Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 260

Sunday 16th September 1984

Woke up at 9.00 and got up at 10.30. I had some cheese on toast, then I took the stones out of the plumbs for the plumb pie. At 12.00 I had dinner, then I did four model animals for DT homework.

Then there was a newsflash announcing that the royal baby was to be called… PRINCE HARRY!!!

At 4.30 I had tea, then I went upstairs and recorded some songs from the charts (Agadoo, Ghostbusters etc) Then I went down at 7.15 and watched the film of Are you being served?

At 8.45 I had a shower, then I came down and did two more model animals. Went to bed at 9.30.

Cheese on toast for breakfast? That’s the kind of wanton hedonism that Led Zeppelin would be proud of. Although it’s possible I did it just to offer temporary respite from the otherwise permanent taste of plum(b)s that had taken up residence in my gaping maw for the last eight days.

Yes, the plum tree belonging to Mr and Mrs Cogan next door had borne a sumptuous Autumnal harvest, and my mate Doug and I had filled our boots. Along with our bags, buckets, pockets and anything else we could find. Plums were EVERYWHERE in our house – tumbling out of every cupboard, and making my Mum’s fridge look like it had the worst case of hemorrhoids you’d ever seen in your life.

We’d eaten plum pies, plum crumbles, plum lollies and my own special ‘Plum Surprise’ (wait for it… wait for it… wait for it… yes, there’s nothing else in it but plums). And I think today’s further instalment was one last attempt to clear the backlog before chucking the lot on the compost pile at the bottom of the garden.

My Mum was (and is) sensational at making pies. We picked a lot of our own fruit in those days, and the drifting mists of September were always livened up by a succession of glorious bramble pies, steaming gently on the coffee table and ready to be deluged in a flood of Carnation evaporated milk.

carnation milk
(Incidentally, a little diversion here… my other half, the divine Sorcha, constantly admonishes me for referring to the humble blackberry as a ‘bramble’. As in the fruit ITSELF – I’ll happily talk about eating brambles on my way around the dog-walking fields. The ‘bramble’, she insists, is merely the spiky stem on which the blackberry grows, and the fruit itself should never be called anything else but a ‘blackberry’. I appreciate that I’m from Middlesbrough and she’s from Cornwall, so there are strange multi-cultural forces at work here, but can we have a fair, democratic and open-minded readers’ poll to convince her one and for all that she’s F***ING WRONG??!?!??)  

Anyway, I love the fact that I spent much of the day making model animals for Mr Hendry’s CDT class (after all, ‘the subject’s not called DT… there’s no design or technology without craft, lad…’) and only slightly amazed that I have no recollection of this whatsoever. I do remember moulding gruesome little alien figures out of mushed-up toilet paper at one point in my childhood (and letting them dry by the open fire before painting their skins green… not sure why I didn’t just use green toilet paper to begin with, maybe I thought that was unsporting) but I’m sure that was a couple of years earlier.

Oddly enough I do remember the ‘Prince Harry’ newsflash as, once I’d got over the usual 10-second dread that a nuclear war had started and stopped painting myself white to deflect the blast, I rolled around the floor laughing hysterically. ‘PRINCE HARRY?!?!? Were they MAD?!?!? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! What’s the next one going to be called, Prince Glenn? Princess Tracey?’ As far as I was concerned, ‘Harry’ was a name that belonged to elderly members of my Dad’s building trade, blokes who wore flat caps at jaunty angles and spoke out of their sides of their mouths with a fizzling woodbine jutting out from the other side.

I can’t remember if we’ve done this before, but the art of the side-mouth talker has virtually died out, hasn’t it? In the 1970s, these stoic old men were everywhere, and if you stood on the wrong side of them then their inevitable pearls of wisdom became virtually inaudible. Genuine question – did the side-mouth talker arise from widespread pipe-smoking in the 1930s and 40s? Speaking from one side of the mouth with a bowl full of rough shag (stop it) balanced in the other? Or is there a more evolutionary explanation?


Anyway, the announcement of Prince Harry’s name was quickly followed by a procession of ruddy-faced ‘Royal Correspondants’ marching onto the TV screens to genially explain to us peasants that ‘Harry is, of course, merely the shortened form of Henry, a name with a longstanding royal tradition…’ which kind of took the fun out of things a little bit. The laughter was only restored to our humdrum lives twenty years later when he started fighting outside nightclubs and dressing up in Nazi uniforms.

And what an evening of splendid high culture! Ghostbusters, Agadoo and Are You Being Served – The Movie. Brian Sewell, eat your heart out. I can’t offer much of a defence for Agadoo, but Ghostbusters remains a cracking tune, and Are You Being Served contains a scene involving John Inman, a pair of red swimming trunks and a set of novelty chattering teeth that still has the power to reduce me to tears.  

‘It’s the first time one’s bit me!’



  Chris Orton wrote @

Well, I’ve always referred to them as ‘blackberries’, as a blackberry is the fruit of a bramble plant. I was somewhat perturbed to find recently that a blackberry ISN’T actually a berry. It’s an ‘aggregate fruit’. A berry is a fruit that is composed of a single ovary, so a grape or a tomato is a berry but a blackberry or raspberry isn’t. Apropos of nothing, a banana is the fruit of a herb. It’s all a bit mad. All of the received wisdom is being torn asunder here.

Prince Harry – if Harry is the shortened form of Henry, then why do they have the same number of letter in them? Like Jack being the shortened form of John. I’m confused. Again.

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Originating from Brighton and spending my teens in Nottingham, it has always been blackberries in my world.

When I first met my wife ( York born and bred), she referred to the pastime of brambling!
I thought she was after some serious sado-masochistic action involving thorny spikes!

Alas……… she was just after walking along the hedgerows picking blackberries, or `aggregate fruits` as they are commonly known.

Is that 2-0 to Sorcha then?

  Doctor Giles Parcel wrote @

Bramble jelly is made from the fruit and not from the stalk.

  Thing wrote @

There’d been a Prince Harry in The Black Adder series only the year before, played by sometime Dave Allen support actor, Robert East. He was always going on about the drains, and being generally the popular and upstanding elder brother whom Edmund resented. Given that Prince Charles is on record as being a fan of Blackadder, I wonder if he named him after the character?

  bobfischer wrote @

Bramble traitors, the lot of you. At least Dr Parcel has stayed loyal.

Thing, I’d love to think that Prince Charles named his second son after a character in Blackadder. Although naturally if he was a PROPER fan then we’d have been reading gleefully about the nightclub exploits of Prince Baldrick for the last few years.

  Justin wrote @

Wikipedia sides against you too, Bob:

Brambles are thorny plants of the genus Rubus, in the rose family (Rosaceae).

Though for fun it adds

Bramble fruit is the fruit of any such plant, including the blackberry and raspberry.

So it’s not necessarily blackberrys on a bramble… life can be so complicated!

  Chris Byers wrote @

I happened to make the mistake of raising this rather thorny issue with my work colleges today, which led to much debate. However you will no doubt be glad hear that I was out voted in my own view of blackberries, in favour of brambles.

  bobfischer wrote @

I had no idea this was going to be so complicated. Can we go back to the pikelets vs crumpets debate? With the benefit of hindsight, that now seems like a doddle.

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