Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 102

Wednesday 11th April 1984

Woke up at 7.30 and got up at 7.35 to do a program on the ZX81. First at school it was assembly, then me and Frankie did the pictures on the crossword. Then me, Stan and Frankie did a BA Easter egg and after that I did some of the letter work.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then I did some more of the letter work. After a read I had a muck around in the library and I came home at 3.15. First I played on the ZX, then at about 4.00 I went for a ride on the estate. When I came back I rode around the garden for a while, then I had tea.

After tea I played on the ZX, then I went out again and came in at 8.30 to watch Fresh fields. 9.00 I watched Mike Yarwood and at 10.00 I went to bed.

I’m quite proud of the fact that, despite the laid-back regime at Levendale Primary School, we normally worked reasonably hard during our days, driven by a sense of self-worth and ambition instilled in us by our progressive, encouraging teachers. However, with the Easter holidays only days away, it’s clear that we were now, to coin a phrase used in modern parlance, ‘tossing it off’ for the week.

Typified by the fact that it took three of us an entire morning to decorate a bloody hard-boiled egg.

You’ll be relieved, like I was, to realise that our ‘BA Easter egg’ wasn’t decorated in the patriotic livery of British Airways. Hell, no! Pity the fool… it was an eggy representation of this iconic 1980s figure…


Yep, BA Baracus from The A-Team, as portrayed by the destructive force of nature that is Mr T. I think The A-Team had been first broadcast in the UK the previous summer, and its gritty, hard-hitting dramatic storylines had immediately captured our imaginations. I was regularly to be found wearing a baseball cap (although I didn’t actually own one, so I used my old cub scouts cap instead) and doing twitchy, wide-eyed impressions of Howlin’ Mad Murdoch.

And no outdoor dinnertime was complete without a legion of 11-year-olds stomping around the playground glowering and muttering ‘I ain’t gettin’ on no plane, fool’ to their bemused Dinner Nannies (or ‘Bugger Nannies’ as they were inexplicably nicknamed by this point).

Decorating an Easter Egg was an annual part of our schooling, and had been a part of the Levendale Primary curriculum since the pre-Cambrian era. You had two options here…

1) Provide a ‘blown’ egg. This always seemed to be attempted by posh girls who rode ponies and liked Milly-Molly-Mandy. As far as I remember you had to poke a tiny hole in each end of the egg, then press a straw to one of them, and blow. The gooey eggy interiors would then fly out through the other hole and leave you with a beautiful, delicate shell that would crumble into fragments when placed within twenty yards of a clumsy, ham-fisted oik like me.


2) Provide a hard-boiled egg, usually purloined at short notice from yer mam, who would reluctantly bobble it around a saucepan at 8am while grumbling ‘Couldn’t you have mentioned this yesterday? I was going to do Egg and Chips for your Dad tonight’.

(Which, oddly, has just made me think of this advert…

…although wasn’t there a longer version of this as well? I’m sure I remember one that started with ‘What will it be for tea tonight?’. Whatever, the phrase ‘fried onion rings’, sung in a lilting Jamaican accent, became a surreal playground catchphrase at Levendale circa 1983)

And then, fantastically, I ‘had a muck around in the library’ that lasted the entire afternoon. Provided you were careful, kept moving, glancing over your shoulder, and occasionally sitting with an opened book in front of you, our school’s open-plan layout made it just about possible to spend an entire day doing nothing whatsoever while remaining completely undetected. Our deputy headmaster Mr Burtree had it down to a fine art.

I thanggyou, ladeez and gennelmen.

And blimey, Mike Yarwood! It’s strange to think of Mike Yarwood still being on TV so far into the 1980s, as he seems as much an integral part of the 1970s as Spangles and, erm, Raleigh Choppers. But no, his prime-time ITV show ran from 1982-87, and I’m slightly ashamed to say that I have no recollection of it whatsoever. Who was he ‘doing’ in 1984? Frank Sinatra seemingly, from this clip…

I’d forgotten how great and gorgeous the late Stephanie Lawrence was. A fine performer, and also a bit of a whizz at ‘Give Us A Clue’ as I recall. Sigh.



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Oh dear – I had no idea until now that Stephanie Lawrence was no longer with us…

  bobfischer wrote @

Me neither, until I did a bit of Googling to make sure I’d spelt her name correctly! Very sad. I always feel a little twinge of melancholy when I find out a TV face from my childhood has slipped away.

Poor old Lennie Bennett. 😦

  Phil Shoo wrote @

As a callow youth in Portsmouth, her uncle used to cut my hair.

For all her fame, I don’t remember seeing her on TV more than once. She was in musicals a lot wasn’t she?

  bobfischer wrote @

Yep… she took over from Elaaaaaaaaaaine Paaaaaaaaaaige in Evita and then did the Marilyn Monroe thing, as seen in the clip above. I remember her popping up a lot on variety shows to do the occasional guest turn, and she definitely did ‘Give Us A Clue’.

Was her Uncle a dab hand with the clippers, then?

  Phil Shoo wrote @

Aye, not bad. Not trendy, but then I never have been. He was a proper old school barber (so ‘old school’ you can’t call it ‘old skool’) , with the candy stripe rotating pole outside the shop on the east corner of Highland Road and Exeter Road in Portsmouth. Oddly, at its southern end, Exeter Road meets…Festing Grove – honest!

  bobfischer wrote @

Marvellous. When I was a kid, I had a barber called Maurice who had slicked-back hair and a pencil moustache, and was absolutely the campest man on Teesside. Although admittedly in 1977 there wasn’t a lot of competition.

However (oh the shame) when I was seven I threw a tantrum in the barbers chair and refused to sit still to have my hair cut. I was in the doghouse for weeks, and we never went back. By 1984 my Mum was doing it for me, and I didn’t actually return to a professional barber until I was 16.

My early teenage hair years were ‘interesting’.

  Phil Shoo wrote @

Curious, ‘Uncle Len’ also had slicked back hair and a moustache – but I don’t think it was a John Waters-esque pencil type. Don’t recall him as camp either. He used to have to tell me to sit still too. But I got better at it. And these days, haircuts don’t take that long…

At the risk of sounding like a showbiz-anecdote chameleon, I once sat on the same table as the now late Lennie Bennett at my Round Table’s Charter Night in October 1997. He was introduced to the throng as ‘Lenny Henry’ by a stupid person. His golf clubs were nicked from his Beemer 5-series that evening too – thanks Portsmouth!

I used to watch the Lenny and Jerry Show, but can never remember the other guy’s name (until prompted by on-line obituatries). One joke I remember was one of the Baron Knights saying ‘Do you know You’ve Got Me, by The Doolies?’

  bobfischer wrote @

Now you mention it, Malcolm was actually a dead ringer for a young John Waters. Which is ironic, as these days I sport the manly physique of Divine…

Poor old Lennie Bennett. I can JUST remember Lennie and Jerry, but my main memories are of Punchlines, early on Saturday evenings. And then, in the summer of 1988, I became oddly obsessed with Lucky Ladders, to the point of setting my alarm for 9am every morning so I could watch it live.

I laughed at that Barron Knights joke. There’s no hope for me.

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