Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 168

Saturday 16th June 1984

Woke up at 7.30 and got up at 8.00. Got the 8.15 bus to Middlesbrough and I got Doctor Who – Enlightenment and DWM. Then I went to Grandma’s, read my gear and had a bacon sandwich.

At 2.30 I got home and Stan was there so we played on the tarzie, played football, then went to the copse and climbed a few trees. Then we went to Stan’s and watched TV till 5.00 when I came home and had tea.

At 6.10 I watched Pop Quiz, then at 6.40 I watched The Grumbleweeds radio show. At 7.00 I went out, then at 7.30 I watched Just amazing. At 8.15 I watched The Price is right and at 9.15 I went to bed.

A day I remember really well, not least because hardly anyone ever just ‘dropped round’ to my house as a kid… we didn’t live on any of the estates, we lived a bit out of the way on the edge of town, so my friends tended to phone first to arrange coming round in case I was away eating bacon sandwiches and reading ‘gear’ at my Gran’s house.

But hey! All hail Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry who popped round on the off chance on a Saturday afternoon and found that… erm, I was away eating bacon sandwiches and reading ‘gear’ at my Gran’s house. But, after arriving home on the United 294 bus, I clearly remember walking from the bus stop over the road, up my drive and seeing a flash of red football kit whizzing through the garden.


WHAT?!?!? Somebody’s using my tarzie!!!!! Clearly Stan had popped round, my Dad (who always stayed at home to fiddle about in the garage) had said ‘You can wait for him if you like, help yourself to the tarzie’, and Stan had done just that. Brave really, because on my ninth birthday, in November 1981, he’d got in the way of a flailing Phil ‘Slackie’ Slack tarzie-based assault, received a Clark’s Start-Rite trainer in his face, and gone home with the imprint of a Size 2 sole (and a squashed slug) on the side of his lower left cheek.

But it was a lovely surprise to see him, and I felt a bit honoured that he’d gone so far out his way on the off chance that I might be around. I was clearly keen to show off mine and Doug’s newly-discovered woodland retreat ‘the copse’, and although I can’t remember climbing the trees, I do remember one amazing fact about our bike ride over to Stan’s house…

Wait for it…


The tension…

He did the whole ride without using his hands!!!

I’ve measured the journey in the car today, and from my old house to Stan’s old house, it’s a distance of 1.3 miles. And yep, Stan rode the entire journey controlling his handlebars with his knees and using his free hands to wave at passers-by, make ‘Peace’ V-signs (the latest school craze, stolen wholesale from Neil of ‘The Young Ones’) and eat Wham Bars. It’s a good job PC Bedford didn’t see him, or HIS FEET WOULD NOT HAVE TOUCHED THE FLOOR (actually, his feet didn’t touch the floor anyway, he was on his bike. But, like Christopher Herbert, I don’t suppose that would have washed)


Riding without hands was an amazing schoolboy trick that I tried and failed to perfect. I think I managed to get about 15 feet along Thirsk Road before my Chopper (chortle) swerved out of control and I ended up in the ditch opposite the garage, no doubt with a couple of squashed slugs stuck to my own pallid face. Occasionally I would give it another go, but invariably ended up removing one palm from the handlebars, panicking, and putting it back two seconds later, before repeating the trick with the other hand. I looked like the two-wheeled equivalent of those lizards that constantly shift from one foot to another to stay cool in the hot desert sand.

(You may have guessed from all of this that I never attempted any sort of ‘Cycling Proficiency’ course in my childhood. Like 2000AD, ski-ing holidays and contact with females, that was a popular school activity that just passed me by completely. What was involved in ‘Cycling Proficiency’, and does it still go on? I’ve vague memories of seeing rows of hapless saps on Raleigh Strikas being led in painfully slow formation around the Middle Band playground, but it all seemed unbelievably dull. No doubt somebody will now post to tell me that it involved a month-long module in ‘riding without hands’, and I missed a treat…)

At Stan’s house, his Mum was baking* in the kitchen (and made a point of telling me cheerily how much she hated it) and we drank a glass of orange while watching live cricket on BBC2. I don’t know much about cricket, but a bit of research reveals this must have been the third day of the First Test between David Gower’s England and Clive Lloyd’s West Indies at Edgbaston…

England, naturally, were utterly annihilated. You can see the score cards here if you want to conduct your own post mortem:


*(When I say Stan’s Mum was baking in the kitchen, I mean she was making scones and fairy cakes, as opposed to just being really warm)


And ‘Just Amazing’! I’d forgotten all about this. This was pretty much ITV’s answer to Record Breakers, elevated to a primetime, hour-long Saturday primetime spot, and presented by Barry Sheene (still held together by scaffolding at this point), Suzanne Danielle and Kenny Lynch. Every week, a motley selection of nutters, headcases and ‘brave daredevils’ would file into the studio and attempt to outdo each other in the ‘dangerous stunt’ or ‘unique talent’ stakes. Here’s a fine clip, courtesy of Youtube…

The only two guests I can really remember are…

1. A French gent called ‘Monseiur Mangetout’ who – unsurprisingly – claimed to have a super-strong digestive system that enabled him to… well, eat anything. He took bites from (and swallowed) dinner plates in the studio, and also claimed to have dismantled and eaten a full-sized light aircraft. Presumably in several sittings, rather than wolfing the whole lot down with a bit of brown sauce and a few McCain’s oven chips (40% less fat!)

