Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 41

Friday 10th February 1984

Woke up at 7.50 but had cold so I didn’t go to school. At 8.15 I got up and was sick Then I came downstairs and copied a picture of Doctor Who and K9. Then I played on the videopac for a bit and when I came off Mam went to work and I read The Guardian of Goblin Grotto.

Then I started to write another flowchart for a book called World of many lands. At 12.15 I had dinner and after dinner I finished the flowchart and mam came back. Then I went out and played football, and at 4.20 Doug rang to see if I wanted to go down to Yarm with him.

So I did, and we bought a Mad from Newsfare. Came back at 5.20 and watched Grange Hill. At 7.00 I watched the A-Team, and at 8.00 I watched That’s my boy, at 8.30 I watched A Fine Romance and at 9.00 I watched the last Auf Wiedersehen pet. 10.00 Went to bed.

PAYDIRT!!!! A day off school!


I’d been building up to this all week, of course. As soon as Mrs Haworth revealed to me on Monday that there was ‘a bug going round’ school, I was determined to fall foul of it, preferably during the early hours of Friday morning so I could make a long weekend of my malady. I’d spent all week throwing ‘woe is me, I feel so weak and feeble’ shapes around the house, ‘falling asleep’ on the sofa because ‘I just feel so tired all the time’, nibbling at my food because ‘I’m just not very hungry’ and coughing and snivelling into my hand whenever my Mum was within earshot.  

FACT ONE: I did NOT have a cold on this day.

FACT TWO: I was NOT ‘sick’ at 8.15am. I locked myself into the bathroom and made a few conspicuously noisy sick-type noises until I’d convinced even myself that it had actually happened, then wandered downstairs looking as pale and pathetic as possible, and demanded a bottle of Lucozade (‘REPLACES LOST ENERGY’) still, in 1984, in its traditional glass-bottle-and-orange-cellophane incarnation.

My Mum bought my story until about 10.30am, when I finally cracked under cross-examination while playing ‘Munchkin’ on the Videopac G7000. I started giggling when she asked me in a little bit TOO much detail about my actual symptoms.

‘What are you laughing at?’ she asked.

‘Because I’m going to beat my high score, look – it’s brilliant,’ I lied.

‘No you’re not, you’re laughing because you’ve pulled a fast one, you
little bugger,’ she retorted.


I immediately started sniffling and feeling faint again until she went to work (in the Levendale Primary School kitchens, remember) then I lit a huge cigar and sprawled across the sofa watching Pebble Mill At One and laughing manically like Robert De Niro in Cape Fear.


‘Off sick’ television was great. These were the days before full daytime schedules, remember, so 67.3% of the day’s TV broadcasts were made up of Test Cards and easy listening music. Although we’d had a year of Breakfast TV by this point, and that tended to soundtrack my mornings.  BBC1 had the slightly worthy ‘Breakfast Time’ with Frank Bough and Selina Scott, ITV had the much livelier ‘Good Morning Britain’ with Anne Diamond (who I fancied), Nick Owen (who I didn’t) and Roland Rat (who I loved with a passion almost beyond the human – I could recite ‘Rat Rapping’ word-for-word…)

For the full effect of watching TV during the day in 1984, set this off and leave it rolling while you read the rest of this entry… (this is from 1984, just a couple of weeks earlier – it’s from Wednesday 25th January, in the middle of the country’s snow chaos and my school attempts to play American Football…!)

Pebble Mill at One, meanwhile, was a TV institution, bringing the TV stars of the day before an audience of pensioners in the middle of Birmingham’s legendary breezy studio. Presented by Marian Foster (who I interviewed for the radio last year and she was lovely!), Bob Langley (who EVERYBODY’S Mum fancied, especially when he wore an Arran Sweater and stood atop a Pennine) and the genial Donny MacLeod. Here’s a classic ‘Mill’ opening, with Bob forsaking the usual sweater for an amazing white suit…

Inbetween these shows, for most of the mornings and afternoons, what you got when you turned on your TV was this…

…which I miss enormously. I appreciate that I’m biting the hand that feeds me here, but I think there’s just too much ‘stuff’ out there these days – TV, radio, cinema, online… and it’s just TOO overwhelming. What we need are designated media downtimes like the clip above, when we can meditate in our front rooms and attempt astral projection fuelled by Butterscotch Angel Delight.

Anyway, you’ll notice that by mid-afternoon I was well enough to play football in the garden, hammering the ball against the side wall of the house and pulling off a string of sensational saves from the rebounds, with the Test Card music still running through my head. And then WHAT A RECOVERY to be able to wander into Yarm High Street with Doug, no doubt popping over after school with green daggers of jealousy shooting from his eyes.


