Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 245

Saturday 1st September 1984


Woke up at 8.45 and got up at 9.15. At 9.30 I watched Fraggle Rock, then I rang Doug. He came down, then at 11.20 we watched Mr T. At 11.50 we watched Batman, then we had dinner. After that we went to the BMX track and did some stunts, and at 1.30 we came back and I put my strip on.

At 2.00 we went to Doug’s then we picked up Nats and went to Ozzie’s birthday party at Thornaby pavilion. We played 5-a-side football but lost 12-6, then we had tea.

I came home at 5.00, and at 5.35 I watched Blockbusters. At 6.05 I watched The A Team, and at 7.00 I watched Punchlines. At 7.30 I watched Bottle boys, and at 8.00 I watched Paul Daniels. Went to bed at 8.40.

I’d like to point out, before we get cracking with the full unexpurgated dissection of the day’s activities, one important salient point…


There, just putting things into context. It was the first time I’d ever seen Fraggle Rock (in fact, I think it might even have been the first episode to be shown on British TV?) and as such I’d never previously known the torment of its more-addictive-than-crack-cocaine theme music. It was lovely to see my old Porridge favourite Fulton MacKay manning the lighthouse, and I instantly fell in love with his muppety dog Sprocket, but… ngggh… arrgh… stoppit…. hnnnghhh….

Not even the mighty Mr T (an animated cartoon version, not the real deal himself – everybody who was anybody in the 1970s and 80s had a cartoon doppelganger. I think I was 14 before I discovered that the Harlem Globetrotters were actually REAL PEOPLE) could blast it out of my mind, sucka. And even Adam West’s Kapows and Ka-BLOOEYs failed to dislodge ‘Let the music play (clap clap’) from my pounding cranium.


Anyway, Happy birthday Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald… 11 years old back then, and 36 years old today. Here he is, looking more than ready to tuck into a Fighting Fantasy cake with a tasty, icing sugar Zanbar Bone on the top…

For any healthy, strapping Teesside lad with a pre-teen birthday in the 1980s, there was really only one way to celebrate. Thornaby Pavilion was (and still is) a classic 1960s leisure centre… squash courts, badminton courts, fitness classes and Mad Lizzie-approved aerobic sessions, that kind of thing. But it also played host to a sensational indoor five-a-side football court, and – at least once a year – a dozen of us hapless oiks in assorted gaudy away kits would storm the squeaky polished floor to unleash our silky ‘skills’ in Thornaby’s Theatre of Dreams. 

Ozzie’s 11th birthday was the last time I did this though, so I’ll have to  dredge up a few vague memories of the place…

1. There were two five-a-side courts were seperated by a flimsy, green plastic curtain hanging from one of the highest ceilings I’d ever seen (and I’d been to York Minster, for crying out loud). It was never quite thick enough to disguise the sound of anguished swearing from the moustachieod thirtysomethings on the adjacent court (‘Beggsy!!! F***ing knock it, you f***ing tw**!!!!’), or to prevent sliced clearances from Doug, Stan, Ozzie, Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones and I from pinging underneath the curtain and spinning wildly across their penalty area. (‘F*** me!!!’)  

(Incidentally, it’s taken me all day to work out that ‘Nats’ is our old friend Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry. I was clearly enjoying another irritating phase of backwards talk. Or ‘sdrawkcab klat’, as I’d no doubt have called it)

2. There was an upper level of seating that looked down onto the courts, and Ozzie’s Mum and two sisters – bless them – watched the entire hour of our match from ‘The Gods’, gamely cheering on every botched pass and frantic goalmouth scramble.  As I’ve pointed out before, I was utterly useless at football… and also suffered the curse of being completely unaware of this. So I’d constantly blame anyone else within six yards for the impressive parade of sliced, fresh-air shots and butterfingered goalkeeping fumbles that I brought to the side. I’d have made a great Brazilian international.

The pavilion also had a few little melamine-panelled function rooms for post-match children’s parties, so afterwards we all slouched upstairs to one of these, where no doubt a flotilla of sausages, chips, beans and birthday cake were floated on a trough of fizzy pop on the table front of us. Every adult in the room make a concerted attempt to engage us in sensible conversaion (‘Are you all ready for Conyers, then? When do you start, Tuesday?’) but, naturally, they were fighting against an overpowering racket of adrenaline, excitement and brightly-coloured E Numbers.

