Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Archive for January, 2009

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 24

Tuesday 24th January 1984

7.50 Woke up and got up at 8.00. The first thing we did at school was go in for assembly and after assembly Mrs Mulhern gave us a language sheet to do. I did that all morning until 12.00 When we went in for dinner. After dinner me, Ozzie, Simpy, Nibbsy, Mason and Harry played American football on the grass in the snow.

In the afternoon I read some more of the Dark Crystal, did some maths, sorted out my file and showed Ozzie the Guardian of Goblin Grotto. Came home at 3.15 and played on the Videopac. Beat my high score of 1044 on Pac-Man by scoring 1747. After that I wrote some of the book and at 4.45 I had tea.

5.5 Watched Grange Hill 5.40 Went out and mucked about on the Tarzie and the sledge. When I came in I wrote some of the book. After that I played on the videopac and at 9.00 Watched a kick up the Eighties. 9.30 Went to bed.

American Football! Ha! Ha! Ha!

We wouldn’t have known the first thing about American Football, other than the helpful facts that a) they played it in America, and b) it was bugger all like football. As far as we knew it was more like rugby but American footballers were clearly big soft lassies, because unlike rugby players they had to put loads of padding and helmets and stuff on themselves before they minced around each other getting their stilleto heels caught in the turf.

thismanissoft1

So when I say we ‘played American Football’ I suspect what I actually mean is that we picked up the bog-standard tatty ‘casey’ football that Steven Mason had found in the alleyway round the back of the VG shop, ran about with it for a bit, and then beat seven bells out of each other while rolling around in the snow.  

I was clearly in strangely mischievious mood on this diary-writing day as well, because ‘Simpy’ is just my best mate Doug, and I don’t think I ever called him ‘Simpy’ on any other occasion than this one. I must have just baulked at the incongruity of putting the name ‘Doug’ alongside loads of surnames with the letter ‘y’ added to the end of them. It probably says something deeply disturbing about my 11-year-old psychology, although I’m not sure why I didn’t turn Steven Mason into ‘Masony’.

Harry, by the way, was Robert Harrison, a softly-spoken skinhead who (I think) occasionally swam competitively for his county. And Knibbsy was Nicholas Nibbs, a funny skinny lad a couple of years younger than us. It seems odd these days, but at school it was incredibly unusual to mingle with anyone outside your own year group, so we must have made a very special exception for Nibbsy.

It might have had something to do with the fact that he had THE most SENSATIONAL ears. As I remember, he looked a lot like Alfred E Neuman from MAD Magazine.

alfredeneuman

I’ve obviously started to enter some strange sense of denial about my Videopac G7000 as well. I’m now defiantly referring to the cheap knock-off game ‘Munchkin’ as ‘Pac-Man’ which… well, it wasn’t! Although it desperately wanted to be. But – and there’s no getting around this – Pac-Man is an ATARI GAME. And I didn’t get an Atari for Christmas, I got a PHILIPS VIDEOPAC G7000. With Munchkin. Not Pac-Man.

Get over it, Fischer.

I like the ‘mucking about with the tarzie and the sledge’ bit as well. Basically, the tarzie in our garden hung from a tree branch over a sloped bit of grass that I’d worn down to bare soil by endlessly scraping myself along it on the end of that bloody rope. I think I spent the evening kicking my sledge off running down the snowy slope, then swinging high on the tarzie and jumping off to land on the moving sledge.

Altogether now, ‘I might fall from a tall building, I might roll a brand new car…’

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 23

Monday 23rd January 1984

Woke up at 7.40 and got up at 8.00 and it was thick snow outside. The first thing I did at school was go into our topic groups and then when we came out me and Ozzie did some work on maps for topic. At 12.00 it was snowing like mad so it was an indoor playtime and everybody was drawing Chads.

After dinner we went into maths groups and we had to do some work on scale. After I had done some of that I read until we went home at 3.15. When  I came home I wrote some of the Guardian of Goblin Grotto and then when I had got sick of that I played on the videopac.

4.45 Had tea and then after tea I played on the videopac. 5.40 took Poggy Doggy for a walk and it was snowing like mad. Half way all the lights went out and on the way back I went to Doug’s and got my gloves. 9.30 Went to bed.

Snowy days at school always brought both brilliance and frustration in equal measure. Brilliance because they were such a mind-blowing departure from the humdrum… late buses, doom-laden local news reports from (the appropriately named) Paul Frost, snowball fights at the gates and then taking off your wellies in the cloakroom and putting them in a Hinton’s carrier bag for the day before slipping into your normal StartRite lace-ups.

