Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 288

Sunday 14th October 1984

Got up at 10.00 and played out, then Doug came and we did homework. After that we went out and played on the tarzie with Chapman and Howsie. At 12.30 they all went and I had tea, and then I did homework.

Soon, Stan and Callaghan came and we went down the gate for conkers then down private road. Finally we went to the dentention centre, and at 4.30 they went home.

At 5.00 I watched The Fall and rise of Reginald Perrin, and then I did homework. At 7.15 I watched Porridge, then I went in the shower till Rising damp at 8.40. At 10.20 I went to bed.

Homework? On a Sunday morning? I can find no evidence of this in my books, so it’s possible we just did some, erm, mental homework. Planning and forethought, in our heads. While jumping around the garden on the tarzie and throwing conkers at Poggy Doggy. Speaking of which, there are two more Great Yarm Mysteries here…

1.  Why Doug didn’t stick around all day to join the 7435th conker expedition of the autumn season? He must have been off to his Gran’s house in Thornaby, a regular Sunday afternoon ritual that usually left me kicking around the house listlessly waiting for Weekend World to finish so I could pester my Dad to take me to the baths.

2. Tea? At 12.30pm? Huh? We ALWAYS had a proper Sunday dinner, but it was ALWAYS served at 5pm with a rigidness that was virtually Obsessive Compulsive. Half an hour either side, and I’d be slapping the sides of my head and screaming. I’ve no idea what this was all about, unless – of course – the balance of my mind had been disturbed by the hallucinatory properties of conker resin, and what I actually meant was (brace yourself) dinner. But then there’s no mention of ANOTHER tea further on, so who knows? These were strange times indeed.

Anyway, good to see Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry popping round for a conker expedition that we’d planned over rugged pizza slices and droopy spaghetti in the school dinner hall the previous Friday. Joined by David Callaghan, a motor-mouthed daredevil from the year above us, and a man (well, he was 13) happily to throw himself into whatever ridiculous scheme we’d concocted. 

Like wandering down the ‘Private Road’. A little winding path half a mile from my house, it snaked between farmers fields and delirious, conker-laden woodland past a few secluded houses and up to the secluded ‘MOD PROPERTY’ of Kirklevington Hall, an off-limits stately home. There was also an Army Cadets hut down there… so, every Tuesday night, a raggle-taggle platoon of 14-year-olds in camouflage fatigues would slouch past our house smoking Rothmans and gobbing into the hedgerows. My Dad, ever the diplomat, would regularly shift on the lingerers with charming words of encouragement like ‘Piss off, you idle bloody Pongos’ and return to the house with a sly grin of satisfaction, muttering ‘God help us if there’s a war,’ and cracking open the Mr Kipling almond slices.

armycadetsAnyway, two random memories from this day…

1. As we cycled into the Private Road, I was singing ‘Freedom’ by Wham!, a song that had SMASHED into the Top 3 precisely one week earlier…

I’m still in love with Pepsi and Shirlie.

2. The whole caper was given an extra frisson of excitement by the fact that, parked up in a layby a further half-a-mile up the road, were a small encampment of gypsies and assorted fair people, poised to rumble into our High Street for… YARM FAIR!!! Yes, this annual kaleidoscope of madness took place in the second week of October ever year, and saw the whole main street taken over by one of the biggest travelling fairs in the North-East. There were death-defying rides! Terrifying waltzers! Hilarious dodgems! Teenage girls vomiting candy floss and half-digested toffee apples behind the Wall Of Death! And, oh so much more… but that’s all to come…

The fair was allowed to move into the High Street at 7pm on Tuesday night (a tradition that’s still maintained – they did it last night!), but for a couple of days prior to this, the surrounding laybys were filled with exciting-looking fair rides on the back of tarpaulin-covered lorries, all tended by gigantic, brick-shithouse blokes sporting tremulous trilby hats on top of towering, jet black quiffs.

‘Should we go down there and get them?’ said Callaghan, doing an impressive commando roll into the undergrowth and emerging with three gigantic, spiky conkers between his teeth.

‘Erm… maybe later…’ said Stan and I.

We were, naturally, told off by one of the Private Road residents for our excursions (‘This is private property lads, it’s not for any Tom Dick or Harry to come chucking sticks into the trees…’) and – I THINK – we tagged along for a while with a MUCH older lad than us, an experienced mid-teen conker collector called (I think) Raddigan. It’s possible he had a partner-in-crime with him as well, as I remember them both shinning up one of the forbidden, non-Tom Dick or Harry trees with amazing dexterity, and raining conkers down on us three hapless eejits with a little bit too much enthusiasm.

And, in the woodland surrounding the Detention Centre, we found the full centre pages of a recent edition of Razzle magazine! I can still remember the headline to this day… ‘BANG IN THE MIDDLE’. I felt a bit faint when I looked at the picture, though.

And then my first-ever viewing of The Fall and Rise Of Reginald Perrin, shown by  BBC1 as a tribute to the recently-deceased Leonard Rossiter. My Dad was a huge fan, and I remember my Mum insisting that I’d ‘love the farting chairs’. And she was right. Although I’m sure I remember watching this from the dining room table while I ate my Sunday dinner (I’ve a vague memory of bramble pie coming back to haunt me) which casts even further doubt on that ‘12.30 tea’ malarky.

Funny what Pepsi and Shirlie can do to a young man’s mind.



  Thing wrote @

I think this was the episode where’s he founded Grot and is interviewing CJ about possibly taking him on as an employee.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I can’t believe there are 7 different Veggies on the Roast Dinner pic. Surely no-one has 7 different veggies on a Roastie?!?

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Vegetarians do, I believe.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Well I was a strict Vegetarian for 16 years and I never had 7 different vegetables on a (Veggie) roast dinner! ;p

  bobfischer wrote @

I should point out that isn’t a picture of an actual Fischer family dinner. It’s a library picture, although I doubt it was taken in a library.

I’m a vegetarian, but at the age of 11 I’m not sure I could even name seven different vegetables. Unless you counted crisps and peanuts.

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