Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 89

Thursday 29th March 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.15. First at school it was maths groups, and when we came out I did maths. First I had to do a Hexaside, Then I had to do two methods of multiplication. The Egyptian way and the Russian way.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then in the afternoon I read a bit, then we had to go into the hall to check our cases for Carlton, which we brought in this morning. When we came out I read, then we had to go in about Carlton again.

After that I did the cover for my brochure and at 3.00 it was assembly. Came home at 3.15 and played on the ZX81. Typed in a program called Oxygen Alert but it didn’t save. Then I had tea and after that I went out and played football.

Came in at 6.40 and watched Doctor Who, then I went out again. Came in about 8.00 and played on my ZX81, then I wrote my diary and I went to bed.

A HEXASIDE? They’re just taking the geometrical mickey now. I’m now convinced that this whole sorry process is just an excuse to sex-up and re-brand the humble hexagon, a perfectly respectable polygon in its own right. No doubt the next step is a series of tawdry Hexaside TV commercials, with the cast of Duty Free plugging it relentlessly backed by a pounding Nik Kershaw soundtrack.

As for Russian and Egyptian multiplication… well, alright, there’s a BIT more evidence, have a look at this bit of ‘recreational mathematics’…

Substitute a squeaky chalk blackboard for the overhead projector, Mrs Keasey in her lilac suit for the bloke in the pink shirt, and plonk whiffy Christopher Herbert down the front, and that’s a pretty damn accurate Crimewatch reconstruction of 29th March 1984.

Alright, one last day of relative ‘normality’ before the horrors of Carlton Outdoor Education Centre (and the Grey Lady) took me away forever. Except the spectre of it loomed over us all day, like an impending war. I have no idea why we had to bring our suitcases in to have them ‘checked’, but I do recall lugging my World War I brown leather affair into the hall amidst a sea of trendy dayglo camping gear brought in by posh kids who went horse riding and took skiing holidays.


Presumably Mr Hirst wanted to ensure that we’d packed sensible numbers of socks, underpants, waterproofs and Imperial Leather (one of life’s little luxuries) and not just filled our cases to the brim with Wham Bars, Fighting Fantasy books and laggy bands (to fend off the Grey Lady, naturally).

Good to see another ZX81 failure, anyway – I can’t find out much about ‘Oxygen Alert’, but a modicum of research reveals that it did indeed appear in the March 1984 edition of the Sinclair Programs magazine, so at least I was up to date.


And woah! False memory syndrome! I wrote last week that Part Two of the Doctor Who story ‘The Twin Dilemma’ was the last episode that I saw for nearly twenty years… but I was clearly wrong, because here I am, bold as brass, sitting down in front of Part Three! So it was just the very last episode that I missed. What a cliffhanger as well, with Peri captured by the Gastropods, and Azmael (played by the mighty Maurice Denham) refusing to let the Doctor go to her rescue. 

No doubt it kept me awake all night. That, and my dark troubled nightmares about The Grey Lady of Carlton Camp…

Anyway, a few more highlights from the Radio Times for this day:


BBC1 3.00pm, The Afternoon Show. Presented by Barbara Dickson and Penny Junor. ‘Today they look at: Accidents In The Home – is your home more dangerous than the outside world? Dreams – do they have meaning or purpose? Domestic robots – would you have one in your home? Quiz Times with Vernon Coleman – does guilt rule your life?’

Wow. It’s like Pebble Mill At One’s neurotic older sister.

BBC1, 4.35pm Huckleberry Finn and his Friends. Part One of the 6,754th BBC1 repeat of this series, but I defy anyone over 35 not to look at the following opening title sequence and not want to curl up in a ball in front of the fire with a mug of warm milk and a Blue Riband biscuit…

BBC2, 9pm Mike Harding In Belfast. ‘Mike Harding ferries his road show across the water and takes up residence in the Grand Opera House, Belfast, for the next six weeks’.

And in my heart for the next 25 years. Mike Harding was a comic hero for me in the early 1980s, a moustachioed genius whose rambling (and often filthy) tales of growing up in West Yorkshire sprang from the same music scene as Jasper Carrott, Billy Connolly and a shedload of other folkie stand-ups that never get enough credit for kickstarting the modern stand-up scene and dragging it out of the Northern club circuit. 

And yegods, this takes me back…

Our full week at Carlton Camp starts tomorrow… don’t forget your Wham Bars!


  Fiona Tims wrote @

I love, love, loved Wham Bars!

I’ve never seen that Huck Finn prog before!

  bobfischer wrote @

You’re kidding!!!! I swear when I was a kid, it was on at least four times a day from 1979-1985. It seemed that way, anyway. I never liked Huckleberry Finn, he had the look of a murderer about him.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Please tell me that you made up that listing for ‘The Afternoon Show’. Please tell me it is not real!

  bobfischer wrote @

Sadly… yes, it’s real! It seems that the daytime TV of 1984 was a far more adventurous cove than the raggle-taggle mish-mash of property programmes and documentaries about tidying up that pass for a schedule today.

Although I won’t have a word said against ‘Homes Under The Hammer’, and would be prepared to defend Lucy Alexander’s honour in a duel.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I have a terrible recurring dream that my domestic robot staff have made me too frightened to go outside in case I have an accident. Naturally I feel terribly guilty when ever I disobey them and go outside.
Where are Barbara and Penny when I need them now, hmm? I doubt Lucy could help with that particular problem.

  bobfischer wrote @

Admittedly Lucy Alexander’s main fields of expertise seem to be dry rot and property rental prices, but I’m sure she’d be willing to have a go at solving your robot-based guilt nightmare issues.

Failing that, she’d probably make you a nice cup of cocoa and just listen sympathetically with her head cocked slightly to one side. That’d do for me.

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