Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 36

Sunday 5th February 1984

Woke up at 9.00 and got up at 10.15. At 10.25 I wrote some of the Guardian of goblin grotto. At 12.00 I had dinner and at 12.05 I wrote some of the Guardian again.

At 3.15 Doug rang to see if he could come down and I said he could so at 3.30 he came and showed me some drawings he had done of Andy Capp and the perishers. Then we went outside and played football on the front garden. I took shots at Doug and after I had scored five We went in and drew some plans of K9. Then we put them in the K9 file, looked through some Dr Who mags and then went back outside and I went in goal.

At 5.30 Doug went home and I had tea and after tea I wrote some of the guardian and at 7.15 I watched One by one. 8.35 Watched Ever decreasing circles 9.5 Had a bath 9.20 Watched That’s life 10.5 Went to bed.

Amazing how quickly I managed to throw myself into work after getting out of bed. These days it takes four cups of tea, an hour of ‘Homes Under The Hammer’ and a short dose of electric shock therapy (the latter two being pretty much interchangeable) just to get my eyes to open properly. Back in 1984, it took a mere ten minutes (wee, brush teeth, pyjamas off, shirt and jeans on, Sugar Puffs) before I was ready to roll.

I remember really clearly Doug bringing those cartoons around, because – and yes, I’m ashamed of this – I actually felt a bit jealous and put-out. Because, dammit, the whole of Levendale Primary School knew that it was ME ME ME that was the arty one in our year. Doug had never really shown me any of his drawings before, but they were exceptionally good – very detailed and nuanced and confident. GRRRRR!

You can clearly deduce from the subject matter that his family’s paper of choice was the Daily Mirror. As was mine. I’m guessing he copied his cartoons from the previous day’s paper (as there’s no Andy Capp in the Sunday Mirror!), and – fantastically – here it is…


Yep, the Daily Mirror from Saturday 4th February 1984. No idea what calamities Geoffrey Howe had performed that week to earn such ridicule (tricky to narrow down, I’d have thought) but I love the Boy George story… ‘BOY GEORGE TELLS HIS JAPANESE GIRLFRIEND – I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH’ Erm… right.

This was, lest we forget, an era when the prospect of a celebrity being (gasp) gay made for tabloid front pages. No hint of impropriety or improper behaviour was necessary, the very fact that they WERE gay was enough to warrant endless reams of newsprint being devoted to this perceived ‘scandal’.

boygeorge As I result, I recall even poor Boy George – in these early days for his career – was startlingly ambiguous about his own sexuality, infamously telling reporters that he’d rather have ‘a nice cup of tea’ than do the wild thing. And who could blame him, in a decade when The Sun would rant virtually unchallenged about ‘pooftahs’ and their (cough) weird, gender-bending lives?

None of which will have concerned Doug and me as we slopped out to the front garden for a crunch penalty shoot-out. Oddly, we were never much interested in football as a pastime… my Dad had blagged me a ‘squeeze’ (literally squeezing me over the turnstile to avoid paying, with the tacit, blind-eye blessing of the attendant) into a few Middlesbrough matches in the early 1980s, but I’d never really been bitten by the bug. Especially not with the Boro now languishing virtually unloved at the bottom of the old Second Division, a mere two years away from liquidation and padlocks being clamped on the Ayresome Park gates.


My true Boro obsession came later, in my mid-teens, but in 1984 I was more interested in music, science-fiction and… well, arsing around than the Beautiful Game. And I don’t think Doug ever went to a football game in his life, and we never EVER talked about it.  You’ll notice, though, that I don’t record how many goals Doug scored against me – only the other way around. I’d clearly had enough humiliation for one day.

OK, the obligatory TV stuff… ‘One By One’ was, I think, rather charming Sunday night BBC1 fayre starring the dashing, tweedy Rob Heyland as a young vet in a 1950s zoo. I can’t find a single clip anywhere, and it’s never been out on DVD, but I’ve got very fond memories of it, and can whistle the theme tune on request.

