Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 227

Tuesday 14th August 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 9.50. I wrote some Fighting Fantasy till 10.15, when I played Munchkin on the Videopac, then at 11.00 I went out and played football. At 12.30 I had dinner, then mam and I cycled to Doug’s, fed the rabbits (Barney, Fred, Harry, Lenny, Willy and Frankie) then went to Yarm.

I got two library books (Jon Pertwee’s book of Monsters and Grange Hill – Home and away). Came back about 2.30 and I read the book of monsters. At 4.00 I went out and at 5.00 I had tea, then I went out till 6.15, when I watched Doctor Who.

Then dad and I took the dogs around the field, and at 8.00 we came back and I started to read Grange Hill. Went to bed at 9.00.

A bit of a listless day spend idling about and reading, and clearly at a bit of a loose end while my best mate Doug was on holiday in Devon. Or, as my Dad put it with a cheeky chortle, ‘You’re Doug-less’.

(This was also the punchline to a one of a seemingly endless series of jokes that had swept Levendale Primary School towards the end of the summer… ‘What do you call a man with a spade in his head? Doug. What do yo you call a man without a spade in his head? Douglas. What do you call a woman who plays snooker with a drink on her head? Beatrix Potter’ etc. Oh, how we laughed. Until Mr Millward told us to shut up and get on with our long division)

So I bit the bullet, dragged myself away from the telly, and cycled down to Yarm with my Mum. Me on my sturdy Chopper (chortle!) and her resplendant in bicycle clips on a huge-framed 1970s boneshaker with a shopping basket at the front. Stopping en route to dive into Doug’s garage and feed the rabbits, of course… two of which – I’ve just realised – were clearly named after characters in The Flintstones. Not sure where Harry, Lenny, Willy or Frankie came from, though… we did go to school with Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank, but the prospect of naming a pet after one of your friends was… pffft… well, it actually smacked of being NICE about them, and who on Earth did THAT to their mates?!?

And I’ve just realised with a shudder of embarrassment that he might actually have been named after a certain mid-1980s Liverpudlian pop group much beloved of Doug and I. The rabbit, that is. Not Paul ‘Frankie’ Frank.


Anyway, I always loved wandering into Yarm Library as a kid, and should probably use it more often than I do as an adult… I’m still here, it’s still there, and neither of us have changed very much in the intervening years. I’ve even still got my fuzzy green cardboard membership cards somewhere, although I don’t suppose they’re valid any more. The library was a glorious, musty treasure trove of goodies that seemed to exist in a permanent state of Autumn… populated entirely by old ladies in horn-rimmed glasses on chains, smelling of Max Factor and cats and almond slices.

I’d love to think that it still holds copies of Jon Pertwee’s Book Of Monsters and Grange Hill – Home And Away, with my faded September 1984 date stamp still visible on the inner sleeves. The former of these two books looked like this…

…and was (I think) just a collection of mildly (but not really) scary short stories, each featuring decidedly non-BBC copyright (but still a bit Doctor Who-ey) monsters of the Loch Ness and Abominable Snowman variety. With a nice little preface by the mighty Pertwee himself. Good fun reading for a lazy summer afternoon, but undoubtedly something that I’d never have picked up had it not been for the vague Doctor Who connection – so well done, Methuen Children’s Books, your dastardly plan worked a treat! (You swines)

And Grange Hill – Home and Away looked like this…

Wasn’t I a sucker for a TV tie-in? A cheeky little novel about a school trip to foreign climes that goes awry with – hey! – hilarious consequences. Ex-pupils Tucker and Alan tag along for the ride, naturally, but – needless to say – I never finished it. It went back to the library on the last possible day after I hastily removed my Star Wars bookmark from the middle of Chapter 2.

(Genuine request – does anyone still borrow books from their local libary at all, or has EBay and the Amazon Marketplace completely wiped that out? It must be well over a decade since I last borrowed a libary book, and I’ve never heard of any of my friends or workmates doing it since we were at University nearly twenty years ago… but I’d love to hear that we’re just weird, and that libraries are still thriving!)

Good to see a strange, random Doctor Who repeat popping up in the middle of the summertime schedules as well! This happened for a few years running in the early 1980s, and just occasionally we’d be treated to episodes from way before our own lifetimes, which was obviously THE MOST EXCITING THING IN THE WORLD! I remember watching the Jon Pertwee adventure The Curse Of Peladon on BBC2 sometime in the Spring of 1982, and Levendale Primary School playground being awash with simpering Alpha Centauri impersonations the following day…

Our 1984 repeats were of a more recent vintage, though… I think what I watched on this day was a repeat of the 1983 20th Anniversary story The Five Doctors. It had been originally broadcast as a 90 minute special, but was now slightly unwisely spliced into four traditional-length episodes to string the whole thing out over a couple of weeks. As a result, they boasted quite possibly the most arbitary, non-cliffhangery cliffhangers of all time… (dan-dan-daaaaaaan! And, believe me, there’s more tension here than there was in any of those…)

I recall one of them involving Sarah Jane Smith slipping down a virtually horizontal cliff-face (and part-time monster wrangler Jon Pertwee laudably keeping a straight face as he threw a rope down – or, more accurately, across – to rescue her from the terrors of a mild incline covered in nettles) and another featuring – YIKES!!!! – The Master walking down a flight of steps looking vaguely pleased with himself.

