Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 242

Wednesday 29th August 1984

Woke up at 7.30 and got up at 8.00. At 8.45 we went to Yarm and got the coach to Blackpool. At 12.00 we stopped at the lakes and I got a pack of crisps and a Cornetto. Then we continued, and at 1.00 we got to Blackpool.

We went in the Doctor Who exhibition, and after a look round, I got a ‘Master’ poster. Then we went to the tower. I went in the ‘haunted crypt’, then we got the lift to the top. When we came down I went in ‘Jungle Jim’s’, then we went to the aquarium.

After that we came out and I went in the Doctor Who exhibition again. Then we had fish and chips in the Dr Who cafe. When we came out we went on the pier, then we went in the shops and got Doug a keyring.

Left Blackpool at 6.00 and at 8.00 we stopped at Kirkby Steven and I had a burger. We soon resumed our journey and at 10.00 we got home and I went to bed.

Yay, an excursion!

There was, of course, one reason and one reason alone why I’d spent the entire summer holiday gently persuading my Mum (‘pleeeeeeease’) to pay £20 for us both to spend eight hours on a stifling, stinky coach and a grand total of five hours in Blackpool. Put all thoughts of penny arcades and ‘Kiss-Me-Quick’ hats behind you… I was a Doctor Who fan, and Blackpool had a Doctor Who exhibition.

I knew about this because, at the end of virtually every Doctor Who episode throughout the early 1980s, a BBC continuity announcer with a voice like drizzled honey would gently remind us… ‘Don’t forget, there are permament Doctor Who exhibitions in Blackpool and Longleat House. And the Doctor Who theme music is available on this 7″ single, available at good record stores everywhere…’

And, presumably, a few crap ones as well. 

doctorwhosingle
The intention had been for Doug to accompany us to Blackpool for the day, despite the fact that he constantly referred to our destination as the ‘Doctor Who Expedition’, which made me feel as though we should be boarding the United coach sporting pith helmets and machetes (which actually isn’t a bad idea if you choose to visit Blackpool in 2009). But, at the last minute, he’d decided that he didn’t have the money (or, quite possibly, that he couldn’t face me jabbering excitedly about Cybermen and Time Lord technology for thirteen hours). So it was just me and my Mum that piled onto the coach in Yarm High Street as the chimes on the Town Hall cluck struck nine.

A few scattered, random memories about the journey…

1. Reading a story in the Daily Mirror about the the video for Spandau Ballet’s latest single ‘I’ll Fly For You’ causing controversy with its ‘steamy scenes’ of guitarist Gary Kemp ‘romping’ in the mud with a ‘sexy stunner’ model. Who also appears to be, erm, a leading courtroom barrister. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could sustain a decent muddy romp with the sound of Tony Hadley’s foghorn voice assaulting their senses, but the video is below if you’d like to make your own judgement…

2. Hearing Ray Parker Jnr’s ‘Ghostbusters’ single on the driver’s radio. The first time I’d ever heard the song, and I was utterly intrigued. 

I can’t remember whereabouts we stopped in the Lake District, but it looked like this…

blackpool1
Yep, the classic ‘first picture of a new film’ syndrome! And yes, that’s me, sporting a dashing satorial ensemble that comprises:

1. Frankie Goes To Hollywood mirror glasses
2. Happy Days-style denim jacket and white T-shirt combination
3. Nottingham Forest 1980/81 season away shorts, clearly far too small for me by this stage, almost to the point of indecency (Like lots of my friends, I had a bit of an early 80s soft spot for Forest, undoubtedly down to their European Cup heroics, but also because their manager Brian Clough was a Middlesbrough-born local hero)
4. Luminous green socks
5. Dunlop Green Flash trainers

Get behind the barriers, girls!!!

It was a chilly, slightly overcast day when we arrived in Blackpool, but I’ll never forget the feeling I got as I tripped down the coach steps and onto the gravel of the windswept parking lot. Without a hint of irony, I felt sheer, outright wonder and amazement. I just felt astonishing that me… LITTLE ME… could be HERE in Blackpool, an utterly alien place so far away from home.

If that sounds ridiculous then bear in mind that, prior to this day-long coach excursion, I’d never travelled any further from home than Scarborough, fifty miles away down the North-East coast. And the only sea I’d ever seen was the North Sea, so the shimmering, grey slab of its Irish counterpart, glistening in the distance between two weatherbeaten amusement arcades, seemed like the most exotic prospect imaginable.

