Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 218

Sunday 5th August 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.20. I went for a ride on Levendale, but no-one was around so I came back and played outside with a tennis ball. At 12.00 I had dinner then I played on the videopac till 2.30, when I watched a film called Sinbad and the eye of the Tiger.

At 4.30 I went out, then at 5.00 I had tea and watched The Goodies. At 6.30 we took the Jeftek brushes back to Phil’s, then when we got back I listened to the charts.

At 7.15 I watched Are you being served, then at 7.45 I went out till 8.45, when I went to bed.

If ever you wanted a water-tight indication of how much British society has changed over the last 25 years, you’ve only got to look at our Sundays. It’s two decades since Morrissey sang ‘Every day is like Sunday, every day is silent and grey’ and I’m going to brazenly offer the opinion that, for anyone who has grown from birth to adulthood in the meantime, those lyrics are now utterly meaningless.

Sundays in 2009 are bright and breezy and full of fun… all the town centres are open and a-bustling, the out-of-town retail parks are choked with traffic, supermarkets are packed, the pubs are open all day with big screens showing live Premiership football, buses and trains zoom between cities, cinemas do roaring trades, restaurants are thriving, barbecues sizzle,  DVD players whirr, websites buzz, games consoles bleep and families gather together to do pretty much anything they like… all day and all through the night, it’s a 24-hour media-soaked, consumer paradise party. Wahey!

In 1984, all the shops and cinemas and pubs were shut all day, the public transport system closed down and there was no sport whatsoever anywhere. There were four TV channels, with Songs of Praise and the Antiques Roadshow being the sexiest options available. Effectively, everyone stayed in all day, reading the News of the World, mumbling and silently eating a soggy roast dinner in front of Last of the Summer Wine.

And then they went to bed at 8.45pm, leaving the streets and town centres deserted, with newspapers and Saturday night’s chip wrappers blowing aimlessly against shuttered-up shop doorways.

And none of this was more apparent than on an overcast Sunday in July, exactly 25 years ago today, when I’ll have almost certainly uttered the dejected phrase ‘I’m bored’ at least 425 times to my utterly uninterested mother while she scrubbed oversized sprouts and jiggled bits of carrot in a collander.  

I took my bike around the estate, but the streets were… well, silent and grey. I saw no-one and spoke to nobody.

I spent several hours kicking a fluffed-up tennis ball against the side wall of the house, idly bouncing the rebound on my knee and repeating the process ad nauseum until the boredom became so oppressive that I had to go inside and watch the telly.

I watched Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger on ITV. Yep, the afternoon schedules were given over to a 1970s fantasy film starring Jane Seymour and Patrick ‘The Second Doctor’ Troughton. Despite typically brilliant animation by Ray Harryhausen, I fidgeted relentlessly on the settee throughout, desperate for something… ANYTHING to come and release me from the torpor.

I ate a traditional Sunday dinner in front of The Goodies. Chicken, roast potatoes, tinned peas, carrots and sprouts. Two Yorkshire puddings plonked on the top and a little river of gravy and mint sauce served from little silver boats on top of a lacy tablecloth. We’ll barely have said a word throughout. My Mum will have been exhausted from the cooking and my Dad will have grunted and chuntered at the telly.


And then, just to escape it all, I grasped a lifeline and accompanied my parents on a trip to return some second hand decorating brushes to their friend Phil Francis. Phil – a manically eccentric comedy genius with more than a hint of Spike Milligan about him – ran a local Artex business called Jeftek. We’d bought a load of the stuff to stipple the bathroom ceiling, and now it was time to return the borrowed brushes. I won’t have said a word throughout the encounter, but at least it got me out of the house.

And then the charts. The Radio 1 Top 40 countdown, every kid’s guaranteed escape route from the prison of a Sunday night at home, watching their parents doze off in front of Are You Being Served. Longing for pop stardom and fun and Really Wild Things. Even the gravelly tones of the presenter spoke to me of exotic, celebrity wackiness, a world beyond the greyness of the North-Eastern sunday, a world of vice and colour and stardom. And this was SIMON BATES, for crying out loud.

And what did I record onto my portable cassette recorder as my escape route from this all-pervading humdrummery?


Kids today really don’t know they’re born. 

(NB I’ve just read back the above account of drudgery and, amazingly, feel a pang of wistful nostalgia for it all… I’m such an annoyingly contrary little oik. I’d actually give anything for a little bit of ‘silent and grey’ in my life these days…)



  PJE_UK wrote @

Sunday’s really were a different country growing up in the 70’s / 80’s.

Nothing on TV at all until an Ayresome Park spanking on “Shoot” at about 2pm. Politics, farming, religion and “self improvement” programmes (ie: Learn to Make a Pottery Spanish Guitar in Urdu while in the Lotus Position) were the order of the day AM after that annoying bunch of Christian do-gooders the Sunday Gang had been seen off over the Frosties. .

The paper shop open only until 12pm. Pubs from 2pm – until 7pm.

Sunday lunch steaming up the kitchen at the height of summer because my folks didn’t have the imagination or courage to break with this most sacred cow of traditions.

