Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 340

Wednesday 5th December 1984

I got up at 8.00, then Doug and Gaz came and we went to school. First was Art, then History, then maths. At 12.00 I had dinner, then it was French, English and science, and at 3.40 I came home. At 5.00 I had tea, then at 5.10 I watched

‘the box of delights’

At 5.25 I watched ‘The good life, then I did homework till Sharon and Elsie at 7.30. At 8.00 I watched

DALLAS

and at 8.45 I watched
              POINTS OF VIEW

I went to bed at 9.30 after having POGGY DOGGY sat on me.

Definitely still trying to liven up my daily diary entries, wasn’t I? And, with less than three weeks to go, it’s no surprise that the actual page itself has a bit of an olde-worlde Christmas feel to it…


I particularly like the decorated ‘A’ at the start of ‘At 5.25 I watched The good life’. I clearly saw myself as a medieval scribe, hunched upstairs in my filthy habit (stop it) and scribbling away like a poor, impoverished monk… cut off from the outside world in my cell, lost in a world of silence and chastity. Although if you chuck in a ZX Spectrum 128K and a few Terry Brooks novels, this actually sounds more like my mid-teenage years.  

(Genuine medieval monks would, obviously, never have watched The Good Life either. They were all, to a man, devoted Ever Decreasing Circles fans)

In history, Mrs Ansbro was still guiding us gently through the golden age of exploration, and I seemed to spend the lesson drawing a nice picture of the stone ‘padrao’ that Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz left on the shore of the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 1488…


The late, great Mrs Ansbro was a marvellously kind and dotty old dear with a genuine passion for ancient history, some of which she seemed to be relaying as her own personal experience. She’d certainly been part of Conyers School for as long as any of the other teachers could remember, and – with the benefit of hindsight – I’m not sure that she wasn’t some kind of Time Lady. Certainly the normal passage of the hours seemed to cease whenever we entered her musty, first-floor classroom, and we’d be transported to a strange realm of perpetual Autumn, where motes of chalk dust hung in the air and a pale sun was always setting, casting murky, lengthening shadows through the windows. A spell only momentarily broken whenever Stephen Mason inserted a compass point into Jo Spayne’s lower lumbar region. 

But Mrs Ansbro brought this stuff alive for me, and I’m still intrigued and fascinated by the idea of Bartholomew Diaz and his fellow15th century explorers braving the very real prospects (to them) of dragons and sailing off the end of the Earth to open up new trade routes to the East. Basically a bunch of blokes from Madrid who set off from home not knowing whether the bits of the world they wanted to get to even existed. Speaking as someone who gets a nosebleed every time I travel south of Northallerton, I’m full of admiration for them.

Nice to see special diary treatment reserved for The Box of Delights as well, which clearly meant I liked it A LOT. This was Episode 3, which – as I recall – featured rather a lot of the fine old British character actor Bill Wallis as a skulking, simpering rat hiding out in the sewers and nibbling on fetid bits of green cheese. Not quite as repulsive as my school contemporary Christopher Herbert, but pretty damn close. I’ve always liked Bill Wallis ever since, and still see him popping up on TV every now and again (he’s also Ploppy the Jailor in Blackadder II. ‘We live in an age where disease and disfigurement are commonplace, and yet you are still one of THE most repulsive individuals…’ etc)

I can’t watch that title sequence often enough, as it never fails to evoke the spirit of my 12-year-old self. I was still vaguely convinced that the woods, hills and forests around my house were filled with weirdness, magic and evil spirits, and that – when our long, beige front room curtains were drawn on the pitch blackness at 5pm – all hell broke loose outside. The Box of Delights seemed to provide a glorious, mysterious portal into that strange netherworld, and I loved – and love – it to bits.  

And yes, our resident rough collie Poggy Doggy was indeed given to climbing on the knee of anyone crazy enough to have their attention diverted by the TV for any length of time. There was nothing subtle about his approach, either… he’d just leap headlong into your lap before rolling over onto his back and hanging his head over the arm of your chair, with his tongue lolling out. I watched many an episode of Points of View through a ruffled haze of auburn dog hair.

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3 Comments»

  The Reverend Marcus Carcass wrote @

I am not convinced that The Good Life is necessarily as lost upon monks as you seem to think, my child.

While it’s true that many denominations of Brother felt less sinful watching Penelope Wilton than Felicity Kendal (though heaven alone knows why!), popular 1970s television is not quite the stranger to the ecclestiastical cloisters that you imagine it to be.

When I was a boy I lived very close to some docks and at the end corner of our street stood a large bungalow in reasonably sumptuous gardens. A great number of grey and dusty pink parakeets used to flock in this garden and in the house itself there lived a community of hard-looking nuns in periwinkle habits. (They are still there today if Google street view is to be believed.)

Creeping past on Friday evenings I would hear the theme music to Starsky & Hutch emanating from this comfy nunnery, which accounts for much that has happened since.

  bobfischer wrote @

How so? Do the nuns now spend their time sliding across the bonnets of parked cars in their wimples, and driving through piles of cardboard boxes in the local alleyways?

And why does all of this sound like a scene from ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’?

  bobfischer wrote @

PS As far as I’m concerned, watching Penelope Wilton cavorting around suburbia of a Sunday evening is about as sinful as it gets.


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