Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 161

Saturday 9th June 1984

Woke up at 10.00 and got up at 10.15. At 10.30 I went to Levendale and had a ride around. Then I went to the charity fair in Yarm and met Doug and Huggy at the school stall. Then I came home, got some money, then went back to Yarm, got some fish and chips and ate them at the mud track.

Then I came home and played outside with the dogs, then when Norma came I went upstairs and played my Billy Joel tape, and after that I had tea.

At 5.10 I watched Whizz kids, then I turned over at 6.10 and watched Pop Quiz. After that I went outside and played with the rugby ball, then at 10.00 I came in and just mucked on till 11.15, when I went to bed.


Another gorgeously hot summers day, and – yay! – the annual Yarm Charities Fair, a chance for our most public-spirited burghers to set up trestle tables on the cobbles around the Town Hall and raise a few pennies for deserving local causes. Until I read this diary entry I’d forgotten that our school itself had its own, dedicated stall, so it was undoubtedly down to us and us alone to raise money for North Tees Hospital’s Cavatron appeal. Or possibly Cavitron appeal. However it was spelt, come on punters – buy these crinkled James Herriot paperbacks, there are lives at stake here!!!


1. James Herriot (complete with brilliant cartoon covers by Thelwell, and usually the slightly-out-of-date reminder ‘NOW A MAJOR BBC TV SERIES’ across the top)
2. Peter Benchley (almost always ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Deep’)
3. Ian Fleming (I have a full collection of James Bond paperbacks collected entirely from second hand book stalls, all with the 3’6″ pricetags still intact in the corner)
4. Jilly Cooper (and yes, they always fell open at the mucky bits)
5. Charles M Schultz (usually a copy of ‘You’re A Winner, Charlie Brown’ with a half-eaten piece of Wham Bar stuck to the back cover)


These weren’t really what I was looking for, though. What I wanted, obviously, were pristine Doctor Who Target Novelisations. And if they didn’t have chewed-up sweets attached to them, and didn’t fall open at the mucky bits (K9, how COULD you?) then that was a bonus. It was undoubtedly in anticipation of buying a small truckload of these treasures that I made a two-mile round trip home to pick up a few stray pennies, before returning to find that Doug and Huggy had got bored waiting for me and buggered off. And there were no Doctor Who Target Novelisations to be found.

To console myself, I bought a battered copy of ‘For Your Eyes Only’ from Mrs Mulhern, a bag of fish and chips from the splendidly Soviet-styled ‘YARM FISHERIES’ (options: fish, chips, fish and chips, and – if you were lucky – shandy. Requests for anything as exotic as mushy peas were likely to lead to imprisonment in a takeaway Gulag for the rest of your natural chip-eating life) and went to the Mud Track to sulk.

(NB My fish and chips will, have course, have been wrapped up daintily in a copy of The Sun from Friday 8th June, thus ensuring that half my battered cod had the faint, inky imprint of George and Lynne across its chewy, luridly orange body. In reverse)


And ha, ha! What a devoted family man I was, even as far back as 1984. My gran was staying with us for the weekend, my Auntie Norma from Redcar came to visit and chat (and no doubt gave me a crisp pound note to compensate for the morning’s disappointment) and what did I do? ‘Went upstairs and played the Billy Joel tape’. No doubt hiding in my bedroom and belting ‘Tell Her About It’ into a hairbrush, before checking that the coast was clear and digging in for the evening’s TV.

If you’re reading this Norma, I’m sorry. And thankyou for the pound note.

Whiz Kids! Blimey, was there ever a more archetypal 1980s TV show than this? Matthew ‘Red Hand Gang’ Laborteaux and his gang solve mysteries using ‘RALF’, a home-built computer system crammed into a suburban bedroom, thus introducing an entire generation of sociopathic geeks to the concept of ‘hacking’. You know that infuriating Trojan Horse virus that buggered up your entire C: Drive in 2006, wiping out your extensive folder of family photos and your painstakingly-assembled collection of Bananarama B-Sides? That was made by someone who watched ‘Whiz Kids’ on ITV on Saturday 9th June 1984. 

I loved it…

And then there was Pop Quiz! Top Saturday tea-time entertainment, with wisecracking Mike Read moonlighting from Saturday Superstore duties and subjecting Hazel Dean, Tony Hadley and Gary Tibbs from Adam and the Ants to questions about, well… Bananarama B-Sides. Bizarrely, I have incredibly detailed recall of the jacket that Mike Read was wearing on this particular occasion – a typically mid-1980s grey and powder-blue affair with the sleeves rolled up. I only remember this because my Mum remarked that Billy Joel had been wearing an identical item of clothing during the previous evening’s televised concert from Wembley Arena… see yesterday’s diary entry for corroboration!

Anyway, here’s a glimpse of a bit of vintage PQ action…

Is it me, or is that an amazingly stellar line-up for a bit of Saturday tea-time filler? Dave Gahan? ROBERT PLANT?!?! Didn’t these people have stadia to be selling out? Deserts to be standing in while wearing cowboy hats and gazing moodily into the middle distance? Fantastically hard questions as well, considerably trickier than any recent episodes of Mastermind that I’ve seen. I find it hard to believe that my Auntie Norma was shouting ‘Duane Allman!!!’ at the screen during that weird. opening salvo of teasers.

Was Captain Sensible a regular guest on Pop Quiz? I have vague memories of him popping up amazingly regularly and causing havoc, in a ‘Kenny Everett on Blankety Blank’ style, dousing Read in ‘Silly String’ and jumping up and down maniacally on top of the desks as a terrified Andrew Ridgeley ducked for cover. My hero! (Captain Sensible, not Ridgely)

The rugby ball was, naturally, another stolen item of booty that my Dad had discovered on his dog-walks around Yarm’s various school fields. Along with a hockey stick, a cricket bat, and all manner of various pads, balls and bails. Can you tell that Yarm, as well as boasting the dreaded Conyers comprehensive, also plays host to a posh private school whose main areas of sporting endeavour are rudby, hockey and cricket?

When they can scrape the equipment together, that is…



  Donny Mcleary wrote @

Round my way it was always James Clavell’s “Shogun” or “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen Mccullough.

Had a friend who used to buy every copy of “Jaws” he saw in a charity shop – had about 260 copies by the end of a year.

  bobfischer wrote @


Brody: ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat!!!’

Quint: ‘Well, actually, if you’ve got some Pritt Stick I’ve got these 260 paperbacks we can lash together…’

  Alan wrote @

That whizz kids theme is a minute and a half long, I can’t believe kids ever had that attention span! You don’t see many shows with long intros these days, I don’t think anyone would sit through it!

  bobfischer wrote @

And every second is worth its weight in synthesizer gold!

You’re right, title sequences aren’t what they used to be, are they? I still like the treble-split-screen effect that you used to see on Dallas, and sometimes envisage my own personal verson of them. On the left hand side I’d be cutting my toenails, on the right hand side I’d be eating a Kit-Kat and in the middle I’d be fast asleep in an armchair in front of the regional 6.30pm news.

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