(Of course, only scum like me wore the bog-standard black wellies. The posh kids who liked ponies and Enid Blyton wore silver, puffed-up moonboots, later adopted by the Cybermen in Doctor Who. Think I’m joking? I’m not. And yes, these are genuine props…)

moonboots 

The frustration came because our expectations for the day were entirely different to those of our teachers. So when dinnertime came around and the playground looked like the kind of white-out Antarctic wilderness that would make Roald Amundsen shake his head, suck his teeth and opt for a nice cup of cocoa in front of Pebble Mill At One, we wanted to be out there wreaking havoc with agonising scrubbers and 10-second tuck-ins.

Our teachers, meanwhile, saw only first aid bills and 999 calls and ‘thick snow’ (clearly my favourite phrase of the time) being tramped all over the open plan classrooms, and barricaded us in the building. But still… CHADS!

I presume everyone knows what a chad is. It’s one of these…

chad

…what’s probably not obvious is why on Earth this strange 1950s craze hit Levendale Primary School on a blizzard-ridden January day in 1984. I know exactly why, though. It was because the previous night’s episode of Hi-De-Hi (which I watched – go on, scroll down and have a look) featured a chad epidemic at Maplin’s holiday camp!

I wish Mr Hirst had taken a leaf out of Joe Maplin’s book and gathered us in the end room to read a semi-literate Maplinesque letter of warning from the school governer to us all.

‘Now listen up, you lot. I ain’t spent my hard-earned on building this rotten school to have a load of namby-pamby ponces from Kirklevington and Hilton drawing chads all over my perforated computer paper. Now shape up or ship out, and tell that cracking bit of stuff Mrs Wordsworth to show a bit of leg on parents night or she’s out on her ear and all’.

Sadly, he didn’t. Amazing though, the unifying effect that a simple TV sitcom had on us at such a tender age. Do kids these days go to school and act out scenes from My Family on snowy lunchtimes? As Joe Maplin (or our school governer) would no doubt say: course they bleedin’ don’t.

hidehi

And blimey, my gloves! My smelly gloves! I didn’t have them at the Sheepwash at all the previous day. I must have left them in Doug’s garage the last time I was there, on the 17th January. After five days of stinking the place out, I’m only surprised his parents hadn’t called Environmental Health by this point.

I do remember the walk down the road to get them, through ‘thick snow’ indeed, and an absolutely horizontal blizzard of what my Mum would call ‘feather dusters’. Beautiful stuff, and she was with me at the time, although I don’t mention it in my diary for some reason.  I just remember our delighted reaction when all the street lights went out on the way back.

Another lucky escape from the humdrum, and another doom-laden news report on Northern Life… (not this one, granted – but the opening credits take me right back, and it does have Paul Frost on it!)

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 22

Sunday 22nd January 1984

Woke up at 8.30 and got up at 9.00 and played on my videopac. Outside it is thick snow and when mam and dad came at 10.00 I pelted them with snowballs. Went home at 11.00 and rung Doug to see if he wanted to go sledging down the sheepwash. 

He said he was going out and would ring back at 1.00. At 12.00 We had dinner and then at 1.30 Doug still hadn’t rung so we took Poggy Doggy and the sledge up to the sheepwash. It was thick snow up on the moors and it had been drifting so after giving Poggy Doggy a scrubber we went up the top and me and dad had a snowball fight.

Then we went down and I sledged down and nearly ended up in the river. I had a few more goes and at 3.00 We came home. 5.30 Had tea and at 7.15 I watched Hi-de-hi. 9.25 Watched That’s life and at 10.15 I went to bed.

Another brilliant day that’s still filed away with huge gooey fondness at the back of my cluttered mind. I’d spent the night in my Gran’s bungalow, remember, reading The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe before slumbering down in the spare room. And I still remember my Gran’s understated greeting at 8.30am when she came to give my feeble shoulder a little shake.

She said ‘It’s been snowing quite a lot through the night if you want to have a look’.

And I can still remember the thought that instantly raced through my mind. it was…

‘WOWBRILLIANTSNOWSNOWSNOWSNOWSNOW!’

