Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 234

Tuesday 21st August 1984

Woke up at 9.00 and got up at 10.00, when Doug rang. I got dressed and went to Doug’s and met Doug, Huggy and Merrington. We went to Yarm and Doug and I got Ozzie a Two Tribes record and a card, then we went to the mud track and mucked on.

I came home at 12.00 and had dinner, then Doug came and shortly after Huggy and Merrington came. We went to the BMX track and did some stunts, then Merrington went home and we played in a field over the road.

Then we went to my house and played football, and at 3.15 we went to Hug’s, got his frisbee and took that on the cricket pitch, where we met Ozzie. At 4.00 I came home and lazed about till 6.15, when I watched Paddles Up.

At 7.00 I watched Candid Camera, and at 8.30 we took the dogs on the field. When we got back I did a poster for Grandma and at 9.30 I went to bed.

Another baking hot summers day filled with deliriously exciting faffing. It’s strange how, looking back, I seemed to spend my entire childhood in the same three or four places every day, and yet I never EVER got bored with it… I think the fact that we lived in such a small, sleepy town made us exercise our imaginations just that little bit more, and so playparks became portals to parallel universes, and little BMX tracks in the middle of the woods became Brands’ Hatch on a Formula 1 weekend.

(Doug was Alain Prost and I was Nelson Piquet. NOBODY but NOBODY wanted to be Nigel Mansell, and I think it was largely down to the moustache)

‘Merrington’ was Paul Merrington, a bike-obsessed lad who – at a year older than us – had already crossed over into the shadowy netherworld of Conyers school, but he was still a close neighbour of Paul ‘Huggy’ Huggins, so occasionally lowered himself to hanging around with us younger oiks. He had a towering quiff the colour of coal tar, and a surgically-attached black T-shirt, and it’s hard to imagine he hadn’t modelled himself on The Fonz. He was a nice lad though, and had been known to take apart and reconstruct his BMX just for the sheer goddamn hell of it, which – to our eyes – elevated him to godlike status.  

And yes! Another visit to my future workplace and music emporium Yarm Records, this time to buy the 12″ single of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Two Tribes’, a long-coveted treasure no doubt already covered in our mucky thumbprints after six weeks of clumsily fingering the thing while hiding at the back of the shop. This was our joint present for the forthcoming 11th birthday of our mate Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald, racing towards us on Saturday 1st September. I think it cost £2.50, which seemed like a gargantuan sum at the time, but it did mean that we could jot down the actual lyrics to the song from the transcription on the back sleeve at our leisure, rather than trying to memorise them three words a time before stuffing the crumpled sleeve back onto the Yarm Records shelf and buggering off to terrorise some other hapless shop owner instead.

So we bought the thing (and a card from Strickland and Holt’s), and carried them both to the mud track, which was – as I recall – absolutely packed full of kids. This quirky little playpark with its swings and treacherous tarzie was often bafflingly deserted, making it a deliriously exciting private refuge for Doug and me. But, on this day, it was overrun by filthy-faced oiks from Yarm’s myriad of surrounding schools. I remember…

1. An older lad (probably aged 13, but in my fevered imagination he had a Kevin Webster moustache, tattoos and a pint of John Smith’s Magnet in his hand) sitting on the swing, shamelessly dealing BMX accessories to younger kids from a bulging Hinton’s carrier bag. I imagine Cleveland police are still trying to work out where he got them from, but all manner of grips, gyros, rims and pads were being sold at a frantic rate to a swelling crowd of jostling oiks. Many of whom, you suspect, were actually buying back their own mysteriously-vanished gear…   


He also demanded, in the terrifying charming-but-menacing manner beloved of the villains in Minder, a ride on my beloved Raleigh Chopper – a method of transport he seemed to find hilariously archaic. I didn’t really have much option but to agree, and – as he vanished out of the sight at the edge of the park – I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably never see it again. (In which case – YAY!!! MY PARENTS WOULD BUY ME A NEW BMX!!!!!*) Two minutes later, however, he reappeared, propped it neatly against a tree, said ‘Thanks, kid’ and carried on with his illicit trade. I’d like to think he recognised a kindred spirit and a potential protege in the scruffy-haired, 11-year-old Fischer, but with the benefit of hindsight it’s just far more likely that there was nothing whatsoever on my bike worth nicking.

