Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 153

Friday 1st June 1984

Woke up at 9.00, and got up at 9.30. We went to Yarm and I got tyres, a Gudgeon pin and a gear chain from Cartmells, then went to Yarm Autoparts and got some more spray. When I came home I touched the bike up with more spray, then I went upstairs and started to clear out my bedroom.

At about 12.00 I had dinner, then I went back upstairs and did my bedroom till 2.00, when I rang Doug. He was at Huggy’s so I rode down and we all played on the bikes, but it rained so we mucked on in the garage, then watched telly.

I came home at 5.00 and had tea, then at 5.15 I watched Diff’rent Strokes. Then I did my room, and at 7.30 I watched Simon and Simon. At 8.30 I watched Time of your life, then at 9.00 I went to bed.

Apart from injustice, poverty and global pandemics, nothing makes my heart sink further than the phrase ‘started to clear out my bedroom’ in my 1984 Diary. This means, in a nutshell, that reams and reams of priceless treasure (probably including ‘The Guardian Of Goblin Grotto’) was chucked into a big Hinton’s cardboard box and left out for the binmen to collect. Who knows what myriad delights were thrown carelessly into that box, but if it hadn’t been for Friday 1st June 1984, you can bet your life I’d now be retrieving them from the loft and scanning them to put on here every day…

(Incidentally, it’s strange to think in these recycling-conscious times that EVERYTHING in 1984 ended up in the giant, metal dustbin outside our back door. Glass bottles, unwanted mail and newspapers, dogdirt and plastic tubs of Neopolitan ice cream… by any given Thursday, there were enough discarded consumer goods in that bin to fill a landfill site the size of Belgium. It required three burly binmen in filthy singlets to lift it onto the back of the cart. And yes, they touched it! And lifted it up!!!! Health and Safety would have… etc…


A little while ago, I was at my friend John Jaques’ house in Durham, and found him engaged at the sink, rinsing out empty bottles of wine and tomato sauce. ‘Imagine trying to explain this to someone from the 80s…’ he mused. ‘You wash… your rubbish…? In the sink? Your… RUBBISH? You WASH it?!?!?’ It’s a fair point).  

Anyway, good to see my 1984 self indulging in a bit of impenetrable bike jargon. What’s a ‘Gudgeon pin’, and where does it go on your bike? I’ve found this little write-up, but I’m still none the bloody wiser. I can’t believe that, in the two-and-a-half decades since I was 11 years old, I’ve actually managed to SHED some of my knowledge of practical, worldly-wise affairs. I must be the only man on Teesside who’s less capable of DIY as a thirtysomething than he was when he was at Primary School.

Anyone else under the impression that I’ve now replaced SO many bits of my Chopper (arf!) that I might as well just have bought a new bike? See this axe… I’ve had it for 25 years… only replaced the head 11 times and the handle… etc…


Yarm Autoparts, by the way, was a brilliantly butch and macho independant car bits shop/garage on the edge of town. There was no concession whatsoever to presentation and other girly things… it was just full of BITS OF CARS stacked up on oily shelves, and staffed entirely by blokes who all looked a bit like The Fonz. It was great, and Doug and I were once told off on the forecourt for attempting to use the vehicle tyre inflater machine to pump up the wheels on our bikes. ‘You won’t be laughing like that when they blow up and take your head off…’ shouted Fonz No. 3, which made us laugh even more.

The whole kaboosh (shop, garage etc) has now gone and been replaced by executive apartments and a manicurist/beauty salon. I’ve no idea if any of these establishments are still run by blokes who look a bit like The Fonz, but I’d like to think so.  

I don’t make a habit of remembering weather conditions for decades on end, but I do remember the rainstorm on this particular day. It was a proper, full-on, tropical monsoon in the middle of Teesside… an amazingly hot day on which, as my Mum would say, it ‘came down like stair rods’. Doug, Paul ‘Huggy’ Huggins and I laughed off the darkening, rumbling skies for ten minutes before quickly retreating to the garage as heavy, painful shards of rain battered our flimsy T-shirts into oblivion.  


I remember what we did in the garage as well. We had sword fights. Inspired, no doubt, by Robin of Sherwood. Admittedly there weren’t many occasions on which Robin’s gang ambushed Gisburne and his men using broom handles as weapons, but it was too wet to go outside and look for proper broadswords. I remember shouting ‘Have at ye!’ at Huggy as I lunged for him with my brush, and then – pathetically – tried to lull him into a false sense of security by pretending that the broom handle was too heavy for me to hold, and that I was about to topple over at any point.

