Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 228

Wednesday 15th August 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 9.50.  I played on the videopac for a bit, then I went to Doug’s and fed the rabbits, but dropped one of the glass drinking tubes and took a lump out the end. So I came home, then Dad and I walked the dogs down to Doug’s to see if we could fix the tube, but we couldn’t.

We went to Yarm to get a new tube but couldn’t, so at 12.30 we came back and Dad made a tube and we had dinner. At 1.00 Mam and I went to Doug’s and fixed up the water bottle, then we came back and I played out till about 3.00, when I read Elidor.

At 4.30 we had tea, then I played out till 6.15, when I watched Doctor Who. At 6.40 I watched the pink panther, then I played out till 8.30, when I went to bed.

Yay! It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? My best mate went away on holiday for a week, giving my idiot 11-year-old self the simple responsibility of feeding and watering his pet rabbits every day. A straightforward task that wouldn’t have tested the mettle of any intelligent, capable child. Unfortunately what Doug had failed to take into account was that I was a clumsy, ham-fisted f***wit who couldn’t fill a simple water bottle without dropping the bloody thing on the garage floor and smashing it into pieces. CLANNNNGGG!!!

In my defence (M’Lud) what I actually dropped was the glass tube screwed into the bottom of the water bottle, the bit that the ickle bunnies needed to drink from. It happened in slow motion (with a little flashing ‘R’ in the corner of my vision, and Jimmy Greaves making sarcastic comments in my head), and despite my flailing attempts to catch the thing before it hit the ground, the end of the tube splintered into bits on the garage floor, leaving the rabbit-sucky end bit all jagged and nasty.

Naturally, I did what I ALWAYS did in times of crisis with manly, practical things… froze on the spot, swore loudly, then went to fetch my Dad to sort it all out. (And I’m slightly ashamed to say that, 25 years on, this is STILL my tactic. A completely jammed front door in February this year led to my 69-year-old Dad being summoned from his post-teatime slumber and made to clamber up a ladder to our bathroom window, which he had to break in order to climb into the house. And then, naturally, he came back the next day to replace the window pane)

Miracle worker though he is, even my Dad was unable to repair a completely smashed bit of rabbit-related glassware, so he dutifully escorted me down to Yarm’s backstreet pet shop to buy a replacement. The shop was accessed by heading down a small alleyway through the middle of the town’s ancient high-class nick-nack emporium Strickland and Holt. In fact, the very alleyway where I filmed this sensational bit of Bass Shandy action earlier this year…

At the end of the alleyway was a little row of gorgeous tiny, family-run shops… definitely the pet shop, and next door to that was a wool emporium that my Mum and Gran regularly visited to fuel their unceasing quest to cover the entire world in Arran sweaters. I’m sure there was a third shop as well, but I can’t remember what it was – any Yarm-ites want to have a go? (There’s a can of Bass Shandy available for anyone who gets it right)

Anyway, the pet shop smelt of seaweed and dogfood, and was run by a really funny fortysomething lady whose cheeky teenage son referred to her constantly in front of customers as ‘SD’ (short, she explained to us, for ‘senile dementia’) I bought a goldfish from there in the summer of 1980, and – amazingly – it lived happily in a tank on our front room shelf until the summer of 1991 when I looked up from some A-Level revision to notice that the poor thing was floating dead on top of the water. Truly, this was the End Of Childhood. (And, predictably, the pet shop and wool shop buildings have gone as well… yep, in the early 1990s)

Sadly, they didn’t stock replacement glass tubes for the end of rabbits’ water bottles, so my poor Dad spent the afternoon hammering and clattering around the garage until he produced (from Lord only knows where) a perfect, rabbit-friendly stainless steel tube that worked a treat. I think he secretly had a whale of a time, and it was only budgetary concerns (and the arrival of his dinner) that stopped him setting up a full glass-blowing workshop to manufacture a more authentic replacement part.

So all was well, and I spent the rest of the day lazing about reading Elidor (still the greatest book of all time, thankyou Mr Garner) and watching Part Two of BBC1’s oddly-butchered episodic reworking of The Five Doctors. And The Pink Panther, which – before you get all excited about the possibility of a detailed Peter Sellers essay – I should point out will undoubtedly have been the 1970s cartoon version.

I’m still not sure what a ‘Rinky Dink Panther’ is, but seeing these opening credits instantly takes me back to Saturday teatimes in my Gran’s front room, eating slices of an oblong chocolate flake cake that had come in a white cardboard box tied with a red ribbon from Shipman’s the Bakers. Ah, they knew how make a cake feel special in those days…



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Was that the Pink Panther show whose title sequence concerned someone who looked like a F1 driver complete with helmet getting into a long racing car and driving along some mountain roads? (apologies if this is exactly what’s in the hidden video you’ve linked!)
I could never understand what that had to do with the cartoon character of the Panther although I realise he was superimposed on the sequence at regular intervals. Maybe it was the case that, aside from being an astronaut, being such a driver was simply the most glamorous and aspirational occupation that would appeal to the children of the day.
It’s certainly very memorable and I’d love to see it again as, like you, I think I’d be transported back in time by it.

I’m shocked to learn that your despicable clumsiness with the rabbit bottle led to such a runaround. Did every district not have its neighbourhood vivisectionist in an unremarkable-looking detatched house in those days? They can always be relied on to supply a rabbit feeding tube in times of need. Or a rabbit for that matter.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yep, that’s the one! See if this works for you…

Back in the mid-1990s there was a carpet shop in Garforth, West Yorkshire, called Greg May Carpets. Me and my friends Robert and Miniature G regularly drove past it on a Saturday morning on the way to various Middlesbrough away matches, and there was almost always a store employee dressed in a full fluffy animal suit prancing around on the pavement outside, waving at passers-by.

He was usually a bear or a lion, but on one fateful occasion we were delighted to find an authentic Pink Panther dancing around outside the shop window. The temptation proved too much to resist for Miniature G, who pulled the car over and strode purposefully towards this notoriously oddly-coloured big cat.

‘Scuse me mate,’ he asked. ‘You’re the Pink Panther, aren’t you? Can I have your autograph?’

‘Fuck off’, replied the Pink Panther, in rather muffled tones, before raising two fluffy pink fingers. It’s an image that will stay with me until my dying day.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I’m very grateful for the direct link and the one aspect of the sequence I’d utterly forgotten was that the driver seemed to be a child!

I am sorry to hear that you and your Miniature G encountered such an uncouth Pink Panther. I share your pain as I was once mooned by Parsley on my way to the Nuffield Institute. It’s never pleasant to be abused by characters.

  bobfischer wrote @

I’d expect that kind of behaviour from the likes of Parsley, but I thought the Pink Panther had more class than that.

I’ve just remembered that, at the last home game of last season, all the Aston Villa fans came in fancy dress. And so, ten minutes before kick-off, I saw over a dozen Pink Panthers being marched across the Riverside Stadium car park by Adolf Hitler.

Laurence Olivier never mentioned that in ‘The World At War’…

  Justin wrote @

…but I thought the Pink Panther had more class than that.

Well quite; he’s a gentleman and a scholar (and and acrobat, though that has little to do with the matter in question)… 🙂

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Very true, Justin. But can you really trust anyone who is ‘rinky dink’ when it comes to the crunch?

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