Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 184

Monday 2nd July 1984

Woke up at 8.00 and got up at 8.30. At 9.15 I went to the dentist then I went to Yarm and got a MAD magazine. At 10.30 I went to school and did maths, and at 12.00 I had dinner.

At 1.00 We came in and did topic, then I did some more maths. At 3.15 I came home and played outside with the football, and at 5.00 I had tea. Then I went out again till 7.10, when I came in and watched MANIMAL.

When it finished at 8.00 I read MAD, then I went out. Dad took some penalties at me till 9.00, when I came in and had a shower. Went to bed at 9.30.

THE GOOD NEWS!!! You don’t have to go to school till half past ten this morning. THE BAD NEWS!!! It’s because you’re going to the dentist…



Just the usual six-monthly check up, I think. To be honest, my dentist was  a perfectly nice chap… a pleasant, middle-aged* gent called Keith Herren who operated (bzzzzzzz) out of a towering, Victorian mid-terraced surgery on the outskirts of Stockton-on-Tees. The tiled hallway smelt of carbolic, there was an elaborate, red-carpeted stairway sweeping upwards from behind reception, and the waiting room was full of old Exchange & Mart magazines.

*He seemed middle-aged to me at the time, anyway. He was probably 37. And, like all 1970s and 80s professional men of a certain age, he looked a bit like Geoffrey Palmer…


Three great formative memories from going to the dentist as a kid…

1. Keith putting my four-year-old self at ease by scooting little Corgi toy cars across his surgery floor before gently helping me onto the dentists chair for the very first time. Awwww.

2. Keith asking my six-year-old self if I played football at school. ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘What position?’ he asked. ‘Centre-forward’ I fibbed. It was the only footballing position that I knew the name of. He looked impressed. ‘Do you play for the school team, then?’ he asked, hopefully.

There followed a long, guilty pause that acted as such effective advance warning for a forthcoming lie that I might as well have sellotaped the back page of the Exchange & Mart to my forehead and written ‘THIS NEXT BIT IS BOLLOCKS’ across it in permanent marker.

‘Yes,’ I replied.

He didn’t press me any further.


3. Having six baby teeth removed under general anaesthetic, aged seven. I was terrified of the very prospect for weeks beforehand, and repeatedly told my Mum to cancel the appointment, as I was quite happy to accomodate as many teeth in my mouth as nature deemed fit.

All to no avail, and – one Thursday morning – I lay shaking in the chair as Keith adminstered a tiny but truly horrible-looking pin-prick to the right-hand side of my neck. I couldn’t help but think of the scene in Star Wars when Darth Vader tortures Princess Leia with a floating ball-shaped thing covered in hypodermic needles.


‘Keith Herren, only you could be so bold. This ship is on… a diplo… matic… mission… …. ….’

I remember seeing my Mum smiling from a plastic chair at the side of the room before the world went swimmy. The next think I knew, I was waking up in the back of my Dad’s Triumph Toledo with a blood-soaked man-sized Kleenex tissue held to my mouth… and a brand-new Palitoy Darth Vader TIE Fighter from Leslie Brown’s Toy Shop lying next to me on the seat. Ahhh, the sweet ironies of life.  


I did, of course, tell everybody at school that I ‘had gas’. GAS!!! Bloody hell, they actually DID that, didn’t they? Gassed children into unconsciousness at the dentist! Was that actually LEGAL? And is it still?

Anyway, no fillings today, Mummy. Although – terrifyingly – it was on this day that Keith dropped the bombshell that he thought my top incisors were ‘starting to protrude a little’ and that ‘it could be worth putting a brace on you for a few weeks’. As far as my school credibility was concerned, he might as well have gone the whole hog and put me in flared trousers and NHS glasses as well. And sellotaped the back page of the Exchange & Mart to my forehead and written ‘I AM A SCUMMER’ across it in permanent marker. 

