Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 183

Sunday 1st July 1984

Woke up at 8.30 and did the rubiks cube, then at 10.00 I got up and played football outside. The I came in and mucked on with the cube, and at 12.00 I had dinner. After that I had a ride around on the kebble estate and came back in time for Doug’s arrival, at 3.00.

We played on the tarzie, then went and mucked on at the mud track. At 4.00 we both went home and at 4.30 I had tea. Watched the Goodies at 5.00, then I went out.

At 6.10 Dad and I went to Albert park while mam went to see Grandma in hospital, and at 8.15 we went and picked her up. Came back at 8.30, then I played football at 9.00, when I had a shower. At 9.30 I watched That’s life and at 10.15 I went to bed.

The Rubik’s Cube! Bloody hell. Words can’t describe how, in pre-home-computer era 1981, this infernal instrument of torture possessed me. The bloody things were EVERYWHERE, and the perpetual click-click-click-click of rapidly rotating plastic made Levendale Primary School sound like it had been infested by a hoard of giant crickets. With geiger counters. Doing Rubik’s Cubes.

Naturally, mine wasn’t an AUTHENTIC version. I think I’m right in saying that Erno Rubik experienced some hold-ups and hitches sorting out the copyright and/or patent for his multi-coloured annoyance machine, and – within nanoseconds of HIS cube hitting the shops –  the world was flooded with cheaply knocked-off copies. So I got one of them, no doubt bought from Stockton market for a third of the price and marketed as a ‘Kubrick Rube’ or somesuch.



It was exactly the same thing, though. I spent three months manfully resisting two overwhelming temptations… 

1) Smashing the bloody thing to pieces and reassembling it in order, something the foul-smelling Christopher Herbert had clearly done when he proudly marched through school holding his cube aloft with both arms and shouting ‘Finished! Finished!!!’ as the gas alarms sounded and Mr Hirst doled out the emergency protective face masks.

2. Taking all the little sticky labels off and putting them back on again in order, no doubt with bits of dog hair and bobbly fuzz from the front room carpet still poking out from the undersides.

In the end, the Puffin Book Club came to my rescue with an unprecedented Third Way. My heart leapt when I saw the following tome for sale amongst all the Nina Bawdens and Whizzkids Handbooks…


And I snapped it up immediately. Well, alright, not QUITE immediately… I brought my 80p into school, then had to wait another week for that impossibly exciting cardboard box to arrive in Mrs Keasey’s cupboard, late on a Friday afternoon. I then spent ALL of the Friday evening, ALL of the Saturday morning and ALL of the Saturday afternoon at my Gran’s house, attempting to translate the impossibly complex series of diagrams in the book onto my infuritatingly unresponsive cube.

The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop passed me by. Grandstand came and went. Jim’ll Fix It? Little and Large? Pffffft. And then, at 8pm on the Saturday night, shaking, quivering and with my nerves completely shot, I finally admitted defeat. The cube looked no nearer to completion that it had before I’d bought the book, so I did the only decent thing available to me – passed the whole lot over to my Uncle Trevor and went outside to play on my bike.

‘Oh, I’ve been meaning to give this a go…’ he smiled. ‘I’ll have ten minutes with it before I go the Endeavour’.

Four hours later, aside from the constant blur of fingers and the occasional muffled swear-word, he hadn’t moved. The completed cube was handed over to me at midnight, just as BBC1 started to play the National Anthem and announce that ‘Our friends at Radio 2 will be broadcasting throughout the night…’

‘There…’ he gasped, exhausted and utterly mentally drained. ‘Don’t ever say I don’t say anything for you’.

‘BRILLIANT!!!!’ I beamed, and danced around the bungalow for thirty seconds before – two minutes later – getting bored and randomly clicking the cube back into its usual mind-buggering mish-mash of colours.  By five past midnight, we were back to square one. Poor Trevor has never quite been the same since.

Anyway, when I say ‘did the rubik cube’ exactly 25 years ago today, I don’t actually mean that I completed it… I just randomly rotated a few slices, maybe getting one side in order before realising that any further progress would completely bugger up the work I’d already done, and I might as well call it a day and fiddle about with the tarzie instead.


Alright, a quick random memory from this day – at Albert Park, my Dad and I tried to transcribe the Latin inscription at the top of the war memorial, and then spent a little bit of time trying to guess what the last surname on it would be. I think I went for ‘Wilson’ and he, cannily, went for ‘Yates’. But I can’t actually remember who was right! I was going to make a film there last night but forgot to take my camera to work with me… I’ll try to nip over to Albert Park tonight and see what I can get.



  Chris Orton wrote @

Bob, any chance of an artists impression of Christopher Herbert? Some kind of quick sketch perhaps?

Or am I thinking along the right lines if I imagine Pigpen from Peanuts?

  bobfischer wrote @

He made Pigpen look (and smell) like Yves St Laurent. I’m off out to make my Albert Park film now, but I’ll see if I can bring myself to sketch him later tonight.

  Thing wrote @

I always just used to change stickers for Rubik Cubes, couldn’t be bothered to work out how you did it properly.

Remember that song? “All I need is a little clue…”? Supposedly ended with the person being sung about dying and going to Heaven but taking his Rubik Cube with him where he could continue to try and solve it. Unless whoever told me that was mistaken.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I never solved my cube 😦 I used to break it and put it back together! I still have it on the shelf in the other room. I also had a dinky one on a keyring-that’s prob still in the house somewhere too!

  bobfischer wrote @

Thing – I’d never heard of that song, but I’ve done a bit of rooting about, and it’s here…

It’s The Barron Knights! Fantastic. Amazingly how something I’ve never heard before can still be nostalgic. Just listening to that makes me think instantly of 1981.

I can’t believe we’ve so many cube cheaters here. Did ANYONE actually finish it genuinely, without the aid of a book, or breaking it apart, or taking the stickers off? Was it actually possible just to sit down and work it out yourself?

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