Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 149

Monday 28th May 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.30. Went downstairs and had some toast, then I played on the videopac. After that I painted the bike, then was playing cards when Doug came and we went down to the mud track and played on the tarzie.

Then I climbed a tree and got stuck. Eventually I jumped down into a puddle. After that we went to the Doctor’s and rode down the steps, then back to the mud track for a last muck on. After that we came back, and Doug went home and I had tea, then I went out on the bike.

At about 6.00 we took Grandma home (I climbed the tree), then we came back at 7.10 and watched The Montreax golden rose pop festival. Went to bed at 9.00 after a bath and a bowl of Cornflakes.

All well and good, but oddly omitted from my diary entry is the fact that Monday 28th May was a sad day for British comedy. And a horrible tug on the heartstrings for those of us who had grown up in front of the telly in the 1970s, obsessed by our TV heroes and eternally grateful for the little chinks of magic and laughter that they brought into our strange, little lives.

Eric Morecambe died on this day.


It happened in the early hours of the morning after a one-man show in Gloucestershire, but the news didn’t break until later in the day, and I remember us finishing our post-dinner Swiss rolls and almond slices as the dramatic opening stabs of the BBC1’s Evening News programme (still broadcast at 5.40pm, and not yet shifted to the monolithic Six O’Clock start) parped from our tinny TV speakers and filled the corners of our sun-drenched front room.

Back in 1984, BBC1’s main news programme still looked like this…

As soon as the first headline started, we knew exactly what was coming. ‘The comedian Eric Morecambe, known to millions as…’

There was no need to carry on listening, really. But we did… still chomping on our almond slices, and all feeling decidedly miserable at the realisation that such an incredible, umatchable part of our collective TV experiences had drifted away forever. Eric is still, to me, the crowned king of 1970s TV, a figure who united the nation in a way that Ted Heath and James Callaghan never managed in those odd, fragmented remnants of my very early childhood.

EVERYBODY watched Morecambe and Wise, and EVERYBODY talked about it afterwards. Especially on Christmas Day, when the toys would be cleared away and my Mum and Dad and Gran and Uncle Trevor (and whoever else was about) would start to reclaim the evening from us grotty kids, and settle back on the settee with a glass of QC Cream and a box of After Eights to let this utterly magical TV experience wash over them in waves of glee. And I’d be there too, entranced by the funny man in the glasses who never, ever failed to make me laugh.

Especially in this clip from Christmas 1976, watched by nearly half the population of the United Kingdom (and Lord alone knows what other half were doing) and still the No. 1 topic of conversation the following day, when my Dad took the dogs down to the Cross Keys pub in Yarm to find EVERYONE talking about Angela Rippon’s legs…

So thankyou, Eric. And Ernie too, whose contribution was equally gargantuan and yet whose legacy sometimes seems comparatively overlooked. In the middle of bleak 1970s winters, it was impossible to overestimate anyone so readily capable of (hey) bringing so much sunshine into our gloomy and freezing front rooms.

And yet… saddened as I was, life plodded on for me. I suppose it does when you’re a kid, doesn’t it? There’s a always a tree to climb… or, in this case, two trees. Clearly influenced by the antics of Robin of Sherwood’s gang, I’d decided to scale as many leafy branches as I could in the hope of ambushing any passing Norman soldiers on their way to buy an Evening Gazette Late Final from Mr Murray’s newsagents. And sometimes, I was even capable of getting down again…

(By the way, the tree that I got stuck in at the ‘mud track’ is visible on the below film, 6 seconds in. It’s the one on the opposite side of the grey path, standing by itself with the tall thin trunk. What a big girl’s blouse I really was…)

And the steps at ‘The Doctor’s’ were, amazingly, nothing to do with my favourite Time Lord on this occasion. The doctor’s surgery in Yarm had (and still has, although it’s now an oestopathic clinic, and our spanking new ‘Yarm Medical Centre’ is twenty yards away across the car park) a little flight of stone steps leading up to the front door that were just BEGGING to be ridding down on a rickety Raleigh Chopper whose new coat of paint wasn’t QUITE dry at this stage.

‘Cycling down steps’ (or ‘Boneshaking’ as we instantly nicknamed it) became an insanely obsessive pastime for Doug and I over the following week or two, and we scoured the streets of Yarm looking for steeper and lengthier flights of steps to sate our ceaseless quest for thrills, excitement and outright stupidity. 

I think the scabs, bruises and grazes on my arms and legs only descended into single fingers once I turned 17 and discovered cheap cider and cigarettes instead. 

(Although amazingly I’ve never had stitches or broken a bone – maybe not such a big girls’ blouse after all, eh? EH?!)

I’ll try and get down to the old surgery tomorrow and make a little film. By the way, I LOVE the fact that the only medical practitioners in Yarm had to be reached by ascending a steep, unwieldy flight of steps. Why not go the whole hog and erect a sign stating ‘NO ELDERLY OR INFIRM PEOPLE ADMITTED’?

And the Montreux Golden Rose Pop Festival! Fantastic. Hour upon hour of the world’s biggest rock sensations performing in a venue seemingly slightly smaller than the back room of The Ketton Ox on Yarm High Street…

No wonder I needed a bath and a bowl of Cornflakes to calm me down before bedtime.


  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Dear boy, steps and other obstacles to care were a vital part of medicine in the days before Patient Choice.
They helped the medical profession to weed out hypochondriacs and malingerers without even trying: what it boiled down to was that if an NHS cost unit could get into the surgery then there was nothing seriously wrong with them. Thus appointments were short and never over-ran. This left we doctors with more time to attend to those who truly needed our science and expertise. Why, sometimes there used to be time for such outrageous practices as home visits, as attested to by your very own diary a few weeks ago.
This was truly a golden age. Nowadays we have to take a patient’s feelings and beliefs into account and treat everybody equally. What a disaster! No wonder people are getting more and more things wrong with them. It’s the fault of ramps and questionnaires.

  Chris Orton wrote @

I genuinely misread part of Bob’s diary for today as:

“…after a bath in a bowl of cornflakes.”

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

As a doctor, I’d advise against this habit especially if the cornflakes are to be eaten later.

  bobfischer wrote @

You’re right as always, Dr Parcel. I drove past the old Yarm Clinic today, and noticed that although one steep flight of steps still runs up to the main entrance, they’re now accompanied by a gentle ramp that most definitely wasn’t there in 1984. It’s no wonder that 95.7% of the population of this country are now clinically obese and unable to look sexy in cut-off jeans and a ‘Frankie Say’ T-shirt.

Chris… just wait until I cover Children In Need night in November.

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