Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 57

Sunday 26th February 1984

Woke up at 9.15 and got up at 10.15. I started to do some more of the Doctor Who program but Doug rang and I went to his house. We touched up K9 and painted the antennae then I came home and Doug caught up with me.

At my house we did some of the Doctor Who program, then we had a few games and after that we went upstairs and mucked about. When we came downstairs we took Poggy Doggy for a walk past the woods and down Private Lane. Then we came back at about 5.20 and went inside until 5.30 When Doug went home.

At 5.45 I had tea and after tea I wrote some of the Doctor Who program but it all crashed so I switched it off for a while. At 7.15 I watched One by One, at 8.5 I wrote my diary and at 8.35 I watched Ever decreasing circles. At 9.05 I had a bath, at 9.20 I watched That’s life and at 10.10 I went to bed.

K9 needed a lot of touching up, didn’t he? There must have been streaks of grey paint all over the walls in Doug’s house.

Going ‘down Private Lane’, although it sounds like a depraved euphemism, was all above board. Well, sort of. Walking down the main road, past my house and away in the opposite direction from Doug’s house and Yarm High Street, we entered a rural idyll. My garden backed onto a huge expanse of farmers’ fields (belonging to Mr Smith, our next-door neighbour’s burly, bearded Geoff Capes-lookalike son) and amongst those were dotted sproadic clumps of woodland.


Private Lane snaked from the main road into one of these copses. A handful of houses were dotted around its edge, but they didn’t interest us. We just wanted to be in the woods, which held two main attractions for us. Firstly, a regular selection of torn-up pages from Razzle magazine, and secondly THE MOST SENSATIONAL COLLECTION OF CONKER TREES IN THE WORLD.


Obviously February’s not an ideal time to be conkering, so clearly we’d taken Poggy Doggy with us to snuffle out some prime examples of mid-1980s smut from under the bushes. Although there were probably the mouldering remains of last year’s harvest still dotted around the woodland floor. I’m talking about both smut and conkers now, by the way.

As the year progressed, we spent increasing number of afternoons clambering around these woods, building dens and tarzies and trying to ride up the trees on our bikes.  A dense, thick area of North Yorkshire woodland is still my favourite lump of natural environment, with only the upland Arctic tundra coming a rather distant second.


I’m also quite proud of the fact that my generation of 11-year-olds were able to program computers. Not just drag a few windows around the screen, but actually start from scratch and CODE. After fourteen months of ZX81 ownership I was becoming rather a dab hand at programming, and although I was by no means the best in the world (that was Jason Robson in the year below me) I was definitely up for making a few Daleks roam around the portable TV screen, even if they did look like this…


Are you watching, Jason Robson? Are you? ARE YOU???

No surprise that ‘it all crashed’ though. When it came to solid, dependable reliability, the ZX81 was up there with the Large Hadron Collider and Pete Doherty. And a ZX81 crash was far more permanent than your average 2009 PC wobbly. As ‘saving’ any of my work in progress generally required faffing around with a portable tape recorder (covered in streaks of grey paint) for anything up to 40 minutes, I tended not to bother. 

Amidst such early Eighties adversity were great scientific temperaments cultivated. Not mine, I hasten to add, I’ve got all the cool, collected patience of a seventh birthday party. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if, at the centre of the world’s largest high-energy particle accelerator 175 metres beneath the streets of Geneva, is a little black computer with plastic keys and a 16K rampack.

And Pete Doherty.


  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I am pleasantly surprised to see conkers getting their first mention as early as February.
It serves as a pertinent reminder that out of season produce was harder to come by in 1984 than it is now.
Research at the Weobley Foundation has shown that Razzle fragments, if placed in the corners of a room, will discourage ponies from coming in. Of course if you want to keep a full-sized horse out you’ll need to tear up an Escort. Possibly Playbirds if it’s an Arabian Stallion.

  Dean wrote @

I live in castleford in west yorkshire.At the back of my nanna and grandads is fryston wood and that is where i spent most of my child hood,climbing tree,making dens and tree swings just like you.There too were always shredded issues of raz mags everywhere (why was this??)
At the end of the woods was the farmers field and in the middle of that sugar beet and potato field was an island of conker trees.This part was off bounds as it was private land.We sneaked accross anyway to gather conkers and then ran back while the falmer fired off salt pellets at us!
Also at one end of the wood was two brick high white wall that ran quite a big area,as kids we were told that this was a wiches house and she hounted the wood on a night.She was dubbed the white lady and we were all scared of seeing her but always went looking!
Recently i did some research and found out that the white wall was actualy a big hall where many famouse peaple from history were supposed to have stopped.It was taken down in 1900 after a big fire and the remaining bricks were used to build a nearby church.
Its funny what you can find out all these years later and it sort of takes the fun away.

  bobfischer wrote @

Great stuff… I think everyone’s childhood had a resident ghost! There were definitely houses around Yarm that everyone knew belonged to witches, or were haunted. Usually just places were the grass was a bit too long, or the paint was peeling on the front windows. Surefire signs of demon-worship.

A bit like my current house, to be honest… *blushes*

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