Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 106

Sunday 15th April 1984

Woke up at 7.40 and got up at 9.30. Rode down to Yarm through the estate at 9.50 and got last months Mad Magazine. On the way back I dropped into Doug’s and they invited me to the baths so I ran home, got my gear, ran back and we all set off.

We went to Stokesley and first we went in the learner pool, and me and Doug had an argument over whether I could swim 100 metres – so I did. When we came back me and Doug went to my  house and had dinner, then we set off for a ride.

We went through the estate to Yarm, and found a mud track leading to a playground. We went for a ride in the cemetry, then rode back through the meadowings. We both went home and at 5.15 I watched it ain’t half hot mum, then I had tea.

After that I washed my Chopper and at 7.15 I watched Last of the summer wine, then I went in the bath and at 9.20 I watched That’s life. 10.10 Went to bed.

‘After that I washed my Chopper’!!! Arf, titter, snigger, guffaw! You can tell I’d spent my childhood watching Carry On films on Tyne Tees TV during the school holidays, can’t you? I’ll no doubt have let rip with a little Sid James laugh as I wrote that bit. Kyak, kyak, kyak.


Anyway, this was a lovely day that I remember really well. Day 2 of our Easter Holidays of course, and I recall racing back home from Doug’s house to grab my swimming gear, then pelting back over at a similar, headlong pace. And all so I could show Doug my prowess at the 100 metres freestyle! We didn’t, of course, have ‘an argument’ because Doug and I never did. Ever. It’ll all have been conducted over a flurry of laughter, innuendo and…well, chlorinated water with bits of elastoplast floating in it.

Still, NARK ON!!!

It’s the bit with the ‘mud track’ that really sticks in my mind, though. We were cycling up from Yarm High Street along Worsall Road, near the old railway bridge with the legend ‘USA OUT OF VIETNAM NOW’ still daubed in white emulsion on one of the old brick buttress.

When suddenly…

‘What’s that?’ asked Doug. ‘I’ve never seen it before…’

‘No, me neither…’ I pondered.

It was a tiny, muddy track veering away from the pavement and leading into the darkness between a rustling canopy of overhanging trees. Bearing in mind that Doug and I had been living in Yarm for seven years at this point, it seemed odd that we’d never noticed it before…

We were, of course, duty bound to investigate.

Looking back at this diary, there are two great ‘things’ about my childhood that I really, truly miss… firstly, the ability to find new and exciting bits of my home town, often a matter of yards from my own front door. It was only in the previous year or so that I’d really begun to explore Yarm by myself, without my parents or my Gran being present, so lots of little alleyways, buildings and – yep – winding, muddy tracks were completely uncharted territory for me. 

And, secondly, the way in which our imaginations were able to conjure all kinds of strange fantasies from the most mundane of experiences. So, because we’d never seen this little muddy track before, that clearly meant that it must be MAGICAL. Probably a portal into another universe? A wormhole into the Yarm of decades gone past? A spell being cast over us by some nameless, evil Wizard?

I’m not being facetious here, these are options that we genuinely considered as possibilities. Even moreso when the mud track opened up to reveal…

Well, actually, it’s still there – have a look yourselves!


The secluded playpark with its winding paths and rustling trees instantly became a favourite secret haunt for Doug and I, and we came back here on a regular basis. We would sit on the swings for hours (Doug always on the far left, me on the right) and just… talk. About EVERYTHING. Girls, Doctor Who, our parents, school, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, robots, Top Deck Shandy, Doug’s ‘nuddy calendar’, who we fancied… and what we wanted to do with our lives. All the while swinging higher and higher, and occasionally jumping off at the very peak of altitude, fizzing through the air with a bloodcurdling cry…

What am I waffling on about in this film? Let me explain.  

On this particular day, the feeling of otherworldliness and wonder at our new discovery was only compounded when, as we teetered  back and forth on the swings, we heard voices emerging from the top of the weed-strewn bank on our left.

