Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 210

Saturday 28th July 1984

Woke up at 7.30 when Poggy Doggy jumped on me, and got up at 7.40. At 8.15 we went to Middlesbrough and I got a FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD book. Came home at 11.30 and had dinner, then I went to Doug’s. We came back to my house and found a hedgehog, then took it home and let it run around.

We went to the BMX track and had a race around, then on the way back we met dad. When we got back at 4.30, Doug went home and I had tea. I wrote some Fighting Fantasy at 5.30, then at 6.10 I watched 1 on the road.

At 7.00 I watched Russ Abbot, then after letting the hedgehog go we went to the Black Bull and had a drink. Then we went to the George and Dragon and had another drink. Came back at 9.00 and went to bed.

I’d like to say I’d forgotten the sheer, snuffly, cuddly thrill of having a large dog jump onto your bed in the mornings, but I haven’t. Because it still happens to me every single day. 25 years after Poggy Doggy started doing this, I still get woken at 9am every day by a lanky, wet-nosed border collie called Tally who pulls himself up onto the bed and actually walks along the length of my body before flopping down on my head. He’s the hairiest alarm clock in the world.

1_Poggy Doggy Shades
(This is Poggy Doggy, by the way, and not Tally. I’ve just found this picture in a pile of other stuff, and I think it was taken on Saturday 7th July 1984, the day I bought those mirror shades. What a fabulously, hairy, shambling, shaggy beast! I’ve subconsciously modelled myself on him throughout most of my adult life…)  

And a FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD book! So exciting that it required entirely superfluous capital letters. To be honest, I think describing it as a ‘book’ is a bit generous… what I actually bought could be more accurately referred to as a ‘pamphlet’. It was a pure impluse buy from a tiny newsagent in Middlesbrough’s Hill Street Centre arcade. For my £1.25 (the price of a Doctor Who Target novelisation – I was MUGGED!!!!)  I got about 20 pages,  all filled with huge pictures of the band, and interspersed with the odd paragraph of (very large) text. I can’t find the bloody thing anywhere, but I remember reading two exciting facts from its pages as we walked past the escalators opposite Burtons Menswear…

frankiegoes1. The band’s favourite meal was ‘Scouse’, the traditional sea-faring stew made from scrag end of lamb and chopped onions. I don’t believe this for a bloody second, and I’m sure this whole spurious story must have been invented by a cackling press officer, who might as well have gone the whole hog and claimed that Paul McCartney was the band’s Auntie and that their entire debut album was written on ‘Der Ferry Cross Der Mersey, la’  

2. Their debut album ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ was due before the end of the year. Yay!!! I nearly fainted near the entrance to Fine Fare.

I used to read a lot while walking behind my Mum on shopping expeditions to Middlesbrough, and once got so caught up in a Charlie Brown book that I lost all sense of where I was going… I heard my Mum shout my name from a surprising distance away, and when I looked up from the book I was in the middle of a pedestrian crossing behind a woman wearing an identical coat to her. The Green Cross Code Man was sitting on the steps outside British Home Stores, weeping.

(By the way, I’d forgotten all about the Green Cross Droid until I saw this! I assume Dave Prowse was busy making Return of the Jedi, and some cheeky bugger in the advertising department decided – effectively – to replace him with R2D2. And have I imagined this, or were there TWO Green Cross Code men in the 1970s? I’m sure I remember both Dave and another, possibly blond-haired, man working as a kind of road safety tag team. I might have dreamt it, though…)

Anyway, I took my FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD book down to Doug’s to show him (he shrugged and grunted a bit) and, on the way back, we found a hedgehog. My diary makes it sound as though we kidnapped the poor thing to be our spiky slave, but I’m sure it was snuffling around close to the edge of Yarm’s busy main road, so we considered our actions to be a mission of mercy.

And then we put our special new friend in a box to keep FOREVER, and we would love him and hug him and squeeze him and feed him and pet him and we would call him George…

1_Spike the HedgehogYes, I have pictures! I’m amazed I didn’t mention this in my diary, but the ancient Fischer family camera (which always looked as though it should have a black hood and a burning rod of phosphorus attached) was dragged out to commemorate the arrival of our hedgehog (who we actually called Spike – oh, we were nothing if not predictable) into the garden. Here’s Doug, clearly in no discomfort whatsoever and shamelessly hamming it up for the camera…

1_Doug 2(I’ve just noticed, for the first time ever, the incredibly wonky drainpipe in the background of this picture… Dad, get your act together!)

And here’s me, dressed like a twat and attempting to remove the terrified Spike from the clutches of the evil Poggles Ponsonby…

1_Mirror Shades
Notice my legendary ‘tarzie’ hanging from the tree just behind my left shoulder! And, just for good measure, here’s Doug sharing a joke (and no doubt a filthy one) with serial early-morning bed disturber Poggy Doggy…

1_Doug 1

You can see Doug’s yellow BMX bike parked up against our garden gate, and the vague, floaty haze just visible above the top of the gate is the swaying farmers’ field that we inexplicably christened ‘Guanderlarn’ and claimed for our own strange purposes in this diary entry. The building you can see in the distance is the back of Yarm cricket pavilion, at least half a mile away. (Although all you can see from that position now is the gigantic executive housing estate that sprung up towards the fag-end of the Eighties)

I know I write about this endlessly, but I love the fact that there was an exciting lack of ‘stuff’ around when we were kids. It’s only when I look back at these pictures that I realise how empty and ‘unfinished’ Yarm looked back in the mid-1980s… lots of the swish estates, shops and amenities of my current life were, back then, just vast fields of crops, derelict buildings and tangled thickets of woodland. It made out childhood almost a blank canvas, ready to have our own strange imaginings projected onto it, and I loved that. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a kid at any other time (apart from possibly 1180, when I would have joined Robin Hood’s gang)

Although, I had, I’d no doubt have still had my Dad checking up on me! After two days of vague disapproval from my parents about the makeshift BMX track that Doug and I had discovered in the woods two miles away, you’ll notice – that on the Third Day – we ‘met dad’ who ‘just happened’ to be walking Poggy Doggy towards those self same woods. Hmmmmm…. (strokes chin and narrows eyes)

Anyway, what better way to round off a glorious summers day than with a bit of Russ Abbot and a night down the pub? The Black Bull and the George and Dragon are both in Yarm’s busy High Street, and both still going strong. Although back in 1984 Yarm’s pubs were very old-fashioned affairs, probably undecorated since the 1960s and filled with farmers, smoke, horsebrasses and the gentle clack of dominoes.

These days, all of the pubs on Yarm High Street form a kind of ‘weekend party central’ for Teesside… people arrive in coachloads on Friday and Saturday nights and the (trendily refurbished) bars have bouncers on the doors and queues snaking around the sides of the buildings.

It felt fabulously grown-up to ‘go for a pint’ with my parents, though, and I remember sitting in the lovely beer garden round the back of the Black Bull, chugging on a pint of lemonade, into which my Dad would occasionally drop a splosh of his beer to make a cheeky shandy. I was fighting the landlord and singing filthy songs about hedgehogs on the way out.


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