I leapt out of bed and tore back the bedroom curtains to see – well, Narnia. On a surburban street on the outskirts of Middlesbrough. A thick, pristine blanket of blinding white snow covering everything… the pavement and road and garden were all indistinguishable from each other, and gigantic wedges of the stuff were hanging from lamp-posts and telegraph poles. I wish I’d taken a photo, but in my mind it looked like this…

snowstreet

I write about this morning in ‘Wiffle Lever To Full’ because this was, truly, the weekend that my allegiances shifted slightly from a childhood love of sci-fi to a pre-teen obsession with fantasy. When I raced out of the bungalow to throw snowballs at my laughing parents, I wasn’t on the Ice Planet of Hoth any more, I was in the winter-gripped realm of Narnia. Within a few short years I’d be playing Dungeons and Dragons while drinking cider and listening to early Iron Maiden, but that’s another story. And it’s still available from amazon.co.uk for a very reasonable price… 😉

My Dad, bless him, has never lost his joy of the wild, the woolly and the wilderness, and took no persuading whatsover to drive Poggy Doggy and myself to the Sheepwash, a regular Sunday lunchtime destination for our rattling Reliant Scimitar. I still associate the Sheepwash completely with the taste of Heinz oxtail soup and the theme from Weekend World.

And today, I went back there…! Here we are ‘up the top’, where the snowball fight took place…

And this is, undoubtedly, the location of that hair-raising sledge descent into (ahem) ‘the river’. Careful, it’s white-knuckle stuff!

If any passing TV executives want to employ Allie and me to be the John Noakes and Shep for the X-Box Generation, then we’re very much available, although you’ll have to go through the dog’s agent…

I can still remember the look and – more crucially – the smell of the gloves that I wore on this day. They were chunky red and white plastic affairs from C&A in Middlesbrough, and on the inside they had a foamy, springy gauze that stank to high heaven after twenty minutes of snow-fuelled fun. A mixture of rubber, man-made fibre and excited childs’ sweat that would take me back there in an instant if I caught a whiff of it now. I find smells do that to me, much moreso than any other sense.

Now… you’ve probably seen the phrase ‘after giving Poggy Doggy a scrubber’ and wondered what manner of foul devilment this arcane, obscene practice involved.

Well, brace yourself – not content with with actually throwing snowballs at friends, family members and (forgive me) the dog, us snotty-nosed eleven-year-olds would also attempt to creep up on them from behind and enthusiastically ‘scrub’ their faces with a handful of compacted, rock-hard snow.

scrubber

It was a practice virtually endemic at Levendale Primary School until the fateful day that Timothy Lewis passed out on the receiving end of a vigorous ‘scrubber’ from Simon Werther and had to be taken away in an ambulance.

Did anyone else have ‘scrubbers’ in their childhood, or is it another purely Teesside phenomenon to be filed away with ‘tarzies’?

Here’s the intro to Weekend World (and a glimpse of the mighty Brian Walden) while we ponder on the matter. The background TV show of choice for nearly every early 80s Sunday dinnertime. That theme tune is AMAZING – anyone know what it is and where I can find it?

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 21

Saturday 21st January 1984

Woke up at 9.00 and got up at 9.30. We got the 10.00 bus to Middlesbrough, and I went into Smiths and bought the book ‘Mawdryn Undead’. Then we went to Tesco, Boots, The pet shop, Hintons and I got the lion the witch and the wardrobe. Then we went back to Smiths and got some sellotape.

At grandma’s I read Mawdryn Undead and had a bacon sandwich, then I started to read the lion the witch and the wardrobe. Then me, mam and grandma took Tina down devil’s bridge. There was a bit of snow around, and I said it would snow heavily tonight.

When we came back I had tea. After tea I played on the videopac and at 5.55 Mam and dad went home and I watched Little and large. 6.30 Watched Child’s play 7.10 Trevor came and I put the videopac on. 8.5 Watched Les Dawson and read my book at 8.45. Went to bed at 10.30 and read till 11.00. Finished the book.

Ahhhhh…. right. This was a lovely day, and one that has remained firmly lodged in my memory over the years. It’s also a day that’s described in detail in ‘Wiffle Lever To Full!’, in the Robin Of Sherwood chapter. Because this weekend was the precise moment that my youthful affections changed from sci-fi to (ahem) fantasy. But more of that tomorrow…

It’s all to do with ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, though. I think I’d seen the late 1970s animated version on TV one chilly morning during Christmas week, and been utterly entranced by it. So naturally I wanted to seek out the paperback version, and was delighted to find THIS copy…

lionwitchwardrobe

…on the shelves on Hinton’s, a uniquely North-Eastern supermarket that seemed to smell permanently of cats and baked beans. It cost me 95p of hard-earned pocket money, then it was back to the lovely, cosy enclave of my Gran’s bungalow, and despite a brief foray into Mawdryn Undead (a Doctor Who novelisation that looks like this…

mawdrynundead

…and yes, it’s STILL my favourite Doctor Who story of all time, but we’ll talk about it more another time) it was the lure of Narnia that dominated the day.