2. A bloke who could identify any British Top 10 single from any era simply by feeling the grooves on the vinyl. Presumably by 1984 he was cashing in as frantically as possible before the CD revolution put him out of business forever (and I bet he hates MP3s).


Oh, and a bit of token Doctor Who fun… ‘Enlightenment’ was, of course, the Target Novelisation of the classic Peter Davison adventure (as seen above), and DWM was – naturally – Doctor Who Monthly. Issue 90, as seen here…


Great fun as ever, but worth a mention because this issue contains Part 1 of possibly my favourite-ever comic strip. It’s the beginning of an epic adventure called ‘Voyager’ in which Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor, accompanied by a shape-shifting penguin called Frobisher (stick with this), arrive in the depths of the Antarctic and find an ancient Jamaican sailing ship frozen solid in the ice… it’s a ship that the Doctor has been having nightmares about, sailing to his death as a prisoner of the sinister ‘Voyager’, and on his arrival in the real deal, he falls foul of the insane ‘Thief of Time’ Astrolabus, a babbling old crone who freewheels across the galaxy in a selection of Leonardo Da Vinci-inspired flying craft.

It’s brilliantly scripted by Steve Parkhouse, beautifully drawn by John Ridgeway, and I fell in love with it instantly… and it’s now available as a lovely, chunky graphic novel, which never fails to transport me back to 1984 whenever I open it. Legendary stuff indeed.  




  Chris Orton wrote @

I did Cycling Profiency – or Cycling Proficiency as it is properly called (!) – in my last year of primary school. It basically involved us all bringing in our BMXs and learning how to ride them safely on roads. Our tarmac-covered school yard had road markings painted on it, and on top of these marking were placed mock road signs, traffic lights, cones etc and you had to learn how to negotiate them, deal with give way signs etc. I think that we were also visited by the police as part of it all who stamped each of our postcodes onto our bikes. I passed the short course and got a red triangular badge similar to the one pictured and a certificate, but failed to make use of my newly-acquired skills as I was always far too scared to ever ride my bike on the road and stuck to the pavements. Just as well we didn’t have a PC Bedford round our way.

I was never really much good on a bike to be honest. I was too weak to be able to lift the BMX to do a wheelie, I couldn’t do Endos (bouncing the bike up off a kerb so that the back wheel lifted off the ground), could only go for about three feet without using my hands and struggled to get up hills on a gearless bike and always had to push. As I lived in an area of the town that was surrounded on three sides by hills this was a probably if you ever set out anywhere. Great coming back though!

  bobfischer wrote @

Sorry about the spelling – that’s what happens when I try to write this rubbish late at night! Anyway, I’ve changed it, so now it looks like it’s you that can’t read properly… 😉

That’s great, thanks for the insight into cycling prowhatsitry! Was it compulsory, or did you just fancy it?

I was rubbish at BMX tricks as well, although in my defence I was attempting them on a Raleigh Chopper that weighed almost as much as HMS Plymouth.

  Chris Orton wrote @

It wasn’t compulsory I don’t think, and I certainly remember that there were some kids that didn’t have bikes so they were excluded by default, unless they could cadge a lend of someone else’s bike! When you weren’t riding you generally had a turn at operating the fake road signals under the guidance of the teacher.

  Chris Byers wrote @

Surprised that you didn’t do cycling proficiency Mr Fischer. I would have thought you would have jumped at the chance to show off your chopper. One thing that sticks in my mind about our cycling proficiency class was an argument, between Stephen Mason and a member of the local constabulary (perhaps it was PC Bedford) sent to supervise the class and make shore our bikes were road worthy (your chopper would have had no problem). The argument was over the fitting of a bell to his bike. According to Stephen Mason only girls had bells and there was no way he was having one fitted on his bike. After a week or two Mr mason reluctantly backed down vowing to remove the bell the moment he had passed. I will mention that I did pass and I could ride a bike without hands

  bobfischer wrote @

Ha ha ha ha! Fantastic. That’s classic Mason, even as an eight-year-old he was never afraid to question authority, and I loved him for it. Although I’m sure Messrs Hirst and Millward still occasionally wake up in a cold sweat.

I don’t think I’d have passed the cycling proficiency test if I’d tried it. I could pull off some impressive tricks with my Chopper, but it would never have stood up to official scrutiny.

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