Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 316

Sunday 11th November 1984

I got up at 10.00 and rang Doug. He said he could come swimming, so at 10.30 we picked him up and went to Stockton baths. However, there was only the little pool open so we went to Thornaby and did some geronimos.

At 12.00 we went to my house and I had dinner, then we went to the mud track (popping in for a drink at Doug’s on the way). We went on the swings down the track, then at 5.00 I came home and had tea.

Then I listened to the charts, and at 7.15 I watched Ever Decreasing Circles. At 7.45 I watched Big Deal, at 8.30 I watched Just good friends and I went to bed at around 9.00.

A mumbled apology down the phone to Doug for yesterday’s unforgiveable aberration (not going out to play because I was tired) and all was well again. Well enough, in fact, to forsake the Remembrance Day coverage on BBC1 and drag my tired Dad down to Stockton baths for a splash around. Except – brace yourself –

THERE WAS A ‘GALA’ ON!!!!

I never quite knew what a ‘Gala’ involved, but – peering through the huge glass frontage of the swimming pool – it seemed to consist mainly of well-to-do kids in expensive-looking trunks being cheered half-heartedly by yawning parents from the top-level ‘viewing gallery’. We never knew when there was going to be one, so a swift about-turn to an alternate pool became a frustratingly regular feature of our Sunday morning swims.

So back in the car, and over to Thornaby, where Doug and I flagrantly disregarded the below (semi-legendary) warning poster…

patrons refrain from
…and made a nuisance of ourselves doing ‘geronimos’ (or, to give them their official title, ‘bombs’) for an hour, scattering terrified infants and grumpy-faced pensioners alike to the far corners of the pool while my oblivious Dad forged ahead with his regulation forty lengths.

We were always ravenous afterwards, so we’ll have wolfed down a plate of beans-on-toast each, balanced on our knees in front of Weekend World in my front room, then knocked off for a bit of adventure during the rest of the day.

When I think back to my childhood nights in the front room, listening to the Radio 1 Top 40 countdown with one ear pressed to the speakers while my parents tried to watch Antiques Roadshow, I always think of one night in particular. And, looking at the charts for this particular week, it’s this one!

I can’t explain it, but there’s just SOMETHING about this night that distills the very essence of that exciting pre-Christmas period of 1984 into one lovely, intoxicating, jumbled-up mess of sentimentality. Paul McCartney’s ‘No More Lonely Nights’, Phil Oakey’s ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ and – brace yourself – Limahl’s ‘Never Ending Story’ can instantly rekindle the feeling of this long-lost evening, and – oddly – the wild, romantic dreams I had as an 11-year-old… of dressing up in a long coat and muffler and kicking through the leaves on a black, Autumnal night with a bit of warming synth-pop in my heart and Debbie Jarvis clinging onto my arm.

And this was also the first time I heard Nik Kershaw’s ‘The Riddle’, whose strange, meandering narrative seemed to suggest the tangled, exotic puzzles of my beloved Fighting Fantasy books (a feeling that lasted until 2001, when I saw Nik Kershaw himself describe the lyric as ‘bollocks’)…

And then a song whose video I was utterly entranced by, particularly as – I’m sure – it was widely touted as the most expensive video ever made at the time it was released. Yep, Duran Duran’s Wild Boys (WILD BOYS!!!)…

Around this time, I’m sure I remember the band making an appearance on Noel Edmonds Late, Late Breakfast Show to perform this song, and Noel asking the studio audience if any of them had ever met Duran Duran before. To be greeted, naturally, with a resounding ‘No….’.

‘I’m sorry, but you have…’ replied Noel. ‘You all have…’

He then revealed that the the entire band had been disguised as BBC doorstaff (in uniforms and peaked caps) as the audience had filed into the studio two hours earlier, and every single member of the crowd had had their ticket checked by a member of Duran Duran. Not a single one of them had realised.

Great stuff, and the band went up in my estimation immeasurably after that. I still love that video as well, and remember Simon Le Bon (possibly on the same Late, Late Breakfast Show) revealing that he’d come close to drowning when the crew had taken a lunchbreak and left him strapped to the windmill with his head underwater. ‘I’d have left the bugger in there as well,’ said my Dad, rustling the back page of the Saturday Evening Gazette.

Pop stars just aren’t ridiculous, pompous and portentious enough any more, are they? Listen to the lyrics of Wild Boys, and the hapless Duranees clearly though they were espousing deep, complex philosophy to a public eager to lap up their every proclamation. I like that. The current lot just want to get a bit ‘jiggy’ and wear tasteless jewellery. BRING BACK OVER-INFLATED PRETENSION IN POP!!!

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5 Comments»

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I still love the Wild Boys vid. I wasn’t a Duranee in my early teens (was obsessed with A-HA) instead but I really came to appreciate them in my late teens and finally got to see them aroun 93 i think-I even gave away my ticket to a Manics gig (who I was totally obsessed with) to see DuranDuran! I got to see the Manics at least a dozen more times though, so I wasn’t too disappointed and DD were fab live-so well worth it!

I still have th Neverending Story Book which my dad got me one xmas. I never got to finish reading it which was bizarre. I think because there was a really traumatic bit which had me bawling for ages!

  Chris Orton wrote @

I remember those swimming notices well, but I don’t recall much of the banned activity going on at our local baths. When I was very small I didn’t know what “petting” meant, and I wasn’t even very sure about “patrons”! And smoking in the baths? Where would you keep your lighter? And wouldn’t your tabs get soggy? They just didn’t think this sort of thing through.

I was truly hopeless at swimming, and developing asthma at the age of 10 only compounded my hopeless, wild, floundering.

Do you still have to go through that weird brown disinfectant pool when you go to public baths these days? That stuff STANK.

  bobfischer wrote @

Fiona – I love the fact that you never finished the Never-Ending story. It’s entirely in keeping with the spirit of it! 🙂

Chris – If anybody was going to light up a tab while bobbing up and down in the deep end, it was the patrons of Thornaby baths. Best to be on the safe side, I reckon. Our school was always rife with rumours of ‘petting’ going on at the same location… in fact, not just ‘petting’ but (gasp) ‘heavy petting’. Usually – apparently – organised to a strict timetable.

“It’s dead true, there’s a couple that do it down the deep end every Thursday mornin’ at 11o’clock. And if yer can hold yer breath for long enough yer can go underwater and watch them AT IT”.

Etc. Of course, we were all in school every Thursday morning at 11am, so it was – handily – impossible to ever check.

  Rhonda Civic wrote @

The Wild Boys! Oh how we laughed. Even at the time I knew my tame guinea pigs were wilder.

  bobfischer wrote @

Spandau Ballet fan alert!!!!


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