Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 42

Saturday 11th February 1984

Woke up at 7.30 and got up at 8.00. Got the 8.20 bus to Middlesbrough and in Smiths I got my Dr Who comic. Then I went to Fine Fare and bought a Tucker’s luck book and at Top man I got a white tie. I couldn’t get a hamburger because Breadwinner were shut, but I got a half price Dr Who annual from a shop in the bus centre.

At Grandma’s I read my book and had a bacon sandwich, then at 2.30 We came home and I played football on the front garden. Then I came in and played on the videopac. When I got sick I went out again, and at 5.00 I had tea.

Then I went out again until it was dark and at 7.00 I watched 321. At 8.00 I watched Les Dawson and at 9.00 I played chess with dad. He beat me three times but I won the last game and had five weetabix. 10.00 Went to bed.

Completely recovered from my illness by now – phew!

Another nice, fresh, cold Saturday, and I’m amazed at how early I managed to get out of bed on these weekend mornings – 8pm! On a Saturday! Ten minutes for a quick wash and then straight outside to wait for the 294 bus to Middlesbrough. The bus stop was right outside our garden, on the other side of the enormous wall of conifer trees that my Dad had planted as saplings back in 1977. By 1984 they were twice my height, and now – yes, they’re still there – they must be thirty feet tall. I’ll get some pictures sooner or later.

OK, another ‘Dr who comic’ for the collection… Issue 86 of Doctor Who Monthly, this time with a fabulous picture of a Tractator from ‘Frontios’ on the cover:

dwm86

I remember clutching my WH Smiths carrier bag for dear life in my sweaty right mitt as we queued outside All Saints’ Church on Linthorpe Road for the No 12 bus to my Gran’s house (a green Cleveland Transit affair rather than the red United buses that ran through Yarm). It was usually a double decker, which meant I could clump up the rickety stairs and read DWM at the top deck while sneaking the occasional cheeky glimpse down the periscope at the driver. 

The WH Smiths bag, of course, had the old-fashioned ‘cube of letters’ logo, which I still miss…

whsmithlogo

Fine Fare, meanwhile, was an old-school, local low-rent supermarket in the days before Tescosainsburyasda took over the world. They had a small selection of books, and the Tucker’s Luck paperback that I bought was this one…

fortydays

…I mistakenly thought it was a novelisation of the TV series, which I loved, but it isn’t – it’s an entirely new story in which Tucker’s Dad gives him – yep – forty days to find a proper job in ‘Fatcher’s Britain, or else he’ll make him go back to school and attempt to bag a small hatful of O Levels. It’s brilliantly gritty for a kids book… full of DHSS queues, knackered motorbikes in lock-ups and punch-ups in dodgy 80s pubs, and it also contains the phrase ‘wank blank’ which – even in 1984 – I had a vague idea was slightly rude, but didn’t quite know why.  I kept the book away from my Mum though, in case she thought I was reading a ‘mucky book’.

And – look! FASHION ALERT!!!!

‘At Top man I got a white tie’… yes, because Paul Frank had one (see Dairy Entry #35, dated 4th February) and if he jumped off a cliff, then…

No doubt I’d soon be combining it with my black shirt, black trousers, red trainers and denim jacket to complete my membership of the Junior Shakin’ Stevens Lookalike Alliance (Affiliated Yarm Branch). I’d love to know what other sartorial horrors were available in Top Man in Middlesbrough in 1984. Probably snoods, piano-keyboard ties, flecked suit jackets with easy-roll sleeves,  stonewashed drainpipes and clip-on Paul Rutherford moustaches.

Actually, pretty much the same stuff that the same shop now sells to fashion-conscious teenagers in 2009…

lesdawson

OK, I’ll state this now because I feel a re-appreciation of his genius is coming along this year and I want to get in early… I loved and love Les Dawson and his brand of brilliant, surreal, morose Northern comedy.

Ohhhhh, you can bang on all you like about rubbish mother-in-law jokes, but if you do then you might as well dismiss the entire recorded output of the Beatles because you don’t like their shoes. Les Dawson was a surrealist and a wordsmith unparralled in 1970s and 80s comedy, and when somebody told me to my face last year that ‘there’s bathos in Wiffle Lever that’s worthy of Les Dawson’ I wanted to give them a big, sloppy kiss and hug them forever. Luckily for you, Dave, I managed to control myself.