‘Mad’, by the way, was the splendidly subversive ‘Mad Magazine’, an American institution which had enjoyed a cult following at Levendale Primary School ever since Philip Slack and Andrew Sugden had brought in the issues that featured brilliant comic-book piss-takes of The Empire Strikes Back and ‘Rehash Of The Jeti’. It was irreverant, cheeky and frequently downright rude, and at some point I must dig my old issues out of the loft for a butchers.

Not today, though. I feel so weak and feeble. Cough, sniffle… I think there’s a bug going round…



  Roy wrote @

My ‘off sick TV’ memories are from 9 or 10 years earlier, when you had things like Rainbow, Pipkins, Noggin the Nog and the Open University before washing up on the familiar shores of Jackanory and Blue Peter at teatime. When I was really small there was literally no TV until Magic Roundabout time, just the wireless (as in ‘radio’) with Children’s HOUR sandwiched between incomprehensible adult stuff like Round the Horne.

  bobfischer wrote @

I used to love Pipkins! Although in retrospect it’s amazing I never found Hartley Hare more sinister than I actually did.

I’m pretty sure there was still very little daytime TV in 1984… ITV would show Rainbow around lunchtime, then probably a news bulletin and Crown Court (which ended for good in March ’84) before bunging on an old film if you were lucky. I’ve fond memories of the old ‘Monday Matinee’ on off-sick days, which was often a Carry On film or a nicely obscure British comedy of similar vintage.

I definitely remember seeing the Test Card and ‘Pages from Ceefax’ on the afternoon schedules until well into the 80s though… possibly even as far as 1988/89. What I need to do is head to Ebay and buy a couple of 1984 Radio and TV Times to find out for certain…

Get thee behind me, Satan… 🙂

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

But where is Mavis Nicholson in all of this?
For decades, she was more daytime than a crimplene housecoat.

  PJEUK wrote @

Off sick TV. Stop Look & Listen, The Botanic Man (David Bellamy continually reminds me of acute appendicitus) and How We Used To Live – which whenever I was ill was always charting the “trouble at t’mill” phase of Industrial Britain.

A light soup for lunch before settling down with a duvet on the sofa for a textbook Pebble Mill, Bod, Farmhouse Kitchen triple bill finished by a little sleep before proper kids TV started.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Wow Pseudo Peruvian Music with the Test Card-nice ;p

I thought it was a well known rule, that if you were off school (sick or faking) you weren’t allowed to go out later in the day!

I remember coming home from junior school at lunchtime and watching The Flumps! I bought the dvd last year and watched it with a huge grin on my face 🙂

  bobfischer wrote @

Re: Mavis Nicholson… I’ve got to confess I don’t remember seeing her at all on daytime TV when I was small, so I wonder if it’s possible that Tyne Tees never bothered taking Afternoon Plus? They were notoriously slow when it came to taking on national networked TV – believe it or not, we didn’t get Tiswas in the North-East until late in 1981. And if finished for good in early 1982. So if you ever hear Ant and Dec waxing lyrical about watching Chris Tarrant and Lenny Henry when they were toddlers – they’re lying. 😉

Just had a look at the entry for Afternoon Plus on TV Cream though, and it’s amazing. This, apparently, was the strapline for the programme’s launch…

“Whatever the topic, there are women with a view about it. This is their programme. So put down that duster, put up your feet and prepare to relax.”

I’m thinking of replacing ‘programme’ with ‘blog’ and putting that at the top of this page. 🙂

  bobfischer wrote @

Fiona, I think my Mum must just have been the ultimate soft touch! Presumably at about 1pm I started giving it the ‘I’m feeling a little bit better, maybe I need some fresh air’ treatment…

I’ve not seen the Flumps for over 25 years, but I can still whistle the theme tune! The only other thing I can remember is that they wiggled their toes a lot…

  bobfischer wrote @

And ‘How We Used To Live’! Fantastic! Was that part of ‘Schools And Colleges’ TV that ran virtually all afternoon on BBC2?

I can still remember ‘shooting’ the seconds off the clockface as they counted down to the start of these programmes…

  Andrew T. Smith wrote @

Sadly Mad Magazine seems to be on its way out. Falling sales mean it is now only published four times a year. It was never really the same once it started including real advertisments. Fantastic read in its prime though.

  PJEUK wrote @

How We Used To Live was definitely ITV.

Consistently beaten in the late 70’s daytime scheduling batle by BBC ratings behemoths Words and Pictures and Watch.

Unbeatable … like Maddren and Boam.

  bobfischer wrote @

Sad to hear about about the decline of Mad, although I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise it was actually still going. It started in the 50s, didn’t it? Do you still read it, then Mr S?

