Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 346

Tuesday 11th December 1984

I got up at 8.00, then Gazzie came and we went to school. It was English (I did my book review), RE, library, Drama, dinner, French, Maths and Rum Truffles in HE.

At 3.40 I came home and at 5.10 I watched STARTREK. At 18.00 hrs I made a sleigh for the XMAS cake, and at 7.30 I watched Give us a clue. At 8.00 I watched Des O’Connor, then dad and I played chess.

At 9.10 I went to bed.

Ah, stung into action! As you’ve probably realised, my house was a regular morning meeting point for a few assorted friends in those terrible, nervous minutes before school. We were five minutes walk from the school gates, so it was easy for Doug to break his daily walk at our back door, or for the parents of Gareth ‘Gazzie’ Jones and Alistair ‘Burton’ Burton (both of whom lived in the outlying villages) to drop them at our gate rather than fight their way through the school run traffic (which was, of course, much less intense in 1984 than it is now… we had to find for our-bloody-selves in those days, grumble grumble, national service, etc…)

Looks like it was just Gazzie Jones on this fateful, frosty morning, but I’m pretty sure he pottered into our front room, resplendent in school uniform and with Puma bag slung casually over the shoulder, and asked – in all innocence – ‘Are you putting your Christmas decorations up soon?’

He wasn’t taking the piss, but the wounding truth was – of course – that we already HAD put them up. He’d committed the festive faux-pas equivalent of asking ‘When’s the baby due?’ to a woman who ISN’T ACTUALLY PREGNANT. It was entirely understandable, though… our increasingly tatty 1970s selection of tinsel, posters and baubles didn’t really look especially festive in the bright, gaudy, mid-1980s. I knew, from that second onwards, that I had a matter of days to address the matter, or CHRISTMAS 1984 WOULD BE RUINED FOREVER!!! (Or, more accurately, ruined until about 2.30pm on December 27th, by which point I was usually bored to the back teeth of all things festive)

Anyway, my book review… yes, scribbling away ‘IN SILENCE PLEASE… THANKYOU, MR FARRAGE’, in Mrs McDonald’s musty, earling-morning classroom. And, while the pony-loving posh girls of the class were busy waxing lyrical about Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, what work of great literary fiction had captured my imagination? That’s right…


Ghostbusters is a comedy about three scientists who have been thrown out of college because they were researching into ghosts all the time. They are called Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler and Raymond Stantz. Together they form a trio and devote themselves to ridding New York of ghosts and spirits.

This book is fast-moving and very exciting. It is for the type of person with a good sense of humour and adventure. Alltogether it is a brilliant book, and very funny. There is a part when Venkman is being interviewed on Breakfast TV.

‘Well,’ asks the show host. ‘I guess there’s one big question on everybody’s mind, and you’re certainly in a position to answer it for us. Have you seen Elvis and how is he?’

I’m sure we actually had to stand up in our seats and read our reviews out to the rest of the class (which I did with my usual theatrical, tarty aplomb) and I was delighted when Mrs McDonald beamed broadly and said – bestill my beating heart – ‘This sounds FABULOUS! Is it a recent book? Has anyone else in the classroom read it?’

‘It’s a film, Mrs McDonald…’ replied the entire class in unision, in that half-bored sing-song voice that only 12-year-old oiks can do with the right degree of conviction. A film that, of course, Doug and I had already failed miserably to get in to see. I think my book review this fateful morning steeled our nerves for a second attempt, and we exchanged a meaningful grimace across the classroom… (could just have been trapped wind, though)

(Actually, no it couldn’t, since when did 12-year-old boys ever allow their wind to get TRAPPED? Unless it was in a jam-jar, of course….)

And Rum Truffles! Yep, pretty much my ONLY culinary success in an HE class… I took them home on a sheet of greaseproof paper in a Peak Freans biscuit tin, and they were bloody gorgeous. Little dollops of sugary brown goo coated in ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ and impregnanted with ‘1 tablespoon rum’ according to the recipe in my HE exercise book.

Were we really allowed to bring our own rum into school, even for the purposes of an HE lesson? I’m surprised we weren’t all slaughtered in the middle of Drama. I did once attend one of Mr Branfoot’s computer studies lessons after downing four pints of Guinness during a lunchtime ‘livener’ at Moore’s Snooker Hall, but this was much later, in lower sixth form. BBC BASIC sub-routines had never seemed so exciting.

And aaaaah…. the ‘sleigh for the XMAS cake’. My Mum always did (and still does) make a gigantic Christmas cake evey December, constructed entirely from raisins, concrete, industrial-strength marzipan and white icing thick enough to withstand a thermonuclear explosion. Every year, the cake was dotted with another selection of (probably) early 1970s decorations… little plastic robins and Santas on lethal spikes, that kind of thing.

I think, in 1984, I’d decided this was all a BIT old hat, and that – probably inspired by some Blue Peter thing or other – I was going to make some NEW decorations for the cake. I’d already ‘done’ a reindeer, now I twisted together the rest of the brown pipecleaners to make a lovely (if slightly wonky) sleigh, before jazzing it up with a few bits of tin foil from the kitchen drawer.

I was about to say that I wish I’d kept all this lovely, home-made, childhood nonsense, then it struck me that my mother probably HAS still got them, stuck in a kitchen cupboard somewhere, and ready to be pressed into action for this year’s bass-drum sized cake…



  The Reverend Marcus Carcass wrote @

My child, is it not possible that your little truffles were impregnated with a few drops of ‘rum’ flavouring? Most grocers will stock this according to my housekeeper, in tiny bottles next to those of ‘food colouring’. Other baking flavours available include ‘vanilla’ (essential for Viennese Whirls in the days when real vanilla pods were not widely available) and ‘peppermint’ for use in pink and white fondant blobs.
I popped into the pantry for a sniff of this ‘rum flavouring’ when I read today’s update. It smelled a little like an unworn Wellington but I should think it was a safer option than doling out teaspoons of Lamb’s Navy to rowdy schoolchildren.

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah yes, Dr Parcel, I suppose that’s possible. I do currently have a bottle of Lamb’s Navy Rum on top of the filing cabinet opposite me, but it doesn’t make me think of unworn Wellingtons.

It makes me think of Caroline Munro.

In unworn Wellingtons.

*drifts off…*

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