This was the fourth series of his BBC masterwork, ‘The Les Dawson Show’ – no doubt featuring The Roly Polys and Cissie and Ada with Roy Barraclough in fine gurning, bosom-nudging form. If anything as  good as this popped up on workaday BBC1 on a Saturday night these days, the Radio Times would explode…

And you’ll notice I wolfed down five Weetabix as a kind of lap of honour after a glorious 3-1 home defeat on the chessboard. I’m a Middlesbrough fan, I’ve learnt to celebrate my victories no matter how modest they may be…

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9 Comments»

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Rising at 8pm and wearing a skinny white tie? These are all the hallmarks of what my great friend the respected anthropologist Tom Wand would call a ‘lounge lizard’.
Fortunately you are redeemed by your trend-anticipating paean to the King of Collyhurst himself, the magnificent Les Dawson but you must be aware that this may be rescinded if, in later entries, you confess to availing yourself of legwarmers or a sleeveless mesh vest to be worn over a pastel coloured ‘tee’ from Top Shop or similar outlets.
Or if any of the main terrestrial television channels run a ‘celebration’ of Dawson that features appreciative gushing about his talent and career from terribly well-known faces who must have been all of seven when he passed away. Yes, you will be held responsible because yours was the first tousle-haired head to poke above the parapet of renewed Les-love.

On a less chilling note, my scientific observations have led me to observe that your volume of The Official Doctor Who Monthly cost less in 1984 than a regular-sized dark Bounty costs in 2009. But which can be realistically considered the more chewy? Sweetened coconut pulp versus Carole Ann Ford? There are no easy answers.

  PJEUK wrote @

Top Man ?? You mean you never went into Denim United down Gilkes Street to try the Sta-Pressed (spelling ??) and /or Two Tone Spencer duds to complete the skinny tie / black shirt ensemble !

  Fiona Tims wrote @

8PM? ;p
5 weetabix-I’m impressed. I couldn’t even manage that now.
I’m expecting you to be a Chess Grandmaster after all these games you played!

  bobfischer wrote @

Ooops – that should of course read 8am in my opening comments and not 8pm! Well spotted Fiona, you win a free Weetabix. I work on the radio, as far as I’m concerned it’s – hey – 95fm all day.

I vaguely remember Denim United but it was all a bit scary for a shy 11-year-old! Mainstream high street brands only, please. I think I was 18 before I plucked up the courage to go into L For Leather.

And Dr Parcel, how nice to find a bit of Les Love going on around these parts. Must make a pilgramage to Lytham St Annes at some point and check out the new statue.

And yes, 60p for a copy of Doctor Who Monthly! What can you get for that these days? A Kingsize Twix if you’re lucky, or possibly a major shareholding in a national high street bank. How times have changed.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The well-known internet-based resource “Google” tells me that there are many thousands of websites devoted to ‘Les Love’ although I do not have time to visit any of them at the moment. At least it proves that an awful lot of people still cherish him.

Weetabix is rather a binding foodstuff so it is my duty as a scientist to caution your readers against eating five such at bedtime. You might have got away with it when you were eleven but it would make you rather sluggish nowadays.

  bobfischer wrote @

If I was any more sluggish these days, I’d probably fossilise.

Does the online ‘Les Love’ covered in depth by Google involve Cissie and Ada?

  Patsy wrote @

Great stuff as usual – now getting seriously concerned about my addictive personality disorder – Not too worried about your Shakin’ Stevens Lookalike Alliance (he did look rather cute after all, well to lots of us girls anyway). Would be more worried if you mentioned wanting to look like George Michael in 1984 (please tell me that you aren’t going to admit your longing to be like him in a future page of your diary !

Re Les Dawson, encouraging to know that even young kids recognised the genius of the man !

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Those might be their names. It is not what I was expecting.

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks Patsy!

I’m slightly disappointed to reveal that nobody has ever mistaken me for George Michael. I’d give anything for that jawline, though.

Dr Parcel – I have set aside tomorrow afternoon to investigate your findings more fully.


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