Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 232

Sunday 19th August 1984

Woke up at 10.00 and got up at 10.15. Doug and his mam and his sister came and we generally gobbed on, and I got a Dartmoor HM Prison glass and 2 quid for feeding the rabbits. They went at 11.00 then I went to the Brackenburys and told them we were coming for the suite at 2.00.

When I got home I painted the radiator in the kitchen, then I had dinner. I played with the Space spinner till 4.30, when I had tea, and after that I watched the (*YUK*) Smurfs. Then I listened to the charts till 7.15, when I watched Are you being served?

Then I played out till 8.30 when we walked the mutts. Came back at 9.00 and went to bed.

At last! My best mate was back from his endless endless endless (one week) holiday in Devon, so I could finally stop being bored with the summer holidays and start enjoying myself all over again. Except first of all we had to wait for EVER while our respective Mums talked in the kitchen about Grown Up Stuff, and I distinctly remember Doug rolling his eyes and making the classic kids’ ‘yak yak yak’ gesture with his hand while they chatted (perfectly reasonably) about the weather and the traffic and how I’d made a bloody awful mess of painting the bathroom radiator.

The ‘Dartmoor HM Prison glass’ was just a little novelty present, something that Doug bought for me himself, no doubt from a poky gift shop in Whimple or Westward Ho! or Ottery St Mary. It’s a tiny, ornamental glass with ‘PROPERTY OF HM PRISON DARTMOOR – NOT TO BE REMOVED’ emblazoned across the front. And, I’m delighted to say, 25 years later it still lives in blissful retirement at the back of my kitchen cupboard. Here it is, brought blinking into the sunlight for a rare afternoon out…

It’s funny how such strange little objects can take on such touching significance in your life. I daresay Doug never intended the glass to be a long term possession for me, it was just something that he paid 50p for on a whim, knowing that we’d both have a few seconds giggling over it when he got back from his holiday.  He’d probably completely forgotten about it by the end of the summer break, expecting me to have lost it or smashed it or dropped it out of the bedroom window attached to an Imperial Stormtrooper action figure.

And yet, apart from a few tatty photos, I think it’s the only physical possession I’ve got to remind me of our amazing, brilliant friendship all those decades ago. Through house moves, upheaval, joy, heartbreak and oddness, that weird little glass has stayed untouched, silent and stoic in a succession of kitchen cupboards. And now that Doug’s gone, I’d be devastated if I ever lost it.

Predictably, there was no chance of me ever hanging onto the shiny pound coins* that Doug’s Mum dropped into my hand as a thankyou for feeding the rabbits, despite my clumsy devastation of the drinking tube (see 15th August for the full, sordid story). I was desperate for cash at this point, and TWO POUNDS was a small fortune – easily the price of a new Fighting Fantasy book, or (if you shopped around) two Doctor Who Target novelisations. My mother rolled her eyes. ‘You’re supposed to politely turn that down,’ she tutted. Doug’s Mum laughed heartily and said, in her best Australian twang, ‘God no… go and spend it all on drink and women…’


(*Lovely, crinkly pound notes were still legal tender at this point, but only until the end of the year. The pound coin had been introduced in April 1983, to general public suspicion… I remember my Gran disapprovingly turning one over in her hand and grumbling ‘Oooh, it’s very fiddly, isn’t it?’ Needless to say, my Dad discovered a small stash of green pound notes stuffed into an old coat pocket sometime around 10th January 1985)

Two random memories from this day…

1. I’ve no idea why I was despatched on a solo mission to the Brackenbury’s house to inform them that we’d be collecting the furniture we’d bought from them later that afternoon, but Mrs Brackenbury answered the door and asked me to relay the information back to my parents that they’d decided to sell everything for a ‘nice round £100, rather than the £120 we’d agreed’. I raced back over the road with this important snippet of information like Pheidippides on the road from Marathon to Athens, so excited by the reponsibility entrusted to me that – by the time I arrived home thirty seconds later – I’d completely forgotten the figures mentioned. My parents had to wander over themselves to make any sense of the random prices (‘£120! No, £100. No, hang on, £120. Or was it £150? Where’s my caculator? Here we go, 5318008. Titter!) I was babbling about.


2. Despite snidey protestations to the contrary in my diary, I liked the Smurfs and occasionally cultivated illicit fantasies about Smurfette. The filthy little minx.



