Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 87

Tuesday 27th March 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. Got the bus at 8.30 and when I got to school Gazzie had brought some hiking boots for me. When we went in it was hymn practice and then after that all the boys had their medical for Carlton. When we came out I did maths, then me, Ozzie and Frankie did some of the brochure.

At 12.00 I had dinner and in the afternoon it was reading time. Then me and Doug went and read in the library, and I got a new book. When I got sick I came out and wrote some of the brochure.

Came home at 3.15 and Doug was at Yarm so I played on the ZX81, Then I went out for a bit and came in for tea at 4.35. At 4.45 I watched Charlie Brown, then I played on the ZX81 again. After that me and mam walked Poggy Doggy on the estate and at 6.40 I watched Tucker’s luck.

7.00 Went out and played football, then I came in and played on the ZX81. After some supper I had a bath and went to bed at 9.15.

AAAAARGH! There is no metaphor in the English language that can possibly convey the utter, arse-clenching agony of attempting to walk for the very first time in a pair of hiking boots.

In early 1984, I owned a grand total of four pairs of footwear…


1. A tatty pair of cheap crimson trainers from Woolco, as pictured left.

2. A pair of black, school ‘pumps’ (stop tittering) for use on pommel horses and the ‘apparatus’.

3. Cheap football boots with moulded plastic studs.

4. Wellies.


So hiking boots were well out of my comfort zone in every sense of the word. But we’d been told in no uncertain terms that our week at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre would involve a) walking slow b) walking fast and c) walking at a kind of intermediate pace, either slowing down or speeding up between a) and b), and that the absence of Proper Hiking Boots would lead to a disciplinary hearing chaired by the Ghostly Grey Lady Of Carlton Camp.

So my Dad had been consulted about the prospect of  purchasing a pair in the days leading up to my moorland adventure, and reached the considered conclusion: ‘Can’t he borrow some bloody boots? He’ll never wear bloody hiking boots again as long as he bloody well lives’.

 Thankfully, Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones (a seasoned cub scout, who went camping and sang Gin Gan Goolie and everything) came to the rescue.

(I’d been in the cubs myself, for less than a year from 1980-81. I had the full uniform – green jumper, cap, woggle and neckerchief – and our meetings were held every Thursday night in Levendale Primary School hall, with the towering figure of Mr Blankley (who always reminded me a bit of Paul Darrow from Blake’s 7) as our Akela. I managed not to attain a single badge during my time there, and discreetly resigned in the Summer of 1981 when I realised I was missing Top Of The Pops every week. My Mum pushed a note through Mr Blankley’s letterbox, and then we ran to the car and screeched away in a cloud of dust.

I’ve still got the uniform, but I’m never prepared. For anything)


So, exactly 25 years ago today, Gazzie Jones turned up at school and presented me with a Presto carrier bag containing a pair of gigantic hiking boots that resembled two hollowed-out brown breezeblocks tied together with lengths of rope. I tried them on in the cloakroom at dinnertime, and developed saucer-sized blisters on my heels within seconds.

(All credit to my dad, though, who was dead right. 25 years after Carlton Camp, I have indeed never worn bloody hiking boots again as long as I’ve bloody well lived)

I’ve no recollection at all of us boys having our ‘medical’ but, as nobody at the school had even a jot of medical training, I’m going to speculate that it consisted of Mr Hirst saying ‘Cough… touch your toes… next’ around twenty times.

No wonder I spent the rest of the afternoon sulking in the library.

Anyway, a few more highlights from the Radio Times of the day…

BBC1, 1.45pm Chock-A-Block, with Fred Harris. ‘Today it’s the Chockabloke who puts the block into Chockablock’s block slot and rocks the Rockablocks to find words that ring Chockablock’s rhyme chime’.


As a very small child, Fred Harris terrified me, purely because he had (gasp!) a BEARD. And I was scared of facial hair (see also: Ron Mael from Sparks). I even used to have nightmares that, as I lay in bed, a strange, bearded puppet-like figure called Fred would peep around the corner of the door and call my name in a terrifying, sing-song manner. It still makes me shivery writing about it now.

BBC1, 6.40pm Harty. ‘Live from the Greenwood Theatre, Kenny Everett invites Russell Harty to put his toes into The Blood Bath At The House Of Death’. I thought this must have been a stage play that Cuddly Ken was appearing in, but I’ve just checked and it’s a FILM! A spoof horror film starring Everett and Vincent Price! Released on 30th March 1984! For 25 years this has completely passed me by… I’ve never heard of it. And I’ve just been amazed and delighted to discover that it’s out on DVD! Just ordered a copy! More exclamation marks, please!

BBC2 7.40pm Top Gear. ‘A look at motoring in the year 2000 with William Woollard and Frank Page. How will cars be powered in the 21st century? Electricity or hydrogen? Could towns and cities change to suit or motoring needs, and one day will cars drive themselves?’ I HOPE YOU’RE READING THIS, CLARKSON!!!

BBC2, 9pm Marti Caine. With special guests Randy Crawford, Derek Griffiths, The King’s Singers and Spike Milligan. Throw in St Francis of Assissi and that’s pretty much my ideal dinner party.


  Chris Orton wrote @

Whatever happened to Fred Harris? I seem to recall that he used to present a whole swathe of computer-based programmes in the days before computers had mice.

None were ever as good as Chockablock though.

And Bob, this fear of facial hair business – what led you to growing yer own beard then? Aversion therapy?

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Wow, I remember that beginning to Chockablock. Have no recollection of the Prog though.
I think the guy in the car was scarier than the Ghostly Lady!

  Chris Orton wrote @

The lady was another former PlaySchool presenter called Carol Leader, who later went on to appear as a receptionist in late 1980s Casualty.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yep, Fred used to present loads of 1980s computer shows, ‘Me And My Micro’ being the one that sticks in my mind. If you put him into Youtube, there are a few clips.

Not sure what he’s up to now, but he was nearly a guest on my radio show! We swapped a couple of e-mails but never managed to fix a date as he seemed to be away quite a bit. He seemed a nice bloke, though.

I was utterly terrified of facial hair until about the age of 6, when it competely vanished. And now I’ve definitely not been completely clean-shaven for well over a decade.

Chockablock was great, and ran for quite a while, I think – possibly until about 1990? And yes, that’s Carol Leader in the clip, one of the two Play School Carols, along with the lovely Carol Chell.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

After much scientific analysis I can conclude with great confidence that Carol Chell was a poppet!
We certainly need Fred Harris back on our televisions, for there has been a lamentable downturn in the quality and quantity of science programming since he left. Speaking of which, I suspect young Fischer was merely being qualitative when he noted his blister as being the size of a saucer. Unless it was a dolly’s saucer of course.

  bobfischer wrote @

Carol Chell had beautiful eyes. If you rake through Youtube, you can find a clip of her making green jelly in a purple pinny.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The silly lady! It would set far better if she made it in a mould. This is what Physics means.

  bobfischer wrote @

I’d like to claim an ‘assist’ for that joke. Just to up my ratings in the OPTA comedy stats.

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