Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary.. Volume 80

Tuesday 20th March 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. First at school I met Doug, then I went in for hymn practice. After that I did Topic and we had to do a piece of writing on our own island. When i’d done that I did maths and then me and Ozzie read a new Fighting Fantasy called Deathtrap dungeon which Slackie had brought in.

At 12.00 I had dinner and at 12.30 I went in for computer club. Me and Ozzie did the writing part for the Guardian. Came out at 1.45 and me and Oz read the rest of Deathtrap Dungeon. Came home at 3.15 and went down to Doug’s, and we went to Yarm and took the Talkers.

First we went in Newsfare, then Hintons, then we went to Strickies and we had a look at the books. I got the 2 new Fighting Fantasies. Then I went home and had tea, and then me and mam took Poggy Doggy for a walk. At 6.40 I watched Tucker’s luck. Then I read my books and at 9.30 I went to bed.

Oh, the excitement! As I shambled off the school bus, Doug came racing across the playground to meet me, and we both jumped up and down on the spot for ten minutes solid as we celebrated house-to-house contact on Doug’s toy Walkie Talkies! (see yesterday’s entry).

Well, not quite house-to-house, as Doug revealed that he’d got halfway between his place and mine (a distance of about a quarter of a mile) before my strange, high-pitched ‘OBLEDEEEE’ signal crackled out of his receiver. But still… this was clearly THE FUTURE OF HUMAN COMMUNICATION and much better than those rubbish ‘phone’ things whose global network of influence was just tantamount to showing off.


(By the way, in 1984 our old phone still looked like this… I think this is gorgeous, and I want one in my office, even if the process of dialling a modern mobile number will require at least ten minutes to complete and might lead to early onset arthritis in my right index finger.


I told my friend Stuart this week that I still remembered my old phone number from being a kid, with the ancient ‘0642’ dialling code at the start. He suggested I try calling it straight away, to see if we could get through to my Dad in 1984. A non-starter, really… it doesn’t matter what era you phoned my Dad in, he’d just grunt and shout ‘Doreen, it’s for you…’)

ANYWAY! Basically… a school day of which the entire afternoon was spent playing on the computer and then racing through the new Fighting Fantasy book! And they say kids today are lazy, self-obsessed and only interested in computer games. Pfffft… we had all of that cracked over 25 years ago.


Slackie was Phil Slack, and he was – and is – great. A fabulous sandy-haired anarchist who, even at the age of 11, acted like a heavy metal drummer. It was practice that stood him in good stead though, because when I bumped into him in the mid-1990s, for the first time in years, he was indeed… a heavy metal drummer. He gets a mention in ‘Wiffle Lever To Full!’, in the Discworld chapter, because in our teenage years he became Flaxman Orcslayer, scourge of the Dungeons and Dragons table round at Neil ‘Elrond Goldenbow’ Braithwaite’s house.

All of that was to come though… in 1984 he was just our mate Phil, who liked Fighting Fantasy books and pulling moonies in PE lessons.

Anyway, Deathrap Dungeon! Here it is:


An utter classic of the genre, set in the ‘twisting labyrinth of Fang’, where Ozzie and I took up the ‘Trial of Champions, devised by the devilish mind of Baron Sukumvit, riddled with fiendish traps and hideous creatures of darkness’. 

Sounds like Middlesbrough town centre on a Thursday night. And I should know, I’ve just driven through there on my way home from work.

Ozzie and I spent over two hours of our school day ‘reading in the library’ with Slackie’s copy, and I think we actually completed it, although admittedly we didn’t bother messing around with any of that paper and pencil nonsense, we just stuck fingers in the book to mark every decision. And if we were killed by a Mirror Demon or a Manticore, we could easily retreat to the previous finger.

This could obviously get complicated, and at one point we had at least six different fingers (three each) stuck into the pages of the book, contorting ourselves into strange, perverted shapes as we prepared to face the evil Skeleton Warrior (turn to 331). The following day, we saw Mr Hirst pinning up a note to the effect that ‘PLAYING “TWISTER” IN THE SCHOOL LIBRARY IS EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN’ but we were sure it must just have been a strange coincidence.


Off to Yarm, then, with the ‘Talkers’, clearly essential accessories in case Doug found himself marooned in Aisle 7 of Hinton’s supermarket and needed to urgently contact me over by the chewing gum (or ‘chuddy’) rack.


The ‘other’ Fighting Fantasy, by the way, was ‘Island Of The Lizard King’. They came out on the same day. £1.50 each, so I spent a massive £3 on books in one fell swoop!  Still, surely worth it for the chance to fight the ‘mad and dangerous Lizard King, who holds sway over his land of mutants by the strange powers of black magic and voodoo…’

Come here Ozzie, I need any fingers you can spare…



  Chris Orton wrote @

Interesting use of the word “chuddy” there Bob.

Our South Durham variant was IIRC “chutty”, or “chut”.

  fiona tims wrote @

I love the old style phones too. I’ve seen them in *gasp* antique shops (they’re not that old!!!!!) for over £60! What a rip off.

  Patsy wrote @

I must be in the forefront of style then – the phone you covet is my bedroom phone, although mine is a dark jade green, in use every day and I don’t have arthritic fingers either 🙂

I still can’t get over what a seemingly easy time you had at school spending most of the day dossing around as you appear to be an extremely erudite gentleman !

  Patsy wrote @

P.S There seems to be an element of time travel here – the message above was written at 10 a.m. yet it appears that I have written it in 58 minutes time..

  bobfischer wrote @

Definitely ‘chuddy’ in my neck of the woods, and sweets were often ‘ket’ as well. As in ‘Got any ket, mate?’ No idea why!

£60!!! I had no idea. I thought I’d pick one up for pennies on Ebay. I’m sure ours was still our main household phone well into the early 1990s.

Patsy – take care of that phone! Especially as it seems your house exists at a weak spot in the space-time continuum. 🙂

  Chris Orton wrote @

Yeah, I still use ‘ket’ to describe sweets.

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