Store on the corner.

As well as midget pork pies and the occasional scotch egg from Newbould’s, of course. Yum. You wouldn’t think I was a card-carrying vegetarian, would you? 🙂

Pleased to offer a bit of therapy anyway! Thanks for joining in with all this nonsense.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

It’s not often I’m glad to be in my *cough* mid 30’s, but reading these pages makes me glad to have been born in the 70’s, when going into WHSmith’s and being excited by the books was possible. I can’t see it happening for many children these days!

I wonder if they’ll be reminiscing, in later years, about ‘only’ having, pc’s, laptops, dvd’s, tv’s, ipods, millions of games consoles, blue ray, hd etc etc!

  bobfischer wrote @

Probably! Although most of the Middlesbrough WH Smiths had been turned into a post office the last time I visited… 😦

  Paul Austin wrote @

Anyone remeber what used to be on the site of the cleveland centre Geordie Jeans? The display for cars and also for the christmas display, if i remember correctly. Also that american style diner coffee bar area with the tall bar stools and noisy coffee machine. Have searched the internet high and low and never found a pic of this area yet!

  bobfischer wrote @

I think the cars and Christmas displays might have been in the central bit of the arcade, where the glass lift was… and the suspended replica of Captain Cook’s ship hanging from the ceiling.

I remember all of that opening in about 1983, and it was amazingly exciting – especially the lift! There was also a nice little plaza with a few seats to eat a Newbould’s pie or an ice cream. I think all of it vanished in about 2003, and was just replaced by more shop units.

  bobfischer wrote @

And Paul… I love the fact that there are people online at 4am looking for old pictures of the Cleveland Centre. 🙂

  Paul wrote @

Hi Bob you are right about the central bit for the Christmas displays, but before that they were in the place I mentioned.

I live in New Zealand now, so it was actually about 5pm when I was doing my search!

Cheers from down under


  bobfischer wrote @

Ah, fair enough! I should remember that really. I’m a bit disappointed you’re in New Zealand, I was proud to be cultivating an audience of 1980s Teesside-obsessed insomniacs! 🙂

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