Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 215

Thursday 2nd August 1984

Woke up at 9.50 and got up at 10.00. I watched Laurel and Hardy till 10.30 when I watched a film called In the Doghouse. Then I played on the computer and started to write a game called ‘POGGY’.

At 12.00 I had dinner, then I wrote some Fighting Fantasy till 2.50, when I watched a film called Angel in Exile (FAB) At 4.20 I wrote some more Fighting Fantasy, then at 4.45 I watched Starstrider, and also had tea.

At 5.15 I watched Happy days, then at 5.40 I watched a film called The Green man. At 7.00 I went out and played football in the garden, then at 7.30 I watched Top of the pops. At 8.00 I watched Hi-de-Hi, at 8.30 I watched The paras and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Blimey, that’s a serious amount of telly for one day! I must have had square eyes by the end of the evening. And probably a square arse as well. I’m guessing (or at least desperately hoping) that it must have been tanking down all day. I should point out for the benefit of this blog’s DVD generation readership that everything I watched on this day was broadcast live on TV… I wasn’t just ploughing through loads of videos, as the Fischer household didn’t actually boast a video recorder at all until Christmas 1987. I was just glancing through the listings for our four TV channels in the Daily Mirror and working out what I fancied watching.   

Alright, let’s get stuck in. Laurel and Hardy were probably my earliest comedy heroes… certainly a dead heat and photo-finish with The Goodies, which is the kind of race that would definitely have livened up the 1984 Olympics. The Three Stooges would have boycotted it, though, in sympathy with Azerbaijan. As a four-year-old, I absolutely adored Stan and Ollie’s crackly, black and white films on TV (not that I noticed, as we didn’t have a colour TV in the house at that stage either) and would happily sing ‘On The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine’ wearing a coloured-in margerine tub on my head (as a bowler hat, see) to anyone unlucky enough to be visiting the house.


And yes, I did all the high-pitched and low-pitched voices as well. What a shameless tart, even at such an early age. One of my earliest memories in my ‘main’ childhood house is laughing hysterically at the scene in which Stan happily eats his hat… which I think might actually from the same film, ‘Way Out West’?

I remember actually being quite shocked when my Dad (who loved them, too) casually said something about Stan and Ollie being ‘both long dead now, sadly…’. It had just never occured to me that the things I saw on TV weren’t necessarily current and ‘now’, and the prospect seemed both magical and slightly scary. Like watching ghosts from another era marching through our front room. And no doubt being told to ‘take your bloody shoes off, I’ve just spent all morning hoovering this carpet’.


In The Doghouse is a pretty-much-forgotten British comedy from 1961, filled with cheeky winks and slapstick and sliding trombone parps, and therefore essential viewing on a rainy Thursday morning in July. It starts Leslie Phillips as a newly-qualified vet mugging his way through a riot of animal-related capers, alongside Hattie Jacques’ fusty RSPCA inspector and glamorous ‘love interest’ nightclub singer Peggy Cummins. 

Looking back, I think watching these chirpy old British comedies on TV in the early 1980s played a huge part in forging my sense of humour. Tyne Tees’ afternoon schedules often consisted of a ‘Monday Matinee’ or a ‘Wednesday Film’… almost always a classic old potboiler from the golden age of British cinema. They would often still be showing when I came in from school at 3.30pm, so I’d catch the final half hour of The Wrong Arm of The Law, or Dentist On The Job, or Whistle Down The Wind. And if I was off school (genuinely) ill, then I never felt more secure and loved than watching Carry On Up The Jungle with my Mum, curled up on the settee with a blanket over me and a steaming Lemsip in my hand. Coughing and chuckling away as 1981 rain lashed horizontally against the front room windows.

(Although I think the most archetypal ‘Monday Matinee’ film is ‘The Big Job’, a bloody marvellous 1965 comedy with Sid James, Lance Percival and Dick Emery as lovable rogues released from prison, only to discover that a new police station – staffed, obviously, by Deryck Guyler – has been built over the hiding place of their safely-stashed loot. It’s an absolutely cracking film, and SO evocative of those rainy childhood Monday afternoons that the DVD should come readily supplied with toasted crumpets and hot chocolate)

‘In The Doghouse’ also had a cartoon opening title sequence featuring – wait for it – a dog in a house, which was undoubtedly the inspiration for me attempting to write a program about my own ‘Poggy Doggy’ on my beloved ZX81. I think the object of the game being – wait for it – to get the dog into – no, really – the house. You’ll notice I barely lasted a matter of minutes before sacking the whole thing off and wolfing down my dinner instead. Global computer domination could wai… those toasted crumpets weren’t going to eat themselves.

I’ve just noticed in my 1984 diary that the phrase ‘Angel in Exile (FAB)’ has been written in later using a slightly different pen to the rest of the entry, so I’m guessing that – when I wrote the main body of the diary in bed that night – I couldn’t remember what the film was called, so left a gap and filled it in later after checking in the Radio Times!


I obviously liked it a lot, so it’s odd that I’ve no memory of it whatsoever… it’s a 1948 Western starring John Carroll as an ex-convict travelling to an Arizona goldmine to make his fortune, but finding himself waylaid in a tiny Mexican village, where the locals believe he is a mystical religious figure. The little supernatural tinge to this would have intrigued me, so it’s no surprise that I was moved by its charms enough to write the word ‘FAB’ in my otherwise taciturn and emotionless diary. Coming from me, that’s tantamount to a rave review.    

