Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 295

Sunday 21st October 1984

Dad and I went to the baths at 10.00 and we first had a swim in the main pool, then we warmed up in the liesure pool. Finally we came home at 11.00 and at 12.00 I had dinner. I played outside for a bit, then Stan came and we went to the detention centre woods for some conkers.

After that we went to private lane and got some more, and lastly we got hundreds from a copse in Robert’s field! At 4.00 we went to Stan’s house, then we came back to my house and played on the tarzie. Then we got some conkers from over the road, and at 5.00 Stan went home and I had tea.

I listened to the charts till 7.15, when I watched Ever decreasing circles, and at 7.45 I watched Big deal. At 8.35 I watched Just good friends, and at 9.10 I went to bed and started a map of Yarm.

What the hell did we DO with all those conkers? This wasn’t an impromptu ‘Oh what the hell, let’s see if we can get some more conkers’ expedition, this was another outing that had been meticulously planned over pizza slices and spaghetti in the Junior Dinner Hall the previous Friday. My mother’s face must have sunk when I told her, knowing full well that another bulging black binbag of horse chestnuts was set to be stacked up at the bottom of my bed.

Oddly enough, I can’t remember a lot about the day itself, other than having a really nice time chatting with Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry as we pottered around various bits of rustling woodland scenery in the mist and drizzle, chatting whimsically about school and telly while picking spiky green cases from the mossy ground and squeezing those gorgeous brown nuts (stop it) into Hinton’s carrier bags.

There was always a luscious-looking cluster of conker cases hanging from the highest part of the tree, at which point Stan – with his expert cricketing experience – would invariably lash the nearest knobbly stick into the golden, leafy canopy above and bring the whole lot crashing down to Earth with a delicious thud as we danced around and whooped. Any attempt by me to emulate this Olympic-standard prowess invetiably resulted in a crash of glass from the nearest back garden and a muffled ‘Oyyyyy!’ from whichever hapless greenhouse-dweller was unlucky enough to be tending his tomatoes within a 200-yard radius.


We went back to Stan’s house to drop off his share of the conkers, and I remember his Mum was cooking Sunday dinner as we tramped our muddy feet through the kitchen. I hadn’t been to Stan’s house for a while, and she seemed genuinely pleased to see me. ‘Do you like cooking?’ she asked, with a welcoming grin.

‘I do actually’ I replied, thinking of my recent Home Ecomonics triumphs with the fruit salad and rhubarb crumble.

‘Good, you can take over this lot if you like,’ she beamed. ‘I can’t stand it, and I’m sick of the sight of sprouts and cauliflowers’. I met Stan’s parents last year, for the first time in well over two decades, at a folk music gig in Saltburn that Stan’s elder sister Sara had organised. They were just as funny and friendly as ever, and it was lovely to see the whole family again (apart from Stan, who wasn’t there. He seems to spend most of his time living in incredibly sunny and exotic places, with nary a conker to be sighted at this time of year. The lucky swine)

And what a fine selection of vintage 1984 TV! This was the first episode of the second series of Ever Decreasing Circles, a sitcom I loved at the time and have grown to appreciate even more with age. It’s deceptively dark, with Richard Briers superb as the obsessive compulsive Martin, permanently driven to the verge of a nervous breakdown by his perceived responsibilities to the neighbourhood, and Penelope Wilton as his long-suffering wife Ann, who quickly cultivates a crackling sexual tension with Peter Egan’s smoothy new neighbour Paul. It’s charmingly, funny and incredibly melancholy, and I mumbled exactly that to Richard Briers when I pestered him at a Doctor Who convention earlier this year. He seemed pleased.

And Big Deal is quintessential 1984 TV, starring Ray ‘Voice Of Mr Benn’ Brooks as compulsive gambler Robbie Box, frequently losing his proverbial shirt amongst London’s seedy low-life. I guess the BBC were hoping it would become their own soaraway ‘Minder’ equivalent… it didn’t, but it was a great series and the theme tune alone is enough to transport me back to long-lost nights by the fire on dark, rainswept Sunday evenings…  

Shit!!! I haven’t done my Geography homework!!!! Ah well, it’ll wait until tomorrow breaktime. Let’s start a Fighting Fantasy-style map of Yarm instead…



  Chris Orton wrote @

I really, really want the rest of Big Deal to come out on DVD. They’ve only bothered with the first series so far, and watching that has left me wanting to see the rest.

  bobfischer wrote @

Good then? I was basing my positive opinions on my memories of 1984 – I haven’t seen it since!

  Chris Orton wrote @

Pretty decent fare I thought. Ray Brooks is very good in it.

  Patsy wrote @

Love the photo of you and Richard Briers – you must have the perfect job !

  bobfischer wrote @

Aw, he was great. I’d blagged my way in with a press pass, so I asked the steward if I was still allowed to queue for autographs. At which point he pointed me to a trestle table where Richard Briers was sitting by himself tum-te-tumming! I just ambled over and had a little chat, and he was charming.

I saw another punter later on who had got him to sign her DVD of ‘Extras’, using his immortal catchphrase from the show. So, written across the cover, was the legend ‘To Becky, Tacky Shit! Love, Richard Briers’

He was thrilled, apparently.

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