Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 214

Wednesday 1st August 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.15. Then I went looking for Doug but couldn’t find him so at 12.00 I came back and had dinner. At 1.00 I went to Doug’s and he was in so we came back to my house and played on the computer.

Then we went to the copse and had a spin round on the tarzie and at 4.30 we came back and I had tea. At 4.45 we went out and made an assault course, then at 5.30 Doug went home and I played out. Then at about 6.30 I came in and watched the Olympics.

At 7.20 I watched a film called The Last Wagon. Went to bed at 9.00, then at 10.00 I watched The Bob Monkhouse show. Settled down at 11.00.

The 1984 Olympics! From Los Angeles! I’d completely forgotten about this. For a couple of weeks, the adventures of Doctor Who were suddenly – amazingly – replaced in my affections by the equally daring escapades of Daley Thompson, Sebastian Coe and Fatima Whitbread. Pitting their skills and talents against the world, so long as you didn’t include the USSR, who boycotted it. As did East Germany. And Cuba. And Iran. And Libya. And fourteen assorted Eastern Bloc countries. But, y’know… MOST of the world.

The opening ceremony had taken place the previous Saturday, 28th July, while Doug and I were messing about with Spike The Hedgehog. Although I’m sure I did manage to catch the sight of a man wearing – seemingly – a fully functional jetpac landing in the centre of the main Olympic stadium. This was of great excitement to me, as the ‘Jetpac’ was one of the major urban myths of my primary school years. Stephen Mason, of course, claimed that he ‘had one in the garage’ (‘It’s true, you can ask me Dad if you like’) and in the early 1980s we were all pretty much convinced that ownership of these amazing items would be pretty much ubiquitous by the time we reached puberty (along with Condorman wings, as seen in the 1981 Michael Crawford film, which Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank was certain were available to buy ‘in Harrods, but you  have to order them’)

Daley Thompson was one of my childhood heroes, and remains one of my 36-years-old heroes. He was a brilliant athlete with a rebellious streak a mile wide and an amazing anti-establishment attitude that still sends little tingles down my spine. He refused to carry the Union Jack at the 1982 Commonwealth Games, because he thought the four-hour opening ceremony would knacker him out before the main events started. He whistled along to the National Anthem, on the podium at the 1984 Olympics after winning the Gold Medal. He scribbled out sponsors’ names on his shirt with a black marker pen, and said ‘shit’ on the BBC1 Sports Personality of the Year Awards (which, naturally, he won).

In short, he was coolness personified, and his legend was cemented in 1985 when the computer game ‘Daley Thompson’s Decathlon’ was released for the ZX Spectrum, and required the most frantic joystick wiggling imaginable to make the animated Daley complete his gruelling Olympic events. I still remember my Mum entering my bedroom with a tray of sandwiches, only to see myself and Andrew ‘Roy’ Harding sitting with our backs to her, furiously waggling our clenched fists in our laps and grunting ‘Go on… go on… GO ON MY SON!!!’

‘I’ll come back later,’ she shrieked, beating a hasty retreat.

And, disturbingly, I can still sing the theme music to ‘The Last Wagon’, despite only having seen it once in my life, 25 years ago today. It’s a Western from 1956, starring the mighty Richard Widmark as the brilliantly-named ‘Comanche Todd’ a half-Native American Indian wanted for murder. I’m guessing it was probably on BBC2 as a alternative to the wall-to-wall Olympics coverage on BBC1, and my Dad switched over because the synchronised swimming had started. A fine little film, though.

thelastwagonGood to see some acknowledgement that my bedtimes often bore no relation at all to the times I actually went to to sleep, as well. I’d been a bit surprised to see regular bedtimes of 9pm in my 1984 diary – even on weekends – but then realised that, once in bed, I was likely to read or watch my little black and white portable TV for anything up to two hours.

As happened on this occasion, with me digging in for a bit of The Bob Monkhouse Show… effectively a chat show, but with the guests restricted to those in the comedy business. I think Jim Carrey made his first British TV appearance on this show, and the likes of Pamela Stephenson and Spike Milligan were regular guests. One of those shows that was just ‘on’ at the time, without causing much of a ripple, but in retrospect it looks like a towering work of greatness that belongs to a golden age of TV…

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