I can’t even begin to describe how happy and warm and loved I felt on days like this. My gran’s front room, Grandstand on the TV, a bacon sandwich and a good book – what more to life was there?

And, to me, the magic and the exquisite beauty of Narnia came from the landscapes and the imagery – the hills, the trees, the dancing, twirling snowflakes caught in the orange glare of an incongruous street light. So when I looked out through the front room windows and caught sight of the lengthening shadows, and the beginnings of a snowfall in the orange glare of an Acklam streetlight, it seemed like all that magic and exquisite beauty had flooded into my own, real life.

And all I remember about tramping around Devil’s Bridge – with my Mum and my Gran and the dog in tow – is  making that prediction of an overnight heavy snowfall. Devil’s Bridge was just a little stone bridge over a trickling stream on the edge of the housing estate, but that day it seemed infused with the spirit of Narnia itself. And I wanted it to snow SO badly, just to make the fantasy complete.

And… well… here you go. I went back there a couple of days ago, for the first time in almost 25 years. And I wasn’t alone…

A very, very strange but entirely welcome feeling to be back. And as we walked up to the bridge, I was instantly transported to being even younger than my 1984 self… of being four years old, and barely able to see over the stone ridges of that tiny hump-backed bridge. And playing Pooh Sticks again and again and again with my endlessly patient Mum and Gran. So, hey… for old time’s sake…

You can tell I had a fun day back in 1984, because I stayed over at my Gran’s bungalow that night… probably one of the very last times I did so. But it was lovely as ever to see my Uncle Trevor, and I remember so clearly lying in the spare room bed that night, avidly ploughing through the Pevensey childrens’ adventures, and gazing intently into the wardrobe just hoping for a glimpse of fir tree and the unearthly shine of a crunchy fresh snowfall…

Tuck me in if I fall asleep before I finish writing this. 🙂

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 20

Friday 20th January 1984

7.40 Woke up 8.00 Got up and wrote some of the book and then at 9.30 I went to school. The first thing I did at school was do yesterday’s maths and then me and Ozzie went into the library and started to do the flow chart for a new book that we were writing called ice world adventure.

12.00 had dinner and then after dinner me and Ozzie did some research on fog. After that I rigged up a motor with Doug, and me and Ozzie wrote some more of the book. At 3.15 I came home and wrote some of the guardian of goblin grotto.

When I had done that I had tea and then after tea I played on the videopac until 6.40, When I watched the last part of the Doctor Who adventure ‘The awakening’, after that at 7.00 I watched The A-Team and then at 8.00 I played on the Videopac. 10.00 Went to bed.

Typical bloody writers – we did three days work on one book, then got bored and started planning another one instead! You have to admire our ambition. If not quite our attention spans. I’m thrilled to say that, unlike The Guardian Of Goblin Grotto, the mysterious ‘Ice World Adventure’ actually exists in some small way.

Well, alright, it’s a very small way… I still have the folder we kept it in! This is it…

iceworldadventure

If you squint and look closely, you can just about make out ‘ICEWORLD ADVENTURE’ across the top, and the little bit underneath says ‘A Fighting Fantasy’ with a picture of a cartoon dagger next to it. Needless to say, nothing whatsoever remains of the actual book. Not a sausage. But – and I’m sticking my neck out here – I’m guessing it was a bit of an adventure. Set – wait for it – on a world. A world – you’ll never guess – that’s not altogether noted for its tropical temperatures.

Anyway, it was clearly so riveting that we quickly gave it up to do ‘some research on fog’. They really knew how to fire our keen, young imaginations at school, didn’t they? ‘See that thick, grey stuff out there? Go and do some research on it. But don’t bring any back in with you, you’ll set the school fog alarms off…’

fog

I vaguely remember Doug and I rigging up that motor. Rest assured, we weren’t being let loose on Mrs Keasey’s 2CV here, just tinkering with a few little electrical circuits in the end room… our teachers were very keen that we had a rudimentary grasp of how to lash up a couple of HP11 batteries to a tiny motor or a 10w bulb using a pair of crocodile clips. And we were usually so successful at this that we had plenty of time afterwards to chase Wendy Brunskill around the library with the crocodile clips making ‘Wanghwanghwangh’ noises and attempting to chew her hair bobbles with them.

crocodileclip1

I’ve also just remembered about the little diagrams we had to draw to show how our circuits worked, full of squiggly symbols and stuff. After some serious brain-racking and a teensy bit of internet searching, I’m pretty sure they looked like this…

bobscircuit

I appreciate this is undoubtedly the most boring set of illustrations I’ve presented since the day this blog began, but hey – life isn’t all Monster Munch and verrucas.