My one abiding memory of this was responding to one of Doug’s wisecracks by giving him a very modern, US-style ‘finger’, as opposed to the traditional two-fingered British ‘V Sign’ much beloved of Harvey Smith and Vyvyan from The Young Ones.  The first time I’d ever done this, I think, and I chose my moment unwisely because – as I recall – one of my Ozzie’s parents’ friends was a genial American gentlemen, who gave me the most withering, disapproving look imaginable.

I think I spent the rest of the party turning beetroot-red underneath the table. It might just have been the carotenoids in the orange squash, though. Regardless, thanks to all the Oswalds for a cracking day out! (And yes, we all wistfully bade farewell to each other with a heartfelt, slightly surreal-sounding ‘see you at Conyers…’)

I was knackered afterwards, of course, and dozed a bit through the evening’s TV, even though both BBC1 and ITV had clearly launched their Autumn schedules on this very evening. Was Blockbusters always shown on a Saturday? My memories are exclusively of watching it on weekday afternoons, usually shortly after arriving home from school at 3.45pm-ish. It’s forever associated in my mind with a Return Of The Jedi stickerbook that I was in the midst of completing when I first discovered the show in the Spring of 1983…

And Bottle Boys! Now seemingly widely regarded as something of a low point for the British sitcom, but I thought it was really funny at the time. I’d actually quite like to see it again on DVD, just for curiosity’s sake. Starring Robin ‘Confessions’ Askwith as (get this!) a cheeky milkman, the only clip I can find anywhere is this, from one  of those endless Channel 4 ‘100 Best/Worst’ rundowns…

I defy anyone not a stifle a cheeky giggle watching the above clip. Go on, be honest. Admit it. Just a little, erm, titter.

And nice to see Paul Daniels bestriding the BBC1 schedule like a colossus! I loved his Saturday night magic shows, which now seem like a glorious reminder of a long-lost era of Light Entertainment. Plus, he boasted a theme tune only slightly less mind-blowingly addictive than that of Fraggle Rock…

Just seeing that now reminds of me of beautiful, autumnal Saturday evenings… stretched out across the front room sofa with an almond slice in my hand, a conker in my jeans pocket, and the log fire roaring in the grate. Trying (and failing) to spot the dodgy dealing in the Bunco Booth (‘HEADS I WIN, TAILS YOU LOSE’), and marvelling at the terrifying genius of Hans Moretti, a man whose legacy still lives on in Teesside. Yes, whenever a bald man with a moustache enters our local pub, you can guarantee at least one member of our group will shout ‘Bloody hell, it’s Hans Moretti!!!!’ just a little bit TOO enthusiastically…

I always loved Paul Daniels’ quick-smart patter and great, inventive tricks, and was delighted when he agreed to come on my radio show a couple of years back. My co-presenter Shack still occasionally smiles cheekily and asks ‘Remember when Paul Daniels told us how to kill a man?’ and indeed he did… well, sort of. We had a great chat about his army service, and the best bayonet techniques (in… twist… out… and clean) to use during foreign combat. But he was utterly charming, and funny, and made me go all gooey inside. So if this ever gets back to the man himself… hello! And thankyou.

In retrospect, I definitely preferred his show to The A-Team. Not a lot, but…



  Chris Byers wrote @

Didn’t Ozzie jump a year? I think I am right in saying that as his birthday was in September he should have been in the year behind us. But I seam to remember him being given permission to join our year as he only missed out by a day.

I can only remember Blockbusters going out on weekdays, I don’t remember it being on at the weekend. Didn’t Ozzie appear on Blockbusters though? I am shore he did.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yep, he did – an August 31st birthday was the cut-off point for being in a school year, but he came to our school year in (I think) our last year at Levendale, and ended up being roped in with us lot. Can’t really remember why it happened, although he was the only person in the school capabale of working an Acorn Electron, so that might have played a part…

And yes, he did Blockbusters! I’d forgotten that. We were all in sixth form at the time… I think he even managed three Gold Runs by himself. Before that, he also did a Children’s BBC quiz called ‘First Class’ presented by former Miss Great Britain, Debbie Greenwood. A mixture of general knowledge and computer gaming skills, I think! This would have been around 1985/6.

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