Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 34

Friday 3rd February 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.05. The first thing I did at school was go into Topic groups and we had to write down the answers to some questions. After that I finished my dragon picture and then me and Doug had to practise some chinise music.

12.00 Had dinner and after dinner I did a Topic sheet and when I had done that I did a Maths sheet. At 3.15 I came home and wrote some of the Guardian of Goblin Grotto. 4.45 Had tea and then at 5.5 watched Grange Hill.  At 5.40 I wrote the Guardian and then at 6.40 I watched Doctor Who.

At 7.00 I watched the A-Team in the hall because Dad was watching Superstars. 8.00 Watched That’s my boy and at 8.30 I watched A Fine Romance. 9.00 Watched Auf Weidehersen pet and then at 10.00 I went to bed.

OK, a bit of consolation to those of you who’ve been jealously eyeing up my seemingly impeccable 1984 spelling! Exactly 25 years ago today I immortalised the shameful truth that, as an 11-year-old, I couldn’t spell the words ‘Chinese’, ‘practice’, or ‘Wiedersehen’. So if I wanted to write a letter of farewell to a German-speaking Oriental doctor, I was pretty much up a creek without a paddle. Or ‘paddel’ as I’d probably have spelt it on a bad day.

The ‘chinise music’, by the way, was another brilliantly imaginative lesson planned by the lovely Mrs Mulhern. Basically, we imitated the sound of a Chinese hammered dulcimer (or ‘yangqin’) by… wait for it… filling up loads of glasses from the school kitchens with different quantities of water and then hitting them with wooden spoons!

 I appreciate that these descriptions make me sound vaguely sarcastic about this stuff, and honestly… that’s not my intention. I still think now that this was brilliant, inventive DIY teaching, and I’m proud to have had teachers that cared enough about their vocations to put all this wonderful, inspiring stuff together.  


Those aren’t my hands, by the way.

Great to see work carrying on apace on mine and Ian Oswald’s Fighting Fantasy opus ‘The Guardian Of Goblin Grotto’, especially as we now seem have moved beyond colouring in the pictures and are actually digging into some (gasp) WRITING. In, like, full paragraphs.

Brilliantly, my old Goblin Grotto collaborator has been in touch this week, and informs me that (and I quote…)

‘My memories of T-GOGG (sounds even funnier as an acronym!) are limited to some of the pictures of the creatures you drew, not so loosely based on the school characters – the Friendly Frankie, and the Stan Beast spring to mind, and I’m sure there was one who was swigging from a half drunk bottle of what looked like whisky…ah, happy days!’

Thanks, Oz. The original Fighting Fantasy writers Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson would have been proud of us, and I say this with the benefit of a little bit of experience, because..

…wait for it…

…I’m still shaking…

…I can’t believe this happened exactly 25 years to the day…




He was in Middlesbrough for the Animex animation festival, and was kind enough to let me kidnap him and record a little interview for my BBC Tees evening show. He was utterly charming and entirely indulgent of the fact that as soon as I clapped eyes on him I reverted to my giggly, gabbling, 11-year-old self. And, as you can see, he even signed my 25-year-old copy of ‘Caverns Of The Snow Witch’ (Number 9 in the series of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks).


OK, a few TV bits… ‘Superstars’ was, of course, the legendary BBC1 sporting competition that regularly pitted Kevin Keegan against Brian Jacks, the gritty British TV equivalent of Sly Stallone punching out Mr T in Rocky III. I don’t remember my Dad being especially fond of it, so it seems more likely that I was sent out into the hall purely because he DIDN’T want to watch ‘the sodding A-Team’.

‘That’s My Boy’ was a now long-forgotten ITV sitcom in which Mollie Sugden (in a bit of downtime from ‘Are You Being Served’, which was still running at this point) turns up as housekeeper to a respected GP who – unbeknown to him – is actually her secret son, given away for adoption many years ealier. Heavyweight stuff, and the opening credits only serve to lend it an overwhelming air of gravitas…

And, bugger it, ‘A Fine Romance’ was – and is – brilliant. Written by Bob Larbey of ‘The Good Life’ fame, it’s a superb character study of a stammering relationship between Judi Dench and Michael Williams – brilliantly and subtly written and hilariously underplayed by both leads. It’s utterly convincing in its reality, and yet it’s also relentlessly funny, a deadly combination that seems to have all but vanished in modern British comedy. A shame, but this little gem is available at knockdown prices on DVD, and I recommend you all treat yourselves to help lift the winter blues.

I’m not on commission, I promise.



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I love the way that the title sequence for ‘That’s My Boy’ creates such a vivid impression of what the series is about – surely it tells the story of a writer living in a grand hotel on the French Riviera?

The story about the Chinese hammered dulcimer is most charming. This type of instrument should be demonstrated more often to the young.

  C Troutman wrote @

You lucky b*stard Fischer! I used to spend hours doing those FF books in my youth. I did tend to cheat though & put my finger in the last page I was at. I could manage a five finger backtrack if the rolls of the dice weren’t to my liking.

  Andrew T. Smith wrote @

Each year I mean to go to the Animex festival and each year I forget. Moomin.

  bobfischer wrote @

‘That’s My Boy’ also proves one of my long-standing theories of Old Sitcoms… namely, that they generally lasted about five times longer than anyone actually remembers. I once had a bare-knuckle bar-room brawl with a friend who insisted that ‘Are You Being Served’ lasted for ‘a couple of years in the 70s’ and refused to believe that there were actually ten series of it, and that new episodes were being broadcast as late as 1985.

‘That’s My Boy’ is a case in point, as it actually lasted for… (wait for it) FIVE SERIES. It was on every year between 1981 and 1986, and it was even repeated inbetween new series. No new episodes were being shown in February 1984, so this must have been part of a repeat run of the second series. It had prime-time Christmas Specials made in 1983 and 1984. It must have been watched by millions, and yet NOBODY remembers it, and even a sadarse like me had to look it up to find out the premise.

How does that happen?

  Gabrielle Kent wrote @

Ian Livingstone is a legend! I was kinda stumped as to what to say to him too 🙂 Got a signed copy of Deathtrap dungeon 😀

  bobfischer wrote @

Mr Troutman – I was a dab hand at the old ‘five finger backtrack’ as well, and I suspect I’ve still never genuinely completed a Fighting Fantasy book without resorting to this shameful technique. I was going to mention this to Ian, but it seemed a bit disrespectful! One day, I when I retire, I’m going to play them all PROPERLY with dice and maps and everything.

And hello Gabby! I’m a bit embarrassed you’ve found these ramblings, but it’s lovely to see you round these parts. Yep, what a top bloke he is… thanks for bringing him to Teesside! Got a nice little Fighting Fantasy exclusive out of him as well, but I’ll save that for the radio tomorrow night…

(BBC Tees, 8-10pm, 95FM, http://www.bbc.co.uk/tees... plug plug… :-))

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Aha! I am delighted that you ask this question about why nobody nowadays remembers a once-ubiquitous sitcom like ‘That’s My Boy’, Mr. Fischer!
In our celebrated 1998 monograph “Absent Laughter: The Persistence of Amnesia and the Family Friendly Situation Comedy, 1967-87”, Professor Purvis Munger and I outline our irrefutable theory that the forebrain

*some portions of this text are missing*

  bobfischer wrote @

Probably for the best.

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