Look out for the first 1984 blog films coming tomorrow! Tell your friends… and if you don’t have any friends then tip off a few of your enemies instead.

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 19

Thursday 19th January 1984

7.40 Woke up  8.00 Got up and at school me and Ozzie coloured in some of the pictures for the guardian of goblin grotto. 10.10 Went to the baths and first everyone had a muck about, then they did everybody individually to see if they could swim a lenghth Freestyle, and Backstroke. Then they had a race over 4 widths.

12.00 Had dinner and in the afternoon I started to do maths but we had to go out for football. We won 4-2. I scored 3 (one was disallowed), pitfield scored one and Twinner scored one. 3.15 Came home and wrote some of the book.

At 4.45 I had tea and after that I wrote some more of the book. When I got sick of that I played on the videopac. 6.40 Watched Dr Who 7.00 played on videopac, 7.30 Watched Carry on laughing 8.00 Played on videopac and then at 9.30 I went to go in the bath and to go to bed.

Yes! Mine and Ozzie’s Fighting Fantasy book finally has a title! It’s powerful, enigmatic and attention-grabbing and it’s… erm…

The Guardian Of Goblin Grotto.

It’s such a shame that my normally scarily retentive memory completely lets me down though, and I can’t remember a single thing about the book. Really, I can’t… nothing whatsoever other than the title. Good to see, however, that two days into the writing process we’d given up on actual writing and just starting colouring in the pictures instead. I think Marcel Proust took a similar approach to his work.

cheeseandonionmonstermunch

And a school swimming trip, hooray! Yes, every Thursday morning a couple of dozen of us would pile into a minibus, stink out the upholstery with farts and Cheese & Onion Monster Munch, rattle our way through Yarm High Street and pile into the bijou swimming pool at Eaglescliffe Comprehensive, a mile or so down the road.

Things I especially remember about school swimming expeditions…

1. Singing the theme from ‘Minder’ while getting undressed and trying desperately not to look at each others willies.  

2. Christopher Herbert having to wear a special plastic sock to cover up his verrucas and athlete’s foot. I’d like to think he had one one his willy as well, just in case, but obviously I didn’t look.

verruca 
3. Being forced to wade through a little square of freezing cold ‘disinfectant’ before diving into the pool itself. This foul-smelling pool of rancid liquid was apparently designed to prevent us from catching verrucas and athlete’s foot, and seemed to consist of two parts Domestos to one part Ready Brek to one part flaky scales of childrens’ skin. Most of which had been, until recently, attached to Christopher Herbert’s feet. Can’t really blame it for wanting to start a new life in a freezing cold puddle of Domestos and Ready Brek.

nastypool
4.  The sombre return journey on the minibus, with its all-pervading aroma of farts, Cheese & Onion Monster Munch and chlorinated water caked onto unwashed hair.

Quite a sporty day this, clearly… barely time for dinner before an afternoon of football! Another couple of typically opportunistic Fischer strikes, you’ll note… at this stage of the season, I was like a house on fire. Smouldering gently and looking likely to collapse at any second.

‘Twinner’ will have been one of the delightful ginger twins Tom and Jonty Walton, although obviously since – as far as we were concerned –  they were pretty much the same person they both got called ‘Twinner’ and that saved us making any effort to actually bother telling them apart. The last time I saw Twinner was about six months ago, when he popped up as a contestant on ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’. Not sure which Twinner it was, though. (I should insert a little friendly winky thing here in case either of them get to read this, in which case – come and say hello!)

themalus

And obligatory Doctor Who footnote – tonight’s episode was Part One of ‘The Awakening’, a spooky little tale set in the village of Little Hodcombe, in which a demon-like creature called The Malus creates a time link between 1984 and the English Civil War of 1643. I loved Doctor Who most of all when it was set in present-day England, because it made it all the more likely that, one day, I’d see the TARDIS appear in my own back garden. And that the Doctor would whisk me away forever from farts, Cheese & Onion Monster Munch and Christopher Herbert’s feet…

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.

SCHOOL PRODUCTION.

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…

goodkingwenceslas4
…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.

thedarkcrystal2

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…

ricky

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.