Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 181

Friday 29th June 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. At school we did maths, then started a poster for Topic. Had dinner at 12.00, and in the afternoon we did some more of the poster. At 2.00 we went out and played rounders, and at 3.15 I came home.

I went to Doug’s and we went to Yarm, and after getting a new brake cable we went to my house and took Poggy Doggy up the gate. At 5.30 Doug went home and I had tea, then I played on the front with Alan.

At 7.30 I watched Simon and Simon, and at 8.30 I watched Odd one out. Went to bed at 9.00.

Another blisteringly hot day, and as such – I think – we ‘took the tables outside’ again to work on our poster, with the added spice of being divebombed by wasps and getting hideously sunburnt. Nobody gave a toss about exposure to ultra-violet rays in 1984, and pale-skinned children like me were frequently ordered by parents and teachers alike to ‘go outside and get some sun on your face’, especially on days when the playing fields of Yarm resembled the plains of the Serengeti.


I never wore suncream as a kid, and frequently returned home with my neck and arms the colour of raspberry yoghurt. At which point, my Mum would roll her eyes and ‘get some After-Sun on that, and it’ll go brown’. And cancerous, no doubt, in the fullness of time. Although I don’t think sun-related skin cancer was invented until about 1989, so I might have escaped unscathed.

Ironically, the poster that Doug and I worked on for our Topic Group was all about the dangers of woodland fires, and handily advised our otherwise unsuspecting peer group not to light naked flames in tinderbox-dry forests on hot summer days. Or, indeed, within the thirty-yard exclusion zone surrounding Christopher Herbert, who scientists now estimate was responsible for at least 14.7% of the UK’s mid-1980s methane production.


And Alan! Blimey, I’d forgotten about Alan. Don’t worry, we’re not adding an imaginary friend to my spiralling catalogue of pre-pubescent mental health issues. I never had an imaginary friend as a kid… the closest I ever got was a vague, nagging hope that – one day – the TARDIS would materialise on top of our coal bunker, and that Peter Davison’s Doctor would whisk me away to galactic adventures.

I did, at one stage in 1984, have in my head a full 24-episode series based around our ensuing antics, but the only one I can remember is the story in which the Doctor transported me forward in time to 1991, and I met a white-faced Poggy Doggy and a chiselled, muscular, fabulously wealthy 18-year-old version of myself. This might have sown the seeds of the crushing depression I suffered in the ACTUAL 1991, when my 18-year-old self turned out to be a scrawny, acne-ridden geek with terrible dandruff and a bizarre fascination for Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. Although, in my defence, Poggy Doggy was still alive and he did have a white face.


But no! Alan was the grandson of Mr and Mrs Cogan, our elderly next-door neighbours. His parents had moved to Northern Ireland when Alan was very small, and only seemed to return once or twice a year, but when they did we were usually happy to knock a football around the garden for a few hours, while his older sister Debbie watched us with a wry smile on her face. Alan was my age, and – as a result of his upbringing – had the strongest Northern Irish accent I’d ever heard outside of the Belfast editions of ‘Why Don’t You’.

(I’m sure that, after every Belfast Why Don’t You, Barry Took on Points of View would be inundated with letters from Mrs Bagshott-Rowe of Tunbridge Wells, sniffily protesting about the ‘decline of the English language on BBC Television’ and so on. All I can really remember about Why Don’t You is a) the theme tune and b) its early use of video diaries, usually made by slightly weird-looking 14-year-old boys who lived in the Cotswalds and had intimate relationships with ponies)

Anyway, two things that I remember about my encounter with Alan on this day…


1) When he first popped his head around the garden gate, I was busy fixing the new brake cable to my (guffaw) Chopper. My bike was still looking – or so I thought – pretty swanky after its recent respray, and I was pretty damn proud of my refurbishments. Until Alan piped up with the soul-destroying opening gambit – ‘Bloody hell, IS THAT YOUR BIKE?!?? How do you ride THAT? I’ve just got a new Diamond Back’. I’d never felt so crushed since Adric died at the end of Episode Four of ‘Earthshock’.

2) On the front garden, we played with his ‘Impossiball’. This quintessentially mid-1980s gizmo had been advertised relentlessly in the breaks during TV-AM all summer, its manufacturers clearly determined to retire to the Bahamas before the end of the six-week holiday. Bascially a light, plastic football with all kinds of strange weights and things inside it… so that, whatever you did with it, it would wobble and ping and bounce at all kind of insane angles. If you threw it through the air, it would veer away at a 90 degree angle, hit a tree, bounce vertically upwards, richochet around the branches, then hit the lawn at a dead stop and rest for a few seconds before someone bent down to pick it up, at which point it would suddenly restart and shoot off across the garden.

I think it was powered by hamsters. Or black magic. Or some strange combination of the two.

It was enormously entertaining for about five minutes before you realised it had no practical use whatsoever and seemed to be inextricably drawn to the busy main road on the other side of the conifers. You’ll notice I stuck it out for an hour before coming inside to have raspberry yoghurt rubbed on my sunburn while watching Paul Daniels on the telly.


  Thing wrote @

Sounded like Robert Powell doing the Black Magic voiceover. Odd he always seems to make everything sound so cheeky and decadent.

Would you know what I meant if I asked if you knew of the adverts for Scunge Chocolates?

  bobfischer wrote @

Ha ha, it is Robert Powell, isn’t it? Mind you, I think even Arthur Mullard could have made Black Magic sound cheeky and decadent. They were just that kind of chocolate.

Scunge Chocolates rings a vague bell, but I just can’t place it. Is it from that bizarre Terry Jones/Michael Palin one-off where they grind up human body parts for luxury chocolates? Or is that called ‘Secrets’?

  Thing wrote @

It’s not from that (they did two versions of that play, didn’t they, one in 1973 with Warren Mitchell and Brian Wilde, and one in the 90s, with Tyler Butterworth), it’s a fictional brand which used to get all-purpose advert skits in Emu’s Broadcasting Company. ‘And all because the lady loves Scunge Chocolates’ being one of them, with Barbara New as the woman. I think it was Billy Dainty in the unlikely role of the Milk Tray-style man.

  bobfischer wrote @

Brilliant! I knew I’d heard it somewhere. No doubt these days they’d be shamelessly flogging the actual tie-in brand in supermarkets everywhere.

And what a great 70s figure Billy Dainty was! I mainly remember him from his stuff with Rod Hull as well, but he had his own show at one point, didn’t he? Mid-1970s?

  Thing wrote @

He might have done, I’m not sure. Bit of a forgotten figure nowadays, sadly.

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