And I should have known about ‘How We Used To Live’! What a terrible faux pas. Seem to recall it occasionally being shown before (or maybe after) The Sullivans for a grim, boiled-beef-and-carrots slice of early afternoon nostalgia.

Did Words and Pictures have a strange creature called ‘Wordy’ in it?

  PJEUK wrote @

Wordy was in the same premise but not quite for copyright reasons Look & Read.

Words And Pictures had the magic marker drawn Charlie as the animated stooge. He worked alongside some fella in a brown smock with a snidey voice who told the stories. Can’t remember the actors name but know he was Frankie Barrow the W10 gangster in Steptoe and Son.

Particular favourites include the short films for Lazy Lion, Cool Cat and the frankly terrifying (to a 6 y/o) Witches of Hallowe’en. Their faces were horrid and green apparently.

This is all from memory you know (I was a sickly child from Billingham). Yet how the f*** do I retain all this crap I’m nearly 40 for heavens sake and clearly not busy at work.

Just don’t get me started on Itsy and Bitsy harassing Susan Stranks of a dinnertime.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah, I can do Frankie Barrow! He’s in Steptoe And Son Ride Again, and the actor is the splendidly sinister-looking Henry Woolf. He also puts in a fine turn as Arthur Sultan (The Surrey Mystic) in The Rutles, and ‘The Collector’ in the Doctor Who story The Sunmakers. One of the greatest sci-fi stories ever to be inspired by an Inland Revenue audit (FACT!)

I vividly remember Itsy and Bitsy – I’ve always been scared of spiders, so I wasn’t keen. Lazy Lion and Cool Cat ring really vague, misty, sepia-shrouded memories in the back of my head, so I need to investigate them more…

Don’t bother working, it’s overrated. Can you not feel a sniffle coming on? 😉

  PJEUK wrote @

I try and enlighten you for the sake of completeness.

Cool Cat was some blue Pink Panther a-like creature plucking at a double bass while the mantra Cool Cat was repeated ad naseam. Eventually I think he fell through the floorboards.

Lazy Lion was a more literal animation as he just lay there eating and fanning himself with his tail.

Excellent spot re: The Rutles. One of my favourite films. Not overly familiar with Dr. Who. However, I was a big fan as a nipper and do remember going to see Tom Baker signing books in Binns over the Boro as a kid.

  Roy wrote @

Ah, daytime black and white films! Two words: ‘Tawny Pippit’.

  bobfischer wrote @

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah (to be said in a Tom Baker voice) did he do Binns? I didn’t realise that! I knew he came to Woolco in Thornaby sometime in the 70s, but I was a bit too young for Doctor Who at the time. Bugger.

Having thought about it (probably for a bit too long) I think I might be mixing up Lazy Lion with Animal Kwackers, which I was obsessed with when I was four. I even went to see them live at Middlesbrough Little Theatre! I’ve had ‘Rory, Rory tell us a story’ circling round my head ever since remembering this earlier today.

And blimey, Tawny Pippit! Yes indeed. Tyne Tees used to run a ‘Monday Matinee’ and a ‘Wednesday Film’ (obviously nothing cinema-related begins with ‘W’) and I think they had this, Oh Mr Porter, Carry On Henry and about four Norman Wisdom films on a loop. All interspersed with adverts for Fine Fare and Hintons that often contained no moving footage whatsoever – just still photos, cheesy music and a voiceover.

Happy days. Apart from the lingering illnesses, obviously.

  Drew Smith wrote @

“Do you still read it, then Mr S?”

I pick up the odd special every now and then, but I was really into it after visiting America for the first time in ’99.

Perhaps the coming of Bush made political satire a little too easy? If everyone else was doing it why should people bother to pick up Mad?

  bobfischer wrote @

Yeah, true. I must admit, the political satire didn’t really register with me when I was buying it as an 11-year-old, it was the send-ups of films that I bought it for. I definitely the spoofs of the Star Wars films being utterly hilarious, and I’m sure I’ve still got them somewhere… I’ll have to have a rummage around in the loft and see if I can find them. There’s probably all sorts of 1984 stuff up there that I should be digging out to scan and put up here, I just never seem to find the time…

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

One bottle of Lucozade has certainly perked up the comments tally, hasn’t it? Hurrah for simple sugar molecules!

  bobfischer wrote @

I’m going to say ‘I agree’ just to get this up to a nice round 20 comments.

(Feel free to keep contributing though, we can push for 25 if you like…)

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Twenty-five comments would be exciting from a mathematical point of view, yes.

Let’s hope it will not stick at the rather unattractive Twenty-one.

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