Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 219

Monday 6th August 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.30. I rung Doug, but he was going out so I played outside with a tennis ball all morning. At 12.00 I had dinner, then we went to Carlton bank. I got pretty wet walking through the heather, then we got to the top and Dad and I went down the other side.

We soon came back up though and went back to the car. Came home and got changed at 3.00, then at 3.45 Doug came and we were going to go to the mud track but just as we set off it started to rain, so we ran (or rode) back to our houses.

At 5.30 I had tea, then I dried Poggles Maginty after his (SSHH!) B A T H. At 7.10 I watched Star Trek, then at 8.00 I watched Only Fools and Horses. At 8.30 I watched The Harding Trail, and at 9.00 I went to bed.

As far as the summer of 1984 is concerned, I’ve definitely suffered from False Memory Syndrome for the last 25 years… I had hugely fond memories of six weeks worth of blazing, flag-cracking sunshine. But looking back, it seems to have rained virtually every bloody day! And lots of the sun-drenched excursions with my friends that I was certain took place during the school break actually happened in June and early July. I seem to have spent most of the holidays killing time by myself, including another ninety minutes flicking a tennis ball around the side garden and hammering it against the wall of the house. Did I think it was a Sunday, or something? Get out man, go and deface a phone box! Be rude to some girls! Eat some worms!

By the way, the ‘football with a tennis ball’ thing was undoubtedly the result of me seeing a snippet on John Craven’s Newsround about Brazilian schoolboys doing exactly the same… the theory being that if you could hone your silky skills with such small balls (and yes, I tittered when the mighty Craven said that) then a full-sized football should be a doddle to control. As a result, I was convinced that I could be Yarm’s own Brazilian maestro Fischino by the time I got to Conyers comprehensive school in four weeks time. In reality, I got so used to the harmless, lightweight nature of the tennis ball that, a month later, when Jo Spayne leathered a mud-sodden ‘casey’ towards my midriff, I squealed like a girl and put my hands over my face. 

My Dad must have been unemployed at this time (hello, children of ‘Fatcher’s Britain!) and was filling the hours inbetween Job Centre visits with forays onto the moors to keep his spirits and fitness up. I remember Yarm’s Job Centre well… the hideous utilitarian orange frontage, and the air of soul-crushing pointlessness as my 40-year-old parents (both of whom spent a fair bit of the early 1980s out of work) picked desperately at little cards offering part-time cleaning and gardening jobs for £20 a week. I can’t actually remember when the centre disappeared, but it’s now a branch of William Hill’s, next to the 24-hour Spar.

So we went to Carlton Bank for the day. Me and my parents, and undoubtedly Doug would have come as well, had he not been heading out for the day. Doug and I actually had a conversation around this time about how we were such good mates that we would NEVER make excuses if we didn’t fancy doing something together – there’d be no ‘Oooh, I’d love to come to the mud track, but I need to help me Mam with the shopping’, we’d just manfully tell each other that we fancied an afternoon in by ourselves. As far as I know, we ALWAYS stuck to this, something I’m actually very proud of. We had a brilliant, honest friendship with a strict no-bullshit policy, and I love that.

Carlton Bank is on the fringe of the North Yorkshire Moors, and towers over the clouds and factories of Teesside – an amazing vantage point beloved of hikers, ramblers and (by night) teenage back-seat gropers. I once spent an amazing Friday night up there in April 1997, aged 24, lying on the car bonnet until 4am as the Hale-Bopp comet lit up the star-dappled sky. Surrounded by a dozen cars filled with cheery, wide-eyed amateur astronomers passing sandwiches and flasks around and taking endless fuzzy pictures.

Anyway, here’s myself and Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones at the summit earlier this year…

And bathtime for Poggy Doggy! Or ‘Poggles Maginty’ as he’d now been rechristened by my clearly bored and stagnating Dad. If you said the word ‘bath’ to the poor creature he would shake and cower and hide under the stairs, and for years there were clawmarks around the white-glossed doorframe where he had to be physically carried into the bathroom for a wash. Afterwards, he would sulk for hours, his mane of sopping wet fur flattened down to reveal the physique of a half-starved lurcher. There is nothing… NOTHING… like the smell of a soaking wet dog, and the smell of our own 2009 hounds at bathtime never fails to take me back to these strange, long-ago afternoons.

(It was around this time that poor Poggy Doggy became infested by fleas, and my Dad and I had endless fun squishing them between our fingers as they hopped around his belly. Naturally this necessitated a trip to the vet to purchase the most virulent anti-flea shampoo available. On the way out, through a waiting room full of shuffling well-to-do punters cradling a variety of posh-looking hounds and felines, I mischievously gave them all a cheery thumbs-up and hollered ‘Our dog’s got FLEAS!!!!’ as my parents, with Poggy Doggy in tow, turned beetroot-red and attempted to insert a towel into my mouth)

And a bit of TV… tonight’s Star Trek episode was ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?’, in which Dr McCoy’s pouting assistant Nurse Chapel discovers her missing fiancee Dr Korby holed up on the planet of Exo III, making android duplicates of key Federation members, so he can subvert it all for his own evil ends… mwahahahahaha…

And ‘The Harding Trail’ was brilliant comedian and folkie Mike Harding cycling the Appalachian Trail across America and meeting various musicians and oddballs along the way. Great stuff, and another little gem that I’d love to see again.



  Tim Pym wrote @

Never mind playing football with tennis balls: playing tennis with a football is the true test of a man’s mettle.

  bobfischer wrote @

Bjorn Borg always had the look of a man who could thrash a Mitre casey into his opponent’s baseline without batting an eyelid.

I’d like to see the current lot keeping two or three footballs in each shorts pocket during the match.

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