Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 32

Wednesday 1st February 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. The first thing I did at school was go in for assembly and when we came out I did some Topic. After that I went into Topic groups and then I painted a picture of a jungle. 12.00 Had dinner and then after dinner I went into maths groups and then I did Maths when I came out I did maths then we had to go into the hall with Mrs Mulhern to do some music.

We had to simulate the sound of a gong by banging a copper pipe and putting it in a bucket of water. 3.15 Had boy’s games and It was an indoor tournament. Me, Ossie and Doug Won one, Drew one and lost one.

4.00 Came home and at 5.00 I had tea. 5.5 Watched Think of a number and at 5.40 I played on the ZX81. 7.30 Played chess with dad 8.00 Watched This is your life with Jim Davidson. 8.30 Had a bath 9.00 Watched Minder 10.00 Went to bed.

Fair to say I got a bit confused about maths shortly after dinnertime!

I can just about remember simulating ‘the sound of a gong by banging a copper pipe and putting it in a bucket of water’. What I am struggling to remember, however, is… erm… why. And whether that really actually works – surely not?

I now REALLY wish I’d planned ahead a bit this weekend and made a little film of me giving this a go on the back patio. At present, though, I don’t think I have a copper pipe anywhere on the Fischer estate. Or a bucket. Plenty of water though, mainly all over the back patio at the moment. I might still give this a try during the week sometime, if no-one minds!


And, aaaahhh… the slightly sinister-sounding ‘Boy’s Games’.

While most of my school contemporaries vanished instantly in a cloud of dust, farts and Pickled Onion Monster Munch as soon as the 3.15pm bell rang (although it wasn’t actually a bell, it was more of a squeaker… it sounded like a cockatoo being strangled in the ‘boys bogs’ – and now I’ve read that sentence again it sounds a lot ruder than I intended it to be) there were exceptions.

Those exceptions were the hardy souls – including me, Doug and Ozzie – who had signed up to do extra-curricular activities after school. A couple of years earlier I’d been an enthusiastic partaker of ‘Film Club’… which basically entailed me and thirty other goggle-eyed scrotes sitting on the shiny hall floor in the Mahatma Gandhi pose watching Children’s Film Foundation classics projected onto the wall by a chortling Mr Millward. I can still see those bloody pigeons scattering in my twinkling mind’s eye… although that might have something to do with the fact that I watched them on YouTube thirty seconds ago…

Times had moved on though, and in 1984 I’d signed up for Boy’s Games… basically an excuse for the impressively-quiffed Mr Hirst to indulge his Brian-Glover-in-Kes footballing fantasies and drill us into a crack, fighting force of athletes. And not a weedy, snivelling pack of pale saplings who invariably forgot our PE kits and had to play in our underpants. So to speak.

The weather must have been bad if we were indoors, and I do remember putting one of those brilliant melamine school benches (the ones with two rubbery white knobs – stop it – at each end, and a pair of wobbly fangs hanging underneath) at either end of the hall, and playing – basically – five a side, with the benches acting as goals.

I was fantastically competitive at football, and knew all the lingo (Switch it! Hold the line! Man on!!!!) but none of that could disguise the fact that I was absolutely shite at it.

I remember, at the start of the academic year in 1983, Mr Hirst gathering all the fourth year boys together and explaining that his ambition was to give us ALL a run-out in the school team at some point before packing us off to secondary education.

Predictably, I’m still waiting. If you’re reading this Mr Hirst, then I’m still available! I haven’t got my kit though, so I’ll have to play in my underpants.

Not for the first time.  Arf arf.

‘Boys Games’ will, obviously, have made me miss my usual bus home, so I’ll have returned on foot with Doug – him wobbling along on his classic Raleigh Chopper, me jogging alongside and almost certainly pretending to be Rocky on a training run, throwing the occasional jab at passing dog-walkers and old ladies.


And then – yay! – ‘This Is Your Life’, one of my Mum’s favourite programmes of the time, although she was brilliantly fickle. The routine would go like this…

8pm: ‘Ooooh, eight o’clock. Let’s see who’s life it is…’ (puts down unidentifiable beige knitting project and GETS UP FROM HER SEAT TO CHANGE TV CHANNEL BY PRESSING A BUTTON ON THE SET ITSELF) I put the capitals in to emphasise for our younger viewers that remote control technology didn’t arrive in the Fischer household until late 1990…

8.02: ‘Oooh, Eamonn’s in a taxi. Who’s it going to be then, gang? Frank Muir? No, they’ve done him. Kevin Keegan? No, he’s too young. He hasn’t had a bloody life yet. It’s a theatre. Terry Wogan? Oh bugger that, we’ll watch BBC2 instead (gets up from seat again)

It depended entirely on ‘whose life it was’ whether she would watch it or not, but clearly Jim Davidson met with her approval, and as an 11-year-old ‘Up The Elephant And Round The Castle’ fan, I’ll no doubt have watched it as well, probably sprawled in front of the open fire glugging on a glass of Vimto and pulling bits off Poggy Doggy.

Sadly I can’t find any hint of Jim ‘Nick Nicking’ his way through the show, but just to give you a flavour, here’s an equally exciting-looking ‘Life’ from slightly later in 1984…



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Ah what a very poignant and welcome clip that is, Young Fischer, in light of Kathy Staff’s recent passing.

I was baffled for a long time as to why there no longer seems to be a place for ‘This Is Your Life’ on today’s celebrity-obsessed television but I suppose the answer is obvious: the interesting stories would belong to the over-40s and as any fule kno such elderly faces are a turn-off to current audience demographics.

Coincidentally, I once had to represent Kathy’s home town of Dukinfield as an algebraic equation for an ongoing metallurgical study. It is still ongoing today and for this reason I should be fascinated to see video evidence of your copper-pipe gong endeavours. Of course at the moment it would be cheaper to buy up old gongs and melt them down for the pleasure of plumbers than to find an acceptable length of copper pipe. But surely that would not sound the same.

My academic colleagues and I await the patio gong show with great interest – but would all feel it a kindness if you’d remember your kit when committing the experiment to video.

  Drew Smith wrote @

Aw RIP Kathy.

This Is Your Life was a Sunday night fixture for me except it was on BBC1 and was hosted by Aspel. Did’t ITV try to bring it back again a couple of years ago?

  bobfischer wrote @

According to Wiki, it was on the BBC from 1955-1964, then ITV from 1969-1987, when Eamonn Andrews died. Then it switched back to the BBC, who revived it in 1993 with Michael Aspel, and it ran until 2003. Didn’t realise it lasted until that recently, actually!

ITV apparently did a one-off special in June 2007, with Sir Trevor MacDonald presenting and Simon Cowell as the victim. Thankfully the gods were smiling upon me that day, and I missed it.

Dr Parcel, I’ll attempt the copper pipe experiment this week sometime. Although now there’s some snow on the ground I’m tempted to visit the Sheepwash again to recreate Sunday 22nd January more accurately!

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Like all scientists I strongly approve of accuracy. If the Sheepwash calls you must surely answer it. Copper will not have moved along the periodic table by the time you return. Mendeleev knew what he was doing; he knew that the elements were not mice or frogs. He nailed them down properly with the Hammer of Authenticity.

  bobfischer wrote @

I seem to recall Mrs Mulhern telling me exactly the same thing back in 1984.

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