Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 298

Wednesday 24th October 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and did some more of POG-I, then at 10.30 I went to Doug’s. Doug, Stan and I played Hide and seek for a while, then we went inside when it started to rain.

At 12.30 I came home and had dinner, then I went in the garage and made the head for POG-I. I came in at 5.00 and had tea, and at 5.10 I watched Think of a number. At 5.30 I watched the Good Life, and then I made some more of POG-I.

At 7.00 I watched Diff’rent Strokes, at 7.55 I watched No place like home, then I had a shower. After that I watched In at the deep end, and at 10.15 I went to bed.

Aaaaah, 1984. We had to make your own entertainment in those days (unless you’re counting all the games consoles, TV shows and expensive action figures we had). Another overcast, grey October morning, and I cycled the half-mile to Doug’s house – parka flapping behind me like the wings of a giant, acrylic bat – before girding my loins (nnnngh) for Round 1 of the 1984 Yarm Hide and Seek Championship.

I reckon Doug’s Mum had given it the full ‘Oh, not in the house – I’ve just hoovered’ treatment, so we restricted our activities to the garden, drive and garage. To be honest, we were a bit old for Hide and Seek, so I’m pretty sure we spiced it up by adding a risque element to the counting, treating Doug’s neighbours to countless wobbly-voiced* variations on ‘1 – dick – 2 – fanny – 3 knockers – 4…’ and so on.

*Our voices were very much starting to break by this point, although – even before the onset of puberty – Doug had spoken with a rich Teesside baritone that made James Earl Jones sound like Larry Grayson. By the end of 1984, I was starting sentences on the bass stave and finishing them somewhere in the boy soprano range. I remember, during a dinnertime kickabout in the tennis courts, shouting some crucial tactical advice to James Place (‘TAKE HIS F***ING LEGS OFF, PLACIE!!!!’) at a pivotal moment in the match, and the word ‘Placie’ made the Earth’s inner mantle rumble with ominous intent, while the word ‘legs’ attracted the attention of a passing stray border collie.

Anyway, I was lurking behind a rhododendron at the bottom of Doug’s garden when the slate-grey let rip (titter!) with an ominous rumble, and raindrops the size of gobstoppers started splattering on the patio. I counted to ten (1 – knob – 2 – knickers – 3 – bollocks…) then broke cover with the classic ‘surrender’ posture, giving  Doug and Stan ample opportunity to prod me playfully on the forehead and claim the title as their own.

Then we spent half an hour laughing ironically at Bod and The Wombles in Doug’s front room while torrents of freezing rain lashed horizontally against the window panes. By which stage, the rumbling of Yarm’s angry stormclouds was being matched by the rumbling of three famished 11-year-old stomachs, so we wrote off our plans for world domination for the afternoon, and scurried frantically back to our respective homes to eat cheese-on-toast in front of Pebble Mill At One.

So I wasted the rest of the afternoon on Day 2 of my project to build a wooden, robotic version of Poggy Doggy using the spare scraps of wood and plasterboard stuffed into a complex web of ropes and wires suspended from my Dad’s garage ceiling. Getting more and more bored and frustrated by the second, but too proud to abandon the project (quite) yet. That could wait until the following morning.

And then a night of cosy, fireside TV on a black, rainswept evening. I don’t mention it in my diary, but – the previous day – an historic piece of news reportage had been broadcast on BBC1, and by the time we settled down in front of the TV on this bleak, Autumnal teatime, its impact was beginning to dominate the current affairs schedules.  

It’s this…

Yep, Michael Buerk’s ground-shattering report on the 1984 Ethiopian famine. Five minutes of BBC news that changed the world – by the time I was sitting down to watch The Good Life, Bob Geldof was no doubt already drawing up plans for a ‘Global Jukebox’ benefit concert and humming the opening bars to ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas…?’ I remember feeling sick and shocked the first time I saw this report, and spending the ensuing twenty minutes pushing marrowfat peas and brown sauce around on my plate. As Paul Weller put it so evocatively, ‘Watching the news and not eating your tea…’  

It took another fortnight for our school to launch into serious Ethiopia fund-raising activities, but more of that at the time…

And great to see a mention for ‘In At The Deep End’. One of THE quintessential 1980s documentary series, it saw former That’s Life presenters Chris Serle and Paul Heiney take it in turns to have a gung-ho crack at situations they had no previous of whatsoever. The only one I can remember in any great detail is Heiney’s attempt to become a film actor, having a small role alongside Michael Caine and Billy Connolly in the knockabout Clement and La Frenais comedy ‘Water’.

