Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 236

Thursday 23rd August 1984

Woke up at 8.30 and got up at 9.00. We went to Stockton, and after getting some wine, I went to Smiths. Then we went to Dickens and at 11.00 we came home. I went to Doug’s and we went back to my house and had dinner.

After that we walked the dogs round the field and Tina ran off! Fortunately she only went home so we came back and went down the mud track. At 5.00 we both went home, and when I got back I had tea.

At 5.15 I watched Survival, then I played out till 7.30, when I watched Top of the pops. At 8.00 I watched Taxi, and at 8.30 I watched The paras. Went to bed at 9.00.


Tina was, of course, my Gran’s dog. From the same litter as our faithful family hound Poggy Doggy, she was farmed out to my Gran in the summer of 1979 and had lived happily over at her Acklam bungalow ever since… until the summer of 1984, when my 75-year-old Gran spent almost two months in hospital undergoing a series of excruciating hip operations, and Tina (or ‘Poggles Ponsonby’ as she’d been christened by insanely bored Dad) came to stay with us as a ‘temporary measure’. Needless to say, she never went back.

Here she is circa 1980, having fun around an uber-1970s paddling pool in my Gran’s back garden…

She was a weird, bad-tempered, snappy little beast, but I loved her to bits… almost BECAUSE of her foul-natured temperament. From Tom Waits to Avon in Blake’s 7, I’ve always had an undying affection for society’s grumpy outsiders. I think I got it from putting up with my Dad for so many years.

Anyway, I remember this day with alarming clarity. Doug and I were happily talking filth, pop music and Doctor Who on the far side of the farmers’ field outside my house… probably about a mile away from the garden gate, with the top of our chimney pots just about visible through a haze of rustling treetops and swimmy heat. Poggy Doggy was happily ambling around our feet, but Tina – for no discernable reason – suddenly raised herself off the ground like a Harrier Jump Jet and shot across the field like a hairy Exocet missile.

I’ve no idea what she’d seen, but I’ve never seen a dog move so bloody fast in my life. I swear she gave off a sonic boom as she passed the copse 100 yards away at the edge of the field. Within seconds she’d disappeared from view, and Doug and I gave shambling, ineffective chase, with Poggy Doggy now yapping excitedly around our feet, delighted at the new game we’d invented for him.

Maybe it’s the heightened tension that has made this fairly mundane sequence of events so clear in my mind, but writing about this incident now makes it feel incredibly recent. It’s strange… lots of the 1984 stuff that I write about feels like several lifetimes ago when I drag it from the back of my mind for this blog, but this day feels utterly fresh and vivid and… ‘now’. My house was at the intersection of two busy main roads, and as we gasped and panted our way across the field, I suffered terrifying, fevered visions of finding my Gran’s beloved pooch dying in the gutter of the A67 to Crathorne, having been clobbered by a family saloon heading for the A19 turn-off to Thirsk.

1_Mirror Shades
‘TINA’S GONE MISSING!!!!!!’ I gasped to my Mum as we lumbered to the garden gate. She was faffing around with some rose bushes around the side of the compost bin. (You’ll also notice that my confession was carefully phrased to avoid any admission of guilt on our part… I could have said ‘We’ve lost Tina!!!’ but oh, no… I was a wily little sod)

‘No she hasn’t, she’s in the kitchen,’ said my Mum. ‘She turned up at the back door five minutes ago. No thanks to you two dozy buggers…’
The relief washed over me in waves. Doug and I collapsed into each others arms, gave each other a breathless high-five (we’d seen this on The Red Hang Gang) and then promptly forgot about the whole thing and went down to the mud track to resume our important conversation about Debbie Jarvis’ knickers.

By the way, Tina had a bit of ‘form’ when it came to running off. Sometime in late 1980, my Gran had opened the front door to the postman, and her clearly insane collie had pulled exactly the same stunt, pelting away at the speed of a Lamborghini Countach in the direction of Acklam shops. Despite the entire family combing the estate for the remainder of the day, she was nowhere to be seen… and ‘Lost Dog’ adverts were placed – without much hope – in the classified section of the Evening Gazette and on a nice little public service bit of BBC Radio Cleveland. A week went by, and we’d pretty much resigned ourselves to never seeing the poor mutt again, at which point the phone rang out of the blue halfway through a Friday night repeat of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.

‘We’ve got your dog,’ said a gruff voice at the other end, and it transpired the beady-eyed, snappy hound had turned up half a mile away in some poor family’s garden, looking decidedly untroubled by her week sleeping rough on the mean streets of Acklam. True to form, she tried to take my Dad’s hand off when he turned up to collect her.

My Mum phoned the Gazette to cancel the classified advert, and was slightly bemused, the following day, to discover a tiny ‘COLLIE FOUND’ news story being run at the bottom of Page 5, with herself quoted as offering the pity soundbite ‘We were all very relieved’.

