Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 65

Monday 5th March 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. First at school I went into Topic group and we came out at 10.30. Then at 10.35 I did some Topic on setting out on an Arctic expedition. At 12.00 I had dinner and when we came in I went in for Maths groups.

When we came out I did Maths. Then I helped Doug tidy out his file. At 3.15 I came home and at 3.45 I went down to Doug’s. Then we went back to my house and decided that we couldn’t make a tree house and we would make a den instead.

First we put the window onto a wall from the old bathroom, then we found another wall and made it the floor. At 5.00 I had tea, and at 5.30 Doug went home. Then I cleared the plaster off the floor and at 8.00 I watched Duty Free. 9.30 Went to bed.

So, the treehouse plans lasted almost exactly 24 hours before Doug came round, looked at the Californian Redwood-sized tree in my front garden, and said ‘Naaaah…’

I love the fact that we had ‘a wall from the old bathroom’ kicking around the place. When my parents bought the house in 1977 it was virtually derelict, and lots of the inside walls were basically large lumps of wood that somebody had haphazardly nailed on and plastered over. Over the next couple of years my Dad – a self-employed builder at this point – systematically renovated the place, and I think I was seven years old before I realised that he didn’t actually have grey hair… it was just the accumulated dust from years of demolishing stuff, plastering over walls and mixing cement.


No harm in hanging onto a perfectly decent, ramshackle bit of derelict wall though (‘Find a bloody use for that…’ etc), so any salvageable bits of our old house interior had been used to make the edges of a compost heap so vast and noxious that I swear if Peter Cushing decided to bore through it with a drill-tipped digging vehicle, he’d soon emerge into a prehistoric netherworld full of dinosaurs and men in fur leotards. It’s called ‘Thornaby’.

Anyway, there were still spare bits of old wooden wall piled up at the bottom of the garden, so Doug and I helped ourselves. And – exactly 25 years to the very day – I still have a small scar at the base of my left thumb where I got slightly overenthusiastic with my sawing, and decided that once I’d gone through my half of the old bathroom wall, I might as well press onto my limbs as well.

I’ve tried to take a picture, but it doesn’t really show up. I’ve arrowed where the scar actually is, though…


If any of you bump into me anywhere, I’ll happily point it out to you in the flesh. Well, what flesh there is left on there…

We hadn’t, of course, made any attempt to plan our den in advance, we were just hacking together random lumps of wood in the vague hope that they’d come together to make every 11-year-old boy’s dream penthouse retreat, with plenty of room for the stereo system (including the Frankie Goes To Hollywood 12 inches) and the cocktail bar that Wendy Brunskill would soon be reclining against as we mixed up Pina Coladas and sang ’99 Red Balloons’.

What it actually resembled was a kind of horrendous, gothic coffin. With a window in the top for our hapless victim to scream through before we buried them in a shallow grave down the ‘Private Lane’.

Are you reading this, Christopher Herbert? You’ll never know how close you came…


Anyway, it looks like I lasted a couple of hours of swearing and kicking lumps of old plaster off the woodwork before ‘getting sick’ and coming back into the warm to watch Duty Free. Our next door neighbours were Mr and Mrs Cogan, an elderly retired County Durham miner and his wife, and I remember them occasionally peering through the curtains as I attempted to lug six-foot sections of wall around the bottom of the garden by myself. I think, after seven years of us living there, that they’d reached the conclusion I was probably mental.

It was bloody freezing as well. Good job I’d had my Arctic expedition training in Topic Group that morning.


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