Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 54

Thursday 23rd February 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 9.45 When Doug rang. When I got down at Doug’s he had started to paint K9 in white undercoat and I helped him finish it. Then mam came down and me and Doug went down to Yarm with her. Got a Sinclair programs. Then Doug’s mam gave us a lift down to my house.

Then me and Doug played on the ZX and at 1.30 Doug went home because he had to go to the hospital. Then I typed a program in the ZX called Miner, taped it, then played it until 3.30 When Doug came back and we played Miner. At 4.00 we went back to Doug’s and painted K9 grey then at 5.00 I came home.

At 5.30 I had tea and at 5.40 I watched The Adventure game and at 6.40 I watched Doctor Who. At 7.00 I played Miner then at 7.30 I watched Carry on lauging. 9.00 Watched The Steam Video Company and at 9.30 I went to  bed.

I still think our full-sized wooden K9, coated entirely in off-white undercoat, is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It was like a ghost K9, come to haunt our childhoods for six short hours before getting the tin of grey gloss we’d bought from Woolies lashed all over it. And – no doubt – us. I think I was still picking grey chunks out of my hair six months later. In fact, if you look closely, you can even see a few flecks of grey K9 paint dotted along my temples to this very day…

Some incredibly complicated travel arrangements here. My Mum didn’t drive in 1984, so she must have walked down to Doug’s house from ours and somehow persuaded us to come with her on the rest of the half-mile walk. Then, I’m guessing, we met Doug’s Mum somewhere in the High Street and she drove us back, with me clutching my brand new copy of Sinclair Programs.

I’ve just found this fabulous online picture of Yarm High Street in the mid-1980s, and it takes me right back…


I’ve no idea why Doug had to go to hospital (probably emergency surgery to have the white undercoat removed from his parka) but it’s good to see I wasted no time in cranking up the ZX81 while he was under the knife. Now… it’s natural when you see the words ‘ZX’ and ‘Miner’ together to assume ‘Yes! Manic Miner for the Spectrum’. (When I say ‘natural’ I do, of course, mean ‘obsessively retentive with tendencies to spend too much time thinking about BASIC subroutines’. But hey, we all have our guilty pleasures…)


But no… I was still ten months away from owning a ZX Spectrum (although I frequently dreamed about them and would wake up all flushed with my heart racing), so this will have been another typey-in game from the pages of Sinclair Programs. I can’t remember much about it, but it probably involved… well, a miner (made, like all ZX81 graphics, out of asterisks, semi-colons and letter ‘O’s) chasing dollar signs around a blocky cave. No wonder Doug lasted half an hour before dragging me away to get some nice, healthy, outdoor paint fumes down me.

OK, Doctor Whoey bit – tonight was Part One of Planet Of Fire, an episode that many male, heterosexual Doctor Who fans hold in high regard for its complex plotting, bravura acting performances and – oh – THE FACT THAT NEW COMPANION NICOLA BRYANT SPENDS THE ENTIRE EPISODE FLOUNCING AROUND IN A TINY BIKINI.


It probably speaks volumes about me that… well, I didn’t even notice. Not a bit. As far as I was concerned Doctor Who was about dangerous derring-do and time travel and fighting evil stuff, and the fact that the new companion Peri wasn’t really dressed for Middlesbrough in February didn’t register with me at all. The only thing that did threaten to distract me from the story was the sound of my Dad weeping into the Evening Gazette, clearly distraught that he’d raised a robotic son immune to the lure of human flesh. Or he might just have been reading the latest Boro match report…

And the contestants on tonight’s Adventure Game were occasional Newsround substitute Paul McDowell, reigning Mastermind champion (and future Egghead!) Chris Hughes and – wait for it – the mighty Bonnie Langford. But by this point I had eyes only for Rongad the backwards-talking Australian, and it sparked me off on a craze for talking backwards myself as often as possible. A practice that would drive my form teacher Mrs Keasey to the verge of a nervous breakdown over the ensuing weeks.


Doogy rev, doogy rev…


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