Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 247

Monday 3rd September

LAST DAY OF THE HOLIDAYS

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.00. I scraped the stickers off my door till 11.00, when I had dinner. At 12.00 we went to Middlesbrough and I got a Sports bag, a book called Prince Caspian and an exercise book.

When we got back I read Prince Caspian and at 4.30 I rang Doug but he was out. At 5.00 we had tea and at 5.45 we took Poggy Doggy to the vets about his ear.

When we got back I washed my hair and had it cut, then I had a shower. At 9.10 I watched Alas Smith and Jones, and at 9.40 I went to bed.

Aw, what an amazing fin-de-siecle moment! The stickers on my bedroom door were a collection of suspiciously unofficial-looking Star Wars illustrations that I’d bought from a backstreet gift shop during a day-trip to Scarborough with my Mum and Gran in the Summer of 1979. The same excursion, in fact, that saw me posing on the seafront with one of the least-convincing Lords of the Sith you’re ever likely to find in a North Yorkshire holiday resort…

darthscarborough
I swear his Jedi armour is made from the upholstery of a clapped-out Ford Cortina.

So the stickers (together with an luridly pink Fifth Doctor sticker given away with Doctor Who Monthly in 1982, and a few assorted Weetabix skinheads – OI!) had been stuck to the outside of my bedroom door since I was six years old, but now – on my last day of freedom before starting secondary school – I decided I was too old for all that nonsense, and took a wallpaper scraper to them. Within half an hour they were reduced to a pile of mushy, plastic tatters on the landing carpet, and my door looked like it had been attacked by a flamethrower. We tried cleaning it up, but it resolutely stayed like that until my parents sold the house in the Spring of 2000.

Still, as one (knackered) door closes, another one opens…  the ‘Sports bag’ I bought in Middlesbrough was a classic Puma affair, a dark blue plastic holdall with a dynamic silver stripe. I used it throughout pretty much the rest of my school career, until the cardboard floor on the bottom was stained dark blue by a thousand leaky pens, and the act of opening the zip even a fraction of an inch released an overpowering stench of stale, muddy PE kit that often threatened to deprive you of your eyebrows.

pumabag2

Although a school locker was provided, I carried all of my school books around in this bag forever, with my PE kit loosely tied up in a Presto carrier bag and shoved in there as well. Occasionally a maverick rugby sock would work free and contaminate the rest of the bag’s contents, and I think I still have a Second Year Geography project about Oxbow Lakes that looks as though it was written at the bottom of one.

Prince Caspian is, of course, one of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and – having conducted a torrid affair with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe back in January 1984 (see this entry, which itself feels like ancient history now!) – I’d long since been itching to read the follow-up. And then just itching in general, like the nasty little oik I was.

princecaspianPrince Caspian is very much in the same breathless, wonder-filled spirit as the rest of the series, but – as I lay on my yellow bedspread, occasionally flicking a guilty glance up at the battle-damaged remains of my bedroom door – something felt very different. When I’d read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on a snowy night back in January, I was very much the same boy that I’d been throughout my mad, freewheeling childhood… shy,  innocent, curious, and prepared to have his imagination taken to any strange, magical corner of the universe… or beyond. Narnia beckoned to me that night, and I KNEW full well that if I opened the wardrobe in my Gran’s spare room, I’d soon feel the tickle of fir trees against my face, and the crunching of freshly-lain snow beneath my slippers.

Not any more, though. Eight months on, and I really HAD changed… I’d left Levendale Primary School, been through three terrifying sex education films, seen my Gran hospitalized for the best part of two months, and spent the entire summer zooming around Yarm (and beyond) with my best mate Doug… meeting new kids, making new friends, doing new stuff and BEING a different person. I distinctly remember lying on my bed that night, with the book propped open on the white plastic table next to me, feeling as though my childhood was slowly grinding to a halt – and something even more exciting was about to take its place.

rickyStill, snap out of it, Fischer! It’s time to take Poggy Doggy to the vet. This was the beginning of a very long-running saga that, erm, dogged our beloved pet for the rest of his rather long life. He’d spent the previous few weeks frantically scratching his ears and eyes, and – assuming he had some sort of allergic condition – we dutifully marched him to Whimpster’s Veterinary Surgery in the little cobbled market town of Stokesley. 

