Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 308

Saturday 3rd November 1984


I got up at 9.30 and I went to the dentists and got my brace adjusted. Then I went to Smiths and got Caverns of the Snow Witch (a new Fighting Fantasy). After that we got the bus to the Coronation, and walked to Grandma’s.

When we got there I read Caverns, then I had a bacon sarnie. After that we went round the shops, and when we came back I just lazed around till 5.00, when I had tea. At 5.20 I watched The Tripods, and at 5.45 I watched The Late Late Breakfast Show (someone pointed out that Noel Edmonds played keyboards for Wham!)

At 6.30 we came home, and at 7.00 I watched Cannon and Ball. At 8.00 I watched Hi-de-Hi, and then I tidied my room up. At 9.30 I watched Pushing up daisys, and at 11.00 I went to bed.

Yay! Happy birthday mother! (For then and now…)

Clearly the only to celebrate was to get out of my Dad’s way for the day (he’ll have been knocking down a kitchen wall or building a new stairwell or something) and catch the 294 bus from the end of our garden to Middlesbrough, spending a relaxing day at my Gran’s bungalow in Acklam.

Stopping en route at Keith Herren’s dental surgery in Stockton, where my (Gah!!! Argggh!!! Nyaaggggh!!!) brace transpired to have been so effective that the screws needed adjusting to achieve a tighter grip on my retreating incisors. The brace had grown so loose over the last few weeks that I’d almost forgotten it was there, but I emerged from the surgery on this bitter, drizzle-flecked morning feeling like two roadside jacks had been clamped to either side of my mouth. 

I couldn’t complain, though. I wanted to, but any hint of a grumble would mean my mother wouldn’t buy me Caverns Of The Snow Witch as my ‘being good at the dentist’ incentive…

(On HER birthday, too! What a selfish, spoilt little oik I was. Oh, well, she got a nice bottle of Bombay Sapphire this morning to make up for it…)

The Coronation is a vast, sprawling pub on Acklam Road, about a mile from my Gran’s house. I’m guessing this was the nearest bus stop that we could reach from Stockton High Street, and no doubt I spent the entire 20-minute walk with my nose stuck inside my new Fighting Fantasy book as my mother sporadically directed me away from the onrushing traffic with her foot.

I don’t know for certain, but I’m guessing the pub opened its doors for the first time in June 1953. (An occasion on which – apparently – the entire street piled around to my Gran’s house, as they were the only family in the neighbourhood to own a television at that point. A fact my Dad, 56 years on, still uses as conclusive proof that my Mother’s family are the Teesside equivalent of the Armstrong-Joneses, and that 24 Rievaulx Avenue was their Balmoral)

No doubt the kettle was already on the boil when we reached the homely enclave of my Gran’s kitchen, and the dying embers of Saturday Superstore (and the start of Grandstand) will have been burbling away on the TV in the front room. I guzzled a bacon sandwich stuffed into two slices of dazzling white Mother’s Pride bread (sliced into quarters, naturally) and smothered in tomato ketchup while Mike Read played the new Captain Sensible video.

And then to ‘the shops’. I’ve written about them before, but Acklam Shops played a HUGE part in my childhood. A row of five bustling little units a hundred yards from my Gran’s front door. In order, from the left…

1. Shipman’s The Bakers. Chocolate Flake Cakes (with – bestill my beating heart – genuine slices of Cadbury’s Flake on the top), Custard Slices and Dairy Cream Cakes in white cardboard boxes with dainty red ribbons tied around the middle. All of which were a staple of Saturday evening teatimes around my Gran’s house (no wonder I was told at the age of 19 to reduce my cholesterol level a bit)

2. Murray’s Newsagent. Except lovely old Mr Murray died in 1981, so by 1984 it will have had a different name altogether… but, in the grand Teesside tradition, it remained ‘Murrays’ for the rest of eternity. Aniseed balls in huge glass jars, piled-up copies of the pink Sports Gazette (‘BORO STUNG BY HORNETS’), Return Of The Jedi sticker books and – by the door – a chest freezer the size of Denmark stuffed with Cornettos, Orange Fruities and 10p Mini-Milks.

mini milk

3. Honeyman’s Fruiterers. Never went in there (see Paragraph 1, re: cholesterol level)

4. A butcher’s shop whose name escapes me. I asked my Mum today if she could remember what it was called, and she replied ‘No, but I never liked the meat in there, it was always a bit too dark for my tastes’. It’s 25 years, mother. Let it go. Let it go.

5. Hinton’s Supermarket (although I think it later became a Preston, and then finally a Spar). Was Hinton’s just a North-Eastern firm? The idea of the ‘local’ supermarket chain seems to have long-since vanished from the North-East, it’s all just Tesco and Sainsburys round here these days. Anyway, it smelt of cats and cheap beans, and I once went in there dressed as a Star Destroyer Commander from Star Wars, resplendent in grey shirt, grey trousers and black wellies. The teenage girl on the checkout (fluffy blonde highlights, heavy on the eyeliner) asked if I was a ‘Russian spy or summat’.  I think I clicked my heels as I departed with a bagful of Bounce dogfood. I was 27.

