Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 78

Sunday 18th March 1984

Woke up at 8.30 and woke Doug up. We got up at 9.00 and sketch a graphed a picture of Tegan. At 10.00 Doug’s dad came and we went swimming. Came back to my house at 11.30, got some wood and went back to Doug’s house and started to make the back of the hut.

Then at 2.00 we went in and had dinner. Then we went out again and had a muck on before we finished the back with polythene, and also did the roof. Then we carried the hut out into the garden and put plastic bags under it. Then we went inside it and had some food and a drink and at 5.00 I went home.

At 5.15 I watched it ain’t half hot mum and then I went to sleep. At 7.15 I watched One by One and at 8.00 I wrote my diary. At 8.45 I had a bath and at 9.20 I watched That’s life. 10.10 Went to bed.

Clearly an exhausting day, largely because I’ll have hardly slept at all on the Saturday night. I found it really, really difficult sleeping when I had a mate over to stay… purely through the sheer excitement of something SO different to the norm. Doug, conversely, crashed out like a log as soon as I stopped talking (or, more accurately, about twenty minutes before) and I remember lying in the darkness listening to his breathing and trying desperately to nod off, but never quite managing it.


I must have dozed off sometime in the early hours though, and I remember shaking Doug’s shoulder as sunlight poured through my Star Wars curtains, and Princess Leia wafted seductively in the draught. Time, of course, for Doug to help me further cultivate my increasingly worrying crush on Janet Fielding…

The ‘Sketch A Graph’ had been bought for me from a fly-by-night stall in Middlesbrough’s Cleveland Centre shopping arcade about six months earlier. It looked exactly like this…


In theory, it allowed you to draw an exact copy of anything you liked. In theory, you bunged a pencil in the hole at the end, and – in theory – traced the other end (which had a little white pointer underneath it) around the outlines of your favourite picture. And, in theory, hey presto! You are – in theory – an ace caricaturist who can churn out accurate pencil drawings of any celebrity in the word, and nobody will ever guess your shady Sketch-A-Graph secret.   

In practice, pretty much every picture you attempted came out looking like Les Dawson. It’s a  job I actually LIKED Les Dawson, as I had hundreds of shaky pencil outlines of him scattered around my bedroom floor. I think Doug had come within a whisker of turning on his heel when I’d first suggested he stay over for the night.


Great to see our garden hideaway hut being finished as well! I still think this was an amazing achievement for two eleven-year-olds. It was about six feet wide, four feet deep and four feet high, made of solid wood with a door and a plastic window in the front, a sloping roof coated with polythene to let the rain slide off, and a little shelf inside to put drinks and plates of biscuits on.

From the front, it looked like this…


It just about housed the pair of us, sitting down. We plonked it in Doug’s garden around the back of his garage, partially sheltered from the elements and invisible from any window in the house. Truly, it was our little refuge from the world.

And I remember clearly the ‘went in and had dinner’ bit, because Doug’s family’s dinner table conversation was always a little bit franker than my own chunterings to my parents. So, as we chomped on Mother’s Pride ham sandwiches, and guzzled on Robinson’s Lemon Squash, the conversation went a bit like this…

Doug: Dad, can we have your nuddy calendar for the hut? (This, remember, was an ancient 1980-ish calendar that we’d found hanging at the back of the garage… stockings, suspenders, women with pneumatic figures and incredibly hairy groins, that kind of thing).


Doug’s Dad (without batting an eyelid): Yep.

Jenny (Doug’s 14-year-old sister): I know it’s only naked women, but jeez – that thing’s pornographic.

Doug’s Mum: What is pornography, though? Where do you draw the line?

Me: Eeeeeep (going bright red and choking on my sandwich)

Doug’s Dad: Make this the last project though, eh? (He wasn’t bothered about the calender, but I think he was sick of having his best bits of wood nicked from under his nose)

So we took the nuddy calendar, and pinned it up on the inside of the hut. Making the interior look a bit like this…


And then we went outside and sat in it. For hours. Talking about nothing and flicking idly through the nuddy calendar. Eating Mint Viscount biscuits and listening to the rain hammering against the polythene-coated roof. Fogging up the window with our breath. Fiddling with each others parkas. Our own private Idaho, and I wanted to stay there forever. 

Although at the same time I was, obviously, concocting elaborate schemes in my head to ensure that my Mum NEVER EVER EVER found out that we had a vintage nuddy calendar hidden in our den.

No wonder I was physically and mentally drained, and fell asleep for two hours after Sunday dinner.

Anyway, I’m delighted to report that I’ve recently obtained a prized relic from this very week in 1984. I have the TV Times, with vital television listings for Tyne Tees and Channel 4! Looking at the line-up for Sunday 18th March is like opening a fogged-up, plastic window into the past.

‘Morning Worship’, live from Dundee!
‘Aap Kaa Hak’, the advice programme for Asian viewers!
‘Weekend World’ with Brian Walden!
‘Metal Mickey’, and ‘The Big Match’ with Brian Moore!
‘CHiPs’ and ‘Bullseye’ with specia guest, Lionel Blair!
‘Highway’ with Harry Secombe in the Mountains of Mourne!
‘Family Fortunes’ with Max Bygraves!
‘Live From Her Majesty’s’ with Brenda Lee, Jimmy Cricket and David Essex!
‘Spitting Image’ – the third ever episode! (We didn’t watch this, we were always more a ‘That’s Life!’ household)

And, brilliantly, Channel 4 doesn’t switch on until 1.25pm, so if you pushed the button before that you’d doubtless end up with this…

Worth hanging around until 4.15pm though, for ‘Jack’s Game’… ‘Jack Charlton joins a grouse shooting party on the Lancashire moors’. Bizarrely, Charlton had just rejoined struggling Middlesbrough (to give them their full title) for a brief two-month spell as manager. He clearly needed to release a bit of pent-up tension with a twelve bore. Are you reading this, Gareth Southgate? Get your plus fours at the ready…


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