Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 223

Friday 10th August 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.00. I watched a film called The Fall Guy, and at 11.30 I watched The Grumbleweeds. Then I mapped some more of Deathtrap Dungeon, and at 12.30 I had dinner. I then mapped some more of Deathrap Dungeon, and at 1.30 I went to Doug’s, and his dad showed me how much food to give the rabbits because I’m going to feed the rabbits when Doug goes on holiday.

Then Doug and I went for a ride down the mud track and to Yarm, then we came back to my house and just generally messed on. At 4.45 we went to the copse, then at 5.00 we came back, Doug went home, and I had tea. At 5.15 I watched Diffrent Strokes and then I finished mapping Deathtrap Dungeon.

At 7.15 Doug came with the key to get in his house to feed the rabbits, and at 7.30 I watched Simon and Simon. At 8.30 I went out, and at 9.00 I watched Babble. Went to bed at 9.30.

OK, let’s look at the facts here…

1. Doug and his sister Jen were the proud owners of six twitchy-nosed rabbits, all of which they loved, adored and doted upon.

2. Doug’s dad ran a rabbit-hutch building business from the family garage, and the place was stacked full of painstakingly-constructed bunny houses, ready for distribution around Teesside’s thriving network of independent pet shops.

3. The whole family were going on holiday to Devon for a week, and trusting THE IDIOT 11-YEAR-OLD BOY FROM UP THE ROAD TO LOOK AFTER ALL OF THIS WHILE THEY WERE AWAY!!!! Were they mad?!? I couldn’t even tie my shoelaces properly, for crying out loud. I might have been giddy with the excitement, but my parents – I’m sure – were having recurring nightmares about discovering me standing in the smoking ruins of Doug’s bungalow with six charred cotton-tails scattered around the debris.

And my shoelaces undone.

Still,  Doug had promised me there ‘was a couple of quid in it’, so how could I resist? As far as I was concerned, this made me a full-time earner, and – in just over a week’s time – I would be using my extensive pay packet to splash out on a Doctor Who paperback and a Wham Bar. All of these giddy thoughts cascaded through my mind as Doug’s dad – a towering Thornaby-born bloke with a bristling moustache – took me through the intricacies of rabbit husbandry.

‘You’ll need to give them fresh water every day,’ he said, ‘And the tube from the water bottles screws off like this. Be CAREFUL when you screw it back on – it needs to be really tight, or it’ll leak. The food goes in here, and make sure you give them EXACTLY the right amount or they’re likely to get sick. And the garage door opens with THIS key… I’ll give you keys to the house as well, so you can get to the kitchen tap for water. We’ll lock up before we go, but I’ll send Doug down with the full set before we set off. Have you got all that…? Eh…? Eh…?’

‘Yep, no problem’ I said, lying through my teeth. What I’d actually heard was this…

‘Blah blah blah blah TWO QUID!!! Blah blah blah blah DOCTOR WHO BOOKS!!!! Blah blah blah WHAM BARS!!!!! Blah blah blah have you got all that?’

I think I might even have clicked my heels on the way down to the mud track, which is some achievement in mid-flight on a Raleigh Chopper.

This day was also the strange occasion on which, at the mud track playpark, I decided to celebrate my new-found responsibilties by climbing on top of the rocking horse and performing a full a capella rendition of Frankie’s ‘Two Tribes’… clearly intending to impress two older girls rocking idly back and forth on the swings, wearing ‘FRANKIE SAY’ T-shirts and casually popping pink lurid bubbles of Hubba Bubba onto their chins.

I did the full song from start to finish as they stared impassively at me, embellishing my powerhouse performance with ‘dugga dugga’ synth lines and full-blooded Holly Johnson style ‘Ow Ow OWWWW’s.

 ‘When Two Tribes go to war, the point is all that two can SCOOOORE!!!! SCORE NO MORE!!! SCORE NO MORE!!!’ I think I finished my rendition by leaping into the air from the top of the rocking horse, landing in a predator-like crouching position, and pointing at them both with a broody, meaningful stare.

‘F*** me, you’re a sad wanker,’ said the older of the two girls. ‘Come on Julie, let’s go to the chippy’.

To be fair, I’ve had less enthusiastic responses to my subsequent live performances. Doug was remarkably supportive on the way home though, and – by the time we reached the copse – all I could babble on about AGAIN was my new-found full-time employment as an experienced, reliable rabbit-handler. TWO QUID!!! ‘If you’ve got any left over, you can pay a chunk off the mortgage,’ grinned my Dad that night, from behind the gigantic newsprint bath-sheet of the Evening Gazette Late Final.

OK, two strange little TV nuggets… ‘The Fall Guy’, I’m pretty sure, wasn’t the infamous Lee Majors ‘I may fall from a tall building…’ TV show of the same name. I don’t think there was a film version of that, and if there had been then I’m sure it would have been shown as part of the primetime schedule, rather than ten o’clock in the morning.

There is, however, a 1930 Hollywood crime caper of the same title, so I’m guessing it might have been this that I watched? Anybody any better guesses…?

Babble, meanwhile, was a genial little word game on Channel 4, with Peter Purves hosting and the likes of Willie Rushton, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden chucking puns around left, right and centre. I can’t remember a lot about it, but the 2009 equivalent would undoubtedly be hosted by Rob Brydon, with David Mitchell and Sean Lock as team captains. (And Rufus Hound as a panellist every second Thursday)



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Things must have been bad if you went to the copse and back within fifteen minutes. This is surely a portent of imminent doom? I fear this rabbit tale will end even less happily than your ‘a capella’ girl-pleasing…

  bobfischer wrote @

I was like a cat on a hot tin roof. Or a rabbit in the smouldering remains of a bungalow, take your pick.

  David Brunt wrote @

The Fall Guy TV pilot episode was 90 minutes long, so would fit the timeslot and be more suitable for a mid-summer morning filler too.

  Chris Orton wrote @

Its incredible to think that The Grumbleweeds are still going. But there are only two of them…

  bobfischer wrote @

Oooh, didn’t realise that about The Fall Guy! That’s definitely possible then, although I’d watched the show quite a lot by 1984, so it seems odd that I’d call it ‘a film called The Fall Guy’ rather than ‘the Fall Guy film verson’ or something similar. If only I could be arsed to look for that week’s TV Times on Ebay… 🙂

And yes, The Grumbleweeds are still on the go! To be fair, I think Graham and Robin started the band as a duo, and the others all joined a few years later. I actually interviewed Robin for the radio a couple of years ago, and he was great fun. I’ll be off to see them in panto in Darlo this year…

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