We trotted down to the seafront and made a beeline for the Doctor Who Exhibition, which was a fabulously low-rent looking building on a street corner strewn with chip wrappers and lolly sticks. Here’s the picture I excitedly snapped as we approached from the opposite side of the road…

blackpool2
I love the fact that the first four Doctors had clearly been put on at the same time, but poor Peter Davison and Colin Baker had been added hurriedly at a later date. As I remember,  we entered the exhibition through the door of a full-sized police box, which I found so exciting that I actually felt slightly faint on the way in. It didn’t contain a dimensionally transcendental console room, though, just an elderly, miserably-looking woman handing out paper tickets from behind a metal grille. I suppose she might have been Chancellor Flavia of the High Council after a slightly disappointing regeneration…

There was, of course, a full-scale TARDIS console inside the exhibition. Surrounded by vaguely wonky-looking Sea Devils, Cybermen and Ice Warriors, all posed menacingly at slightly askew angles. I walked around with that curious, delicious mixture of impossible joy and very, very slight disappointment that makes Christmas Day such a special time of year. I was transfixed, however, by the portable TV in the exhibition shop, stuck on a B&B-style wall mount and showing – on a loop – Peter Davison’s regeneration into Colin Baker, from the end of The Caves of Androzani.

5thregen
In an age when our household had yet to acquire a video recorder, this was the first time I’d seen the sequence since it was first broadcast back in March, and I’d had papitations on the fireside rug. A two-minute piece of TV that I stood and watched, OVER AND OVER AND OVER, for at least twenty minutes. While my Mum no doubt rolled her eyes, tugged at my sleeve, and said ‘pleeeeeeeease’…

The ‘Master’ poster that I bought was exactly as it sounds… a laminated, A3 painting by Doctor Who artwork supremo Andrew Skilleter, showing Anthony Ainley’s Master standing on a kind of space-age patio, stretching away to the stars. I’m sure I still have it somewhere, but it’s a secret that the loft has yet to surrender. I’ll keep looking.  

Can anyone remember any other bits from the exhibition? There had to be more than this, surely…?

And I’m sorry Mum, but the rest of the day is even more of a haze. It was ALL about Doctor Who for me, and although I remember queuing at length to climb to the top of Blackpool Tower, that’s about it. I think there was a dark-haired girl in the queue ahead of us that I quite fancied (Fischer, you beast) until she opened her mouth and spoke in the broadest, most black-pudding-and-pancakes Lancashire accent imaginable. I think we walked through the main ballroom and saw a tantalising glimpse of the Mighty Wurlitzer. And I definitely took this picture from the observation platform at the top…

blackpool3
‘Jungle Jim’s’ was a kids’ play area consisting of climbable netting, ‘swamps’ filled with green plastic balls and life-sized cardboard cut-outs of monkeys. I had a perfunctory arse around in there, uncomfortably self-conscious of the fact that I was a good two or three years older than all the other kids who’d paid their money for (ahem) a romp in the mud. I can’t even remember going to the aquarium, but it probably spurred us on to get fish and chips.

And the pier, I’m pretty sure, was just us killing the final hour before we had to wend our way back to the coach park and come home…

blackpool5
Nice pictures, though. I love the way that we’d clearly, very optimistically, dressed for an incredibly hot and sunny day out, only to find Blackpool in typical ‘grey day in February’ mood. 

blackpool6

I slept on the coach all the way back, as is compulsory for all children on their way back from exciting day-trips out to the seaside. Although f*** knows how we managed to find a burger in Kirkby Stephen at 8pm on a Wednesday night in 1984, as – the last time I visited this sleepy Lakeland town in 2007 – its three tiny chip shops had all closed by 7.30pm on a Friday. Either Kirkby Stephen life was wild and untamed beyond our wildest imaginings 25 years ago, or I picked the burger out of a gutter. I was a horrible little oik, remember, so let’s not rule it out.

And then back home – tired, sleepy and probably slightly grumpy – to find my Dad dozing in front of Newsnight with the two dogs draped around the foot of his chair, and half a glass of cloudy, home-made wine resting on the fireside table.

I went to bed straight away, but laid awake until 2am gazingly longingly into Anthony Ainley’s eyes.

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3 Comments»

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Bleurgh I hate Blackpool. I’ve only been once and that was enough for me!

I seem to think I visited a castle at Kirby Steven (I did a lot of castle specific trips as I was a bit obsessed with them!).

  bobfischer wrote @

Kirkby Steven’s one of those places that people tend to pass through without ever really stopping. I got to know it really well when I was at University at Lancaster, as it’s kind of tricky to go from here to there without driving through it!

The last time I was there, on that chipless visit in 2007, there was an escaped parrot on the loose. It was swooping around the town and kept resting on the church spire making an absolutely amazing racket. I’ve got pictures somewhere.

I can’t imagine ever going back to Blackpool these days, although the Doctor Who exhibition has reopened, hasn’t it? Does anyone know if it’s in the same place as the old one?

  Doctor Giles Parcel wrote @

No visit to Blackpool is complete without going inside Bugworld. One is not even required to be a Fellow of the Royal Society of Entomologists to gain access to it. It is beyond rubbish.


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