Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 155

Sunday 3rd June 1984

Woke up at 10.15 and got up at 10.30. I started to draw a flowchart for a new Fighting Fantasy but soon got sick and at about 12.30 I had dinner. Then I rang Doug a couple of times but he wasn’t in so I went through the estate to Levendale and met up with Sug, Clarkie and Math.

We went to the green and had a muck on, then Sug went home and me and Clarkie went to Deadman’s Creek, but the log had gone so we went to Clarkie’s house and then to the mud track and played on the tarzie.

At 4.00 I came home and at 4.50 I watched It ain’t half hot mum then I had tea, and after a ride outside I watched Go for it at 7.15. At 7.45 I watched Surprise Surprise, then I went out, then I had a bath. At 9.35 I watched That’s life and at 10.20 I went to bed.

A lovely, fresh, slightly dewy morning, with that gorgeous, placid feel of a summer’s day after a heavy storm. The grass and some of the pavements were still wet (and covered with little slugs) but the sun was out, and the air was cool. A bit like the Eye of Orion in The Five Doctors, for all you passing Doctor Who fans. With a high bombardment of positive ions over Yarm. Or something.

And a rare day of adventuring without Doug! He must have been at his Gran’s house in Thornaby all day. I like the fact that I just struck out for the estate round our school without any planning, though… safe in the knowledge that I would almost certainly meet somebody I knew just kicking around the streets. No texting or MSN required,  no need to create a Facebook event or a Twitter tweet, much better just to go wandering and to see who you could find.  

Luckily I chanced upon lovely, softly-spoken philosopher Paul ‘Clarkie’ Clarke (whose 1983 portrait is now possibly leading the race to be the most over-used illustration on this blog)…


…and wild-haired comedy genius Andrew ‘Sug’ Sugden…

Thursday Sug

‘Math’ was Matthew Sugden, Sug’s younger brother, equally funny and a regular accomplice on our strange, twisted missions. Although I do recall that he was absolutely terrified of fireworks, a fact that didn’t come to light until he bolted from Worsall Village Green display on Bonfire Night 1981 and was discovered by his frantic parents half an hour later, hiding from the sparklers in a hollowed-out tree trunk.  

Deadman’s Creek was, of course, the overgrown section of riverbank that I talk about in detail in this diary entry. Clarkie and I picked our way down through a slippery quagmire of tangled undergrowth to find a disconsolate Jono Copeland standing wistfully at the edge of a murky brown torrent, the River Tees painfully swollen from almost two days of relentless rainfall.

‘What’s up?’ we asked.

‘The log’s gone!’ he muttered.

And it had. ‘The log’ was just a fallen treetrunk that had lodged itself into the riverbank and jutted out into the water like a makeshift jetty. It had become an iconic part of our aquatic adventures over the previous few months, proving to be the perfect piratical ‘plank’, with a shaking Christopher Herbert frequently prodded to its furthest extremity by a bunch of growling, 11-year-old seadogs brandishing dried-out stalks of hollow Giant Hogweed.

(We’d get blisters)

But now the bursting, fast-flowing river had swept it away for ever. Not that we were convinced by that at all, not when there was a good conspiracy theory to be had. Yarm’s terrifying Bobby On The Beat, PC Bedford (Six foot two, eyes of blue, etc…) had clearly got wind of our ‘Pieces of Eight’ activities, and cast the log adrift himself before cackling manically, wiping his hands, walking back to his bicycle and riding it crazily all over the pavement JUST BECAUSE HE COULD. The brute.


(There was, at one point in Yarm, huge kudos to be gained if PC Bedford gave you a ticking off for riding your bike on the pavement. ‘Next time, your parents will be called and you’ll be taken DOWN THE STATION’ he would intone, in a bowel-rumbling baritone. Gaining such a telling-off was our smalltown, 1984 badge-of-honour equivalent of a modern-day ASBO. Except, of course, I never got one. In ten years of cycling around Yarm virtually every single day, I never, ever saw anyone even remotely resembling the legendary PC Bedford. Hmmm… 

This seemed such an astonishing feat that, naturally, I began to wonder if he actually existed at all, and – during my teenage years – would openly scoff at the very mention of his name, mentally filing him alongside such other fictional bogeyman as Dracula, Moo Cardy* and, erm, The Bogeyman. He’d clearly been invented by some dastardly agent of the adult world to keep us all in check, and his legend had been perpetuated by generations of kids who’d never seen him themselves, but ‘heard about my friend’s brother’s neighbour, who…’ etc.