And Starstrider! Yikes! This was an ITV children’s quiz show, with the usual well-spoken kids being guided through the usual bog-standard TV quiz questions. However it’s ingrained itself into my memory for two main reasons…

1. Rather than being presented by Keith Chegwin or Tommy Boyd or Richard Stilgoe, like similar kids’ TV quizzes of the time, our hosts were the terrifying, booming-voiced alien overlord STARSTRIDER, and his snivelling, lowly assistant Wart. Played, fantastically, by Roger ‘Nuts In May’ Sloman and – yay! – future Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy.

2. The final round was a bit computery and Fighting Fantasy-ish, with one of the kids being placed ‘blind’ into a chunky CGI maze and guided around by his friends, who could see this fictional universe on a TV screen and shout instructions at him. ‘Left! Left! Right! Kept Left! DUCK DOWN NOW!!’

The Green Man – I’m guessing – will have been BBC2’s main film for the early evening, a 1956 comedy/thriller with Alastair Sim as a hangdog assassin plotting to blow up a cabinet minister, and finding himself repeatedly foiled by bungling vacuum cleaner salesman George ‘Arfur Daley’ Cole. My Dad was (and is) a HUGE fan of Alastair Sim, so no doubt we both chuckled our way through this together. And those of you out there playing ‘1960s British Comedy Bingo’ can cross Terry-Thomas off your cards as well. 

Not a vintage Top of the Pops this week, hosted by the decidedly gruesome twosome of Simon Bates and ‘Ooh’ Gary Davies, and showcasing the following motley assortment…

A Flock Of Seagulls – The More You Live The More You Die [Performance]
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes [Repeat Performance]
George Michael – Careless Whisper [Promo Video]
Kane Gang – Closest Thing To Heaven [Repeat Performance]
Prince – When Doves Cry [Promo Video]
Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It [Promo Video]
Trevor Walters – Stuck On You [Performance]

‘Careless Whisper’ is a song that never fails to transport me instantly back to the later summer of 1984, and can still conjure up the little frisson of anxiety that I was experiencing permanently around this time, knowing full well that my transfer to the terrifying Conyers Secondary School was now a matter of weeks away. Although it was also a song that reduced Doug and I to hysterics, as ‘whisper’ was one of our strange, self-invented slang words for… well, having a wee. As in ‘I wouldn’t ride your bike through that long grass, I’ve just whispered all over it’.

There’s something very ‘Princess Diana’ about George’s hair in this video, isn’t there? And the ropes in the video never failed to make me think of our PE apparatus at school. I might see if Mr Hirst is up for filming a spoof version at some point.

And I can’t finish without a mention for The Paras… possibly THE event TV documentary of the early Eighties, and now remembered by virtually no-one. First screened in 1982 during the aftermath of the Falklands War, it was an amazing, shocking and utterly captivating fly-on-the-wall insight into the lives and training regime of the ultra-hard British Parachute Regiment.

EVERYONE watched this in 1982. Me, my friends, my teachers, my parents, my Uncle Trevor. Mr and Mrs Cogan next door, and that bloke with the weird moustache who hung around the entrance to Fine Fare every Tuesday. They all watched it. It was proper, country-uniting, essential viewing in the days when it rained every night and we only had three TV channels.

And we talked about it. Endlessly, the next day. Long before water coolers and office downtime, we talked about The Paras over Spam Fritters when the boss wasn’t watching. And the theme music at 2mins 55seconds make me feel INSTANTLY nine years old again, and gets filed in my mental 1982 folder, along with Yosser ‘Gizza Job’ Hughes, Doomlord in the Eagle Comic, and filthy, black Saturday afternoons at Ayresome Park.

They don’t make bleak, grim, overcast misery like they used to.




  Thing wrote @

Yes, the Stan eating his hat scene is from Way Out West. Of course, Trail of the Lonesome Pine was a Top Ten hit in Britain in 1975, getting to Number Two I think, so that might have helped publicise the song for people of a certain age.

  bobfischer wrote @

Of course! I’d forgotten about that… it’s possible that’s what got me into Laurel and Hardy in the first place I suppose.

Any idea why ‘Lonesome Pine’ was released as a single at that time? I know 70s pop culture was weird to say the least, but it must have been inspired by, or tied into, something, surely?

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

You are perfectly correct in you recollection that everybody watched The Paras back then but your claim that nobody remembers it now has immersed you in the conical flask of error.
I certainly remember it and so does my shapely lab assistant KIm, although I suspect in just the same way that he remembers Daley Thompson’s Lucozade advert.

  bobfischer wrote @

I can’t remember Daley Thompson’s Lucozade advert, but it sounds like the sort of thing I’d like. I bet he didn’t drink it in front of Crown Court while pretending to feel sick, like I did.

  angie wrote @

ive been looking for a programme that i could remember from my childhood where children rode something called a “grunderhunter” turns out, this was STARSTRIDER! does anyone have any video footage or pictures of it?

  bobfischer wrote @

Hi Angie, I’ve hunted all over the place and can’t find any footage, but there’s quite a lot about Strarstrider here…


I think the Grunderhunter was just a bucking bronco really, wasn’t it? Glad you remember the show as well, anyway, and thanks for popping by.

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