Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 26

Thursday 26th January 1984

Woke up and got up at 8.00 The first thing I did at school  was write all the names on some paintings and then at 10.10 We went swimming. For about 5 minutes we could do what we wanted and then everybody had to do ten lengths. Then we had to float a few Widths. Then we had to try a length. Gazzie was the only one to do it.

When we came back I drew the outline for my painting and at 12.00 I had dinner. In the afternoon I painted some of my picture and did some language. 3.15 Came home and played on the videopac until 4.45, When I had tea.

After tea I played on the videopac and then at 6.40 I watched Doctor Who. After that I played on the videopac until 7.30. Then I watched Carry on laughing and at 8.00 I watched The Steam video company. 9.30 Went to bed.

I stil remember to this day Gareth ‘Gaz’ Jones floating lifelessly along an entire length of Egglescliffe Comprehensive swimming pool while lesser boys peeled away panting for breath and desperately clutching for the funny chrome railing thing at the sides. And the reason I remember it so vividly was that (are you reading this, Jonesy?) I THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD.

Two days earlier, on Tuesday 24th January, I’d watched Grange Hill (5.05pm, you can check if you like) and gasped in horror as Jonah’s cousin Jeremy Irvine nicked Fay Lucas’ bangle, threw it in the pool, then dived in to retrieve it. As he did so, Zammo followed and tried to remove Jeremy’s trunks, only to find that poor Jeremy had DIED. At the bottom of the school swimming pool. And no amount of vigorous beard-rubbing from Bullet Baxter was ever going to bring him back.

And here it is, and I still think this is pretty shocking stuff (not sure about the Queen soundtrack mind you, but beggars can’t be choosers…)

I’m not exaggerating when I say this episode caused a SENSATION at Levendale Primary School, and I can’t have been the only boy in the pool whose heart skipped a beat when Jonesy drifted motionlessly towards the far side of the water. And then (after a brief and clearly deliberate pause) clambered up out of the pool with a cheeky, mischievous grin on his face.

It’s amazing how potent and universal the influence of television was back in 1984. With only four TV channels available anywhere, there wasn’t a single kid in the country who wasn’t aware of Jeremy’s shocking fate. Let’s face it, most of us were even entranced by the fluffy Australian soap opera that united the nation just after getting-home-from-school time.

Neighbours? Pffffft. No chance. That was still two years away. I’m talking about this…

Yes, Sons and Daughters. I’ve got a feeling that Tyne Tees showed either this or ‘The Young Doctors’ at around 3.35pm every weekday afternoon, meaning that I was normally walking through the door just as the theme tune kicked in. Just hearing that song again instantly brings back mind-buggering memories of swinging my Puma sports bag (full of stinky wet swimming gear) onto the dining room table and hanging my furry-hooded blue Parka up in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, I think ‘The Steam Video Company’ was an ITV spoof of low-budget horror films, filled with amazing double entendres. Bob Todd, Barry Cryer and (genuine low-budget horror star) Madeleine Smith were all in it. All traces seem to have vanished completely, but I’d love to see it again.

Wonder if Fay Lucas ever got her bangle back?


  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The acerbic Sister Scott was my childhood heroine! Cornelia Frances who played her is the host of The Weakest Link in Australia.
I used to hope that when I grew up I would be exactly like Dr. Tony Garcia (though with less of a heavy accent) and date my own Tania. Together we’d have eaten every meal of every day at Bunny’s just as they did.
It did not work out quite that way but I mustn’t grumble. Gwen Plumb’s Ada is a more than a match for the indecisive Tania any day, and at least I got to call myself ‘doctor’ and carry a clipboard sometimes. Just that was worth any amount of time spent in tight fawn slacks.

I expect it’s the same for everyone.

  bobfischer wrote @

Sister Scott rocked, but I always wanted to be more like Wayne Hamilton. Dishy heartthrob bastard.

Tell me more about these ‘tight fawn slacks’.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

They were slacks which were fawn coloured and extremely tight. Along with a more wombat-coloured pair, they were the standard issue to all of the male characters aged 20- 35 in all Australian drama of the 1970s and 80s. Perhaps there was only one pair and actors were auditioned by waist/inside leg measurement? This must be why Harold Hopkins did so little television work that did not require period dress: he was a fine actor but his waist was not the standard size.
Wayne Hamilton certainly wore the fawn/wombat budgie-smugglers whenever a scene called for clothes, as did several male Doctors/Psychiatrists/Detectives in Prisoner.
I suspect the last person to wear them was ‘Nugget’ from Neighbours just before the dawn of the Nineties.
After this they were cut up to make puppets.

  bobfischer wrote @

Impressive. It’s a rare breed of man that can pull off a wombat tone.

You are, of course, absolutely right, and I even remember the more mature Shane Porteous striding manfully through the Wandin Valley in his fawn slacks during early episodes of A Country Practice.

Which I notice is now available on DVD in series box sets! Worth an investment, Dr Parcel?

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

A Country Practice is one Australian drama I have never seen more than a handful of times so I find myself unable to recommend either way. It is very highly thought of by others, however, including at least one fellow Doctor.
If you are contemplating buying it purely for the fashion tips on offer I’m afraid I’d probably counsel against.
Cotton canvas shorts of such brevity would lack the same appeal in the face of the Teesside chill.

  bobfischer wrote @

Good point. The last thing I want is an icy Teesside wind blowing up my own Wandin Valley.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I always watched Sons and Daughters too (well my mum did, I just happened to fall into viewing it). Can’t remember anything about it though.

  bobfischer wrote @

The only actual plot line I can remember is when Nasty Wayne Hamilton pretended to be disabled after an accident, and ended up being pushed around in a wheelchair for weeks, then jumping out of it and striding around normally when nobody was looking.

Pretty much the 1980s prototype for Lou and Andy from Little Britain.

  Geoff wrote @

Poor Jeremy my arse, he was an obnoxious little git. All the naughtiness of Jonah but none of the charm! Thank God they didn’t have “Special Measures” then.Grange Hill wouldn’t have survived its first autumn term.

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