Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 163

Monday 11th June 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. Got the bus at 8.30, and first at school We went into assembly. Then it was Topic groups, and when we came out I did Topic. At 12.00 I had dinner, then it was maths groups. When we came out me and Doug did ‘The curious amount of 1089’ for maths.

Then we went out for rounders, but lost both games. At 3.15 I came home and read my comics, then went out till I had tea. After tea I went out again. At 6.50 I watched Manimal, and at 7.55 I watched Points of view. Then I switched over at 8.10 and watched The 2 Ronnies.

At 9.00 I went out and dad took some penalties at me. Went to bed at 9.15.

Yay, Maths can be FUN!!!

Unless, of course, I’m hiding under my bedspread, peeping out at the Star Wars curtains and drifting into tortured, terrifying nightmares in which Killer Long Divisions and Deadly Times Tables are coming to tear me limb-from-limb. Pretty much the whole of 1980 then, at least until Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World arrived on TV and rendered all my previous childhood nightmares completely insignificant virtually overnight.

I still get shivers thinking about the Loch Ness Monster episode. Brrrrr…

By 1984, though, I’d developed a bit of a taste for (ahem) the ‘quirky’ side of maths, and so ‘The curious amount of 1089’ was right up my strasse. Mrs Keasey taught us this, straight from one of the Nuffield Textbooks, and – being a naturally bloody-minded and contrary 11-year old – I spent the rest of the day trying to find the exception that would bring the whole theory crashing down around her C-Reg Humber. I couldn’t, though, because it doesn’t exist. In a nutshell…


  1. Pick any 3 digit number. (682)
  2. Write this number backwards and subtract the smaller number from the other. (682 – 286 = 396)
  3. Take this answer and again invert it. (693)
  4. Add your previous “answer” to its inverse (396 + 693 = 1089)

Doing this with any three digit number will either produce 1089 or 0! Even single digits, when written 00x, will work. For example, Try 8. (800 – 008 = 792. Then 297 + 792 = 1089) 1089

Great, isn’t it? I’d undoubtedly developed an interest in this stuff by avidly watching early 1980s episodes of Doctor Who, an era when the show was arguably at its most scientific, mathematical and, well… downright geeky. Tom Baker’s final episodes (and Peter Davison’s first) are riddled with concepts like mathematical recursion, quantum mechanics and entropy, all liberally sprinkled between scenes in which The Doctor mutters to himself about ‘Newton’s Third Law of Dynamics, and I never heard a truer word spoken…’

Amazingly, I found all of this stuff utterly captivating… although, in the interests of balance, I should point out that I also liked the Big Statue Monster, the Motorway Ghost and the Shouty Bloke with the Pointy Beard as well.


My comics days were numbered by this stage in 1984 (I’d started buying James Bond novels, remember, and there’s a certain leap of maturity required to go from ‘Whizzer & Chips’ to ‘For Your Eyes Only’, although obviously ‘Whoopee!’ had a certain steely grittiness that I was prepared to defend to the death) but it’s good to see I was still hanging on in there. Off the top of my head, The Beano, Nutty and Buster would all be waiting for me alongside the aforementioned Whoopee and Whizzer, and I was still chortling along to Bananaman’s antics while waiting for my Findus Crispy Pancakes. 

And penalties! Clearly inspired by England (and John Barnes’) antics the previous evening, I decided to squeeze into my old football kit for a quick garden kickabout. Since 1978, our front garden had played host to a slightly rickety but otherwise impressive set of fun-sized, self-assembly goalposts. In fact, you can see them in the background of this picture of me, Doug and Poggy Doggy with our model K9…


My childhood interest in football came and went with the weather. Quite literally… if it was sunny, I’d happily spend the afternoon dribbling around the garden furniture and shouting ‘Heine Otto!!!!’ as I lashed a shot over the top of Mr Cogan’s greenhouse (actually, that’s a bit disrespectful to Heine Otto… he usually lashed HIS shots at least as far as the coal bunker). If it was raining, I’d stay indoors drawing Doctor Who pictures and attempt to convince the world that I was an ultra-geeky sci-fi fan who abhorred the macho, masculine world of sport. Who needs Heine Otto when you’ve got quantum mechanics and mathematical recursion?  

It must have been a nice night then, as I took my place between the wobbly sticks and did my sterling imitation of Bruce Grobbelaar’s equally wobbly legs – undoubtedly the inspiration for my new-found desire to be a goalkeeper. My Dad would gently drill his shots into the bottom of the net (usually while employing Dad Trick No. 3: Pointing at one corner of the net during his penalty run-up, then skilfully drilling the ball into the opposite corner. I would LOVE to see a professional player employ this routine in a tense Premiership penalty situation, just once…) and I’d throw myself at the ball in a ludicrously over-flamboyant manner, arcing gracefully through the air before crunching to the goal-line with a sickening thump as a shot that I could have saved with a simple foot movement crawled underneath my flailing body.

Dad Tricks Nos 1 and 2, in case you were wondering, are…

1. ‘Stealing the nose’. Dad tweaks your nose inbetween his index and middle finger, then slips his thumb between the two fingers just enough to convince you that he’s ‘stolen your nose’. Cue twenty minutes of tears from a distraught four-year-old who has to be taken to the mirror above the telephone table before he’s convinced that his features are still, in fact,  intact.

2. ‘The loose thumb’. Dad bends the thumb on his right hand into his palm, so just the base of the thumb is visible. He then covers the base of the thumb on his left hand with his left index finger, so just the tip is visible. It’s then possible, with a bit of ‘sleight of thumb’ to pretend that the thumb of the right hand is actually detachable, and can be wiggled around the room at will.

I can’t do either of these with any great degree of success, but then I’m not a Dad. I imagine there’s a night class you have to go on immediately after the birth of your first-born child.



  Fiona Tims wrote @

What is that picture of the man by the fence?
For some reason it really creeps me out!!

  Thing wrote @

It’s a photo of the Watcher, a spectral presence who keeps turning up occasionally in the background during Tom Baker’s last Doctor Who story, Logopolis.

It often creeps Tom Baker out during the story too!

  Thing wrote @

By the way, did your Dad used to do the ‘Fly away Peter, fly away Paul’ trick with bits of paper on the index fingertips?

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah yes, The Watcher! ‘Logopolis’ seems to come and go in terms of fan popularity, but I was utterly entranced by it as an eight-year-old in 1981, and still love it to bits. It’s probably the story I’ve rewatched the most.

The Watcher is indeed a creepy, scary figure when you first see him standing at the side of the motorway (as in the picture above). There’s just something about that combination of the otherwordly and the very ordinary that REALLY fascinates me, and that’s a running theme through loads of my favourite TV, film and literature.


Although you’re initially led to believe he’s a sinister presence, The Watcher is actually the Doctor’s future self, brought forward in time to guide him through a particularly traumatic regeneration.

  bobfischer wrote @

Thing – ha ha, I’d forgotten about ‘Fly away Peter, fly away Paul’! I’ve got a feeling my Gran used to do this for me when I was VERY small.

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