And, before our eyes, a party of strange old men, all sporting a motley selection of flying goggles, military uniforms and oddly-shaped backpackes, began to shuffle carefully down the hill.

‘Afternoon, lads,’ nodded their leader, and they all tipped their hats politely and shuffled off into the distance.

Doug and I were agog. And I swear… this is how the memories of this strange event remain, untainted, in my mind. I suppose, with the benefit of cynical hindsight, what we’d actually seen was a party of workmen knocking off from toiling on the railway line at the top of the grassy bank.  But it’s a glorious testament to the power of childish imagination that we didn’t even consider this as an option. We’d clearly been visited by a group of intergalactic time-travellers emerging through a portal in the space-time continuum, their strange attire the spoils from a lifetime of ransacking the universe for oddments and alien valuables.


We’d been sucked into their strange, exciting universe, and nothing would ever be the same for us again.

We talked about this all the way home, even diverting into Yarm’s windswept cemetery to discuss the matter in more suitably spooky surroundings. It was a fresh, pale, breezy day, and the world seemed to have shifted a few degrees on its axis. I felt like I was LIVING inside an Alan Garner novel.

‘We have to tell people about this,’ said Doug.

‘We will,’ I nodded. ‘I’ll write about it’.

Dawdling home, we even managed to conjure up a bit of retrospective spookiness, convincing ourselves that the bumps, rattles and farts we’d heard during the nights of our visit to Carlton Camp the other week had been immutable evidence of terrifying, supernatural experiences.

‘Chapter One has to just be called… ‘CARLTON” intoned Doug, solemnly.

I made a wordless vow to honour him.

First things first though, Last Of The Summer Wine and That’s Life were on telly. Yay! Although I was still smarting from missing Esther Rantzen’s amazing expose of the new animal at Regent’s Park Zoo… a purple, dancing creature called the ‘Lirpa Loof’. I was at Carlton Camp on the day this was broadcast – Sunday 1st April 1984. I’d still love to see one in the flesh…



  Fiona Tims wrote @

Awwww wouldn’t you just love to have that sense of wonderment again? *sigh*

I thought you said you were feeding a ‘Gaunt’ and I was thinking ‘wtf is a gaunt?’ ;p

  bobfischer wrote @

You’ve never heard of the lesser-spotted Gaunt? We keep them in allotments all over Teesside. They’re like the Lirpa Loof, but slightly less purple. 😉

Sorry, my accent wanders all over the shop sometimes. You’re right though, I’d love to have that sense of wonder back. When I was a kid, I was convinced that the world couldn’t possibly be as dull and predictable as the grown-ups made out, and that there must be something weird and magical under the surface that they weren’t telling us about.

Now I’m old, I’ve realised that the world IS as dull and predictable as they make out, but you can make your own weirdness and magic if you try hard enough.

Philosophy, that. 🙂

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Haha I’ve just become jaded and cynical. Still, not so jaded that I can’t spend a whole day in bed watching Lord of the Rings and believeing it’s real!

Madness that a world being taken over to the point of destruction is preferable to the one I’m living in ;p

  bobfischer wrote @

I love those films. I hope you did the extended versions for the full 14-hour experience!

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Yep I do indeed have the extended versions. I watched them over 2 days because I didn’t start early enough to fit them in 1 day.

I can’t believe it’s a decade since they started filming-can you believe that?!?

  bobfischer wrote @

Blimey, I suppose it will be. Where are our lives going?

I’d love to watch them all in one go, but suspect it’s task slightly more demanding than actually taking the ring to Mordor myself. I’d need a lot of coffee and Monster Munch.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I’ve done all 3 in one day before-it’s fab! YOu get to eat junk food and watch films for 14 hours-what could be better? ;p

  bobfischer wrote @

I’ll wait for the two Hobbit films to come out and round it up to a nice even 20 hours. 😉

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