Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 101

Tuesday 10th April 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.00. First at school it was hymn practice, then me and Frankie started a crossword. Then I did some of the letter work that I started yesterday. At 12.00 I had dinner, then at 12.30 it was computer club, and we (me, Ozzie and Tucker) did some of the Guardian program.

Came out at 2.00 and had to show Mrs Keasey my work. Then I did some of the letter work, then I did some maths sheets and finally I finished the crossword. At 3.15 I came home and played on the ZX81, and at 5.00 I had tea.

At 5.10 I watched Think of a number, and then I played on the ZX again. At 6.00 I went for a ride and at 6.40 I watched a Two ronnies film called by the sea. Then I started a ZX game called The Elfin Jewel and at 9.30 I went to bed.

When I say that ‘me and Frankie started a crossword’ I don’t mean that we spread the Daily Mirror out on our school table and started to ponder the solution to ‘Workshy boys of ill repute’ (L__Y  T_AT_). What I actually mean is that we created our OWN crossword from scratch.


This was something I’d always loved doing, and I’d first given it a go round at my Gran’s bungalow in Acklam sometime in 1981, with help from my bearded and genial Uncle Trevor (seen above mowing my Gran’s lawn around that time), who was always willing to lend a hand with this sort of thing. We drew out the grid with a green felt-tip and a Shatterproof ruler, and started inserting words and black squares wherever we saw fit. 

It gets fun towards the end, when you’re running out of space and only have four squares to squeeze an extra word in, and it’s entirely a result of this race against space that I still know, 28 years on, that a ‘Ha Ha’ is a sunken garden fence constructed in a ditch to create a boundary without spoiling the view.


Anyway, I can remember ONE clue alone from mine and Frankie’s crossword, purely because it I was utterly proud of the fact that Mrs Keasey couldn’t get it. It was ‘Times gone by (4)’ and I’ll leave you to ponder on it… (it’s not a competition though, I work for the BBC, remember…)

I think the crossword was intended to be photocopied and distributed around school as an end-of-term ‘treat’ (we were racing towards the Easter holidays) but this didn’t actually happen as (to quote Mrs Keasey) ‘the photocopier’s having none of it’. Frankie and I toyed with the idea of producing 100 copies by hand for about four seconds before dismissing it and going off to jab Christopher Herbert with a compass instead.


Our lunchtime ‘Computer Club’ seems splendidly sporadic, it must have been weeks since our last meeting. For those that missed it, this was a chance for nerdy spoffs like… well… me, Ozzie and Tucker to eschew a dinnertime spent chasing wasps around the playground and instead gather before a ZX Spectrum or a BBC Micro to indulge in a bit of gentle coding. 

The ‘Guardian program’ we were working on was an adaptation of ‘The Guardian of Goblin Grotto’, a Fighting Fantasy book that Ozzie and I had written ourselves several months earlier, featuring such terrifying school-based creatures as the ‘Friendly Frankie’ and the ‘Stan Beast’. Needless to say, the BBC Micro conversion of this weighty tome never reached completion, the lure of playground wasp-chasing (and British Bulldogs) as the weather improved proving far too strong to resist.

Good to see I wasn’t QUITE bored with my new bike yet, although I made it back in time for ‘By The Sea’! This is quite a Two Ronnies rarity… it’s an hour-long 1930s-style silent movie written by Ronnie Barker, in typical ‘saucy postcard’ style. When it was first aired in 1982, I’d watched it with my Gran, who adored it – presumably as it reminded her of the films of her own younger days.

‘It’s the looks on their faces!’ she’d exclaimed, as we’d both laughed along together.

I can’t remember watching this repeat, but here’s a little chunk of it (complete with fab Ronnie Hazlehurst soundtrack!)…

And ho hum… another day, another computer-based Fantasy project started. ‘The Elfin Jewel’ was undoubtedly an attempt to use the ZX Spectrum’s 16K of memory (I had a rampack) to create a magical, virtual world, and – as per usual – I’ll barely have looked at it again after the two hours work I spent on it before bedtime. It’s probably still saved on a TDK D90 tape somewhere in the loft, groaning under a hundredweight of Nutty comics and accumulated family history.



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I wonder if the answer is YORE? It so rarely is.
My eyes must still be clouded from when I got boron in them earlier in the Lab: I thought your computer program was called ‘The Effin’ Jewel’. I think that ought to be the title of a modern game for the SEGA megadrive or some such.

  bobfischer wrote @

Correct Dr Parcel, it was indeed ‘YORE’! A word I’d undoubtedly picked up from a Fighting Fantasy book. I learnt everything I know from The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain.

The Effin’ Jewel would be a modern-day urban Fighting Fantasy, surely? Negotiating the treacherous Forests Of Asbough to reach the mysterious sorceress Elizabeth Duke.

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