Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 140

Saturday 19th May 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.15. Mucked on downstairs, then Doug came and we played on the bikes outside till dinner at 1.30. Then we went on Conyers and had a muck on, then moved to the mud track and played on the tarzie.

Then we went back and cleaned the bikes, and at 5.00 Doug went and Dad and I went to Grandma’s. Had tea then watched Clash of the monsters, then at 6.30 I watched Robin of Sherwood.

After that I went out and played on the bike, and then I typed. Went to bed at 10.00.

A weekend symptomatic of a tide that was turning in my life. In early 1984 I was still spending regular weekend nights over at my Gran’s bungalow in Acklam, reading Doctor Who paperbacks and eating bacon sandwiches in front of The Les Dawson Show and 3-2-1 as the weekends slowly ebbed by. Meanwhile, my parents would take the opportunity to meet their friends and have a couple of pints in Yarm’s rough and ready Cross Keys pub, safe in the knowledge that I was being looked after for the night.

Those weekends were never anything less than fun… I’d regularly team up with Lisa Wheeldon from the house round the corner, and we’d make dens in the spare room from bedsheets and clothes horses, and put on musical theatre in the kitchen (my ‘Theme from Why Don’t You’, performed with a tennis racket under the nom-de-plume Bert Muckyshins, was a sensation).

Random memories from weekends at my Gran’s house…

1) Eating jammy toast in my pyjamas in front of The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and marvelling at Dollar’s snow-filled video for ‘Mirror Mirror’ while it was actually snowing in real life outside.


2) Completing a Pete’s Dragon stickerbook in the front room with the help of my Uncle Trevor’s wife-to-be, Rose.

3) Staying up until midnight for the first time, New Year’s Eve 1979, and watching ‘Will Kenny Everett Make It To 1980’ with my Uncle Trevor, freshly returned from the Endeavour pub and smelling exotically of Brut aftershave and Harp Lager. At the stroke of midnight, he took me outside into the street and we heard the distant hum of the boats moored five miles away in Tees Dock, sounding their hooters in celebration. I was then allowed to ‘First Foot’ with a single piece of coal in my hand, and for the first time in my life I FELT LIKE A MAN (I was seven).

4. Sellotaping together ten sheets of A4 paper to make a detailed map of the streets around the bungalow, complete with felt-tip illustrations of the trees and sheds in everyone’s gardens, the result of endless clandestine reconnaisance missions conducted with Lisa Wheeldon and a copy of The Detectives Handbook, an hilarous blue paperback that I’d bought in the Puffin Book Club at school. Bollocks to Google Streetview – we were doing it thirty years ago.


By May 1984, however, all of that had come to an end, and my Gran was coming to stay at our house for the weekend rather than me heading over there. She was starting to get a bit forgetful, and had had two slightly unsuccessful hip replacements, so I think my parents felt a bit more secure doing it this way around. 

So I’m guessing that when ‘Dad and I went to Grandma’s’, it was to collect her and bring her back to our house for the evening. And either on the way (or the way back) we dropped into Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald’s house to collect the Fighting Fantasy book we’d been working on, with that 31st May competition deadline still looming…

The bike-cleaning, and the fact that we’d had a indoor dinnertime the day before, suggests that it had been tanking down for a few days, and Doug and I no doubt got caked in mud playing on the tarzie down at Yarm’s mysterious mud track (a place that actually goes by the official name of Snaith’s Field, although I’ve no idea who Mr Snaith was, or indeed how he came to lend his name to a tiny little playpark with a couple of swings and a rocky-backward-and-forwardy thing)

Another cracking episode of Robin Of Sherwood as well… this week’s tale was ‘Alan A Dale’, with Michael Praed and his rough-hewn gang rescuing the hapless teenage Mildred from a miserable life married to Nickolas Grace’s brilliant, preening sherriff, before delivering her to the soppy wandering minstrel of the title. It was rapidly becoming my favourite TV show, and on our wanderings around the various claggy woods and mud-tracks of Yarm, Doug and I had become – in my mind – dangerous outlaws ourselves. Although we wouldn’t have helped any wandering minstrels unless they could provide us with the lyrics to ’99 Red Balloons’.

‘Clash of the Monsters’ is a bit of a puzzle, though… I can’t find ANYTHING about a TV show (or a film) of this title that would have been screened on a Saturday teatime in 1984. I’ve a vague feeling that it might have been a documentary about the work of legendary special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, but to be honest I’m clutching at straws here. Anybody any ideas?

You can have a bit of Ray’s work though, just in case…



  Fiona Tims wrote @

Ahhhhhh Jason and the Argonauts is one of my favourite films. I have the dvd and I still watch it with childlike wonder. I love stop-motion and much prefer it to the CGI of today.

And I didn’t realise they First Footed outside of Scotland!

  Chris Orton wrote @

‘Clash of the Monsters’ wasn’t Clash of the Titans was it?

I love the fact that Darth Vader is peering over your shoulder, reading the Detective’s Handbook with you there Bob!

  bobfischer wrote @

Jason and the Argonauts is a favourite of mine as well! I remember watching it avidly one Christmas Eve afternoon, although I’m not sure which year… definitely early 1980s, though.

I don’t think it will have been Clash of the Titans on TV, as I’d seen that film before, and it was one of my favourites. And I was pretty good at getting titles and things right, so I’m sure whatever I watched will definitely have been called Clash of the Monsters. Still no idea what it actually was, though!

And First Footing was definitely a tradition in our non-Scottish family, so I’m guessing it must have been a Northern thing as well! I definitely did it for a few years running, with a piece of coal from the coal bunker clutched in my hand.

  bobfischer wrote @

Oh yeah, I wondered if anyone would spot Darth Vader! I didn’t notice him myself until I put the blog online. He was bought for me by my friend Wez (as mentioned in several chapters of Wiffle Lever) on ,my 26th birthday and has practiced his Dark Arts on various windowsills for the last ten years.


  Alan wrote @

There are a few scans of the Detective Handbook on Flickr if anyone is interested Detective Handbook

  Chris Byers wrote @

Can remember watching Jason and the Argonauts one Christmas Eve. I am almost certain it was 1983.

  bobfischer wrote @

Alan, that’s great – thanks! It’s a lovely, fun little book, and in 1979 I was determined to become a detective (complete with trilby and long mac) when I grew up.

And Chris – thanks as well! 1983 sounds right to me, too. I just remember using it to pass another agonising couple of hours as we counted down to Christmas morning…

I love this place. 🙂

  PJE_UK wrote @

If you love Clash Of The Titans you’ll be over the mon to hear tat it’s being remade. The company I work for currently has crew out in Tenerife supervising action sequences. Other than that my lips have to remain sealed.

  bobfischer wrote @

Blimey! I had no idea. Just had a look though, and it’s got a great cast… Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson and Pete Postlethwaite. Yay!

I just hope Harry Hamlin gets a cheeky cameo…

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I had utterly forgotten ‘Will Kenny Everett Make It To 1980′ until I read about it here, yet now I can remember watching it quite clearly, so thank you very much!

I doubt you’d find a teenage Mildred these days by the way. Not outside Westphalia anyway.

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