Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 159

Thursday 7th June 1984

Woke up at 7.55 and got up at 8.15. Got the 8.30 bus to school, and me, Frankie, Tucker (Smike), Placie, Ozzie, Doug and Stan played Fighting Fantasy. Then it was Topic Groups, and we did an experiment with four candles and jars. Had dinner at 12.00, then played football outside.

When we came in we did some maths, then we went out and started a game of Rounders, but came in at 3.00 for assembly. Came home at 3.15 and started to make a model of a Harley davidson. Then I had tea, and went out till 6.40, when I watched Pot the question.

At 7.05 I watched Tommorrow’s world, at 7.35 I watched Top of the pops, at 8.05 I watched Porridge, at 8.35 I watched we got it made,  and at 9.00 I went to bed. Phew!

The problem with kids today is that they watch too much TV, and don’t enjoy the healthy, active outdoor lifestyles that we threw ourselves into whole-heartedly back in 1984.

Fork handles?

What a fine motley gang I managed to assemble to ‘play Fighting Fantasy’! I think this was (gasp!) my first-ever attempt at a Dungeons and Dragons-style game, with me (naturally) being the gamesmaster, and guiding the rest of them through a dangerous labyrinth of deathtraps, dungeons and derring-do. Everyone, with the exception of nascent geeks Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald and me, got utterly bored with the whole concept within fifteen minutes. And then Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank received a mild ticking-off from Mrs Keasey for issuing the bold opinion ‘I hate that new kid, he’s a right cocky sod’ within earshot. He was, of course, referring to motor-mouthed new arrival Andrew ‘I’m a firebug’ Power (see yesterday’s entry) who would proceed to spend the next six weeks of term informing us of the procession of state-of-the-art BMX bikes and games consoles that his parents bought for him on a virtually weekly basis.

‘Less of that,’ smiled Mrs Keasey, before giving Frankie a discreet wink that suggested she didn’t entirely disagree with him.

Tucker was, of course, our mop-haired mate Jason Tuck, but the ‘Smike’ aside is a reference to the fact that he’d been, amazingly, selected by a local stage impressario to take the lead role in Billingham Forum’s production of the rock musical Smike. (Which you can read more about here…  co-written by Simon ‘Theme from Eastenders’ May!)

The story actually made our local  newspaper the Northern Echo, and I’m sure I still have the clipping somewhere, but as I’m currently languishing in the French countryside I’ll have to wait until I get home to have a good rummage around. Rather surprisingly, though, we thought this was utterly fabulous and were full of admiration for him. No, really. Looking back, even the toughest, most worldly-wise kids at Levendale – yer Frankies and Tuckers and Dougs and Paul Whiteheads – were always ‘well up’ for throwing themselves into a bit of musical theatre in school productions, and regularly dressed up to lend a full-throttled soprano voice to Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (still in full rehearsal at this point).

Perhaps the only thing even more surprising is that a fully-fledged, attention-seeking old tart like me used to run a mile at the first sign of an audition looming… oh, how times have changed.

I can’t remember the full details of our ‘fork handles’ experiment, but I suspect Mrs Mulhern or Mr Millward devised it specifically so they could use that joke, which would – of course – have gone completely over our heads. I think it was an attempt to show us all of the things that a naked flame required in order to burn… so one candle will have been wickless (fuel), one will have been sealed in the jar (oxygen), one will have been… erm… whatever the other one is, and one… pfffft…. erm…. hmmmm….. sorry. I was obviously busy thinking about our Fighting Fantasy session instead.

The ‘model of the Harley davidson’ wasn’t, sadly, something that I constructed from scratch out of pipecleaners, buttons and tissue paper (or ’tissssssue paper’, as the late great Tony Hart always pronounced it). It was an Airfix-style thing that somebody (possibly my Uncle Trevor) had bought for me the previous Christmas. I hadn’t really got round to taking it out of the box, but my interest had been piqued by (wait for it) a Radio Times feature that showed Billy Joel sitting nonchalently on EXACTLY THE SAME MODEL OF BIKE.

The diminutive New York singer-songwriter (as he was described in the article) had played a huge, showcase gig at Wembley Arena during the week, a show that was being televised by BBC1 over two nights of the forthcoming weekend. As a result, he was flavour of the month in the British press, and it was almost impossible to turn on our TV without hearing ‘Uptown Girl’ or the brilliant ‘Tell Her About It’ blaring out of the tinny speakers. I bought into the hype wholesale, and spent the evening in front of the telly surrounded by glue, tissssssssue paper and tiny bits of plastic and chrome.  

Alright, obscure TV trivia ahoy… ‘Pot The Question’ was a short-lived snooker-based quiz, hosted by the mighty Stuart Hall, and featuring Patrick Mower and Denis Law as team captains and the legendary Len Ganley (of course) as referee. That’s pretty much all I can tell you, but I’d love to find out a bit more if anyone can remember?

Not a vintage ‘Pops’ this week, but it was hosted by the splendid tag-team of John Peel and David ‘Kid’ Jensen, and featured the following motley assortment…

• Bananarama – Rough Justice [Performance]
• Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy [Performance]
• Evelyn Thomas – High Energy [Performance]
• Howard Jones – Pearl In The Shell [Performance]
• Spandau Ballet – Only When You Leave [Performance]
• Wham – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go [Performance]

I love the ‘Phew!’ at the end, suggesting that a full TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES of telly-watching  had knackered me out for the night. Ironically, it takes that quantity of TV to get me awake in the mornings these days (usually Homes Under The Hammer followed by To Buy Or Not To Buy, then Car Booty)



  Fiona Tims wrote @

Ahhh who doesn’t love the Famous “Fork Handles” sketch? Just brilliant.

  Chris Orton wrote @

Patrick Mower must have been a bit down on his luck back in 1984 to be appearing on a snooker-based quiz show I have to say!

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah, but it was a CLASSY snooker-based quiz show. The sophisticated forerunner to the common-as-muck Big Break.

  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

But Patrick Mower was Mister Cheap Quiz Show himself for the better part of two decades! He lived for quiz shows, panel games and other ‘personality’ vehicles back then. I think he only bothered with the likes of “Target” and “Special Branch” when there was a lull in his diary of opportunities to wear a sports jacket and cheesecloth shirt whilst flirting with Anouska Hempel.

  bobfischer wrote @

Correct, Dr Parcel. He was second only to Colin Baker in the Cross Wits rankings.

  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

Don’t try to say that live on the radio.

  PAUL CALVERT wrote @

Every week Stuart Hall used to tease Len Ganley about being overweight (in good fun).

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