Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 105

Saturday 14th April 1984


Woke up at 7.30 and got up at 8.00. Got the 8.20 bus into Middlesbrough and first I went to Halfords to look at the bike parts. Then I got a new Fighting Fantasy magazine called Warlock One. After a look around shops and more shops we got the bus to Grandma’s and I read Warlock One for a while, then went outside and played with Tina, Poggy Doggy’s poggled poggle of a sister.

Came home at 1.30 and rang Doug, but he wasn’t in so I went out and played on the bike till he rang. We went down to Yarm and first I got a new gear chain from Cartmells. Then we went to Yarm cycles and finally I got a Mad from Newsfare. Then we went to Doug’s and set up a BMX course.

Came home at 5.30 and had tea, and at 6.30 I watched Child’s play. At 7.00 I watched Candid Camera. Then dad came in with some Fart spray and at 9.00 I watched Driving Ambition.

I can’t believe how early I got out of bed, even during the holidays! My strange, twisted memories have me sleeping until mid-morning every day, with the sun beaming in through the curtains, but I guess that must have happened much later in my teenage years. Certainly by the time I’d finished my GCSEs, in 1989, I was virtually nocturnal.

Not sure which ‘bike parts’ I was seeking in the Middlesbrough branch of Halford’s, but they won’t have been anything remotely practical… it’s most likely I’ll have been after Go-Faster Stripes, speedometers and horns that play a parpy version of Colonel Bogey – in fact, anything to turn my Chopper into a two-wheeled Teesside version of a Dagenham Ford Capri.

‘Warlock One’ I do remember, however… not least because the very magazine I bought exactly 25 years ago today is currently sitting on my desk! It’s still in good shape, although I’m slightly embarrassed by the fact that it’s not called ‘Warlock One’ at all. It’s just called ‘Warlock’, and what I’d purchased was Issue No. 1.

Idiot child. Although you can see how I made the mistake…

Anyway, it is indeed a magazine dedicated entirely to Fighting Fantasy books, and I distinctly remember reading it on the No. 12 bus from Middlesbrough to my Gran’s house in Acklam… a 20-minute journey that gave me ample time to digest the first-ever published map of Allansia (‘The Land of Fighting Fantasy’, complete with Icefinger Mountains and The Forest Of Yore) and…

…bestill my beating heart…

…a competition to write your own Fighting Fantasy adventure, and win £100 and publication in a future edition of Warlock! I was sitting on the ‘long’ seat on the bus (the one that goes parallel to the window near the drivers cabin) and I swooned across it with giddy excitement. If I’d had a mobile phone in 1984, I’d have been frantically texting Ozzie, telling him to prepare our already-written opus ‘The Guardian Of Goblin Grotto’ for entry. But I didn’t, so I tried to do it using the power of my mind instead.

‘What’s the matter with you?’ asked my Mum. ‘Have you got a dicky tummy again?’


(By the way, when I mention looking around ‘shops and more shops’, that’s not in a giddy, excited Paris Hilton way. It’s in a ‘these shops are all dead boring, who cares about Tesco and Debenhams, can we go now so I can read Warlock One pleeeeeeeeeeeease’ type way. I was, and am, the classic example of an only child).

Good to see a mention for Tina, my Gran’s insanely snappy Rough Collie. She was from the same litter as Poggy Doggy (born in our dining room over Easter 1979) and she looked like this…


…it was around this time that my Dad (undoubtedly inspired by Reggie Perrin’s cat) began calling her ‘Ponsonby’, and the name stuck. She’d be ‘Poggles Ponsonby’ for the rest of her doggy days.

And lo and behold, two independent retailers that are STILL THERE IN 2009!!! Cartmells Electrical Store we’ve mentioned before, it’s a lovely little family-run shop on Yarm High Street… although I don’t recall it ever selling cycle parts, so I wonder if I’ve made (gasp) a mistake in my diary when I say I bought my ‘gear chain’ from there.

It’s far more likely that this strange, annoyingly fragile little gizmo (my gear chains seemed to snap approximately in line with the lunar cycle) came from Yarm Cycles, another friendly family business, this time run from a works unit around the back of the High Street. Directly beneath Yarm’s famous Victorian railway viaduct, along which regular freight and passenger trains still rattle a couple of times every hour.


As kids, Doug and I rode regularly around this strange, otherworldly area of Yarm, as it fired our imaginations. It’s been cleaned up now, and plays host to the usual ‘Executive Homes’, but back in 1984 it was still a wilderness of building sites, wasteland, allotments (with the occasional goat) and even the last few tool-producing factories, where – if we peered through the grimy windows – we’d see old men with grey beards toiling at ancient lathes, eking out the last year or two before the property developers swooped in like vultures. Vultures with clipboards and double-breasted suits.  Urgh.

Newsfare, sadly, has gone, but I probably still have this copy of Mad Magazine in the loft somewhere.


And Fart Spray! Blimey. My Dad forever seemed to be ‘finding’ stuff when he was out walking Poggy Doggy around the fields, and this was his latest acquisition. And it was, indeed, exactly as it sounds… a little aerosol can from a Joke Shop intended to replicate… well, the smell of a prime 1980s trouser cough. The can was brown with the words ‘FART SPRAY’ happily emblazoned across a billowing cartoon cloud.

It stayed on our mantelpiece for at least the next three years, and was occasionally used to break the ice at parties. Although, to be fair, I spent most of the 1980s eating only slight variations on sausages, beans and chips for my dinner, so it was always going to be somewhat surplus to requirements in our house.



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Buying a bicycle chain from an electrical goods retailer was clearly part of your early Cartmells masterplan.

  bobfischer wrote @

I’d like to point out to readers who think I should get out of the house more that the above comment is a joke about a 1980s Doctor Who script editor.

Suddenly, my life feels like a giddy mixture of Hugh Hefner, Keith Richards and Peter Stringfellow. 😉

[…] cracked it. The issue of the Fighting Fantasy magazine ‘Warlock’ that I bought on this day had a competition, inviting pale 11-year-old boys to submit their OWN Fighting Fantasty stories for […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: