Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 111

Friday 20th April 1984


Woke up at 9.00 and got up at 9.20. Me and mam cycled down to Yarm through the estate, and after a look around we came back the same way. On the estate my gears failed and I cut my face.

When we got back I typed a letter to Doctor Who monthly, then I had dinner. After that I went outside, then I made a rough plan of Poggy Doggy’s family tree. When i’d done that I had a go on the videopac and then I had tea.

After tea I went outside and played on the tarzie, then I came in at 6.00 to watch the 4th Guiness book of records special. At 7.00 I watched Carry on laughing, and when that finished at 7.30 I watched Survival.

At 8.30 I watched Time of your life, then I had some supper and at 9.15 I watched Wogan. Went to bed at 10.05.

Gears? What are you talking about mother, there’s nothing wrong with these geeeeeeeaaaaRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH…

I’ve no idea exactly how my gears came to fail, but I do remember hurtling towards the bottom of a steep bank before my bike crashed to a shuddering halt beneath the Yarm railway bridge known to all as ‘The Cattle Arch’. I didn’t come to a shuddering halt at all, though… I carried on travelling through the air at exactly the same velocity, before crashing into a clump of grass and tarmac that smelt, quite frankly, of wee.

And so my mother’s eternal warning that ‘You’ll go over the handlebars if you pedal that fast’ had finally come to pass, and I had a couple of fine forehead grazes, each dotted with a nice sprinkling of gravel. I’d like to say that this had taught me a lesson, but in reality I was just looking forward to picking the scabs off in ten days time.


Unfortunately for Doctor Who Monthly, I wasn’t incapacitated enough to stay away from the typewriter, so another missive to the magazine’s letters page ensued, and this time (I think) I added a touch of irreverence to my usual geeky observations, and asked whereabout in the TARDIS the (gasp) toilet was located. I’d long since been of the opinion that Planet of Fire would have been improved if, at the start of the episode, the Doctor had barged open a white Gallifreyan door to discover a red-faced Turlough with his trousers round his ankles, studying the latest Boro news on the back page of the Evening Gazette.

It never got sent, anyway. I presume my mother decided (quite rightly) that it wasn’t worth the price of a stamp (which was 16p in 1984, in case you were wondering…) 


And oh Lord, Poggy Doggy’s family tree. Yes, despite his insane temprement and tangled mane, our family hound was actually descended from a family of pedigree pooches, and I’d discovered – shoved into the middle sideboard draw along with the EEC paper clip mountain – a handwritten family tree that we’d been given by the breeders that had produced him for us (presumably in a laboratory, with steaming bubbles of green goo rising over the top of Pedigree Chum tins).

I’d been inspired by this, and – in a moment of impossible tweeness – had taken it upon myself to produce an illustrated doggy family tree, complete with cartoon dogs dressed in Victorian britches and deerstalkers. I’m relieved to report that it never reached fruition, and a plate of fishfingers and mushy peas soon arrived to snap me back to grotty reality.

Those, and the ‘Fourth Guinness Book Of Records Special’. These American TV extravaganzas seemed to be trotted out on every Bank Holiday throughout the early 1980s, and were – in theory – a glitzy rival to grubby old Record Breakers, with Norris McWhirter looking down his nose at kids with pudding-bowl haircuts, and the brilliant Roy Castle cheerily tapdancing his way into our hearts.


 However, in reality, the sight of mullet-haired Americans abseiling from cliff edges complete with Van Halen soundtrack and ‘Wowee, just look at him flyyyyyy’ commentaries were never as much fun as Norris n’ Roy. Besides which, my death-defying ‘You’ll go over the handlebars’ stunt that very morning had already transformed me into a hardened, fearless stuntman myself, so I could justifiably look down my own nose at the lot of them.

In other TV news, Survival was – of course – ITV’s long-running natural history series, usually focusing on a colony of Peruvian termites or the Snow Leopards of the Kalahari, and seemingly always narrated by legendary TV Jesus Robert Powell.

And Wogan! Yes, a pre-prime TV Wogan. 


Before it became a 7pm thrice-weekly cosy celebfest, Sir Terence’s esteemed chat vehicle was very much a late night affair, a laudable BBC plot to fill the gap left by Michael Parkinson’s defection to ‘the other side’. I actually remember chat shows (including this one) being far more ‘adult’ when I was a kid. Guests would sit in the ultra-grown-up cross-legged position (with one leg balanced leisurely on top of the other, revealing an inch of hairy flesh between sock and trouser) smoke (stand up Ringo Starr and Peter Cook… if you can), and talk about… well, ADULT stuff. Sex and fame and money and politics.

I always felt very grown-up myself when I was allowed to stay up and watch such gritty banter, although I would sometimes be sent to bed if the subject matters were deemed to be a little bit too salty and fruity for my young ears. I still remember my embarrassed Mum recommending I ‘get to bed’ when Clive James started lampooning Japanese tampon adverts in ‘Clive James On Television’.

Thankfully for everyone, Youtube can’t furnish us with a clip… (of Clive James, not of me being sent to bed)



  Drew Smith wrote @

My most vivid memory of cycling is of the time I was boming down a hill and my breaks failed. Time seemed to slow down as I hurtled towards the path of an oncoming car. The car stopped a good few seconds before we collided – I didn’t. The bike sort of splayed off to the side while I found myself looking down at a startled familiy through the sun roof of a Ford Escort.

They saw too it I was alright for a moment or two and then left me shivering with shock on the side of the pavement!

  bobfischer wrote @

This OFFICIALLY makes you a stuntman. ‘I may fall from a tall building’, etc…

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