Needless to say…. yikes… none of them are there anymore. Once the hub of the community, now completely vanished. I drive home through Acklam from work sometimes, and all five shop units are now boarded up and covered in graffiti. The last time I remember them being all present in correct was in 1995, when I took a young lady for a walk down Devil’s Bridge (I know how to show a girl a good time). I think the supermarket was the last to go, sometime around the turn of the millenium.

Can I stop weeping now?


Anyway, I’ve just had a strange, completely unexpected flashback to this day, and a quick Google has proved me utterly right – this was the day on which BBC1 – wait for it – broadcast live coverage of Mrs Gandhi’s funeral! The Indian Premier (or ‘Mrs Gandhi Yok Yok’ as she was eternally known to us Young Ones fans) had been assassinated on Halloween, although I think the two incidents were unconnected. The BBC’s coverage featured live footage of the traditional Indian funeral pyre being burnt to the ground, which came close to putting me off my Chocolate Flake Cake.

I do remember, in the week following, Points Of View receiving a little flurry of letters commending commentator Sue Lawley on ‘adopting a slight but respectful Indian accent throughout the course of the funeral’ which, I have to say, I didn’t notice. But then I’d been brought up on It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, so maybe I was immune to such things. I should probably state for the record that, these days, it’s considered slightly inappropriate for Western BBC presenters to adopt Asian accents for their links (although I try to slip into broad Cornish at least once a month, just to keep my listeners on their toes)

And The Late Late Breakfast Show did indeed feature the Noel Edmonds lookalike playing keyboards for Wham! A little trawl of Youtube has turned him up, and it’s a fair cop, guv’nor… (about 26 seconds in)

I’ve just remembered my Dad – who must have driven over to my Gran’s house for his tea by this point – watching this from his armchair and commentating that Andrew Ridgely was doing ‘the standard three-chord trick… about the simplest bit of guitar-playing you can get’. I think he was a whisker away from advocating the return of National Service for this heinous crime. Bizrrely, I can now recall quite clearly that – as he said this – I was standing next to the white-painted doorway to my Gran’s front room, so it’s possible I was on my way to (or from) the kitchen to snaffle some more Chocolate Flake Cake.

And then home in the Reliant Scimitar for the rest of the evening’s telly. Thanks to regular blog contributor Thing for pointing out that this evening’s Cannon and Ball show featured – somewhat incongrously – Rik Mayall as a star guest! Clearly I watched it, but I’ve no recollection of this at all. I probably still had my nose in Caverns of the Snow Witch.

It’s true though, and it’s here…!

And then Pushing Up Daisies, one of a little rash of rather adult, late-night Channel 4 shows that popped up around this time, and that I was (just about) allowed to watch in the front room… I’d probably even been given a glass of home-brew wine (especially if I’d been naughty) to glug in front of the coal fire, with the dogs snaffling peanuts from my Dad’s hand and a few sausage rolls warming up on the fireside hearth. The show starred Chris Barrie, Carla Mendonca and Hale and Pace – who, I think, first launched their ‘Management’ routine  on this programme.

I remember having no idea what ‘Pushing Up Daisies’ meant, but I did stifle a smirk at a sketch in which a captured World War II officer with a speech impediment defiantly informed his captors that he would offer them nothing but ‘Name, Number and Wank’. I was growing up incredibly quickly, and – terrifyingly – Hale and Pace were partly responsible.



  Chris Orton wrote @

I could be wrong but I think that Hintons later became Liptons (or at least, they were both around in the N.E. at the same time), which in turn became Presto, which later became Safeway, which later became part of Morrisons. They merged supermarkets back then almost as many times as IPC Comics merged titles.

All names that are long gone now of course…

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

It is no wonder that those shops were closed down if one of them tried claiming to be Preston. The real Preston (a Lancashire town with little to commend it) would doubtless have got into what we scientists term a right tizzy about this impostering and of course when Preston was granted City status during Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee it will also have gained superpowers with which to smite these eastern upstarts.

Has the pub closed as well?

  bobfischer wrote @

Chris – has Morrison’s gone now? That must have been a fairly recent development. I’m sure I’ve seen one within the last couple of years. It’s a shame how they all seem to have been drawn into the big corporate umbrella of Tesco and Sainsbury’s, though. It’s coming to something when shopping in Asda feels like standing up for the little guy.

I miss indie supermarkets. I’ve still got fond memories of Walter Wilson’s in Yarm. Oddly enough, they still seem to thrive in the North-West… I noticed earlier this year that the Lancaster branch of Booths is still going strong, nearly 20 years after I used to shop there. Is Normid still on the go, as well? About a quarter of Bolton’s old football ground used to be devoted to a branch…

Dr Parcel – well done, you spotted the deliberate mistake. 🙂 I take issue with your description of Preston the town, though – it has (or certainly used to have) a splendidly sticky nightclub called Tokyo Joe’s which was regularly featured on The Hit Man And Her. That has to count for something, surely? C’mon, Michaela Strachan has passed over the threshold!

And yes, the Coronation pub is still strong in Acklam. I was in there last Christmas with my friends Jon Lymer, Robert Nichols and Miniature G. I hoping to steer this year’s office party to the Endeavour, for that bona fide ‘Christmas 1980’ feeling.

  Chris Orton wrote @

No, no Morrisons is still about and going strong. I mis-phrased that bit!

But all of the little local concerns have disappeared now I think.

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