Which is handy, as that’s the very episode that was broadcast on Wednesday 24th October 1984!

I can’t find it online, but the intrepid Heiney played a German mercenary whose single line was the menacing ‘Ve are ze dogs of VAR!!!’. Can anyone remember any more about this, or the subjects of any other episodes? I’d love to see them again.



  Thing wrote @

I do remember watching that In At The Deep End. It was a scene where Michael Caine was standing on the deck of a boat, looking upwards and shouting something like “Who are you? What do you want?”, only for Paul Heiney to rush on and grapple with him, holding him by the throat, and snarling “For the violence! And for the MONEY! Ve are ze dogs of VAR!”

Heiney also had another bit where he was leading some other soldiers or mercenaries through their paces on a beach somewhere, where he was shouting some bombastic phrases while the others all echoed him in a chant.

I remember him going and asking various people for advice. He interviewed Oliver Reed, who advised him to try to be calm and sinister rather than histrionic, and demonstrating, by uttering the phrase “I’ve told you, old man…. (some threat or other)” in very soft and low voice, but with an edge of threat, while adopting a hard stare. There was then a staged bit where he pretended to lose his temper with Heiney and had him slung out before winking and grinning at the camera.

Other In At The Deep Ends I recall where one where, I think, Chris Serle tried being a snooker player, and took part in a mixed doubles tournament with Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths etc and was eventually advised not to try taking it up professionally or he’d starve to death.

There was also one where one of them had a go at designing and directing a pop video for Bananarama (“What you doing? Tell me what you doing?”), which showed a man in a trenchcoat and hat following someone through some shady night streets. There was a bit where this character lit a cigarette, which was the only time you saw his face, and people reviewing the video in the programme commented that they thought doing that had been a mistake.

And don’t forget the Smith and Jones parody of the series, where Griff Rhys Jones as Serle has only a few days to learn how to be a heart surgeon…

  Thing wrote @

Something else I’ve just remembered about the Reed interview was that he advised him to put pauses between phrases rather try saying it all in one go. To space it out a bit I suppose, and let the words breathe. I’m not sure whether Heiney followed any of his advice in the end though.

  Justin wrote @

Sorry, the only one I remember clearly is… Heiney playing a German mercenary in Water saying ‘Ve are ze dogs of VAR!!!’.

Did they repeat that one more often?

TV Cream reports that (as well as the already metioned Bananarama vid and snooker playing) they did: working as press photographer for the Daily Mirror; fashion designer; bookmaker; opera singer; shepherd (actionally I have vague memories of this now… One Man and His Dog was v. popular at the time IIRC) and auctioneer.

  Thing wrote @

Hale and Pace and Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke later did something very similar in Jobs For The Boys/Girls, of course.

  bobfischer wrote @

Wow, great to see some love for ‘In At The Deep End’ here! I remember the Oliver Reed stuff really well, now you’ve mentiond it. And the Banabarama video, too! It was Paul Heiney that did that one, for their ‘Trick of the Night’ single in 1987.

Heiney’s video is actually online here…

Seemed to recall the band themselves being pretty disparaging about it on the show itself, and it seems they shot a replacement video shortly afterwards and used that instead.

Great show anyway, and another that I’d undoubtedly buy on DVD. It’s always nice to see Paul Heiney pop up on Watchdog these days.

I was very fond of Chris Serle’s mid-80s show ‘Windmill’ as well, which went out on Sunday lunchtimes circa 1985/86. Lots of great clips from classic 1960s and 70s TV shows, in the days when this stuff was REALLY hard to come by. My love for Monty Python’s Flying Circus undoubtedly came from seeing clips on Windmill… I used to watch it with my Dad over toasted scones and sugary tea before took the dogs on the moors for the afternoon.

There’s a little clip here…

  Dr Giles parcel wrote @

I only saw the first episode of In At The Deep End.

An expectation existed at Cambridge that different That’s Life presenter was going to be submerged in a Commonwealth-sized swimming pool each week and their attempts to survive quantified in minute detail, throwing light upon the differing responses and strategies of the full spectrum of ages and genders.

It was not to be.

  bobfischer wrote @

What a shame. I’d have tuned in to see the Doc Cox episode.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: