Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 231

Saturday 18th August 1984

Woke up at 9.00 and got up at 10.00. I went to feed Doug’s rabbits, then when I came back I dusted and scrubbed some of the fireplace. Then I just lazed aound till 12.00, when we had dinner.

After dinner we went to the Brackenbury’s and got the carpet, underlay and some manky old rug. When we got that home we carried it upstairs, then I painted the radiator in the bathroom.

After that I went out and played in the garden, then I walked the dogs round the field. When I came back I played with the Space Spinner, then at 5.00 I had tea.

At 5.10 I watched Automan, and at 6.00 I watched The pyramid game. At 6.30 I watched Game for a laugh, and at 7.30 I watched Ultra Quiz. At 8.00 I went out in the garden and at 9.00 I went to bed.

We really were pressing on with this redecorating business, weren’t me? Clearly my Dad was on one of his annual campaigns to sell the house for a modest fortune and move the entire family to somewhere as isolated, windswept and devoid of human contact as possible (I’d have resisted of course, I had a inseperable pyschological bond to Doug, WH Smiths and BBC1. If we’d ever gone through with my Dad’s long-term scheme to move us all to some remote Hebridean outhouse, I’d have been a gibbering wreck by the age of 13. I WAS a gibbering wreck by the age of 13 anyway, but that was nothing to do with my personal geography. Unless you’re counting the six months of outstanding homework that I owed Mr Moore, but that’s another story…)   

It didn’t stop me pitching in to help, though, especially if it meant passing a little quicker through another dreary summers day without my best mate. Dusting and scrubbing the fireplace doesn’t sound like the most arduous of tasks, until you realise that our fireplace was the size of the average Himalayan cliff face. It was constructed by Sherpas in early 1977, and on winters evenings, if you squinted, you could just about make out Chris Bonnington’s base camp two thirds of the way up (next to the alcove with the threadbare ornamental moose).

This is the best photo of it that I can find, taken in January 1991 and unfortunately featuring an uncomfortable 18-year-old me, clearly already plotting the next 3,000 pages of excruciating love poetry that I would write in honour of whichever doe-eyed lower sixth form debutante had caught my eye on that particular afternoon…

Apparently, when the fireplace had been built, my parents had been expecting the usual bijou three-feet high affair with a nice mahogany mantelpiece on top. They then made the fatal mistake of popping out for the afternoon and leaving the stonemason* to his own devices, returning several hours later to find a full-scale reconstruction of the North Face of K2 in their front room. My mother always hated it, although she did provide countless opportunities for covert sniggering throughout my childhood by referring to it constantly as ‘the chimney breast’.

*The stonemason will undoubtedly have been a mate of my Dad’s, who spent most of the 1970s and early 1980s in the building trade. All of his building mates seemed to have rhyming nicknames, the king of them all being genial Billingham-based bricklayer Mick Shipley, known to all as ‘Mick The Brick’. It goes without saying that the fireplace will have been built by ‘Jock The Rock’ or ‘Jason the Mason’ or… (further suggestions at the bottom of the blog, please)

Anyway, we were still in the process of buying carpet, rugs and other sundry items of furniture from our friendly local prison governer Mr Brackenbury (above), the full story of which you can read in this entry here. And I can’t remember painting the bathroom radiator, but I imagine it was one of those chores that my parents gamely allowed me to complete by myself before discreetly going over my handiwork with a more professional-looking job while I was out faffing around in the garden.

With a ‘Space Spinner’, obviously. It’s taken some serious brain-racking to remember this, but the Space Spinner was essentially a lightweight plastic frisbee given away free with Issue 1 of the relaunched Eagle comic in March 1982. (Along with the promise of an exclusive Daley Thompson feature – bestill my beating heart!)

I can’t imagine there was a great deal of fun to be had playing with a Space Spinner as a solo activity, so it’s almost certain that I introduced some vaguely destructive element to proceedings… either wilfully attempting to fling it permanently onto the roof slates of our extension bedroom, or pretending it was full of gibbering, panicking, microscopic aliens and aiming it squarely at the nearest sturdy-looking tree trunk.

Regardless, I soon got bored and dashed inside to watch… Automan!

The latest of the legendary Glen A Larson’s attempts to dominate American primetime TV (and rightly so… I’d have given him the keys and let him get on with it), Automan featured just-too-handsome-to-be-geeky Desi Arnaz Jnr as a square-jawed computer programmer who used his burgeoning FORTRAN skills to create a glowing, computer-generated sidekick… yep, the ‘Automan’ of the title, played by the implausibly-named Chuck Wagner.

Brilliantly, Automan had his own sidekick called ‘Cursor’, a dancing ball of light that floated alongside him and was able to conjure up any physical object from thin air. Naturally there was crime-fighting involved, and – I think – possibly a Lamborghini Countach as well.

I tried to recreate all of this in the dining room using my ZX81, but my 16K rampack overheated and I got a ‘C: NONSENSE IN BASIC’ error.



  David Brunt wrote @

How about “Tone the Stone”?

“Rock, the Rock”?

“Kevin, works in stone from the banks of the river Severn”

  Fraser the Glazer wrote @

Someone sold you a massive breast didn’t they! Tee hee!

  Yootha the Roofer wrote @

“I can’t imagine there was a great deal of fun to be had playing with a Space Spinner as a solo activity”
Pah. In my experience most boys think about little else. The grubs.

  Tippi the Chippy wrote @

Ah Automan… the one thing ‘Cursor’ could never conjure up was a decent set of clothes for the lead characters. I always used to think he got his name from being notably foul-mouthed when the cameras weren’t rolling.

  bobfischer wrote @

And that completes today’s casting session for the next revival series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

  Justin wrote @

Yes, you’re right – when cursor ‘drew’ a car fow them to travel in they used a Lamborghini Countach with blue neon ‘outlines’… way ahead of all these lads who modify their cars with blue neon lights nowadays 🙂

Pic of it here

  bobfischer wrote @

Seem to recall that the car turned corners at perfect 90 degree angles as well, leaving Desi Arnaz Jnr with his face squashed up against the window in a comedy styleee.

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