Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 18

Wednesday 18th January 1984

8.00 Woke up and got up at 8.15. The first thing I did at school was go in for topic and we had to do a mad bit of work on ‘to and too’. When I had done that I did some more of the flow chart for mine and Ozzie’s book. Then I read some of the Dark crystal.

At 12.00 I had dinner and in the afternoon everybody had to go into the hall to see who wanted to be in the school production. Me and Doug and a few others went out but then the teachers started taking people back in so me and Doug hid in the end room. At 2.30 we did maths and then at 3.15 we went home.

Straight after school I went down to Dougs and at 4.30 Doug came here and went home at 5.00. 5.00 Had tea and after tea I wrote the book. Later I played on the videopac and at 9.00 I watched Minder and at 10.00 I went to bed.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh! Two words that still strike fear into my heart 25 years on.


In 1984, the plan was to dress the majority of the snotty-nosed fourth years in tea towels and bedsheets for Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The fact that Doug and I expertly ‘hid in the end room’ to avoid being selected for this ritual humiliation might lead you to suspect that I had a bit of ‘previous’ in the theatrical avoidance department. And you’d be right.

Two years earlier, we’d done ‘Oliver!’ (with Philip Laverick putting in a sensational performance as Fagin) and I’d been herded with a cattle prod into the motley school choir, to sing along with ‘Gorra pick a pocket or two’ (warbled, of course, in a squeaky Teesside accent). With a fortnight to go, I was having so many nightmares about the show that my Mum, bless her, discreetly asked Mr Millward if I might be excused from the performance. Which, to my utter utter relief, I was.

For almost two years, I then successfully ‘hid in the end room’ every time a similar production came around. Until, encouraged by my new best mate Doug, I made a glorious return to the stage for our Christmas 1983 production. Dressed, splendidly, like this…

…yes, I’m Good King Wenceslas. I don’t think I had any dialogue, my performance required nothing more than a bit of sensational ‘looking out’ acting. An action that Darren Gray described as looking ‘like a gay sailor’s hornpipe’. 

Doug, meanwhile, got to wear a frilly ruff and a hat made out of crepe (snigger) paper in his role as Black Peter, the Dutch little helper to the original St Nicholas. A laudable stab at spreading a bit of cross-cultural awareness you might think… until you discover that in order to play the part, poor Doug was required to black up using shoe polish and burnt cork.

It was 1984, they did things differently back then.

Incidentally my Gran, on seeing the picture above, remarked cryptically that ‘only you could get away with it’. I’m still not sure if that was meant as a compliment or not.

And ‘The Dark Crystal’! Yep, the book I’d borrowed from Stockton Library the night before. It was the novelisation of the brilliant Jim Henson film from 1982 – basically Lord Of The Rings acted out with Muppets, set on a planet with three suns ruled by the evil Skeksis (nasty, crocodile-like grotties) and centred around the quest of the intrepid Gelfling Jen to find, erm, a bit of the crystal that would bring niceness back to everything. I think.


Wikipedia says that ‘the movie makes an attempt to study the nature of good and evil in terms of conscience, vital drive, and the triune nature of harmony’ but all I can remember is a really cool dog-like thing called Fizzgig that inevitably resulted in our Ricky being briefly called the same before he metamorphosed into Poggy Doggy.

Speaking of which, I’ve found some pictures of Ricky. Here’s Poggy Doggy himself, striking a nonchalant pose on our drive…


Not sure if this is the ‘vital drive’ from The Dark Crystal, although that’s definitely the case for my Dad’s camera that he’s watching over. I’d like to find that camera again actually – mainly because it was really nice, but also because I think if I smelt that leather case again it would instantly transport me back to 1984. And that’s a nice place to be, so long as you turn a blind eye to the blacking up and concentrate more on the triune nature of harmony.


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