Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 302

Sunday 28th October 1984

FRANKIE’S BIRTHDAY

Woke up at 8.30, and at 10.00 I got up and typed out rooms 2 and 3 in my RPG. At 12.00 I had dinner and then I did rooms 3 and 4. At 2.00 I went to Ozzie’s and we first played Atic Atac on the Spectrum, then Jet set willy.

At 5.00 I came home with Ozzie’s Now III, and I played that till tea at 5.30. Then I mucked on till Ever decreasing circles at 7.15, and at 7.45 I had a shower, and had my hair washed and cut. I watched Just good friends at 8.30, and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Ah, the last day of the half-term holidays… never tinged with quite as much melancholy and trepidation as the end of the summer or Christmas break, but still usually a bleak, listless affair. Good to see me attempting to transcend that with possibly THE geekiest mid-1980s day imaginable – throwing myself into Role Playing Game construction, with lashings of ZX Spectrum-related madness to follow. Yay!

For those of you that have missed out (where have you BEEN?) I’d spent the previous few days writing my own Dungeons and Dragons-style RPG for a competition in Warlock, the official Fighting Fantasy magazine. It was called The Moonstone Dungeon, and I’ve still got it! Here’s Room 4…

moonstone4

And for the benefit of those of you without super-human powers of vision (you FEEBLE EARTHLINGS!!!)…

This is a round room crammed with artefacts from every corner of Allansia. On shelves, in cabinets and on tables are items such as Minotaur horns, Unicorn hair, Werewolf fangs, a magnificent golden winged helmet, a sword of skill and a disc-blade which is a deadly weapon manufactured and used by the Brigands of Scorpion swamp.

Sat at a table, with a large leather book open in front of him is a strange, kindly looking man. He has short, fair hair and he keeps pointing his fingers at things in the room and shouting ‘Emove ey meti won!’

When you enter he looks up and smiles. ‘Hello travellars.’ he says. ‘Please excuse my strange behaviour. It’s just that I’m not very good at casting spells yet.’

Eat your heart out, JK Rowling. And then ask nicely for a bespoke heart-renewal spell to be cast by Erotharn, my apprentice wizard, learning his trade from the legendary Grand Wizard of Yore.

‘Emove ey meti won’ is, of course, a vaguely backwards corruption of ‘Move ye item now’, and the deadly disc-blade – I’ve just remembered – was based lock, stock and dwarf-built barrel on a ‘Space Spinner’ frisbee that was given away in 1982 with Issue 1 of the relaunched Eagle comic. I’d recently rediscovered it lying around in my bedroom, and – on gloomy afternoons in the garden – was living out my fantasy-based, erm, fantasies by mentally converting it into a Ninja weapon and taking out the evil hobgoblins lurking in the flower beds next to my Dad’s beloved Peony Roses.

eagle1

Funny how these things come back to me when I start writing this rubbish!

And then, yep – over to Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald’s house in the pretty little village of Maltby. Ozzie’s dad was (I think) a maths lecturer at Teesside Polytechnic, and as such his house was filled  with all manner of exciting computers, and the front room looked like Mission Control for the Stokesley branch of NASA. Within nanoseconds of stepping through the front door, I’d been whisked into Ozzie’s bedroom, and the classic ‘Boooo-bip boooo-biddybiddlyboddly’ of the ZX Spectrum loading sequence was in full swing. 

My ‘main’ Christmas present was always agreed well in advance, and it was now open knowledge that, in eight weeks time, I’d be the proud owner of my own Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K. I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it, had been counting down the ‘sleeps’ for months (only 57 left!) and – if made some kind of ultra-geeky Faustian offer by the Prince of Darkness himself (the Devil, not Simon Bates) – I’d have happily sold my mortal soul for the chance to spend the rest of eternity playing Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner.

Two random memories from this day…

1. We listened to ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 3’ while we were playing on the Spectrum, and – as we were getting stuck into a strange, aquatic game called ‘Scuba Dive’, the Howard Jones song ‘Pearl In The Shell’ suddenly parped out of Ozzie’s bedroom stereo. Which made us both laugh a little bit too long to be entirely comfortable.

2. In the middle of our Jet Set Willy marathon, Ozzie’s little sister Joan – who was still at Levendale Primary School – popped in to see what all the noise was about, and clearly thought we were the geekiest, saddest individuals she’d ever encountered. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a five-year-old girl actually roll her eyes in despair. But, hey – we were about to perform a Quirkafleeg!!!

And yes, I borrowed Now 3 and brought it home. On cassette, naturally, so while my Mum was cutting my hair (on a dining room chair in front of Antiques Roadshow) we listened to Smalltown Boy, It’s Raining Men and Free Nelson Mandela. I had no idea who Nelson Mandela was or why he’d spent ’25 years in captivit-eee’, but if his release had been sanctioned by the compilers of Now That’s What I Call Music 3, then I was prepared to fight for it all the way.  

now3
I was still pondering on the intricacies of this delicate political situation when my Dad said ‘Turn that bloody rubbish off, Just Good Friends is starting soon’, thus putting off South African reform for a further 35 minutes. And I still think of Just Good Friends as one of the ultimate ‘Sunday night before school’ programmes, because it always had one last joke AFTER the end of the final credits… the VERY LAST second of fun that it was possible to squeeze out of the weekend’s activities.

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6 Comments»

  Big Tom wrote @

It’s become a sign of age for our generation that whenever we see a Now! advert on TV we stop in shock and mutter: “Now 87! I remember the first one! Them was the days, when music was music and came on proper tape, not this new-fangled CD nonsense….”

I bore my young assistant with this sort of grumpy old man nonsense constantly – she, terrifyingly, was born the year before you wrote your diary.

I’m assuming you’re well aware that you can now get Spectrum emulators which run in little Java/Flash applets on websites? I think there is even one that runs as a Facebook application. I suspect I could probably even get something to run Spectrum games on my mobile phone.

Imagine if someone had told you that back then!

  bobfischer wrote @

It pains me to say I had a band play on my radio show recently, and one of them was born in 1992. I have shirts hanging in my wardrobe that are older than that.

And yes, I’ve got a Speccy emulator on my PC! I still spend the occasional half-hour trying to get through Manic Miner before throwing something against the spare room wall.

  Dr Giles parcel wrote @

VINCE: I have reached the conclusion that your spare room must be the size of Whitby.

(PENNY raises an eyebrow)

(Freeze frame)

  bobfischer wrote @

(Brief, sultry saxophone sting) (C) BBC MCMLXXXIV

‘And Vince and Penny return at the same time next Sunday, on BBC1. At 11.20 tonight, Dr Robert Winston presents Your Life In Their Hands, this week looking at a pioneering kidney transplant technique being developed in Leicester…’

  Justin wrote @

Ah, yes – the post credits joke – I’d forgotten until you mentioned it (the only one I specifically remember being the first one after agreeing NOT to meet at the Red Lion pub; “Which Red Lion? There are hundreds of them”).

Now, after at least 3 false starts, if they’d flippin’ well get around to RELEASING SERIES 3 on DVD I would be most pleased!

  bobfischer wrote @

Absolutely – me too!

Did any other sitcoms use the post-credits joke? I’m sure it was a reasonably commonplace thing at the time, but I can’t think of a single other example.


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