Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 303

Monday 29th October 1984


Got up at 8.00, and at 8.30 Doug came and we went to school. First was maths, then History. After that it was rugby, and at 12.00 I had dinner. When we came back in it was French, then English. After break it was Geog, and last was maths again.

At 3.40 I came home and read 2 Eagles and a Buster till tea at 5.00. At 5.30 I watched Gloria, then I did rooms 5 and 6 of the RPG. At 8.00 I watched To the Manor Born, at 8.30 I watched Fairly secret army, at 9.00 I watched Laugh??? I nearly paid my licence fee! and at 9.30 I went to bed.

Maths! Maths on a twinkly, frosty morning, with ice-coated puddles crunching underfoot as I took my place – for the first time – in the ‘Top Set’, under the withering gaze of the scary, authoritarian (yet strangely sexy) Mrs Clark Without The ‘E’. Here’s what I wrote in my maths exercise book 25 years ago this morning…


If an integer divides exactly into another integer (without leaving a remainder) the first number is called a factor of the second. If an integer divides exactly into another integer, the second number is called a multiple of the first. A prime number has only two factors, and a prime factor is a factor which is a prime number. Every integer great than 1 can be written as a product of its prime factors in only one way.

I scribbled all of this down with a horrible cold sweat pouring from my forehead, and – growing within me – a burning desire to do some finger painting. And maybe make some Christmas decorations out of tissue paper and glue. And then watch The Flumps and have a little afternoon nap.

NB I got demoted from the Top Set of Maths at the end of the academic year.

In English, meanwhile, Mrs McDonald was also hammering a few rules into us, probably with a mallet while (here’s to you) Mrs Robinson held us down…

Our first half-term at Conyers had all about creativity and trendy, progressive teaching – we’d drawn pictures, written stories, acted out little playlets and so on – so this ‘back to basics’ academic approach felt like a bit of a culture shock, as though our teachers had suddenly emerged from the Lambert & Butler fug in the staff room chewing matchsticks and saying ‘Alright wise guys… no more playin’ games, huh…?’

Still, the prospect of a new stash of comics will have been enough to get me through the day. My comic-collecting mania was very much in its final throes by now… although at one point, circa 1982, the roll call of my weekly collection was as follows…

Whizzer and Chips
Cheeky Weekly
The Eagle
The Beano
The Dandy
Star Wars Weekly

And, on a montly basis, hardy old Doctor Who Magazine. They were very much a feature of my weekends at my Gran’s house in Acklam – all reserved for me at Mr Murray’s newsagents round the corner, so Saturday afternoons became a delirious laugh-riot, stuffing custard slices from Shipman’s Bakery down my face and giggling at Bananaman and Sid’s Snake in front of the wrestling on World Of Sport.

Throughout 1984, though, I’d started to whittle them down, and I saw – in my Mum’s eyes – a little bit of sadness for the passing of my childhood when I wistfully mumbled that ‘I don’t think I need to get Whizzer and Chips any more…’. I was still getting Buster at this stage because I loved the artwork of J Edward Oliver (with his ‘Abolish Tuesdays’ campaign and little boxes with handles) and The Eagle was still ‘old’ enough for me to get some enjoyment from the features and scary photo-stories (Doomlord… brrrrr….)

By early 1985, though, I think I was down to just Star Wars Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly, and I’d stopped buying both of those long before the start of the summer holidays. I still – however – have every single comic I ever bought stacked up in cardboard boxes in the loft. Thousands of them. I’d never sell them, but one day I’m going to get them all down and read them in front of the World Of Sport DVD Box Set.

(Anyone know if there’s a World Of Sport DVD Box Set available?)  

And hey, straight from my comics to the telly. What a glorious multi-media experience. ‘Gloria’ was an American comedy, a spin-off from ‘All In The Family’ (the legendary US Archie Bunker sitcom) with Sally Struthers in the title role. And – fantastically – one of my favourite actors Burgess ‘Cut me, Mickey’ Meredith as her veterinary surgery boss…

Needless to say, I’ve no recollection of any of this whatsoever.

Thankfully, I DO remember Fairly Secret Army, as it was bloody brilliant… slap-bang in the middle of Channel 4’s TV comedy golden age, it starred the mighty Geoffrey Palmer as the insane Major Harry Truscott, training a raggle-taggle paramilitary group in a secret rural hideaway in preperation for ‘the balloon going up’…

Written by David ‘Reggie Perrin’ Nobbs, and with Sir Geoffrey essentially reprising his role as Reggie’s brother-in-law Jimmy, it was comedy gold dust, and the absence of a DVD release to date should be filed alongside the Tunguska explosion and the popularity of the Commodore 64 as one of our generation’s great unexplained mysteries.

Meanwhile, ‘Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee’ was one of the rash of vaguely ‘alternative’ sketch shows beginning to dominate the TV schedules around this time… starring Robbie Coltrane and John Sessions, and I think this might have been the first episode of the only series. All I can really remember are Coltrane’s bloodthirsty criminologist (who might have been called Edgar Lustgarden?) delivering hilariously gruesome monologues from his study, and the permanently-angry Orangeman, Mason Boyne…

Oooh… was there a ‘Film Buff Of The Year’ spoof as well, with all the questions being about mucky films? Or is that from Naked Video? So vague… so very vague…


  Thing wrote @

Laugh? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee had a serial set in the eighteenth century, as I recall, about a young innocent man, who feel into the clutches of his evil uncle, who was played by Robbie Coltrane, after his parents both die of shock after seeing a story in a newspaper about Paul Daniels doing a new series.

Coltrane’s character was a lusty conniving villain who lived in a big castle, and when wooing women, would secretly arrange for a large amount of water to be splashed over them, so that he’d have an excuse to get them undressed. There was also a sketch about comedians going on strike, with, again, Coltrane playing “Ted Todgers” on the picket lines. Both the above were filmed items,although they did have stuff on video too.

It wasn’t especially loved by the critics, I seem to remember. “Laugh? I nearly started.” as once put it.

Eagle comic was doing photo stories from its relaunch in March 1982 until September 1983, when it went into artwork strips alone, although still featuring several of the same characters as before. Doomlord (who had a permanent grin on the mask in the photo stories but somehow acquired the ability to adopt any facial expression once he was being drawn), Sgt Streetwise, Manix… There was even on going strip at the time of the changeover, Walk Or Die, about a group of children who were stranded in a South American jungle after the plane on a school trip had crashed there, which suddenly moved into drawings. There were some characters that never made it into the artwork era. I don’t think Joe Soap or The Invisible Boy managed it, unless maybe they got into the annuals or specials.

Did you read it during both those phases?

  bobfischer wrote @

Amazing, thanks as ever, Thing!

And yes, I bough the Eagle in both incarnations… from Issue 1 of the 1982 relaunch through until the first half of 1985.

I was genuinely, bone-chillingly scared of Doomlord in that very first photo strip. Couldn’t look into his eyes at all.

  Justin wrote @

(Anyone know if there’s a World Of Sport DVD Box Set available?)

I think the closest you’ll get is something like ‘The Best of ITV Wrestling A-Z’ presented by Dickie Davies available at ‘all good online auction sites’…

  bobfischer wrote @

I should point out I’m not that bothered about the actual sport, I just want the Dickie Davies links… 😉

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