Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 112

Saturday 21st April 1984

Woke up at about 7.00 and got up at 8.45. Got the 9.20 bus into Middlesbrough, and had a look at the books in Smiths, then went in boots. After a look at the bookstall at All Saints we got the bus to Grandma’s and I did Pog’s family tree.

After dinner we took Tina for a walk around Devil’s bridge, and when we came back I lounged around till we came home. Then I played on the videopac, and at 3.45 me and mam rode down to Weary Valley. When we got there there was a lamb that was stuck. I climbed down but couldn’t get it so we went to the waterfall then came back.

I started a Fighting Fantasy, then had tea and at       I watched Some mothers do ave em. Then I typed, and at 7.15 I watched Russ Abbot. Went outside till 8.50, then I watched Driving Ambition and at 10.00 I went to bed.

I don’t think I’d be writing for a living now if it wasn’t for the second-hand bookstall outside All Saints Church.

For every spanking new paperback that I bought from the shelves of WH Smiths, I probably bought five from the creaking, windswept trestle tables in the shadows of this beautiful church doorway on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road. Every Saturday morning, a little team of intrepid church volunteers would arrange tantalising rows of paperbacks beneath lines of hairy string, and my grubby fingers would peruse them as we waited for the No 13 bus to my Gran’s house.

These were books that were often 20 (or even 30) years old, and I still have in my possession a full set of 1960s Pan paperbacks from the James Bond series, as yellow as sandstone and with the 3’6 price clip still untouched in the corner of the covers. They cost me 20p each, and I paid similar prices for all of James Herriot’s books, a full collection of John Christopher’s Tripods works, and a whole host of other delights, all of which combined to convince me that the written word was, indeed, a beautiful thing.

I’ve not been to Middlesbrough on a Saturday morning for years, so I’ve no idea if the stall is still running, but I truly hope it is. I did go to All Saints Church today though, and it’s still as glorious a sight as ever, especially on a fabulously sunny April day…


Still working on Poggy Doggy’s family tree, I notice. Give it up, Fischer. Dog genealogy is not your forte.

Nice to see another visit to Devil’s Bridge, a leafy little beauty spot near my Gran’s bungalow in Acklam. The bridge itself was a tiny stone affair (ideal for pooh sticks), it boasted the first dedicated cycle track I’d ever seen in my life, and if you check out Volume 21 of this nonsense, from January 21st, you can see a bit of footage…


Tina was Poggy Doggy’s sister, donated to my Gran in 1979, and sadly still not QUITE mental enough to bite that bloody dog family tree to pieces and consign it to the pedal bin in my Gran’s shiny lino-clad kitchen.

Good to see (ahem) my Chopper getting some more use, though. It’s a three mile bike ride from my old house to Weary Valley, another local beauty spot where the sparkly River Leven meanders through a shady canopy of trees and disappears beneath the buzzy A19 flyover. It has a gorgeous little waterfall that played host to one of my Favourite Ever Days. Not this one, surprisingly, but a few years later in May 1990.

I was 17, a skinny, happy sixth former, and it was UNBELIEVABLY hot and sunny. So much so that our foxy tutor Miss Murphy let us do our work outside on the hockey pitch for the afternoon. Me and Gav Wilkinson had a laggy band fight, and Andy Johnson brought a guitar down from the music room and played Pinball Wizard and Ticket To Ride.

And after school, me, Gav, and our friends Simon ‘Wez’ Westwood, Gary ‘Gaz’ Norman and Andrew ‘Roy’ Harding piled into Roy’s Mini Metro and drove to Weary Valley. And we dribbled a football all the way to the waters edge before diving into the sparkliest, cleanest, coolest pool of wondrousness I’ve ever seen in my life. The trees applauded, the sun gave a happy smile, and I had NEVER been so happy to be alive. Me, my friends, the summer.. and a world full of promise and potential.  

I know this is ‘OT’ (as you kids say), but here’s a picture from that very day, with Roy on the left and me on the right. What a header…!


Anyway, I went back there today and got a bit depressed and had a bit of a grumpy middle-aged rant about litter…

Incidentally, I do indeed remember having some kind of plastic protective covering on my festering blistered foot. I’d like to imagine it was a medicated waterproof sock provided by Dr Lawrence, but in reality I suspect it was a Presto freezer bag secured at the top with a laggy band. I only hope my Mum had washed the left-over Bubble and Squeak out of it before I strapped it on.

As an aside, those of you who read Volume 47 of this nonsense…


…may remember the unprecedented level of interest (one comment) raised by my mention of World War II pillboxes in this entry. Well, I was walking past the Weary Valley pillbox this afternoon, so it seemed rude not to take a look…

I’ve got very vague memories of the trapped lamb mentioned in my 1984 Diary… it wasn’t really ‘trapped’ as such, it was just at the bottom of a little bank and was struggling to get back up. I’m sure it was soon reunited with its family, and they all went on to lead long, happy fulfilled lives munching grass and being startled by insects. That’s what I constantly tell myself, anyway. Yes, I’m a committed vegetarian.

And I love the gap left before ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’! Clearly, when I wrote this diary entry, I wasn’t sure what time the show had been broadcast, so I left a little space, fully intending to find out and fill it in later. Then promptly forgot about it for exactly 25 years. 

Nice to see a mention of Russ Abbott, though. I think it’s sometimes forgotten how HUGE Russ Abbott’s madhouse was in the 1980s. He was absolutely seen as the heir to Tommy Cooper’s crown, and probably deserves a lot more credit for consistently producing very, very funny mainstream family comedy on a weekly basis.

I still raise a smile when I think of Basildon Bond and Miss Funnyfanny.

I’d completely forgotten Jeffrey Holland was part of the team! What a glorious evocation of childhood Saturday nights. I can taste the Um Bongo from here.



  Fiona Tims wrote @

I’m with you on the litter thing-I hate it. People today just seem to have no respect for the natural environment and it pisses me off big time. Yes-I have grown into a very grumpy adult too!

  bobfischer wrote @

Honestly, it was so depressing. Doing that film was a really impromptu thing yesterday afternoon… it was hot and sunny and I had an hour spare, so I just drove up on the spur of the moment. And got all excited… until I arrived, and the place was a bloody tip.

You can’t really see on the film, but it seems the place has just become a campsite for anyone wanting to get absolutely slaughtered. Which would be absolutely fine if they took all their rubbish home afterwards, but the walk towards the waterfall was like walking through a festival site… the remains of dozens of campfires, all surrounded by hundreds of empty cans, bottles, fag packets, crisp packets and discarded toilet roll and socks. Disgusting, and it really pissed me off.

I doubt that great little place is going to mean the same to today’s kids as it did to us, because I can’t really imagine any parents wanting to take their kids there any more. 😦

  Anthony Hardwick wrote @

Well Bob (Ian), I haven’t been down there for many years. We used to lie to all parents about our whereabouts in Levendale so our allabies were intact. Instead we were all down there on our 15 speed mountain bikes. Being the proud owner of two whippets and having brought them home on a number of occassions to my parents who still live on the Levendale Estate, I’ve forgotten what a good place it is on the doorstep. Living in Northamptonshire though, and not seeing much of the sea, I have tended to take them to the rather depressing breakwater, more despressing than ever now with the seeming demise of Chorus.

As for the litter… well we spent the day of our A-level results down there in 1994, chilling our beers in the waterfall. I don’t think we cleared up after ourselves properly.

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