And, lo! The second ever episode one of my favourite-ever sitcoms. Don’t let anyone tell you that ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ is cosy surbuban fluff, it’s an astonishing portrayal of a man in the grips of extreme obsessive compulsive disorder, and the effects it has on his endlessly loving (but tormented) wife. It’s written with unbelievable compassion and sensitivity by John Esmond and Bob Larbey, and played to perfection by all concerned. Richard Briers and Peter Egan are magnificent, but even they are (slightly) overshadowed by an incredibly performance from Penelope Wilton, who manages to convey a world of pain with just the occasional nervous twitch of her left cheek.

And she’s utterly utterly utterly bloody gorgeous in it as well, which doesn’t hurt.  Tragic to think that, almost exactly 25 years later, she’d come to a heartbreaking, untimely end being exterminated by the Daleks in front of her webcam.




  PJEUK wrote @

That’s Heine Otto doing pre-match keepy ups isn’t it ?

  bobfischer wrote @

Well spotted! It is indeed the Dutch maestro circa 1984. As I said, I wasn’t exactly captivated by Boro around that time, but I did know that Heine was the star player, and he was unlucky to come to the club at a time when the place, really, was falling apart.

Credit to him for sticking around a few years after relegation as well. Wonder where he is now? Last I heard he was coaching at Ajax, but that was a few years ago.

  PJEUK wrote @

The heady days of Big Mal, Stephen Bell and David Currie, Irving Nattrass and errr Mick Baxter !

It was around this time my dad stopped taking me due to the paucity of the football on offer.

I was only allowed to go on my own from the beginning of the first post liquidation season – although I wasn’t at the Victoria Ground for the Port Vale game.

My first game was in Nov 1976 v Ipswich Town. 32 years ago !!! Christ I feel old.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yeah, my Dad went to pretty much all the home games until about 1983, when he decided he’d had enough and that his money was being wasted. So I managed to get in a handful of games before then (my first match was Nov 1981 v Nottingham Forest – a 1-1 draw, and the first Boro goal I ever saw was an own goal by Bryn Gunn!) but not many.

Lots of memories of them, though… the grumbling men built like oil tankers using swear words I’d never heard before… the overpowering smell of grass, mud and cigarette smoke… the tinny tannoy playing Ottowan and KC & The Sunshine Band to a pale, December sky… the floodlights flickering into life at 4pm… and the hairy giant that was Big Billy Ashcroft striding onto the pitch at home to Aston Vill and scoring two late goals to send cheers ringing around a virtually empty terrace.

Happy days. 🙂

  PJEUK wrote @

Big Billy Ashcroft. My Dad tells a story (which I can’t remember) about me at one home game.

Around this time our season tickets were front row right on the half way line in the North Stand, incidently just in front of Roy Brown.

Ashcroft was having a nightmare, which narrows it down to any home game between 1978 – 1981, and I went to to John Neal’s dugout and shouted “get him off he’s sh**”.

John Coddington asked if he was going to let a kid tell him what to do. Neal then replaced Ashcroft with the goal machine that was Alan Walsh !

Also my Dad said absolutely nothing about my early descent into profanity as he was too bad laughing.

I know this game was definitely not the FA Cup Quarter Final against Orient when Billy missed that sitter at the Boys End because that time I was properly clipped for using the F-word.

Thems was great days.

  bobfischer wrote @


I met Billy Ashcroft years later, on the way back from a 1-1 draw at Crewe in Robbo’s second promotion season. Back end of 1997. Me and a mate stopped off in Southport, at a pub where Billy was landlord. And he sat with us for hours – an absolutely hilarious bloke with some great stories. After he left Boro in 1982 he went to Twente Enschede in Holland and ended up as a regular on a TV variety show, doing Tommy Cooper impressions…

The bugger started me smoking again, as well. I’d been a week without a ciggy, but he offered me one of his Regal King Size and I just couldn’t turn down one of Billy Ashcroft’s fags.

  A Little Extra Treat! « Wiffle Lever To Full! wrote @

[…] wooden K9 that Doug and I made. These are dated 5.2.84, and they DO get a mention in my diary! (read it here) The pictures here a bit fiddly and faint, so I’ve put a larger version online here if […]

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