Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 225

Sunday 12th August 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.30. I wrote some of my Fighting Fantasy story, then at 12.00 I had dinner. After dinner I did some more of the Fighting Fantasy (Labyrinth of death) and then I went out and played football.

At about 1.00 we went to Eryholme and took the gas thingy back, and when we came back I started a map for a new Fighting Fantasy called The Elfin whishing well. At 4.00 I went a fed Doug’s rabbits, then at 4.45 I came back and had tea.

Then I did some more map till 6.15, when I listened to the charts. At 7.15 I watched Are you being served, and then Man and I went on the field and met dad. After that we came back and I played football, clobbering mam with the ball. Went to bed at 9.15.

Wow! I was in top prolific writing form 25 years ago today. I wish I could capture that kind of spirit this afternoon, I’ve spent most of my time today lying on the sofa watching DVDs and eating chocolate flapjack. I love my book titles, as well… The Labyrinth of Death! Probably inspired by the 294 bus journey from Middlesbrough to Stockton, particularly the bit that skirts past Haverton Hill. I’ve got vague memories of  my Mum asking if I ever fancied writing about ‘nice things’ around this time, and I think I stuck my finger down my throat and make a few comedy vomiting noises. That would be a ‘no’, then.

Although ‘The Elfin Wishing Well’ sounds picturesque! And will UNDOUBTEDLY have been influenced by our trip to Eryholme on a Sunday afternoon. Nestling on a deserted, silent stretch of road in the middle of dense woodland between Yarm and Darlington, Eryholme is a tiny hamlet that looks – in the most glorious, brilliant kind of way – as thought it’s been trapped in a strange, BBC Micro-generated force field since the early 1950s. It has swaying trees, a lush green cricket pitch, an ancient church, a red telephone box, a handful of thatched cottages, and an abandoned railway station closed by Dr Beeching in 1964.

And precious little else. Apart from my parents’ friends, Bette and Dave. They lived in a glorious, rambling house set back from the road amidst grounds large enough to accomodate a modest housing estate. But they didn’t… they accomodated trees, woods, exciting-looking bits of old wall and an ancient 1960s landrover that had once been my Dad’s, but was now overgrown and rusting in a secluded corner of the garden.

Even at the age of 11, I found this both incredibly sad and beautiful… that such a once-loved part of the family was now coated in moss and weeds and was long since incapable of activity. Although a similar fate befell my Uncle Ernie from the late 1970s onwards.  I clambered around in the dusty back compartment and pulled dandelions from between the airless tyres while my parents stood in the garden, nursing cups of coffee on a blisteringly hot afternoon and talking about Boring Grown-Up Stuff with Bette and Dave.

I’d probably be joined by their son Paul, who’d unfortunately inherited one of his mother’s more debilitating genes and had grown up (brace yourself) a Newcastle Utd fan. He was a couple of years younger than me, and always up for clambering around unsafe places fuelled by the constant supply of chocolate Hob-Nobs that seemed to materialise from a bottomless tin on the kitchen worktop.

They were (and are) great people, and heading over to the house on a Sunday afternoon (as we regularly did) was always tremendous fun. And no doubt at some point we’ll have put their sweet-natured Old English Sheepdog, Gemma, onto a lead and pottered around the village, and all of the gloriously mysterious accessories of English rural life – the red phone box, the weird birdsong, the dark shadows in the copses – will have been stored up in my head for future use in ‘The Elfin Wishing Well’.

So after complaining last week about the dreary nature of the 1980s English Sunday, this was a lovely departure from the humdrum. Although my evening’s immersion in the week’s chart rundown no doubt brought me crashing back down to Earth. Careless Bloody Whisper at No 1. Aga-bloody-doo at No. 2. And this just in, CRASHING into the charts (thankyou Simon Bates) at No. 5…

Pop music! Whatever happened to super, sexy pop music? Come on Frankie, pull your fingers out and get a third single up them thar charts…

And – woah – I’d forgotten all about the sensational dipping volley that almost decapitated my Mum, but now I’ve read this diary entry it all comes flooding back. On a glorious, balmy evening, I was lashing a football ferociously against the side of the house (no doubt dispersing a bit of pent-up chart-related anger) and somehow – despite my lifelong lack of anything remotely resembling an ounce of bodily control – I managed to chest down one of the rebounds before catching the ball with a thunderous right-footed piledriver that screamed – to my horror – towards the kitchen window.  

At which point my Mum wandered out of the back door to enquire if I’d like a glass of pop, and caught my goal-bound screamer square in the middle of the forehead. The ball plopped harmlessly into a plant pot, my Mum plopped harmlessly onto the kitchen floor, and my Dad – pottering in the kitchen doing obscene things to a vat of home-made wine – collapsed into hysterical laughter and had to hold himself up on the worktop with his elbows.

‘Get a number 9 on your back, Doreen, I’m phoning Willie Maddren. I think you could do a job up front for us next season…’ he gasped.

Twenty five years later, I’m still convinced that she could. My mother is now 67 years old and has had two hip replacements, and yet her League goalscoring record over the last ten years is not significantly worse than Jeremie Aliadiere’s.



  bobfischer wrote @

I should add at this stage that I have no idea what the ‘gas thingy’ was.

  Chris Orton wrote @

I’ve never been to Eryholme, but just lately my Dad has been researching into his family tree and discovered that one of our long-gone relatives was from there. I think that he might even be in the graveyard there. I’d never heard of the place to be honest, until my Dad retired and started digging into our past. Might have been my great, great, great grandfather.

  Patsy wrote @

A camping gas cylinder ? I think your mum must be a bloody saint, even without being hit, just the constant bashing of your ball against the wall would have had me reported to social services in no time ! The Elfin Wishing well does sound a bit like Enid Blyton 🙂

  bobfischer wrote @

How bizarre, Mr O… it’s a tiny, tiny place. Well worth a visit if you want to look for his grave, but bring a flask as there’s no pub or shop or… anything!

Patsy – I don’t think it would have been a camping gas cylinder, as my parents utterly loathed the idea of camping! Apparently they tried it once in 1966 and came home after one night. And we didn’t have a gas supply into the house, so it was nothing to do with that. Ah, life’s eternal mysteries…

And yeah, I’m amazed my parents allowed me to boot my football against the wall for so long – at one point our next-door neighbour (on the other side of the house!) came over to politely complain, so it must have been torment for my parents!

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

If you think abandoned cars are a saddening sight now, imagine how poignant they will seem millions of years from now when their fossilized remains are unearthed.

  bobfischer wrote @

Mine will still be covered in doghair and empty Seabrook’s crisp packets.

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