Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 47

Thursday 16th February 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. First at school I did my RE then I started a book review and at 10.10 We went swimming. First we could do anything we liked, then we had to swim front crawl. After that we had to swim breast stroke, and at 11.10 we came back, covered in Gazzie’s after shave.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then after dinner I mucked about with a football. Then we came in and I finished my book review and I also did some maths. Came home at 3.15 and went outside, then looked at some photographs that had come. At 4.40 I watched Fonz and the Happy days gang and at 4.45 I had tea.

After tea I played on the videopac, then I finished the flowchart for the jewel and started the story. At 7.30 I watched Carry on laughing, then I played chess with dad. 9.00 Watched The Steam video company and at 9.30 I went to bed.

It’s terrifying to imagine a) how many of us actually smothered ourselves in ‘Gazzie’s after shave’ before returning to school for the afternoon, and b) which delicate brand of Eighties scent we were actually pouring over our tin-ribbed torsos in the desperate pursuit of sophistication. But I’ll break through that pungent terror barrier in the name of thoroughness, and go for a) five (me, Doug, Gaz, Ozzie and probably Paul Frank) and b) Brut 33.

In fact, here’s some documentary footage shot that very morning in the changing room of Egglescliffe Comprehensive junior swimming pool…

Where would we be without Brut 33? Well, for a start, probably not seated deliberately next to an open window in the middle of February by a coughing Mrs Keasey, vainly attempting to stop her eyes watering and her lungs collapsing.

(Actually, I do Brut 33 a great disservice. There’s an ancient bottle of it in the bathroom as we speak,  and before Christmas I grew a 70s-style moustache and wore a cravat to a good friend’s Silver Wedding Anniversary party. ‘Why don’t you go the whole hog and splash this on all over?’ said my other half, brandishing the bottle at me.

So I did. And it smelt bloody gorgeous, and I felt like a proper, macho, butch-as-you-like man all night. Sadly, though, I couldn’t find one, so I just ended up eating cheese flan by myself next to an open window. Ho ho, knackers, and – indeed – arse)

Anyway… I was always really excited when a batch of photographs ‘came back’, and this day was undoubtedly no exception. Just to clarify: we hardly took any photos at all in our family. Our camera was an ancient, virtually clockwork affair that my Dad had bought in (I think) the early 1960s, and it didn’t have a flash, so from birth until 1989 I don’t think a single picture of me or any of my immediate family actually INDOORS was ever taken.

We probably went through one or two films a year, and when they were done, they were ‘sent off’ with an accompanying cheque to the Truprint laboratories in the far-off and exotic-sounding land of ‘Telford’. We’d then wait anything up to a month before our pictures were returned in the post, in envelopes that looked like this…

truprint1

…and I’d flick through them again and again and again, trying to drink in every last detail and intrigued by a process that – for me – was still incredibly rare and precious. Photography fascinates me still, that ability to capture a fleeting second of entirely ordinary time and preserve it in static immortality forever, and now – with the advent of digital whatnots – I take dozens of pictures every week. It’s magical… and back then, the infrequency with which the process happened lent it an extra, irresistible sheen of sorcery and mystique.

I’ve had a rummage through my collection, and the last set of pictures before February 1984 seem to come from August 1983, and a family trek down to a local beauty spot…

wearyvalley1

…this is a place called Trout Beck (or ‘Weary Valley’ to some locals, including my Dad).  It’s no more than two miles from our house in Yarm, and consists of a public footpath running through a few square miles of woodland and sheep-strewn meadows, with a narrow stretch of the twinkly River Leven burbling through a dark, tree-lined valley before opening out into a beautiful, head-high waterfall that became a glorious, sun-dappled bathing spot at the height of Eighties summertime.

wearyvalley31

I loved coming here, firstly because it gave me time with my Dad… away from the hassles of work, he’d revert to his own distant childhood and drag me giggling along the riverbank to watch trout flicking lazily between the stepping stones, or to push me laughing hysterically onto the cracking array of tarzies that lined the waters edge.