Then, at the age of 21, I met a girl who told me she was his neice, and he was a much-loved member of her family. I’m still friends with her, and she still maintains that he’s real, so I’m finally prepared to concede that I must just have been amazingly lucky to avoid him! Hello Kirstine, if you’re reading this…)

*More of Moo Cardy later in the year. Or possibly in 1985. Yes, I’m in negotations with myself for a second series…

Other random memories from this day…

1. Before he went to the ‘mud track’ with me, Clarkie wanted to make sure his Mum was OK with it, so I went with him to ‘back him up’. She was, of course. Not surprising really, seeing as we’d tramped into her spanking clean house covered in mud, slugs and other assorted detritus from Deadman’s Creek. I think she’d have delighted if we’d said we were off to the Hindu Kush on a year-long journey of spiritual enlightment, so long as we’d stopped leaving filthy footprints all over her kitchen floor.   


2. At the mud track, we met three ‘new’ kids from another school. They were the same age as us, but a bit tougher and more streetwise, and were messing around trying to dislodge the tangled-up tarzie from the gnarled, twisted tree at the top of the bank by the railway line. One of them was a skinhead called Lee, and another was a lad called Jamie who wore a pink T-shirt and had a severe short back and sides with Chris Waddle-style spikes on the top and a truly hideous rat’s tail at the back.

As we messed about with the tarzie, I knocked Jamie’s jacket from its resting place on a tree branch and onto the muddy ground. ‘Pick that up,’ he snarled, with a curl of his lip.

‘No,’ I retorted, much to mine and everybody else’s amazement. ‘Pick it up yourself’.

I’ve no idea where this amazing show of street-smart defiance came from, as my natural tendency when faced with any kind of confrontation is still to look for the nearest convenient airing cupboard.  

A Cuban Missile-style crisis escalated into unbearable tension until Clarkie took me aside and whispered, ever the diplomat, ‘Pick it up, will you? My Mam will kill me if we get into a fight’. I did it for his sake. Oh yes I did. Oh yes. No-one else, though. Harumph. 

It was all smiles afterwards. ‘For that, you can let me ride on your Chopper’ said Jamie, without a hint of irony. He did, all over the playpark, while Clarkie and I tittered into our sleeves. Chortle.

Hmmm, just trying to work out what ‘Go For It’ might have been, shown on TV at 7.15pm on a Sunday night. I’ve found a few different TV shows with that title, but they all seem to date from much later than 1984. Anyone know?

And ‘Surprise Surprise’!!! Yegods, since when did I watch ‘Surprise Surprise?!?!? To be fair, this was the very first series, which (I think) had much more of a ‘Game For A Laugh’ feel to it… lots of wacky japes and cheeky stunts rather than reuniting Mabel Conquest from Barnsley with her long-lost Auntie Fanny amidst soppy music and floods of tears.

Christopher Biggins was Cilla’s co-host at this early stage, and still a cult playground hero for his work on the amazing ‘On Safari’…

Can I come out of the airing cupboard now?



  Tom S wrote @

I’m really not sure about this, but I certainly had a random meeting with a former bobby who used to patrol Yarm, when I was in New Zealand – but couldn’t swear it was the legendary Bedford.

It was one of those weird coincidences. I was sitting propping up a bar in Christchurch, I got chatting to this older English guy and his middle aged son. Something popped up in conversation about where I came from and I did that thing where you say “Oh, it’s a small town in the North-East you’ll have never heard of” and he said “Not Yarm?!”.

Turned out he’d also worked in the probation service with Mr Sugden, Matthew and Andrew’s father – who was a good friend of my parents.

Can’t remember his name though. Lovely bloke and bought us Guinness and Oysters all night for reasons I can’t quite remember.

  bobfischer wrote @

Was he six foot two with eyes of blue? If so, and if he told you off for riding your bike on the Christchurch pavements, then I think we’ve found our man…

(Fab stuff, thanks! I’ll text my friend and see if she can shed a bit more light on him…)

  bobfischer wrote @

I’m realiably informed (by the legendary http://www.tvcream.co.uk) that ‘Go For It’ (as watched at 7.15pm) was…


‘ROBBIE VINCENT invites middle class white families to lose weight on national television via “simple” challenges and humiliation of being weighed on battered Go For It! branded scales. Successful clans win coveted Go For It! breadboard’

  Kirstine wrote @


PC Bedford is real!!! And is 6.2.

I knew him as Rich and he was one of those close family friends who I knew all my life but not blood related uncle. As a small child he looked huge – still does I’m only 5.1.

He knows my mum and dad becuase with his wife and other friends they all went ballroom and latin dancing together (before Len, Brucie and co made it all popular) He has been in my house loads and I was never told off for riding my bike. Partally because I wasn’t a big bike rider and also because there has to be some perks to knowing a policeman and his wife.

I don’t think he’s the man you met in New Zealand – he doesn’t have a son and is in the UK.

Amazing – love you Ian.


  bobfischer wrote @

Fantastic, thanks Kirstine!

PC Bedford. BALLROOM DANCING. PC Bedford. BALLROOM DANCING. PC Bedford… nope, sorry, my brain just won’t accept it.

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