Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 100

Monday 9th April 1984

At 7.50 I woke up and I got up at 8.10. Went for the bus at 8.30 and first at school it was assembly, and when we came out me Doug and Ozzie did a table square. After that boring job was over we had to pick any letter, then write about six different things beginning with the letter.

Did that until 12.00 When I had dinner, and after dinner I did some more of it but we went out for football. Me, Doug, Scottie, Ozzie and Heslop beat a bunch of weeds 6-2. Came home at 3.15, got 15 quid then ran down to Doug’s and bought his bike. We cleaned it up, then I rode home and had tea.

After tea me and mam went for a ride round the estate and when we came back I played on the ZX81. At 8.00 I watched the Kit Curran radio show and at 9.30 I went to bed.

Get the chequered flags and champagne out, everyone… I’m mobile!!!

This was the first bike I’d bought since I got a Raleigh Strika for an early ninth birthday present in the Summer of 1981. ‘Early’ birthday presents were a bit of a tradition in my family. As my birthday fell in November, it was sometimes agreed that I could have my ‘big’ present in the summertime, ‘because then you can play with it in the summer holidays when it’s nice and sunny and you’ve got all day to fill’. This happened with the Strika in 1981, and again in 1982 when I was bought a portable cassette recorder to fiddle about with in the August.


‘But remember you won’t get a big present on your actual birthday’ was the usual clause, although I often got around this with a bit of wide-eyed pleading. (‘Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease’)


I still had the Strika in the garage, but I’d grown so much between the ages of eight and eleven that its handlebars and seat were now extended so high on their adjustable metal poles that it looked like some a bizarre clown’s bike, or a machine designed to transport an enormous Daddy Longlegs.

So the bike I bought from Doug on this glorious day was his vintage Raleigh Chopper, light blue and complete with a proper, knobbly gearstick handily placed to brutally intercept the testicles should you be foolish enough to brake suddenly. I was no stranger to this bike, because – in my pedestrian days – Doug had been kind enough to offer me regular ‘croggies’… the Teesside term for carrying a passenger on your pushbike.


The Chopper seat was actually long enough to accomodate two slender eleven-year-olds, and – oddly – Doug usually let me sit in front and steer, while he worked the pedals. I thought this was an act of utter kindness and ultimate friendship, but with hindsight I suspect he was using me as a kind of human, parka-clad shield to protect his own testicles.

But now Doug – amazingly – had been bought a spanking new BMX from the Thornaby-based bike shop Tensor, a mecca for disciples of this strange new craze that my Dad, predictably, had decided was ‘more bloody rubbish from the Yanks – get a proper racing bike or don’t bother’. It was starting to sweep the country though, and there were already select groups of kids at Levendale that worshipped the legendary Andy Ruffell, world BMX champion at the age of 16, and a demi-god to some. Not to me though, the only sporting hero I had at the age of eleven was the gorgeous Suzanne Dando…

In the meantime, my Mum was happy to cough up £15 for Doug’s now-redundant bike, a machine that not only got me mobile but also lent itself to all manner of HILARIOUS double entendre. ‘I’m just going in the garden to wash my Chopper’ became a regular catchphrase of mine, as my Mum rolled her eyes and Doug creased up in the corner.  

I vividly remember sprinting down to Doug’s house with a ten and five pound note in my jeans pocket, and us pulling back the sliding door into Doug’s front room, where his Dad was drinking coffee and poring over the TV Times.

‘I’ve found a buyer for my bike,’ said Doug.

‘Is it you, Robert?’ said his Dad, seemingly eager to claw back some of the money he’d shelled out on the BMX. Which was, I’m pretty sure, a model called a Mongoose. It was bright yellow, and looked a bit like this…


I then wobbled my Chopper all the way home (chortle, titter) and paraded it around the Kebbel Housing Estate while my Mum cycled slowly behind. Fnar, guffaw, yuk yuk, etc.

Other bits and bobs from today… you’ll notice me getting a bit cocky about my footballing exploits, as we ‘beat a bunch of weeds 6-2’.  A bit rich coming from a lad whose manly physique still resembled a white wet sports sock with a toy zylophone shoved inside it.

And ‘The Kit Curran Radio Show’! Channel 4’s non-more-Eighties sitcom starring Denis ‘Wedge from Star Wars’ Lawson as a proto-Smashie and Nicie radio DJ. Entirely fictional, of course… everyone knows that radio presenters are FAR more irritating than this in real life…



  Chris Orton wrote @

Blimey, yet another echo with my own experiences. I got my BMX from Tensor too, although I suspect that they must have had a branch in Darlo as that’s where I seem to remember getting mine there. Mine was a bright blue affair with yellow grips, pads, seat etc.

We said ‘croggie’ too, although I believe that in some other areas around our way the term ‘backer’ was also used.

Anybody else used to put ice lolly stick in between their spokes to emulate the noise of – ahem – a motorbike? We also had the bizarre craze at one point of attaching the plastic tags from loaves of bread onto our brake cables. Not sure what that was all about, but some people had loads of the damn things, extending all the way up the cable. I think that people used to be in some sort of competition to see who could attach the most.

The things that we did as kids eh?

  bobfischer wrote @

I’ve just put ‘Tensor + Thornaby’ into Google and, terrifyingly, the first thing that came up was this website! Maybe you’re right then, maybe Darlington was the only branch. I never had a BMX myself, so I never went there – like death, crime and kissing Julie Kettlewell, it was something that only happened to other people!

And yes, I definitely did the ice lolly stick trick as well as the bread tags routine! At one point I was eating five Orange Fruitie sandwiches a day just to get my Raleigh Strika up to scratch…

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