A trip to Nana’s for tinned peaches, corned beef sarnies and flat lemonade. Trying to find the cross border humour in cartoons in her Sunday Post and then stifling a giggle at the bare breasts in the opening titles to Holiday 77 / 78 / 79 etc.

Laughing at the illiterate Bob Hoskins in On The Move then thankfully back home for the Top 40 and a bath.

Even today hearing the opening bars of the theme from Last of the Summer Wine is enough to send a chill down my spine ad have me wondering did I finish my Maths homework

This never ending cycle of monotony was broken only by Christmas and a fortnight summer holiday in Spain.

And now I’ve moved away from the area I grew up in and my caring, loving grandparents are no longer with us I admit to missing it terribly.

  Patsy wrote @

Some things haven’t chnged at all – we still have Antiques Roadshow (thank goodness !), Songs of Praise, and even Last of the Summer Wine is still on, although it’s having a rest at the moment 🙂 and my paper shop still closes at 12 on Sundays., and only local shop open in my area is Waitrose, the rest closed . You can’t beat a nice Sunday lunch either, though perhaps not with tinned peas. Pubs in the area of the country I lived in (S.E) were open 12 – 2, then 7 till 10 or was it 10.30, anyway, we still got our drinking in on a Sunday evening 🙂 Seem to remember only getting a 10 minute drink up time after after ‘time gentlemen please’ was called.. We did have the occcasional ‘lock ins’ though, so not as quite as grim at it seems. Things have definitely changed for the better, though walking through a town centre on a Sunday evening is not to be recommended. I wonder what happened to your local Artex man – so glad the fashion for that disappeared.

  Chris Orton wrote @

Chicken with mint sauce? What madness is this?

  Thing wrote @

Last of the Summer Wine only started showing regularly on Sundays from 1983, incidentally. Prior to that, it always seems to have been on during the week.

  bobfischer wrote @

PJE… you swine, you’ve summed it up far better than I ever did. I’d forgotten about that holy trinity of Sunday morning TV… Morning Worship, Farming Outlook and Weekend World. Unbelievable no-frills TV that now looks positively prehistoric. The sheer bleakness of eating oxtail soup in front of Brian Walden as the rain blattered against the front room window. And then pikelets in front of an hour-long discussion about dairy mastitis and crop failure.

(About 1985, I remember a programme called ‘Windmill’ arriving on Sunday lunchtimes, with a jocular Chris Serle presenting requests from the BBC archives… short snippets of Monty Python, Doctor Who and Reggie Perrin. It was like a cultural revolution had arrived)

Did the Sunday Post have The Jocks and the Geordies, or was it The Broons? Both comic strips from newspapers that ONLY grandparents seemed to buy.

I think I ate a Sunday dinner every single week for the first 18 years of my life. Boiled sprouts, steamed-up windows, and the intimidating SIZE of the thing on a giant plate, when all I really wanted to eat was a couple of fishcakes with chips. And yep Mr O, mint sauce on chicken! Is that really weird, then? I had no idea. I guess traditionally it’s served with lamb, but I’ve not sure I’ve ever eaten lamb in my life. We got a cheap chicken stuffed with giblets, and the cold, grey, stripped-down carcass would stay on a plate in the oven, nestling in its own grease, until at least the Tuesday morning. It makes me feel queasy just thinking about it.

Patsy – Yeah, oddly enough, it’s Sunday evenings that I remember the pubs being open… I can’t remember ANYTHING at all being open during the day, but the local pubs usually managed 7-10.30pm on a Sunday night, as my Dad would sometimes wander down to Yarm’s Cross Keyes with the dog and have a couple of swift pints with whoever was down there. He’d come back smelling of other peoples’ Rothmans and his own Best Bitter in time to catch the end of That’s Life.

Thing – that’s really shocked me! I know full well you’ll be absolutely right, but I must have some seriously false memories going on here. I was sure Last of the Summer Wine was on Sundays forever, and yes – that theme tune absolutely reeks of unstarted homework and the mild ‘back to school’ anxiety that usually started building about 4pm. I’ll do my maths after Songs of Praise. No, I’ll do it after Antiques Roadshow. No, I’ll do it after Last of the Summer Wine…

And PJE – despite all this, you’re absolutely right. I miss it all. Desperately. I really do. The simplicity and starkness and gentle austerity of it all. Is it unhealthy to be so in love with the past?

  Thing wrote @

The Jocks and the Geordies were certainly in the Dandy from 1975 – 1990, I don’t know if they also appeared in the Sunday Post.

I do remember Camberwick Green and possibly The Mr Men (unless that latter one was Saturdays?) being on early in the mornings on Sundays in the 70s. Would also watch The Sunday Gang circa 1979, complete with Willie Rushton-narrated Hippety Dog stories. I think that by this time they’d gone on to the Smurfs cartoon by early Sunday afternoons though.

I’m surprised that no-one’s mentioned the Hancock’s Half Hour Sunday Afternoon At Home episode yet. Recorded in the 50s, but could still have applied to this era mostly.