Mr Whimpster – a gentle, genial man with an impressive quiff – disagreed, and diagnosed an infection that had begun in his ears, but quickly spread to his eyes as well. It didn’t concern any of us too much at the time, but the battle to solve poor Poggy’s raging skin problems would actually continue over the next couple of years. We tried all manner of antibiotics, eye cream, ear drops, courses of steroids that made him ravenous for Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells and – painfully – even the traditional waste paper bin, hollowed out and strapped around his neck to prevent the poor, tormented hound from scratching his eyes against the carpet until they bled.

cherrybakewellEventually, towards the end of 1986, the condition completely vanished, and Poggy Doggy lived a full and happy life until the Spring of 1992 – when he finally shuffled off his mortal coil a week short of his 13th birthday. I was in my first year at University at the time, and took a tearful call from my Mum on the communal phone in the Halls of Residence kitchen. Nineteen years old, I sat on the kitchen worktop and cried buckets into the receiver while, ten feet away, a Greek bloke called Lik threw a collection of slimy tentacles into a sizzling, hubcap-sized wok. 

The condition didn’t seem to have any long-term effects on Poggy at all, apart from the fact that – for the rest of his life – he had no hair whatsoever within a half-inch radius of both eyes. He spent the rest of his days looking like a slightly startled panda, and we loved him to bits for it. God bless you, Poggy Doggy. I still sometimes dream about you.

oldpoggydoggyAnd then that was it – the end of my childhood, and the night before the beginning of the great new school adventure. My hair was washed (in the bathroom sink) and cut (by my Mum in front of the telly), my first-ever school uniform was laid out neatly on the bedroom chair, and I went to bed knowing full well that my life would never be the same again.

I can’t even begin to describe the whirling maelstrom of nerves, excitement and downright terror that was spinning through my head at 9.40pm, exactly 25 years ago today. Nothing that I knew would ever be the same again, and – to my utter desolation –  I’d been unable to track down Doug for one final fling of mad, bike-riding summer holiday fun before we threw ourselves, helplessly, into the madness of the adult world. 

He’d be round first thing in the morning, though. I knew he would. We’d been talking about it for months.

See you at Conyers.

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3 Comments»

  Chris Orton wrote @

Is ‘Darth Vader’ wearing a t-shirt there?! Can you imagine if Dave Prowse had worn one when he actually played the part in the films?

I used to have a very similar Puma bag to that one, but I never really took to it as the late-80’s ubiquitous PVC Head bag was just around the corner and everybody wanted one of those. They were great as they has a detachable end section that you could carry around independently of the main bag. I had a couple of those, before later moving on to the backpack. The Puma bag went under my bed I think, and I seem to remember that I filled it with beermats. Yes, you read that right. I went through a faze of collecting beer mats. I had hundreds of the things and even today I have no idea why I ever bothered.

I can’t wait to find out what happens tomorrow! 21 years ago I was about to go though the same process twenty miles north of you Bob!

  Justin wrote @

Ah, the Head bag with the detatchable section… yep, I got one of those in about 1984 I think… and the detatchable bit was in use as my ‘washbag’ until about 2 years ago… over 20 years of use!

  bobfischer wrote @

It’s me in the T-shirt. Darth Vader is on the right. I should probably have made that clearer.

Yegods, I collected beermats as well. It started as a very drunken ‘how many beermats can we sneak out of this pub’ escapade in 1992, and escalated into a full-blown collection. I had them Blu-tacked all over my bedroom wall for years. I was 20, for crying out loud. I got really competitive about it, and used to desperately steer our nights out to new pubs, on the off chance they’d have some hitherto unseen beermats.

I finally saw sense in 1997 and just chucked them all out without batting an eyelid. Weird.


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