Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 17

Tuesday 17th January 1984

Woke up at 7.40 and got up at 8.00. Got to school at 8.45 and got inside at 9.00. First we all went into hymn practice and when we came out me and Gareth, and Ozzie and Doug did a maths sheet. We finished about 11.30 and then me and Ozzie decided to write a fighting fantasy book. We started to write a flowchart.

At 12.00 We had dinner and then after dinner I wrote a newspaper report about ‘the hurricane in Jamaica’. When I had done that me and Ozzie did some more of the flowchart in the library. At 3.00 Mam came for me because she was going to an interview in Stockton. While she was there me and Dad went to Halfords and Smiths.

We went back for mam and waited Yonkers and when she came I got the Dark Crystal from the library. 5.45 Had tea 6.00 Drew pictures for book then played on G7000. 7.40 Watched no place like home. 9.00 Watched a kick up the eighties 9.30 Went to bed.

A historic day that marks the beginning of my first-ever completed book! 🙂

Written jointly with the lovely Ozzie, of course. Ozzie was (and still is) Ian Oswald, a curly-haired child genius from the nearby village of Maltby. He’d arrived at our school a matter of months earlier, seemingly surgically attached to a BBC Micro Computer, and his offbeat sense of humour and slavish devotion to Fighting Fantasy books had seen him quickly fall in with mine, Doug and Gareth’s odd little mob. Here he is, pictured a little later in 1984…


So yes, one fateful January morning with snow on the ground and the strains of ‘Water Of Life’ still ringing in our ears, we decided to write our own Fighting Fantasy book. The title we gave it wasn’t decided for another two days so it’s worth sticking around until the 19th January, as it still makes me giggle like an annoying, hairy drain to this very day.

No idea which job my Mum was being interviewed for, but I’ve a vague idea it was at Stockton Council offices, which put us within easy striking distance of Halford’s and WH Smiths. My Mum didn’t drive at this point, so my Dad will have taken us all to Stockton in his vintage Reliant Scimitar, a goliath of a 1970s fibre glass classic that looked… well, like this…


…I’m wearing rubber gloves because I’d just found a huge mushroom growing at the foot of one of our trees, and convinced myself that it was DEADLY POISONOUS and could only be handled by an expert fungus-wrangler wearing SPECIAL PROTECTIVE CLOTHING (ie Marigolds. From under the kitchen sink)

So, the job interview… I remember sitting at the bottom of a VERY Seventies-looking flight of stairs in the council offices with my Dad, and telling him about mine and Ozzie’s Fighting Fantasy project, and him seeming really rather proud and intrigued. I’d always wanted to write for a living from a very early age, and it felt really exciting to have a collaborator. Especially one who had both a BBC Micro and a ZX Spectrum 48K round his house.  

Probably worth a mention at this point about my parents’ job situations in the early-mid 1980s. Although we lived in a biggish house, it was one that my parents had bought for a pittance in 1976 and renovated from a virtually derelict state. My Dad, see, was a builder by trade, which meant two things…

1. There was no guarantee that, when I came home from school, our house would contain exactly the same number of rooms that it had when I’d left that morning.

2. In recession-hit ‘Fatcher’s Britain, he was frequently without any income whatsoever.

My family had next to no money at all when I was growing up. My Mum gave up full-time work when I was born, and – although at this stage she’d been working as a part-time dinner lady at Levendale Primary School for a year or two – she couldn’t get back into full-time employment until 1987.  

My Dad, meanwhile, supplemented the collapsing building trade (that is the trade was collapsing, the buildings themselves were actually pretty sturdy) with jobs doing anything from grass-verge-cutting around our local estates to training surly Yoofs to lay bricks on the bleak YOP (Youth Opportunities) scheme. Every morning, he would assemble a gang of grimy teenage skinheads and housebreakers on a building site in Thornaby and attempt to teach them the rudiments of construction work when they’d really rather be working on their gobbing techniques and plotting minor outbreaks of football hooliganism. I’ve never seen him so depressed.

In fact here he is on returning home from work one day in early 1984…


Anyroad… ‘No Place Like Home’… Very much the ‘My Family’ of its day. Utterly inoffensive but completely charming sitcom starring the mighty William Gaunt as the exasperated middle-aged Dad unable to shift his twentysomething sons (including a fresh-faced Martin Clunes) from the family home. Amazingly I can’t find a Youtube clip at all, but this was the final episode of Series One, and you can watch the intro here…




  Gareth Johnstone wrote @

“No Place Like Home” – loved that! The everyday life of the Crabtrees! With Vera the very annoying neighbour! Oh the memories!

  bobfischer wrote @

It was good, wasn’t it? The main thing I remember is Arthur Crabtree constantly disappearing into the garden shed for a crafty sherry with his neighbour Trevor. Who was played by Michael Sharvell-Martin, a veteran of Dave Allen’s sketches.

What have I done with my life? 😉

I notice the first two series are available on DVD – might have to invest at some point!

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The best sitcom neighbours are always called Trevor. Especially if they are men.
Trevor’s wife was always my favourite character in this, with her ungainly body-warmer and her passion for animals. I have a feeling certain actors and/or characters were replaced in later series which eroded some of my enjoyment of it. I’m surprised to hear that any of it has been released on DVD as it always seems to be one of those popular sitcoms that have been airbrushed from the public consciousness.

  bobfischer wrote @

I have lots of favourite Trevors. There’s Trevor Bolder from The Spiders From Mars, cult 80s Boro striker Trevor Senior, Trevor Bannister from Are You Being Served, and the mighy Trevor Wilkinson… the man behind top 70s sports car makers TVR (hence the name!)

And my Uncle Trevor of course, the real hero of Wiffle Lever To Full…

  Elina wrote @


I created an Are You Being Served?/Grace & Favour site at:


It has tons of stuff for the AYBS fan! 🙂

Just letting you know in case you would be interested. Have a new RPG (Role Playing Game) there as well and looking for new players!

Also started up an AYBS Central Fan Club. If interested, please sign up near the bottom of the home page.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: