Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 297

Tuesday 23rd October 1984

I got up at 9.30 and I rang Doug. I went down his house and saw his ramp, then Stan came and we mucked on on the ramp. Then we went to my house for a bit, but soon came back and at 12.00 we had dinner.

After that we went for a ride down the riverbank, then went on the swings at the mud track. We went back to Doug’s next and we mucked on, then we went down Leven Road to an apple tree. At 5.00 I came home and had tea, and then I started a new project: POG I!

When I came in at 8.00  watched A film called Nevada Smith, and at 10.00 I went to bed.

Another grey October day in the middle of half-term, with a sky the colour of quarried slate and three grotty 11-year-olds wearing enormous parkas and flinging their bikes up a half-rotten plank balanced precariously on top of a pile of breezeblocks. I think I’d told Stan the previous day about my Riverbank Adventure* with Doug on Sunday, and we’d agreed to meet up the following day and retrace our steps.

*Not, despite how it sounds, a book by Willard Price. 

I don’t remember much about most of the day, so I guess we just faffed around in the murky mist and threw bits of bark and conker at each other. The apple tree, however, was clearly in somebody’s side garden and we made a bloody nuisance of ourselves clambering up the spindly branches and stuffing the fruit in our coat pockets to sustain us on the endless journey (half a mile) home. Until the inevitable, outraged cry of ‘OI!!!!! GET OFF THAT BLOODY TREE!!!!!!” came from a hastily-opened front room window, and we scattered like leaves in the breeze.

They were utterly sour crab apples, naturally, but we managed to convince ourselves that they were the ripest, rosiest Golden Delicious, and crunched on them all the way home, pulling agonised Les Dawson gurns and occasionally retching into the beck by the 295 bus shelter. I think, on the way back, we met a genial, softly-spoken lad called Gaz Lyons. He hadn’t been to primary school with us, but we’d got to know him a little bit during our opening six weeks at Conyers.

‘I’ve just razzed to the VG and got masses of Ket!’ he beamed proudly. Translation: I’ve just cycled quickly to the corner shop and bought a lot of sweets.  He rummaged around in his parka pockets to show us a tatty white paper bag overflowing with Cola Bottles, Bootlaces, Penny Chews and Bazooka Joes. Doug and Stan gleefully grabbed an aniseed ball each and set instantly to work on turning their tongues maroon.

‘Go on, have one’ said Gaz, offering the bag to me.

‘No ta, I never touch them,’ I lied through my teeth. ‘I’m a total health freak, I only ever eat fruit between meals’. At which point I produced a haemorrhoid-sized crab apple from the back pocket of my jeans and took a hearty bite from its mildewed flesh. Three hours later, I was still heaving over the kitchen sink while my Mum brought me mugs of water from the bathroom basin upstairs. Doug and Stan were both followed home by a pack of slavering dogs.

By 5.30pm, I’d recovered enough to spend the evening in our freezing cold garage sawing lumps of wood to make a ‘robot’ version of Poggy Doggy, clearly trying to recapture the spirit of mine and Doug’s adventures constructing our beloved droid ‘ROB-E’ almost a year earlier. You’ll notice Doug had bailed out of such nonsense by this point, so I purloined my Dad’s toolkit and fumbled around alone in the freezing cold for a few hours before finally giving up the ghost.

Nice, though. I can still remember seeing my breath against the bare brickwork of the garage wall, and watching darkness descend around the spiky tree branches in the garden. All illuminated by the gloomy orange glow of a single 40W lightbulb. Every now and then I’d hear the reassuring clatter of crockery and conversation as my parents popped into the adjacent kitchen to make coffee and fetch almond slices, but I was alone, busy, and lost in a wibbly-wobbly world of my own making. Lovely.

And Nevada Smith is a rather brutal 1966 Western starring Steve McQueen as Max Sand, a tortured half-Indian pursuing the callous, mercenary killers of his mother. I assume it was ITV’s big movie for the night, with McQueen’s grim quest for vengeance punctuated by adverts for Northern Gas and Everest Double Glazing.


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