Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 144

Wednesday 23rd May 1984

(Stayed off school today because I had the bug)

Woke up at 7.50 and watched TVAM till I got up at 9.30. Then I finished my record and at 12.00 I had dinner. For just about all the afternoon me and mam played Clock and Patience.

Won a few times, then I watched Take two with Dr Who on at 4.40. Then I had tea, and after that I didn’t do a lot but at 6.45 I watched Terry and June. At 7.15 I watched Batman, and at 9.00 I went out on the bike.

Came in at 9.10 and went to bed at 9.15.

LIES! ALL LIES! There was nothing wrong with me. Oh, alright, I might have been a bit under the weather, but nothing worth staying off school for. And ‘the bug’, if it existed at all, was little more than a highly contagious desire to have a couple of days off school playing card games and watching the telly (although, judging by the past five months of diary entries, that isn’t too different to what I actually did AT school anyway). It was sweeping through the Fourth Year like wildfire.

I mentioned the ‘Doctor Who record’ in yesterday’s entry and couldn’t make head nor tail of it, and – having wrestled fitfully with it in my sleep all night – I’m still none the bloody wiser. I did own the Doctor Who theme music on 7″ single at this point in my life (bought from the legendary Alan Fearnley’s record shop in Middlesbrough on a wet Saturday in 1981) so it’s just possible I was attempting to make my own Doctor Who audio adventure (no market for such things, surely?) using the single, my own voice and sound effects constructed from hammering random Connect 4 pieces and Star Wars action figures against the bathroom radiator.


All recorded, of course, onto the bulky hand-held cassette player chained like a remand prisoner to my overheated Sinclair ZX81. I had, a couple of years earlier, attempted to mount a full-scale Doctor Who play in school assembly, with me playing Tom Baker’s incarnation and, erm, a cardboard box standing in for K9. So it’s possible that I was taking advantage of my (ahem) illness to adapt the script for radio… someday I’ll rummage through the big of TDK D90s in the loft and see how much of this nonsense actually survives. Although it’s highly possibly that the cardboard box will act me off the, erm, tape.


No surprise to see the traditional pack of cards come into play during the afternoon, as it’s incredibly likely that our four domestic TV channels were showing either the test card, pages from CEEFAX, live horse racing from Newmarket or Programmes for Schools and Colleges.

Everyone knows Patience, of course, but I’ve only vague memories of ‘Clock’… I remember spreading out cards in the rough shape of a clock face, but that’s about it. Anyone know the rules? (STOP PRESS – Just spoken to my Mum, who tells me that Clock is just the same as normal Patience, but with the cards laid out in a circle. Thanks for that!) 

I’d forgotten how much I relied on stuff like this to fill rainy afternoons in the pre-computer and pre-daytime TV era. Playing patience with my Mum was a lovely regular feature of (ahem) illness-filled afternoons, and in the summer of 1981, inspired (I think) by a recent world record attempt, I became utterly obsessed with the fine art of domino toppling. 

I think I managed to gather three packs of dominoes from various Fischer family sideboards, and spent endless baking summer afternoons arranging them into increasingly convoluted patterns (usually with a vague Star Wars theme) on the dining room table. And then, a week into the holidays, discovered that Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank had been doing exactly the same on his kitchen table, and so we blissfully pooled our resources…

dominoes(Anyone know any more about the Domino World Record attempt of 1981, by the way? I’m sure it was the subject of a big, special TV documentary, and that part of the elaborate domino pattern showed the happy faces of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, in celebration of their recent nuptials. I can’t find any evidence online to back this up, though…)

I also, around the same time, became obsessed with making those ‘five men joining arms’ paper figures… y’know, fold a piece of paper over four times, cut out a vague man-shaped figure, then unfold to reveal he has four slightly wonky-looking friends. I’d then colour them in to show either a) The five Doctor Whos in order of appearance, or b) Middlesbrough’s defence watching in awe as another free kick soared over their heads and into the top corner of the goal before a seething Holgate End. Don O’Riordan was a bugger to get right.

‘Take Two’ was a Children’s BBC show hosted by the lovely Josephine Buchan… basically a clips request show, so presumably on this occasion some grubby 11-year-old (not me, though, I was busy with my dominoes) had written in demanding to see ‘the bit when Doctor Who beats the Daleks’ once again. I can’t remember which clip was shown on this particular occasion, but I’m sure a more conscientious Doctor Who fan will be able to tell me…? 

And it was the film version of Batman, I think… a finely-honed slab of nonsense that seemed to be screened on primetime TV at least once every four months during the early 1980s. It contains one of my favourite movie scenes ever, in which Batman runs desperately around the edges of an ocean harbour carrying a bomb (the traditional ‘black metal ball’ bomb, complete with long, fizzing fuse and the word ‘BOMB’ painted neatly on the front) in his hands, unable to find somewhere safe to dispose of it. Despite the fact that he’s NEXT TO A HARBOUR. Chuck it in the water, you floppy-caped nurk.

Anyway, some sensational shark action here…

NB There were now only two more days of school left before the half-term holiday. Could I string out my imaginary illness to carry me seamlessly into the following week’s break? Watch this space…



  Chris Orton wrote @

How on earth did you wangle going out on your bike when you were supposed to be off ill Bob?

  bobfischer wrote @

I think I’ll have just gone round the garden a couple of times – you’ll notice I was only missing ten minutes. No doubt I persuaded my mother that ‘some fresh air will do me good’.

  Justin wrote @

Batman couldn’t throw the boimb in the harbour because there was a mother duck and some ducklings swimming past IIRC…

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah, really?!? It’s been a lot of years since I last saw that film. In which case, I withdraw my earlier comments… what a sterling bit of selfless duck-friendly preservation from yer man in the tights.

  bobfischer wrote @

Although thinking about it, would the water not have just extinguished the fuse, making an explosion impossible?

If so, I’d like to withdraw the above withdrawal. Shoddy, muddled thinking from yer man in the tights.

  Justin wrote @

… a good fuse would burn under water… probably 😉

  Steve wrote @

I need to stop commenting on two year old blog entries, but I can’t resist…

I have a mate who works in insurance who insists that even nowadays in space-age 2011 those weirdos ‘on the continent’ have as a major TV spectacle a big domino toppling event (which is insured against some poor sap spacing two dominoes too far apart and spoiling a major TV event – think Britney getting a cold before her next live date).

I have not tried to google this myself because I don’t want to spoil the lovely mental image of a 1980s timewarp.

  bobfischer wrote @

Resistance is useless, Steve! Join uzzzzz…

If there’s still a regular, televised domino-toppling event on the continent then I’m only envious of a society that’s clearly more civilised than our own. If such a thing happened on British TV these days, it would be hosted by a hysterical Graham Norton while a panel of Frank Skinner, Jamelia and Will from The Inbetweeners made cheeky comments about ‘knocking’. And tweets from viewers would scroll along the bottom of the screen… ‘Dominnos has been pwned by Frank, lolz – Ste in Matlock’

Actually, it sounds better than I’d anticipated…

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