Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 287

Saturday 13th October 1984


Got up at 8.45 and we went to Yarm. I got a Snoopy card for Doug and when I got back Doug rang. I went to Doug’s and we went to Yarm and got some Fish and chips and a can of coke. After that we went to the mud track, then back to my house.

Soon, Chapman, Howsie and Philly came and we played on the tarzie, then me and Doug got some conkers off the tree. At 5.00 Dougt went home and I had tea, and at 5.20 I watched The Tripods.

At 5.45 I watched Late Late Breakfast Show, at 7.00 I watched Cannon and Ball, at 7.45 I watched Punchlines, at 8.15 I watched 321 and at 11.30 I went to bed.

Yay, Doug’s birthday! My best mate turned 12 on this very day, which seemed virtually middle-aged to us. ‘Bugger me, in a year’s time I’ll be a TEENAGER’, he pondered out loud, while we were sitting on the swings at the mud track. Which seemed impossible, as – clearly – Teesside’s teenagers had moustaches, trumped-up Ford Capris, excesses of testosterone and jobs in heavy industry. And – altogether now – that was just the girls.

Time was a weird concept during my childhood. On a fiddly, day-to-day basis, it seemed to go impossibly slowly, especially when I was counting off the weeks of the school term and ticking off the ‘sleeps’ towards the summer holidays, my birthday, or Christmas. ‘Christmas Day is 43 days away, and 43 days before now was… the end of September. Oh nooo, that’s AAAAGES ago….’ (and yes, the below scan is from my actual 1984 diary, which each day crossed off in red felt tip before I went to bed)

And yet, looking back, it flew by. I remember walking around the frosty-specked, twinkly streets of Yarm with my Mum on New Years’ Day 1981, aged (barely) eight but filled with the terrifying knowledge that I’d be TEN YEARS OLD NEXT YEAR. Mum, take me home now – you need to start telling me instantly about mortgages and income tax and how to work the immersion heater. So I was vaguely aware that my childhood was racing by, it just seemed – from the frontline – to be a bit of a slow race.

And we’d come a long way in a year. Doug’s previous birthday, on (oddly enough) 13th October 1983, had been the first time I’d visited his house. After a few years living in Australia, Doug had appeared in our classroom six weeks earlier at the start of the school term, and we’d instantly clicked. I received special dispensation to miss the school bus home, and jogged back alongside Doug on his creaking Raleigh Chopper. We drank orange squash and played hand-held Donkey Kong in his bedroom while his cheery Australian Mum brought us sandwiches and Penguin biscuits on a tray.

Since then, we’d become unbelievably close… a perfect, symbiotic friendship with nary a secret hidden or a cross word ever exchanged. And so, naturally, I thought nothing of celebrating our relationship by getting up at 8.45am on a Saturday and traipsing to Strickland and Holt’s to buy him a Snoopy birthday card (And – I’m sure – pressing a shiny pound coin into his hand as a present, as we had a tacit agreement never to buy each other ‘crappy gifts’)

And then just one of those lovely, independant, ‘doing our own thing’ days. It was cold, with sparkly bits on the pavement and mushy brown leaves in the gutters, and I remember Doug wearing black fingerless gloves as we sat on the swings at a deserted, Autumnal mud track and scooped greasy chips from yesterday’s Daily Mirror. We only had the money for one can of Coke, so we spilt it between us. Aw. We didn’t bother wiping the can between glugs, because that was for GIRLS, and our breath hung in the air like steel-grey winter clouds, raining youthful dreams and filthy talk over our giggling, mop-topped heads.

And then, just to prove that we hadn’t grown up TOO much, we spent the rest of the day playing on the tarzie in my garden. Howsie was James Howes, a friendly young lad with a crew cut who lived in one of the staff homes attached to the Young Offenders’ prison over the road. Phil Carr and Mark Chapman were both genial members of our Class 1CW mischief squad, and were busy knocking conkers off the tree in the married quarters courtyard when Doug and I cycled past. They instantly downed tools (big knobbly sticks) and raced over to our garden, where an hours’ worth of swinging around the tree from the top of a rickety stepladder ensued.

When they were called in for their tea, Doug and I took advantage of the conker opportunities and raced over the road to fling their downed sticks into the gigantic, quivering horse chestnut tree and stuff another couple of Presto carrier bags full of meaningless, spiky booty. We called it a day when one of the prison officers’ wives walked past, with a boggle-eyed miniature schnauzer on a lead, and told us to ‘Bugger off back home, you’re making a bloody awful mess and a bloody awful racket…’   

So we did. And we laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed, and then I ate fishfingers and chips in front of a roaring coal fire and chuckled along to the Late, Late Breakfast Show while my Dad dished out almond slices. And I daresay Doug did the same back at his house.

Happy birthday, old mate. Time went past too quickly for the pair of us.



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