But also because it fired my imagination, and took ME away from school and Yarm to far-off, magical lands. Sometimes the river was the swampy world of Dagobah, and Luke Skywalker and his X-Wing Fighter were just a short skip away, beneath the buzzing traffic of the A19 flyover.  Other times the sandy banks were the arid planet Skaro, with an army of Daleks set to trundle over the grassy top, exterminating innocent sheep before falling into our ambush…

wearyvalley2

I’m not sure where the pile of bricks came from, but there’s every chance they’re the remains of a pillbox or some other strange relic, left intact after the end of World War II. Almost all of these constuctions are gone now, but in the 1970s and 1980s they were still standing in their thousands… concrete and brick mini-fortresses, built in the early 1940s to withstand the anticipated German land invasion.

I can remember the locations of at least three of these things in Yarm alone, and I should really have a little investigate to see what (if anything) remains of them. It’s odd how, as a kid, the events of World War II really didn’t seem that distant. I remember playing ‘Spitfires’ in the playground, and my friend Jo Spayne showing me the correct way to draw a Vulcan Bomber… it sounds odd that all this was going on in the late 1970s, although – terrifyingly – it’s no different to current kids drawing pictures of my own childhood surroundings… although in my case they were flared trousers, disco music and Tom Baker rather than the machinery of European occupation.  

 In the meantime, a bit of Googling just now has brought up this fascinating site…

http://www.pillboxesuk.co.uk/

Anyway, just to diffuse the air of poignancy that’s in danger of building up here, I’ll point out that when all of the above pictures were taken, I was suffering from chronic diarrhoea and was ripped to the gills on Kaolin and Morphine solution.

MORPHINE! Yegods, did they really sell that to kids in bottles over the counter of Boots?

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4 Comments»

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I don’t remember the Brut Advert, but I quite like it! I hate adverts these days, so is it another thing to be nostalgic about or were Adverts more fun back then??

We had an Air Raid shelter 2 mins from where I live, but I was always too scared to go in it when I was a kid. They knocked it down and built houses on it eventually 😦

No idea about the Morphine, but it would explain a lot ;p

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Unpleasantly stirring to see the randy Napoleon in the Brut 33 clip sprinkling manly talc into his oxters. In the days before New Man (i.e. up until 17th April 1987) this was a surprisingly common masculine concession to the notion of personal hygiene.
A swift waft of talc was felt to be sufficiently nonchalant to allow a man’s credentials to go unchallenged, unlike the ‘feminizing’ effect of body sprays or, still worse, roll-on deodorants with their suspect shapes.
Unfortunately, research carried out in some depth by the former Mrs. Doctor Parcel reveals that for many a pre-metrosexuality man the talc-burst was used not in addition to actual washing but instead of same. Consequently after a night spent supping Tuborg and thrusting in the discotheque, many a stonewashed lothario would strip to his vest and reveal armpits clogged with a kind of noisome pastry. This clotted mixture was one part scented talc, one part vintage perspiration and one part matted hair.
Thank Science that the nightclubs were full of fragrant cigarette smoke back then!

  bobfischer wrote @

I think adverts were definitely less corporate and more fun back then, and more inclined to believe that the best way to flog something was to incorporate it into a saucy, Carry On-style sketch accompanied by a bouncy singalong chorus of the product’s name. I still find myself singing ‘You can’t get better than a Kwik Fit Fitter’ and ‘Apples hazelnuts bananas, raisins coconuts, sultanas’ at work sometimes. Luckily my day job is pretty much the only occupation in the world where such irritating, extrovert twattery is seen as a positive boon. 🙂

Dr Parcel, I’ve just had to use Google to find out what ‘oxters’ are, and I kind of wish I hadn’t. You’re right though, male grooming in 1984 meant having a bath TWICE a week rather than just before That’s Life every Sunday. And the only reason any of us wore Brut 33 on a weekend was just to mask the unmistakeable aroma of Spam Fritters and despair.


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