Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 336

Saturday 1st December 1984

I got up at 9.45 and I rang Doug. He came down, and at 12.00 we went to the mud track and played on the swings. When I got home at 1.00 I watched the Snooker and at 2.00 mam and I went to Yarm.

We came back at 4.00, and at 5.00 we had tea. At 5.20 I watched The Tripods, at 5.45 I watched Late Late Breakfast Show, and at 7.00 I went outside. At 8.00 I watched Hi-de-Hi, at 8.30 I played dad at Chess, and at 10.00 I went to bed.

At 11.00 I watched Pushing up daisies, and at 11.30 I settled down.

The first day of December!!! This meant, of course, that it was OFFICIALLY NEARLY CHRISTMAS, and – as such – one cry would now resound repeatedly around the house until my parents finally buckled under the sheer mental torture…


I lasted until about 10am before throwing myself into this gruesome routine on Saturday 1st December 1984. ‘Oh, it’s too early, yet…’ said my Mum, scraping the barnacles from a bag of Newbould’s sausages.  ‘Ask me again when it’s Christmas…’ 

‘Christmas is cancelled this year, anyway…’ said my Dad, attempting to light the coal fire in the front room with a billy can filled with kerosene.  ‘I read about it in the paper. Bob Geldof says we all have to give our money to the starving of Ethiopia. You’ll have to wait till they’ve had their dinner before you get your ZX Spectrum…’

I slinked off mumbling to the mud track with Doug, and we spent an hour rocking idly on the swings, throwing pebbles at the posh greenhouse over the fence and talking about how we should set up a hippy commune, where ALL US DISENFRANCHISED KIDS could leave together in peace and harmony and listen to Frankie Goes To Hollywood for 16 hours a day and put our Christmas decorations up in the middle of October. Both of us sounding a little bit too much like Rik from The Young Ones for comfort.

And then I went home and moaned so much through the snooker (the semi-final of the UK Championships live from Preston, with Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins playing Cliff ‘The Grinder’ Thorburn) that my Mum finally relented and we walked back into Yarm to ‘have a look’ at some new decorations. I’m sure Yarm’s sprawling, budget-price superstore Boyes was open by the this time… if not, it was a similar shop in the same location. Can any passing Yarm-ites help?

Whatever the case, we’ll have come back with a few stringy bits of tinsel, a box of shiny baubles, and ABSOLUTELY THOUSANDS of those strips of coloured paper, where you lick the sticky tip (stop it) and loop them around the next bit of paper to form giant, multi-coloured chains. Every single Christmas, I’d get so carried away making these that – by December 23rd – the ceilings in our house looked like they’d been taken over by a giant, psychedelic spider.

I definitely remember frantically making these in front of the TV one night (possible on this very day) and standing up after a couple of hours to discover that the resulting pile of rustling, pastel-shaded paper chains actually came up to my knees. Going to the kitchen to get an almond slice was like walking through a scene from Yellow Submarine.

Oh, and I’ll have had an advent calendar as well! Although 1984 advent calendars were slightly different from the modern brands, in that…

a) They tended to be manufactured by stationary companies rather than chocolate firms. The advent calendars I grew up with had little windows that opened out to reveal nothing more than a slightly faded cartoon rendition of Father Christmas, some mystified-looking shepherds, or Der Ickle Baby Jesus. No little plastic containers filled with slightly musty-tasting chocolate for us.

2. They only went up to Christmas Eve. Because advent – durrr – is 24 days long. The last modern advent calendar I saw had a brightly-coloured Santa brandishing a Yorkie bar on the front, and boasted 32 windows, to tide yer modern kids firmly over to New Year’s Day. I’m now fully expecting next year’s crop to be five feet square, and to press on through to Good Friday, with a bar of Fruit & Nut behind every cardboard trapdoor.



  Chris Byers wrote @

Boyes used to be Walter Wilson’s supermarket. I can’t remember being anything else.

  Thing wrote @

Our advent calendar has had chocolates the last few years, now you mention it. They’ve all only gone up to 24 December though, don’t think I’ve ever encountered one going up to the New Year.

  bobfischer wrote @

Cheers Mr B… I thought that was the case, although I’m now racking my brains as to when the changeover happened. I’m pretty sure it was around this sort of time, in fact I’m wondering if my visit to buy Christmas decorations in Boyes in 1984 was the first time I’d been in the shop. Doug and I had definitely hung around in Walter Willsons earlier in the year, though.

Thing – I’m really surprised at that! Sorcha and I tend to buy a cheap, silly advent calendar every year, and it’s a few years now since they started going up to the 25th December, and for the last couple of years they’ve gone to New Year.

I can’t remember the last time I saw one without chocolate in it… must be well over a decade.

  Chris Orton wrote @

And the chocolate in these advent calenders is usually the sickliest, cheapest chocolate going. Horrible stuff.

  bobfischer wrote @

I once popped into the website office at Middlesbrough FC in the first week in January, and there was an unopened advent calendar lying discarded on the windowsill.

‘I’m starving,’ I pleaded. ‘Can I have some of the chocolate out of this?’

‘Go ahead,’ said webby person Gordon Cox. ‘Nobody else will touch it…’

So I sat and ate all 25 pieces of chocolate in about 10 minutes. Felt sick as a dog afterwards.

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