Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 273

Saturday 29th September 1984

Woke up at 10.20 and watched Saturday Superstore for a while, then I played Patiencte. Then I watched Lenny Henry, Shakin’ Stevens and Nipper the dog (to name three) do the Pop panel on Saturday Superstore.

That finished at 12.15, and then I mucked on till dinner at 12.30. After dinner I went out and played football, and when I came in I went upstairs and put all my papers into a file.

At 4.00 We went to Grandma’s (I carried the fish) and after a glass of sherry I had tea. At 5.10 I watched The Tripods, and at 5.45 I watched The Late Late Breakfast Show. Then I climbed The Tree, and at 6.30 we came home (On the way dad found some skirting board and I got an Eagle)

At 7.00 I watched Punchlines and at 7.30 I watched Bottle Boys. At 8.00 I watched Paul Daniels and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Saturday Superstore! The slightly knocked-off replacement for Swap Shop, with Mike Read replacing L’il Noel and a dubious department store theme shoehorned into proceedings (‘And now I think Sarah is over in the Menswear department… Sarah? SARAH???!?’) The show had debuted on Saturday 2nd October 1982, and – after the first edition – my Mum had offered the very perceptive criticism ‘Hmmm, it’s a bit BITTY, isn’t it?’

Thankfully by 1984 most of the more contrived shop elements had been discreetly brushed under the studio carpet (probably by John Craven in a headscarf and pinny) and the show was great fun. Legendary highlights that EVERYONE remembers…

1. Matt Bianco being called ‘a bunch of wankers’ by a live phone-in caller, much to their apparent amusement

2. The Flying Pickets offering, as a competition prize, a tea-towel decorated with the face of Karl Marx

3. Anthony Ainley calling the show live, in character as The Master, and – basically – offering Colin Baker out for a scrap. Sievehead the Robot looked decidedly troubled…

3. Margaret Thatcher being repeatedly asked ‘Where will you be if nuclear war breaks out?’ by a tiny girl, before  slinking off to the Pop Panel and pretty much demolishing the burgeoning career of Manchester indie-pop combo Thrashing Doves by expressing a liking for the below video…

I seem to remember David Icke being part of the early line-up as well, already wearing suspiciously turquoise Pringle sweaters and casting sideways ‘Is he or isn’t he a lizard man?’ glances at Keith Chegwin. Nowadays, of course, all of this deliciously inspired barminess has been expunged by the forces of TV cookery, and so my current Saturday morning routines are soundtracked by fat, plummy-voiced pillocks fiddling around with ‘Gratinated Scallops’ and doing obscene things to lobsters.

Oh they would be, if I didn’t stick two fingers up at the screen before switching off and finding something more entertaining to do. Like defragging my hard drive, or putting cigarettes out on my arms.


I’ve vague memories of Nipper, the HMV dog, being coerced to pass judgement on the latest pop videos alongside Shaky and Lenny Henry, and it makes me pine for a lost, golden age of Saturday morning childrens’ TV, before the BBC seemingly decided that kids weren’t really worth bothering about, and all of those cruddy pop videos and cartoons were better off stuck on some remote, desolate outpost of a digital channel rather than clogging up the regular schedules. Still, I’m sure that in 30 years time, a generation of media twats in early middle age will be getting all misty-eyed about the day, in their dim and distant childhoods, that James Martin made an olive oil mash and paired it up with a nice Baglio Rosso.

Anyway….! Needless to say, my memories of Saturday Superstore are lovely, and hugely evocative of long, lazy weekend mornings spent fiddling around with Doctor Who magazines in front of the telly while my Mum unpacked the shopping from Presto and my Dad did strange things beneath the bonnets of cars and waited for Football Focus to start. At which point, I would vanish upstairs and ‘put all my papers in a file’. Read it and weep, thrillsuckers!

(Please note: Proper, singalong, whistleable TV themes as well. Not some vague, washy, electronic mush cooked up by a recent media studies graduate who wants to be in Tangerine Dream. Am I just getting old here?)  

I’ve got a feeling that the fish I was trusted with in the car on the way over to my Gran’s house wasn’t a takeaway, but her pet goldfish – finally being returned to its natural home on the hostess trolley after a summer-long sojourn on our front room shelf while my Gran had been in hospital. We’ll have fastened a lid securely onto his tank and I’ll have gripped it tightly with my knees as we sped through the backstreets of Acklam. The goldfish equivalent of interstellar travel.

I got a sherry for my reward as well! The slippery slope to juvenile delinquency starts here. By the time I was 15, I was mainlining four bottles of Harvey’s Bristol Cream a day. Sherry was the first alcoholic drink I ever tried, an experience that came – brace yourself – at the age of five, at Christmas 1977. I was definitely allowed a small glass of sweet sherry at Christmas and New Year, my parents being very much of the philosophy that if they made alcohol a forbidden, out-of-bounds temptation in the house, then it would become far more alluring to me than if it was a matter-of-fact part of our everyday lives.

So by the age of 11 I was drinking the occasional glass of my Dad’s home-brew wine with my Sunday dinner (something that definitely SHOULD have been forbidden, possibly under the auspices of the Geneva Convention) and was also allowed to glug on the odd glass of supermarket cider on a weekend evening (and my Mum, disturbingly, still occasionally repeats her not-entirely-accurate mantra that ‘it’s only cider, there’s nothing in it’)

It’s a philosophy that worked out OK in the long run, and – let’s face it – a little noggin of QC Cream is just what you need to take the edge off Episode 3 of The Tripods.

Good to see my Dad’s eye for a scavenging opportunity undimmed by a spot of teatime imbibing, too. We were indeed driving back to Yarm past the Trust House Forte hotel on the Thornaby back road when he spotted a length of seemingly unsullied skirting board lying abandoned on the nearby grass verge. 

‘I’m having that,’ he exclaimed, and slammed on the brakes. ‘Bloody good stuff that. £1.50 a yard at Dickens…’ He slid it along the length of our Reliant Scimitar, and – within three weeks – it was covered in white Dulux gloss paint at the bottom of our dining room walls. There’s probably still a workman from the Trust Horse Forte 1984 refurbishment scheme wandering around the roadside, scratching his hard hat and looking despairingly under the bushes.



  Thing wrote @

It’s a shame they don’t really do phone-ins on TV these days, they’re usually only on radio. Wonder if David Tennant, or indeed, now, Matt Smith, were doing an interview like that whether John Simm would consider phoning in as the Master and keeping in character throughout?

  bobfischer wrote @

Oh, I’d love that! I bang on about this endlessly, but I really do think the abandonment of the big, sprawling Saturday morning kids’ show on BBC1 is a true tragedy of modern TV. It was SUCH a huge fixture for generations of British kids, and a great experience because all human life WAS there – from a drunken Captain Sensible wreaking havoc to Colin Baker and Anthony Ainley crossing swords. All completely accessible to ALL the family.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Oh I Loved Saturday Superstore. I have loads of old vhs tapes from all the eps that Aha were on haha! It was a great, great show!

  bobfischer wrote @

I’d buy a DVD of it.

Hell, I’d buy it in full series box sets and watch one every Saturday morning for the next five years.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I’ve a feeling that most of Saturday Superstore was junked a bit later on.

  bobfischer wrote @

Arse. Boring rubbish like the Elgin Marbles still intact, and Saturday Superstore burned in a metal bin by the BBC?

There’s no justice in the world.

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