At which point he called my bluff by laughing uproariously and battering me over the head with his broom. Doug, who was leaning nonchalently against an cobweb-strewn Ping Pong table refusing to get involved, chuckled heartily and helped me to my feet.

The resulting bout of mild concussion was probably the perfect mental state in which to enjoy Diff’rent Strokes and Simon and Simon. Everyone knows the ‘Strokes, of course, but Simon and Simon seems to have been all but forgotten. A rollocking US action series about two detective brothers, Rick and AJ (surely the coolest names ever?) who were (wait for it) a bit on the maverick side but (no, really) GOT RESULTS…

I’d fallen in love with the series during its first run in the Summer of 1982, and seeing those opening titles for the first time in 25 years brings back a flood of memories… baking summer days, Poggy Doggy chasing bumble bees, the Human League in the charts and melted Neopolitan ice cream trickling down the sleeves of my Empire Strikes Back T-shirt. Bliss.



  Chris Orton wrote @

In addition to putting just about every bit of household waste in the dustbin (although, strictly *no* hot ashes), back in the 1980’s I suspect that lots of people used to burn a lot of stuff on the fire. This is something that I suspect just doesn’t get done these days as most people won’t have coal fires. The green lobby will be hopping mad, but it used to be a handy way to get rid of stuff if your outside bin was full. We always used to have a hearth rug in front of the fire that was forever having to be replaced due to the presence of burn marks on it from when bits of stone in the coal fired themselves out of the grate with the force and high-pitched whine of a Howitzer missle.

Having said that, I used to just like throwing sugar on the fire to make the flame turn blue.

  bobfischer wrote @

Absolutely! I still miss my coal fire. Much to my girlfriend’s annoyance, I can’t stand central heating and constantly turn the bloody thing off, but I love a proper fire in the front room, and it’s my ambition in life to live somewhere where I can have one.

And yep, we had a rug with burn marks as well! And, frequently, a dog with burn marks laying on top of it completely oblivious to the fact that his shaggy hind quarters were on fire. I like all the little tools that went with the fire as well… the fireguard, obviously, but all the little tongs too, one of which had ends shaped like frog’s fingers. FACT.

And yes, we used to chuck stuff on it. Crisp packets in particular burned a lovely shade of green. And on winters nights in front of the telly my Dad would make toast for us all over the naked flames, or heat up sausage rolls by placing them on the hearth. Awww!

  Patsy wrote @

OK, thanks for making me feel really, really odd ! I have always washed out cans and bottles etc even in 1984 – I always had visions of poor ittle hedgehogs and foxes scrounging around the tips and getting their heads stuck as they tried to get the last delicious dregs out of my rubbish – too late to explain to me why animals do not frequent such sites, it’s
ingrained – I HAVE to do it ! Which reminds me – three different rubbish collections tomorrow, gone midnight, and not even sorted 😦 (Offers gratefully received on my house – it hs a fireplace)

  bobfischer wrote @

Oh, that’s impressive! I feel a bit humbled now. What did you do with all the washed-up cans and bottles back in the pre-recycling days? Did you just keep them all in the house like Mr Trebus? 😉

  Chris Orton wrote @

Coal fires were messy, but great. And if you sat near to one for any length of time then it was bound to send you to sleep for some reason. Central heating just doesn’t have the same effect.

We had the tong / shovel / scoop combination thing too. They use to hang down from a central metal stand, like some bizarre golden tree. And of course, a blazer (or bleezer) as we used to call it was essential fire-lighting equipment too.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ha ha, I’d forgotten about the metal stand! Yes, we had one as well. I’m reliably informed by my mother that it was called a ‘companion set’, and ours had a little shovel, a set of tongs and a small brush. I’d completely forgotten the brush, but it was the bristliest brush I’ve ever seen, and if you dangled it in front of our cat it drove him mad.

And the blazer! Took me a while to remember what that was, but basically a square of metal that you could place over the whole front of the fireplace, wasn’t it? Apart from an inch-high gap at the top. It made the flames roar like the fires of Hades.

Did your chimney ever catch fire? Ours used to, at least once a year, creating a Jack The Ripper-style smog that wiped out anything within a 200-yard radius of our house.

Without fail, my Dad would issue his mantra ‘If the fire brigade turn up, they can piss off’. Apparently their technique for dealing with the situation was to stick their hosepipe down the top of the chimney and turn it on, thus deluging your front room with gallons of foamy goo.

I used to go and stand in the front garden and watch the flames licking out of the top of the chimney. Cracking fun!

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