Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 190

Sunday 8th July 1984

Woke up at 8.30 and got up at 9.30. I went out and played football, then I mended the puncture on my Strika. At 12.00 I came in and had dinner, then I went out again and read. Doug came at 1.15 and we cycled down to his house, got his trunks, then came back and went to Weary Valley.

We just got in the water when Stan and Ramsey came and after pumping up Ramsey’s dinghy we all went in the water and had a muck on with the dinghy. Then Doug, Stan and I went on the island. After a go on the tarzie we went to see Ricky’s leap and at 4.00 we came home.

Doug and I went on Conyers field and played football, then at 4.50 Doug went home and I came back and had tea. At 5.00 I watched The Goodies, and at 5.30 I listened to the charts. Then I went out on the tarzie and at 8.00 I washed my hair and had it cut.

At 9.10 I watched That’s life, and then I went to bed at 9.55.

Ooooooh, punctures. One of the cripplingly unpleasant banes of my childhood, along with long division, Look North and Spandau Ballet. So naturally I spent the morning removing the inner tube from the rubbery back wheel of my Raleigh Strika, then wrestling it into a sinkful of tepid tapwater in the kitchen sink, desperately trying to avoid getting mud onto the virulently orange carrots that my Mum was peeling ahead of teatime.


Then there were little plastic patches you had to glue onto the leaky bits, weren’t there? No doubt I made an utter horse’s arse of all this, and ended up with glue and bits of black rubber stuck all over my forehead. And muddy carrots everywhere. And still with a puncture on the back wheel of my Raleigh Strika. I had to get it fixed, though – we were going on an EXPEDITION!!!!

(Or ‘exhibition’ as I probably called it. I used to get these two words mixed up when I was a kid, and frequently told my parents that ‘me and Doug went on an exhibition to the mud track today’, before demanding that we book a daytrip to Blackpool ‘so I can visit the Doctor Who Expedition’. See also: suspicious/superstitious and astrology/astronomy, the latter of which still troubles me. I once made an absolute twat of myself during an interview with Russell Grant as a direct result of this strange, localised word-blindness. He said it was typical Scorpio behaviour)


But yes! An EXPEDITION! To Weary Valley, the little watery beauty spot about three miles from my parents’ house, along the quiet country road that ran down the back of the Young Offenders’ Institute. I made an angry little film here a couple of months ago, and there’s no reason not to shamelessly rehash it here for the sake of illustration…

For months, my Mum had vehemently refused to allow me to cycle there.

‘I don’t mind you pottering around Yarm, but Weary Valley’s TOO FAR away, and they drive like MANIACS down that back road…’ she warned. I think the revelation that Doug, Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry and Graeme ‘Ramsey’ Ramsey all had permission to travel there by themselves finally wore her down. ‘BUT BE CAREFUL!!!!!!’ she’ll have hollered, as Doug and I pelted out of the house like life-sentence prisoners released back into society.

It was another baking, sticky, claggy, armpit-festering hot day, and a swim in the deep, chilly waters beneath the little waterfall seemed like entering the gates to heaven itself. We weren’t met by St Peter though, obviously… we were met by Stan and Ramsey, attempting to inflate with their tiny mouths a bright orange dinghy the size of a modest bungalow. Easily six feet in diameter, it was spread across the gritty shoreline like a felled World War I Zeppelin.


‘Leave this to me,’ I bragged, rubbing my hands together, ‘I can do twenty balloons per minute at Christmas’.

I took the tiny plastic nozzle into my mouth and blew so hard that my eyes actually rolled back into my head. Ten seconds later, I was flat on my back in the long grass, experiencing an hallucinogenic headrush so intense that I swear I started to hear Jimi Hendrix guitar solos in my ears, and see a Pink Floyd lightshow infringe around the edges of my vision. The fact that I had thick blotches of potent bicycle repair kit solvent still dotted around my face only added to the psychedelic effect.


I think I’d have had my version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds* written by teatime if Doug hadn’t gently nudged me in the ribs with his trainer and grinned ‘Get up y’big Jessie, you can’t have run out of puff already…’

*Fishcakes in the Pan With Fried Eggs

I don’t know how we got the bloody thing inflated, but we did… and it was magnificent. A glorious, enormous rubber dinghy that easily accomodated all four of us intrepid sailors in its springy confines. We pushed it out into the deepest waters, swam over in our sopping T-shirts and trunks, climbed into the middle amidst a flurry of foam and swearing… and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.

The day passed slowly. The sun rose high in the sky, and we drifted endlessly amid dancing, sparkling waters. The trees rippled as we passed, and dragonflies zipped from shoreline to shoreline, their gentle buzz rising into a canopy of somnambulent birdsong. The dinghy took us onward and outward, and our homes and our parents and our school felt as though… as though they belonged to another continent entirely.


Out here there was just… us. And the river. And the dinghy. We closed our eyes and drank in the sunshine with our open mouths. We weren’t sure if days might have passed. Weeks, even. Time had ceased to have meaning, and our minds were reaching out into the wilderness…

‘How far have we drifted?’ asked Doug, lazily.

‘We’re about ten feet from where we started,’ said Stan.  

Thirty seconds later, I managed to paddle the dinghy over a jagged rock protruding from three inches of crystal-clear water, and our craft quickly deflated back into felled Zeppelin mode.

‘Oh, you dopy twat,’ said Ramsey, staring hot, unblinking daggers at me. ‘I’ll have to get my puncture repair kit on that…’

‘Here,’ I said, pulling a rubber patch from my forehead, ‘Don’t ever say I don’t come prepared for these things…’

It was, of course, all forgotten within seconds. We left poor Ramsey to pack the limp remains of the dinghy back into his rucksack, had a go on Weary Valley’s LEGENDARY tarzie (situated almost exactly at the spot were I stood to make the above film) and pottered around the ‘island’.


If this word conjures up blissful images of a Swallows and Amazons-style wilderness, then think again – in reality, our ‘island’ was a twenty-foot protuberance of mud, grass and weeds idly stuck in the shallows of the slow-moving river – you could jump over to it with a single bound, and – if you were the first on there – you would, of course, then ‘claim’ it as your kingdom and shower any potential invaders (Stan, Ramsey etc) with pebbles, twigs and other assorted nasties as they attempted to ‘invade’. Imagine the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, but with sheepshit instead of hand grenades.

And Ricky’s Leap! Still a famous Fischer family landmark, and described in detail on this entry…

So all told… a brilliant day out. You know when ageing bores like me ramble on about the ‘summers that lasted forever’ in their childhood? 1984 was one of those, and it’s days like this that sum it up perfectly. Just me, and my mates, and the sunshine… and the rest of forever to look forward to together. I wish I could have captured this day in an empty Lucozade bottle… I’d still be taking a deep, heady whiff of it on dismal, rainswept Tuesdays when the thirtysomething world of 2009 seems a bit too downtrodden and dreary.  So thanks Mum, for letting me go.


(Unless, of course, you didn’t, and we just pissed off there without telling you!)


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