‘I never said that,’ she complained, rustling the paper haughtily in front of The Generation Game. ‘I just told them to cancel the advert and asked if there was a chance of getting my £1.65 refunded’. 

These days, Max Clifford would have been on us like a rat up a drainpipe.  

Anyway, here’s this day’s Top of the Pops, as genially hosted by Radio 1’s very own Burke and Hare combination Mike Read and Tommy Vance…  

• Alphaville – Big In Japan [Performance]
• Break Machine – Are You Ready [Performance]
• Elton John – Passengers [Promo Video]
• George Michael – Careless Whisper [Performance]
• Miami Sound Machine – Dr Beat [Performance]
• Rod Stewart – Some Guys Have All The Luck [Promo Video]
• Spandau Ballet – I’ll Fly For You [Performance]
• Tracey Ullman – Sunglasses [Promo Video]

Miami Sound Machine’s Dr Beat was a bit of a favourite at the time, and never fails to evoke bitter-sweet memories of my first days at Conyers School, now barely a week away. I think I spent the entire Spandau Ballet performance putting my fingers down my throat, though – especially as it came hot on the heels of Careless Whisper and Rod Bleedin’ Stewart. There’s only so much overwrought big-production 1980s balladeering that any self-respecting 11-year-old can take (none).

Great to see a mention for Taxi, as well. A fine, poignant little sitcom now seemingly only ever mentioned in connection with the legendary Andy Kaufman (who is, admittedly, really funny in it). But it also has great performances from a pre-Hollywood Danny DeVito and Christopher ‘Back To The Future’ Lloyd, as well as the mighty Judd Hirsch holding it all together with great, hangdog fortitude.

It was a favourite of my Dad’s, who was doubtless drawn to its slick, Neil Simon-esque dialogue and slightly desperate, melancholy air. Certainly every episode seemed to be set in a lonely depot in the early hours of the morning, and it also boasted arguably THE most poignant and evocative sitcom theme of all time…

A sequence that never fails to take me back to nights in the front room in the early 1980s, with my freshly-bathed Dad smelling of Shield soap and clean laundry, and a log fire roaring in the grate as I stretched out on the ‘big cushion’ in front of the telly and pulled Poggy Doggy down to the floor.

‘Night, Mr Walters!’



  Chris Orton wrote @

“There’s so much more at your Dickens store…

  bobfischer wrote @

Was that the version George Melly sang? Some would say it’s his finest work…

  PJE_UK wrote @

The Melly version went something like

Folks wonder how the dickens Dickens do it
But they do it ( girls harmony vocals)
Dickens Home Improvement Hypermarket
Da Dah Da !

Cue crane shot pulling out from a pirouetting Melly with arms outstretched at the Checkouts.

With another Bank Holiday approaching my thoughts always turn to trips to Dickens which were a Holiday Monday staple of the Edwards family circa 1984

  Sue Barew wrote @

It sounds a lot better than most of what was on Top Of The Pops that week.
Passengers by Elton John is possibly the most irritating single of the 1980s, which is no small feat when you think about how much very stiff competition there is for that particular honour.

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks Mr E… and yes, 1980s Bank Holidays only had the edge on regular Sundays in the teeth-grinding boredom stakes because there was the possibility of being dragged out to a DIY hypermarket for the afternoon. Where WAS Dickens? I can’t even remember. Which is bizarre and worrying, as I must have gone there dozens of time a year throughout my childhood.

I quite like Passengers, but after 25 years I’m still utterly baffled as to what it’s actually about. Deny the passangers who want to get on? What? No wonder the 1980s bus industry was on the verge of de-regulation.

No WAY was it the most irritating single of the 1980s, though. It was in the charts at the SAME TIME as Black Bloody Lace’s ‘Agadoo’, for crying out loud… 🙂

  PJE_UK wrote @

Can’t believe you don’t remember Dickens was down Portrack Lane. Opposite the “Big Asdas” as my Mam used to call it.

Apparently they sold out to B&Q when they parked their corporate tanks on the homespun Dickens lawn in the mid-90’s and poached a load of staff (my cousin been one of them).

Probably about the same time we ousted Dickens with Cellnet as our shirt sponsors.

  bobfischer wrote @

It’s weird, many of the places I went to by car during my childhood are a bit of a blank, location-wise… especially if I wasn’t particularly interested in going there. So for trips to Dickens, I’d be bundled into the car by my parents, then just drift off into my own little world during the journey. Then I’d trail around the shop for half an hour and do the same on the way back.

It was a dead boring place, full of dead boring adult stuff, so I just switched off… no need to memorise where it was, as it would just take up valuable space in my mind. Space that could otherwise be used for Doctor Who production details and Frankie Goes To Hollywood lyrics.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Oooooh I love Big in Japan and dr Beat!
Nothing else of note to add ;p

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