  Chris Orton wrote @

Yeah, mint sauce goes with lamb and is fantastic. My very favourite of the roast dinners!

Sundays were indeed a much simpler time back in the day. We used to go to my Grandma and Granda’s every other week where I would meet up with about ten of my cousins, and I think on the weeks that we didn’t go it was just case of sitting around the house getting more and more bored until Last of the Summer Wine started. I think that my defining memory of Sunday evening schedules went something like: Songs of Praise, Antiques Roadshow, Last of the Summer Wine, the News, Bread, Howard’s Way, the news, That’s Life. I’m sure that this was never a genuine line-up but that’s what it felt like for much of the 1980s. ITV didn’t get a look in.

Windmill was a top show – it went out at about 12.00pm on BBC2 IIRC. It was great for the likes of me, especially considering that we didn’t have a video recorder until 1989. That and Telly Addicts comprised my entire access to archive television material I think. Chris Searle was a good presenter too – he was also on In at the Deep End.

Sundays were boring back then, but you do sort of get nostalgic for them don’t you? I”m not sure what I would do on a Sunday these days if the shops weren’t open, I’m ashamed to say. I think that until recently, the answer to reliving a little bit of that boredom would have been to move to the Western Isles of Scotland where religious consideration ensured that every shut down on a Sunday. Alas, however, the times they are a changin’ and modern life has encroached up there and stuff has started to open on a Sunday.

That Marks and Spencer’s is the one at Teesside Park isn’t it?

  shaun84 wrote @

Teesside Park must be on of the worst designs for a retail park. Always queues to get in and seems to take forever to get out and everyone wants to park as close to each shop as possible.

  bobfischer wrote @

Just checked, and it was The Broons and Oor Wullie that appeared in the Sunday Post. I’ve no idea why there always seemed to be a copy lying around my Gran’s bungalow, but there did, and I couldn’t make head nor tail of either strip. It was a very different world to the one that Bash Street Kids lived in.

The other odd paper that always seemed to be lying around was The Young Soldier, the little Salvation Army newspaper for children. None of my family were/are religious, but I think the Sally Army would regularly infiltrate the Endeavour pub round the corner from my Gran’s on a Saturday night, and my Uncle Trevor would generously buy a copy to bring back for me so I could read the comic strips. It was black and white and VERY inky, and the only strip I can remember was about a kid called ‘Bram’. That’s it… can’t have been very memorable!

Chris – I remember one ITV show that kind of rescued Sunday nights in the 1980s… Spitting Image. Essential viewing in our house from the end of 1984 onwards. I ALWAYS watched it post-bath, in front of the fire while wearing my pyjamas.

And yes, that’s M&S on Teesside Park. For those fortunate enough never to have been, it’s a huge, out-of-town retail park between Stockton and Middlesbrough, permanently gridlocked and with Macra living in the basement of Scottish Power. I can’t stand the bloody place.

  shaun84 wrote @

Can you solve an issue over teesside park? It’s address is Stockton but part of it is in Middlesbrough and they had to divert the river. So i heard something like that.

I remember before it was built(along with the a66) and was a racecourse. I remember getting the x10 upto newcastle going past it.

  bobfischer wrote @

You can’t change the course of the Tees, it’s timeless and immortal.

And yeah, I remember seeing the old racecourse from the top deck of the bus as well! You looked down on it as you went along the ‘Wilderness Road’ from Stockton to Middlesbrough as well. And past the old ‘Buy From The Blind’ shop as well. I guess it all went in the early 1990s, when the retail park was built?

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

“I’d actually give anything for a little bit of ’silent and grey’ in my life these days…”

In that case you really ought to meet Mrs Parcel.

  bobfischer wrote @

Will she share some greased tea with me?

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Since she cannot tell the difference between PG-Tips and WD-40 I’d say it was inevitable.
Watch out for stange dust too.

  bobfischer wrote @

Whereabouts? I’m going to hazard a guess at my hands and f-a-a-a-a-a-ce.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Since your clothes were stolen I think everywhere is fair game for dust motes.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I’m still catching up on posts…..

I wasn’t only agog about the mint sauce with chicken-but yorkshire puds too?…they go with beef! You crazy Northeners, you!

I Love The Broons and Oor Wullie and have a big collection of collectable old annuals, thanks to my Dad. I’ve been thinking of selling them, but can’t quite seem to do it haha.

I also loved the Jocks and the Geordies.

I hated Sunday evenings. They still send a shiver down my spine. If I so much as hear a note of Last of the Summer Wine, Antiques Roadshow or Songs of Praise, I descend into depression.

I don’t work Mondays, so they’re not quite so hated now 🙂

  bobfischer wrote @

They’re called Yorkshire puddings, so we can do what we like with them up here. 😉 To be honest, my family’s attitude to Sunday (and Christmas) dinner has always been just to chuck EVERYTHING in there. As much as you can fit in the oven, on the stove and over the plates. I’m still trying to digest the last few cold sprouts that I ate on Boxing Day 1992.

There was definitely something unbelievably depressing about Sunday evenings when you were a kid. Just watching that bloody clock tick-tick-ticking its way down to Monday morning school.

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