  Andrew T. Smith wrote @

When I come to think of it, I’m surprised Smurfette wasn’twalking about the village like an upside-down letter Y; being the only lady in the community.

  bobfischer wrote @

Oh, please. You’re talking about the mythical tiny blue creature that I love.

If you think this is weird, you should ask me sometime about my fixation with the Cadbury’s Caramel rabbit.

  stu robinson wrote @

Smufette was Ok I suppose, but a young lad could be proper smitten by Cheetarah off of Thundercats.


  bobfischer wrote @

I was never a big admirer of Cheetara. She looked a bit like Grange Hill’s Trisha Yates in yellow make-up and a leotard.

I had a bit of a thing for Velma from Scooby Doo, though. I figured I had to be in with a chance with any woman whose eyesight was as bad as hers.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I wish I’d never mentioned Smurf curtains now. I really do.
I remember that when pound coins were introduced they were about the same diameter as a five pence piece. This was further complicated by the fact that old shilling pieces were still in circulation at the value of five pence. The confusion (for anyone with less than 20/20 vision) almost brought Britain to her knees.
My Granny had a wobble at first but she was pretty canny about thickness and she soon grew accustomed. She died before the titchy 5p came in and the 10p shrank down to the size of the old shilling. I think that would have represented a shift too far.

  bobfischer wrote @

There was a lot of buggering about with British coinage in the early 1980s. The 20p piece arrived in 1982 – amidst much suspicion and clacking of tongues – and the beloved half penny bit the dust at the end of 1984, much to my Dad’s cynical disapproval. ‘No doubt everybody will be rounding their bloody prices up rather than down…’, that kind of thing.

I remember holding a 20p piece for the first time, after my Mum had received one in her change from the weekly shop at Hinton’s supermarket. It felt utterly surreal and strange, as though I’d stepped into a parallel universe. Maybe I did, and I just haven’t escaped yet?

  Thing wrote @

Smurfette would only be about six inches high, you know, so I doubt there’d be much of a future in it.

The fact that there’s only one female Smurf, and she was created by Gargamel, does make you wonder how on Earth Smurfs reproduced before? Are they supposed to be asexual or hermaphrodites? Can they change sex, like oysters? Perhaps they’re a cloned species, it might explain why they all look identical.

Maybe they were all cloned from Papa Smurf, unless he really did father 98 of them, but in which case who with? I’d better stop thinking about this…

  bobfischer wrote @

They’re a cloned race, like Sontarans. But a bit harder, I reckon. The Smurfs would have taken the Rutans to the cleaners, and still been back in time for crumpets and the epilogue.

Anyway, stop trying to ruin my Smurfette fantasies. She might be only six inches high, but she could grow to love me…

  Thing wrote @

If you ever watched Gulliver in Lilliput, a 1982 Sunday night drama, Lis Sladen as Lady Flimnap had quite a thing for Andrew Burt as Gulliver, who must also have been about twelve times her height, so there might be hope for you after all…

  The Reverend Marcus Carcass wrote @

All of this speculation about Smurfs at their loving in the pre-Smurfette age is both unseemly and unnecessary, my children.

This extract from the progressive educational book “Smurf Lives With Smurf and Smurf” explains it all in language that is refreshingly honest, yet simple enough for a child to understand:
” When two Smurfs feel very, very smurf about one another, the smurf smurf will smurf his smurf in a smurf way. The smurf smurf, now also smurfing a smurf will quite often smurf his smurf or smurf slowly until smurf and smurf are ready to smurf. Once smurfing has begun, the smurf and the smurf will feel very smurf indeed and make smurfing movements. This varies from smurf to smurf but in all cases smurf will soon take place. This is quite natural and is a good indication of the smurf’s smurf.

  bobfischer wrote @

You filthy f***er.

  bobfischer wrote @

By the way, I’d like to cast an eye over Elisabeth Sladen’s Flimnap at some point. Is it available to peruse on DVD?

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Alas, no.
Like her little Dormouse it seems destined to remain unseen by the general public. Of course, the same goes for Leon Eagles’ Balmuff but you don’t hear anybody kicking up a fuss.

  bobfischer wrote @

And I fear we Famous Five fans shall never be allowed to see Gary Russell’s long-admired Dick on DVD. A seminal performance that still stands up. Etc…

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