(*Like f*** they would)

2. A sandy-haired boy called Ian, idly rocking back and forth on a swing with what looked like an entire packet of Bazooka bubble gum smeared across his chin. He had a wisecrack for every occasion, and a constant line of depraved innuendo that made me roar with laughter. Ten days later, I was utterly thrilled when he popped up in my form class at Conyers school, but more of that when the time comes…

Luckily, by the time we bumped into Ozzie (sporting crisp tennis whites and violently swishing a racket back and forth) at Yarm sports centre, his birthday present had been safely stashed at my house – although obviously not before a) we’d given it a thorough ‘testing’ on the girly white record player belonging to Doug’s sister Jen (including playing it at 45rpm and laughing at the Mickey Mouse voices) and b) I’d copied down the lyrics on the back for our future reference, an act that caused me no little consternation.

‘Bloody hell!’ I hissed to Doug, ‘This has got a line about “spunk” in it! That’s filthy, isn’t it?’

‘Yep,’ he nodded sagely. ‘But it also means, like, guts. A bit of fire in your belly’.

I looked at him with deep suspicion before rummaging around at the bottom of the sideboard and producing an ancient, leather-bound 1950s dictionary that my mother had clearly swiped from some teenage workplace or other. And, thumbing through to the ‘S’s, I was staggered to discover that Doug was right! ‘Spunk (n): Courage, mettle, plucky determination’.

My conscience was clear. Hilariously, the only other occasion on which I can remember using this dictionary was about a year later, when Doug dared me to look up the mysterious new word ‘masturbation’. (I know, and I’m sorry… that’s 12-year-olds for you) The definition that the dictionary provided has stayed with me to this day… ‘Bodily self-pollution’. I had no idea what on Earth this referred to, and assumed it meant smearing industrial bleach all over yourself. Hey, the 1950s must have been an amazingly fun time to be alive… 

(Two Tribes also contains the immortal line ‘Sock it to me biscuits’ which has baffled me for exactly 25 years now. Any committed Frankiephiles out there able to put me out of my misery?)

Anyway, if you want a return to clean, healthy, heartwarming 11-year-old fun, then I can reveal that the poster I drew for my Grandma was a gigantic ‘Welcome Home’ picture (made by sellotaping together several sheets of blank A4) after her two month-stint in Middlesbrough General Hospital undergoing repeated attempts to correct a malfunctioning hip replacement was finally coming to a close. Her hips were never quite right ever again, but it was lovely to have her back, and I’ve still no idea how she managed to suffer such agony and soul-destroying misery while still maintaining an impeccable air of dignity and good humour.

My Mum actually pointed out yesterday that my Gran would have been 100 years old last week, had she lived. To which my Dad, typically, rolled his eyes and said ‘Yes, and Napoelon bloody Bonaparte would have been 240’. I thought he was making this up on the spot for comic effect, but I’ve just checked and he’s right! Napoleon was born on August 15th 1769. You see, belligerantly offensive cynicism can be both fun AND educational…

Anyway, here’s a bit of Paddles Up just to finish off…



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I always thought the line in Two Tribes was about ‘soggy biscuits’ although I’m afraid I’d rather not expand upon that for the time being. More disturbing still is your photograph of Kevin Webster. To my scientific eye that does not look like a moustache on his face. The whole effect is of a man gradually being eaten alive by alien hair as it breaks through from whatever monstrous, hairy dimension has held it in check until now. I realise that this is scientifically impossible now but the strangest fears seemed all too real in the 1980s.

  bobfischer wrote @

There was nothing soggy about Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s biscuits. I know that Paul Rutherford in particular was renowned for his love of a stiff viscount.

You’re right about Kevin Webster, though. It’s amazing how many blokes looked like circa 1984. And a few women as well, if I recall correctly.

  Justin wrote @

At least one site has the line as “Somethin’ this good died” but whether or not the transcriber is mistaken or whether FGTH deliberately put wrong lyrics on the sleeve is a point for debate!

  bobfischer wrote @

I’ve just had a listen, and I’m sure it actually is ‘Sock it to me, Biscuits’. Put the whole phrase into Google and it brings up a few interesting results!

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