Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 46

Wednesday 15th February 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. First at school we went in for Topic groups then me and Ozzie did a sheet on buildings and handed it in. Then we showed everybody the Guardian and at 12.00 I had dinner.

After dinner we went in for RE and then me and Stan finished off a maths sheet while everybody went in for Joseph. At 3.15 I came home (boys games was cancelled) and played on the videopac. Then I did a flowchart for the jewel of pebble village and then I went outside and played football.

At 4.45 I had tea and I also watched Rentghost. Then I went outside again and at 6.45 I watched the last part of the Dalek Dr Who adventure. After that at 7.35 I played on the videopac and at 9.00 I watched Minder. 10.00 Went to bed.

Topic groups? Sheets on buildings? Pffffft. Give over, nobody was talking about those on Wednesday 15th February 1984. From banks to building sites, from fishing boats to factory floors, there was only topic of conversation on the ENTIRE COUNTRY’s lips this morning.

And, depressingly for my 11-year-old self, it wasn’t tonight’s concluding episode of ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’. It was this…

Yes, Torvill and Dean’s unprecedent ‘six sixes’ at the bloody Winter Olympics from Sarajevo. It had happened live on TV the previous evening, watched by over 24 million viewers in a lovely Valentine’s Day treat for the nation. I wasn’t amongst them, though. Naturally, I thought ice skating was ‘dead boring’ and spent the night chasing Munchkins around the portable TV screen with my Philips Videopac G7000 while my Mum poured herself a glass of cloudy home-made white wine and got all of a quiver over Christopher Dean’s forward salchows.

I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of the fact that undoubtedly the greatest sporting event of the year (notwithstanding Boro’s 2-1 home win over Barnsley the previous week) didn’t register so much as a fleeting mention in my diary.

I’m pretty sure I at least caught the Nine O’Clock News report, with Moira Stewart beginning her bulletin with the immortal introduction only ever reserved for the aftermath of Royal Weddings and Great British Sporting Occasions (Usually Failures): ‘As you may have just seen during live coverage on BBC1 tonight…’ But, y’know, I only had a page to work with, and if I was going to write about  sporting affairs then mine and Doug’s game of ‘cricket in the fog’ was surely worthy of more comprehensive coverage. 

moira

Actually, I’m probably playing this down a bit  – I do remember feeling a bit emotional and oddly proud when I finally caught up with events, and beneath the grubby bluster I was a strangely sensitive 11-year-old who could occasionally appreciate the finer things in life. And there was undoubtedly a nice, rumbling, Torvill and Dean-related buzz around school on this chilly morning, although regrettably this included Christopher Herbert’s entirely unfounded speculation that ‘he’s a tranny and she’s a lezzer’.  

You’ll also notice – of course – that this day marked another milestone occasion… the first time that I missed a rehearsal for our school production of Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I’d been to a handful of previous get-togethers, and mumbled ‘One More Angel In Heaven’ into my BHS denim jacket, actions that – so far as Mr Millward and Mrs Mulhern were concerned – made me an irrevocable part of the cast and choir.

Today though, I’d clearly decided that musical theatre was not my calling, and instead decided to mess around with Stan. Stan was a really good laugh, a sporty lad with a mop of sandy hair. His real name was Andrew Henry, but for reasons I’m still entirely uncertain about, he’d been known to all (including the teachers) as ‘Stan’ for at least three years by this stage. 

Here he is in April 1984 at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre (and I can’t wait to get stuck into that particular week of our lives…)

stan

I have a vague feeling his nickname was the result of an inspired routine one school dinnertime, when – over Spam Fritters and Milk Club Biscuits – he fussed up his hair and made a comedy crying noise like Stan Laurel. And had us all chortling snot into our semolina (not that you’d notice). I’d LOVE to think that this tiny, two-second piece of nonsense was the inspiration, because – almost thirty years later – he’s STILL known to everyone as Stan. 

stan2

Even the smiling lady who approached me in a pub in Saltburn last year and said ‘You don’t remember me, do you? I’m Stan’s Mum’. Funny how the strangest, shortest, most fleeting transient moments can change the flavour of our lives forever.

Anyway, ‘Rentghost’! Or – as the rest of the civilised Western world kew it – ‘Rentaghost’. Classic children’s TV, and utterly inspired bollocks that us made laugh (and smell) like drains. Now in it’s ninth and final series, when it looked like this…

I’m proud recently to have presented a radio show in which the thorny topic: ‘How do horses read books, do they have to hold them to one side of their head rather than directly front of them?’ was settled when one listener e-mailed in to report that this approach was exactly the one favoured by the pantomime horse in Rentaghost. I laughed so hard that my co-presenter had to remove a bowl of semolina from the studio for its own safety.

I am 36 years old.

And yes! Sorry Jayne and Chris, but let’s talk about Resurrection of the Daleks. The final episode tonight, of course, and the one in which the Doctor’s companion Tegan Jovanka made a tearful and sudden departure from the show.

A gobby Australian air hostess played by… erm, gobby Australian actress Janet Fielding, Tegan remains one of my favourite ever Doctor Who companions, largely because she regularly reacted to her adventures in the same way that any of us would. Namely: ‘Fight Daleks? You’ve got to be f***ing kidding! Let’s just leave them to their exterminating, get back in the TARDIS and we’ll have a fortnight in f***ing Alicante instead’. (Say that in a broad Brisbane accent for full effect).  

tegan1

She’s sometimes unfairly maligned by the kind of Doctor Who fans who think all of the show’s female companions should be leggy, well-spoken Cambridge graduate nuclear physicists called Primula, but I think she’s great, and her final scene – tearfully tottering away from a shocked Doctor in a splendid Eighties print top and high heels – is a belter.

Brave heart, Tegan.

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