I was – naturally – rather proud of my vaguely demonic front fangs, and frequently constructed Doctor Who episodes in my head in which I was the 11-year-old vampire assistant to Peter Davison’s Doctor, helping him battle The Master and the Daleks in return for him turning a blind eye to my cheeky bloodsucking antics. There was no way I could gallivant across the galaxy wearing a DENTAL BRACE, The Master would laughed so much it might even have triggered his thirteenth (and final) regeneration.

Anyway, as promised, I went to a little jaunt to Albert Park in Middlesbrough last night. I mentioned in yesterday’s Blog that it was exactly 25 years since my Dad and I tried to guess the final surname on the War Memorial at the entrance to the park. Well, here you go, this is what I was rambling about…

And I couldn’t resist having a little wander around the park itself, as it was such a glorious evening. And I found at least one new arrival, someone who definitely WASN’T there in 1984…

As I’ve mentioned before, my Gran spent a lot of July 1984 in Middlesbrough General Hospital undergoing the latest in a horrible sequence of unsuccessful hip replacement operations. She seemed to bear them all with incredible dignity and fortitude, and with the benefit of hindsight I don’t quite know how she did it… I’d have been howling the place down and throwing books at people, but she always seemed to assume an amazing Zen-like calm.

Me and my parents would visit as a family, but often my Dad and I would leave my Mum there alone while we went for a wander around the nearby Albert Park, and wander along to join her later. I’m not sure whether there was a strict limit on visiting numbers in hospitals at the time (entirely possible) or if we just thought it would be better to keep out of the way while my Mum spent some gentle time alone with her OWN mother, but for me it was actually nice to spend some time with my Dad. He worked relentlessly when he got the chance (you had to in ‘Fatcher’s Britain) so it was nice just to be able to wander aimlessly around such a scenic location with him, and burble and giggle together. I’ve always shared a sense of humour with my Dad… a love of the surreal that occasionally touches on the macabre, and ‘guess the last name on the War Memorial’ is exactly the kind of brilliant game that only he would have invented for me, and I would have loved it.

Three other observations from the 2nd July 1984…

1) I had a shower for an incredible THIRD NIGHT IN A ROW!!! When, oh when, would the novelty wear off?

2) I managed to spell ‘penalties’ correctly for the first time ever! My eyebrows were starting to grow back a bit now, so I must have finally cleared all the sweat and ladybirds from my eyes and realised the error of my ways.

3) Full words in capital letters? EH?!?!? What was I, MENTAL OR SOMETHING???



  Chris Orton wrote @

I had gas twice (don’t snigger at the back) at the dentists when I was a kid. It was a horrible, peculiar sensation. I remember feeling like puppet whose strings had been cut when I came round the first time. I had five teeth out the first time I think, and about four the second time. They don’t do it these days after I think there were a few cases where the gas badly affected children who had had it, and left them disabled.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I had gas at the dentist too!
I vividly remember having the mask put over my face and having flying dreams. I’ve prob never been the same since!

  Patsy wrote @

Like Chris, I had gas at the dentists too, but my mum refused to let me go back to the local council clinic to see a dentist after we were taken into the surgery (and quickly pushed out again) after getting a very quick glimpse of them trying to resuscitate some poor child – bl**dy hell, talk about the good old days !

And doesn’t everyone still have to work relentlessly, or is that just me ? Like the sound of your dad 🙂

  bobfischer wrote @

Actually, yeah – you’re right! I work for about 15 hours a day. If you can call it work, I suppose.

Just me who never had gas, then… I just lied about it! Everybody else at school seemed to endure it regularly, and I definitely remember Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank telling me that he was so rendered so deeply unconscious his Dad had to carry him from the surgery, strap him into the car, and drive him home on the verge of coma. He woke up hours later, in his own bed. In agony. And felt ill for days afterwards.

I’ve had a root around, and the gas seemed to be the infamous nitrous oxide, mixed with oxygen. Was the rubber gask mask kept on all the while, to make sure you stayed ‘under’? Unbelievable.

It doesn’t seem to be banned as such, it’s just fallen out of use.

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