Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 70

Saturday 10th March 1984

Woke up at 8.00 and watched TVAM. At 8.35 I watched Godzilla and at 9.00 I watched Superstore. Got up at 10.00 and sorted out my Doctor Who comics and then I went downstairs and drew a Dalek. Then Mam came back from Middlesbrough with my Dr Who mag and a book called Elidor.

I read them until 1.00 (until I had dinner) after dinner at 1.30 I rang Doug but he was out so I played on the videopac. Then I read some of Elidor, and had a few goes on Sea Fall on the ZX81. Also started to write a Rabbit game but it was too hard.

At 5.00 I had tea and at 5.20 I watched Rod Hull and Emu. After that I watched Jim’ll Fix It and at 6.30 I watched Some Mothers do ave em. At 7.00 I went upstairs and watched 321 and then I read Elidor again. At 9.25 I watched Driving ambition and at 10.00 I went to bed.

I must have been ill, I didn’t even make my weekly Saturday morning retail pilgrimage to Middlesbrough! This was the 1984 Fischer household equivalent of the ravens leaving the Tower Of London, and it probably meant that our extension was about to collapse into rubble at any moment. If my Dad didn’t first decide to knock it down and build a utility room and a conservatory while I was out at school for the day.  


Anyway, bless you mother – I stayed in bed watching Saturday Superstore and you went out and bought me Doctor Who Monthly No 47 (with a brilliant ‘Cybermen in the Dead Zone’ poster that was on my bedroom wall in nanoseconds) and the magnificent, brilliant, life-affirming ‘Elidor’.

I was now officially an 11-year-old Alan Garner obsessive, and – having rabidly devoured The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen and  The Moon Of Gomrath – Elidor was the natural next step for me. It’s an incredible, intense read, with four 1960s Manchester children being drawn into the parallel world of the title – a doomed mystical realm to which their suburban front door becomes the unstable portal.  It’s dark and rich and utterly engrossing, and still has the power to make me question the creaks and bumps of my own suburban front door on a windy, winter’s night. The combination of grimy, grotty mundane city life with the utterly fantastical is still completely entrancing. And I was convinced that the illustration of Roland on the front cover was a dead ringer for my 11-year-old self, although admittedly it was mainly down to the Parka.


Oh, and the scene with the Ouija board is terrifying… read it and find out!

‘Sea Fall’ must have been another ZX81 game from the pages of Sinclair Programs, but it seems to have vanished into the mists of time forever. I’ve got a feeling, though, that my ‘Rabbit’ game was a shameless attempt to write a very British rip-off of the classic arcade game ‘Frogger’, with my hapless bunny attempting to cross the busy dual carriageway of the A19… (probably somewhere near the Crathorne turn-off)

A very cosy day sniffling and snuffling, though… no doubt eagerly thumbing through the pages of Elidor while the rain hammered against the front room window. Bliss.

A vintage 1984 night’s worth of telly, as well! Good to see Rod Hull and Emu still occupying a prime tea-time spot. This was actually ‘Emu’s Pink Windmill’ show on ITV, the last of the series, with Rod and his feathery attention-deficit-syndrome sidekick being menaced by the green Grotbags the witch. Grotbags was played by former club soul singer Carol Lee Scott, who I’ve interviewed for the radio and she was lovely with some hilarious tales to tell.


Also appearing on the show were (wait for it) Lynsey De Paul and (wait for it even longer) Slade! Russell T Davies, eat your heart out – what a season finale!  Noddy’s boys were actually celebrating a huge renaissance, with the fine single that is ‘Run Run Away’ riding high in the Top 10…

This really was a splendid age for light entertainment, wasn’t it? Jim’ll Fix It (which I still held a touch of bitterness towards after my 1978 letter asking to ‘be in Star Wars and meet Darth Vader’ was cruelly ignored), and 321 on a black and white portable TV in my bedroom. Does life get any better?

Driving Ambition, meanwhile, was a primetime BBC1 drama about two middle-aged housewives who decide to pursue their dream to be saloon car racers. There’s no punchline, honestly, I’m not making this up! It seems to have been virtually whitewashed out of history, but I think David ‘Ford Prefect’ Dixon played one of their husbands, and Gavin ‘Captain Bertorelli from Allo Allo’ Richards was the other.


Great gritty and grotty stuff in that lovely early 80s fashion though, although my main memory is of watching it on this very evening on – for some reason – an old threadbare rocking chair that occasionally appeared in our front room when my Gran came to stay. I was reading Elidor in front of the TV, when my Mum commented on the quote from the Times Literary Supplement on the cover ‘A remarkable book; intelligent, rich and terrifying’.

‘Oooh,’ she cooed. ‘That sounds scary’.

And, of course, it was… but if I could live through half an hour of primetime Jimmy Savile without hiding behind the sofa…


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