Can anyone remember what the third one was? I won’t be able to sleep until we get the answer (SCREEEEEEEEEEEE CREDITS ROLL)



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I expect two of the rabbits were named after Willie Rushton and Frank Muir, which would be an accurate reflection of the tastes of eleven-year-old boys in 1984. Perhaps Harry and Lenny were named after Harold Wilson and Len Murray? Yes, that makes sense too.

What makes slightly less sense is the notion of a playgroundful of children imitating Alpha Centauri. Was this merely a matter of waving fey tentacles about and shuffling along as though wearing a canary yellow litter bin or did it extend to squealing and twittering too? If it did, you were ahead of your time since I’m given to understand that twittering is all the rage with kids nowadays.

I’d go and research the matter in my local library but I’m afraid it is now an Ideas Store. You can interface with n00bs there and drink a toffee-apple latte but I don’t think there are actual books to be borrowed.

  David Brunt wrote @

Ep 2 of the Five Doctors repeat ended with Turlough and Susan seeing the Cybermen with the big suitcase bomb on the Tardis scanner.

That week of repeats was the last the series had on real telly until the first week of 1992.

  Chris Orton wrote @

I was a fervent user of the local library when I was a kid, something instilled in me by my Dad who was also a big user of it. I have to admit that most of my borrowing consisted of one of four Doctor Who books that the library had, Asterix books and Tintin books. My library tickets were a orangey-brown colour and I was allowed three of them.

I suppose that the fact that books are now so cheap has resulted in the decline of library use amongst some people. I was always annoyed that you could often find that people had written in library books, and that pages were sometimes ripped out. Also, there was that, you know library book smell that put me off. It’d be terrible if any libraries closed though, but I’d be as guilty as the others who have drifted away and towards Amazon, Tesco and the like.

  Thing wrote @

I still borrow books from the Library sometimes. David Nobbs’ novel, Cupid’s Dart, was one, only a couple of months or so ago. If that makes you feel any better.

  Chris Byers wrote @

One of the things we used library’s for the most was school project and course work. I wonder if now kids have the internet whether they go to a library at all.

I know this has nothing to do with your diary Bob, but I thought you might be interested to know that I passed Levendale today, and couldn’t help but notice some construction vehicles. I was concerned to find that part of the school had been demolished and they seemed to be preparing for some rather large construction work.

  bobfischer wrote @

Dr Parcel – we gave it the full Alpha Centauri works, as I recall. Shuffling, tentacle-waving and – indeed – squealing and twittering. Mrs Gallon, our dinner lady, thought we’d all come down with something nasty.

Cheers for the cliffhanger info Mr B… how could I have forgotten? Erm, quite easily, considering the lameness of it all. ‘Big, isn’t it?’

Mr O… yep, it was usually Doctor Who books that I took out of Yarm library as well (and occasionally Acklam library in Middlesbrough, which I was also a member of, as it was close to my Gran’s house). They tended to be the hardback versions, which I believe now sell for the price of small mortgages! I remember reading the hardback edition of at home on The Web Of Fear on Christmas Eve 1983, while watching ‘Santa Claus Conquers The Martians’ on Channel 4. What glorious days.

Good to hear you’re keeping the flame alive, Thing! I definitely remember, when I was a kid, that the library was a regular port of call for all of my family. I would claim the Doctor Whos, my Mum got the Jilly Coopers, my Gran did the Barbara Cartlands, my Dad usually had a David Nobbs or Keith Waterhouse on the go, and my Uncle Trevor was into Douglas Adams. Going to the library was a weekly occurence, and huge piles of hardback books would come in and out of the house on a very regular basis.

And Chris B – you’re undoubtedly right about the internet, I hadn’t even thought of that. Such is life, I suppose. Thanks for the tip-off about Levendale School as well – I’ll go and have a snoop around this weekend to see what atrocities are being committed!

I’m very disturbed to hear about demolition work. Never mind what’s best for today’s grotty kids, it’s OUR MEMORIES that are the most important thing to preserve… 😉

  Tim Pym wrote @

Hey I remember that Jon Pertwee book! There was one about evil creeping frogspawn, one about a stuffed freak creature in a case that everyone thought was a Victorian fake (but it WASN’T- and it came to life! Eek!), a creepy one about being in a giant cactus that digested its victims and a really interminable one about a pet dragon that hatched from an egg.
Some of the stories mentioned ‘Doctor Who’ but in a really tenuous way that made me think they’d been added in by the editors.
Peter Davison did some tie-in books too didn’t he? I never read them.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yep, Peter Davison (ahem) ‘wrote’ Peter Davison’s Book Of Alien Monsters and Peter Davison’s Book Of Alien Planets. Both were in the Levendale Primary School library, and neither of them contained any reference to Doctor Who whatsoever other than the words ‘Peter Davison’.

By the way, I had a cheeky snoop around Levendale Primary School today and yep – there’s a lot of building (or, more accurately, ‘knocking down’) work going on. But I don’t think any of the main bits of the school have been touched – not the bits that were there when we were kids, anyway. It looks like they’ve pulled down the temporary, light-coloured cabins that you can see right at the start of this video…

I hope they don’t touch the rest, it should have a preservation order on it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: