Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 99

Sunday 8th April 1984

Woke up around 8.00 and read my Doctor Who comic till around 9.30, when I got up. Then I started to tidy my bedroom but soon got sick and came down to play on the ZX81. Started to type in a program called Frogger but it crashed so I went outside and played football.

Hadn’t been out too long when I had to come in and have dinner. Had a bacon sandwich and after that I went upstairs again and played around with my bedroom but still ended up with it looking a mess. Eventually I gave in and after another kick around outside I had tea.

After that I went back outside but came in at 7.15 to watch Last of the Summer Wine. After that I did my diary, then I had a bath. At 9.20 I watched Thats life and at 10.15 I went to bed.

After a week of yomping around the North Yorkshire Moors and a day of exciting Doctor Who-ey stuff and den-painting with Doug, I think this was the day when it all caught up with me. I’m still like this now… I spend weeks on end racing around like a Tasmanian Devil for 18 hours a day, and then suddenly – out of nowhere – a morning arrives when all I want to do is potter around by myself, sleep, and gently tidy things up.

starwarsfigures

I had a job on my hands with the bedroom, mind. It was always an absolute tip. It was roughly square with my single bed (and bright yellow bedspread) pushed up against one wall, and a collapsing, wonky wardrobe opposite. Inbetween was a no-man’s-land of comics, Star Wars figures, TDK D90 cassettes, exercise books, bits of robot and electrical stuff… and dog hair.

The only thing kept (usually) tidy was my paperback book collection, housed in a solid, hand-made bookcase that had been in the family since the pre-Cambrian era. It was mainly filled with Doctor Who novelisations (kept, of course, in order of programme tranmission) and I’m proud to say that, 25 years on, the same item of furniture is still going strong.

I’ve grown up now, obviously, so it’s currently in our front room filled with, erm… Doctor Who DVDs. Kept, of course, in order of programme transmission.

bobsbookcase

I suspect my tidying up on this day consisted of little more than putting endless stacks of Beanos, Whoopees, Star Wars Weeklies and Whizzer And Chipses into chronological order and shoving them under the bed out of the way to create a meandering, ten-inch walkway through the rest of the rubbish still scattered around the rest of the bedroom floor.

Frogger was a classic 1981 arcade game that looked like this…

…although, brilliantly, the ZX81 version looked like this…

froggerzx81

Fabulous stuff! Dodge those killer letter ‘I’s and watch out for the deadly zeroes!

(Incidentally, I’m not taking the piss out of the ZX81 here… well, alright, I AM, but I’m still full of admiration for the early 80s geniuses that managed to cram these games into 16K of memory – as my friend MJ Hibbett regularly points out ‘you need more than that for a letter/old-school RAMpacks are much better’).  

The ‘football’ I indulged in was a solo affair as well, hammering the ball against the side of the house and saving the rebounds, with the two trees in our side garden acting as goalposts. In fact, here I am doing exactly that, in a photo taken in February 1982…

footballinthegarden

Oddly enough, this picture has just jolted to the forefront of my mind the old ‘Spot The Ball’ competitions that my entire family used to enter every week.

I know the Evening Gazette used to run this every Friday (as I used to help fill the form in at my Gran’s house on a weekend, sprawled across the cream settee with a Biro in my hand and my tongue sticking out), and I’m pretty sure you used to get one with the Football Pools as well. There’d be a grainy, black and white picture of a Boro match at Ayresome Park (usually from a few months earlier, in case canny ‘Spot The Ball’ hustlers still had every single movement of last week’s match burnt onto their retinas) with the ball removed.  Probably by Cliff Mitchell with a dob of Tippex.

It was then your job to guess the location of the ball by drawing as many ‘X’s as you were prepared to pay for into the slate-grey sky above Billy Woof’s head. To aid you in your quest, the Gazette would kindly give you the pitch condition (‘wet, but firm’ – a bit like Don O’Riordan), and the weather (‘grey, with a hint of drizzle’ – which sounds more like the manager John Neal). 

We did this every week and I have vague memories of my Gran once winning £1 for a ‘near miss’, which I suppose is more than Billy Woof ever managed.  This being Middlesbrough in the mid-1980s, the only place you could guarantee the ball WOULDN’T be was in the opposition’s net.

billyashcroft

(By the way, I still get a little shiver of nostalgic excitment thinking about the paraphenalia surrounding the football pools. Me and my friend Stuart reduced ourselves to tears last week reciting the ancient Grandstand mantras… ‘Today’s Score Draws… Numbers 4, 7, 12, 35 and 42, and the No Score Draws… Numbers 6, 19, 22 and 39. The match between Abroath and Cowdenbeath was postponed, and the dividend forecast is… poor’)

Anyway, Last Of The Summer Wine! I still consider it my life’s work to convince the heathen masses that the first ten years of Last Of The Summer Wine stand proudly alongside any classic British sitcom that you care to name, and it was still pretty good stuff for several years after that. There was no new series in 1984, so this must have been a repeat, and – oddly – I have a vague inkling it was a repeat of the 1976 series, because I remember Slackie and I chuckling on the school bus one morning about the golfing-themed episode ‘The Kink In Foggy’s Niblick’.

Me and all my friends at school loved Summer Wine, as did my parents, as did my Gran, and in my books that’s a sensational TV success story. I’m waiting until I turn 50, and then I’m just going to turn overnight into Foggy Dewhirst. Occasionally I give the moustache a go, just for practice.

So here’s the opening titles of the 1983 Christmas Special, ‘Getting Sam Home’, which I still maintain is the most gorgeous, dark, heartbreaking and downright funny British comedy films ever made. And if bunging this on the blog helps to sell a single DVD then my work here is done…

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5 Comments»

  Fiona Tims wrote @

OOoh I remember Spot the BAll. We used to do it on the Pools. I think we may have had 1 or 2 near misses. I eventually pursuaded my dad to stop partaking as it was a waste of money. He just transferred it to playing the lottery instead!

I used to watch LOTSW as a child, but now I don’t think I’d make it through an ep.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Your shelves are frighteningly neat and tidy. Did you have a little twizz around with the duster and Pledge before you took the photograph?

  bobfischer wrote @

I didn’t do any ACTUAL cleaning up, no. Who needs Pledge when you’ve got Photoshop?

I bought the first DVD set of LOTSW when it came out, and was amazed at how dark and funny it was, and it’s a standard that’s maintained for at least the first ten years. It’s only in the mid-80s that the ‘stunt of the week’ episodes start to creep in.

For a decade, it’s a gloriously written and performed bitter-sweet comedy with brilliantly sparkling dialogue worthy of Alan Bennett. Splendidly underplayed by everyone, especially the three main leads. When Brian Wilde joins the cast for Series 3, it becomes something really special, although it still retains its dark edge… as my friend Drew pointed out ‘it’s just three old men talking about death’.

  Drew Smith wrote @

I really, really love that film. It just gets better with each viewing.

  bobfischer wrote @

You can’t have a conversation about anyone these days without them earwigging, can you?


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