Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 351

Sunday 16th December 1984

I got up at 10.00 and I sprayed the windows with the ‘snow’ that we got on Friday. At 12.00 I had dinner, then Mam and I took the Poggles on John Dale’s field.

When we got back George came, and when he left I just lazed around till dad walked in with a Christmas tree. At 5.00 I had tea, then I sprayed the tree with snow.

We took Grandma home at 6.30, and when we got back we saw Sport review 1984. At 9.00 I went to bed.

Freezing day. Absolutely mind-chillingly, finger-numbingly, brass-monkey-threatening cold. Half an inch of frost across the garden all day, an occasional waft of snowflakes and hailstones against the front room window, and my Gran (who’d stayed at our house the previous night) huddled next to the roaring coal fire, the click-click-click of her knitting needles providing a metronomic soundtrack to Farming Outlook and Weekend World.

John Dale was one of the local farmers, and his field was a bare, brown expanse of solid ice surrounded by giant, rustling pine trees, their grasping, green extremities now dusted with a thin layer of frozen, creaking whiteness. Me and my Mum spent half an hour chasing the dogs around there, beneath a slate-grey sky that rumbled ominously above the treetops. 

When we returned, those knitting needles were still click-click-clicking, and my Great Uncle George (who wasn’t really a relative at all, but we’ve done all this before…) popped up at the back gate – no doubt dropping round a Presto carrier bag filled with excitingly lurid-looking presents and doing his best Eric Sykes impression (he was a dead ringer), filling the front room with noise and fun and laughter. As he left the house, he’ll have theatrically checked that ‘the coast was clear’ before pressing a chilly new pound coin into my palm and tapping the side of his nose conspiratorially.

I still absently look out for him whenever I’m crossing our local Tesco car park. He died, aged 83, in the Summer of 2007. 

And then… ha! Excitement! Of the most terrible, treacherous kind. ‘Dad walked in with a Christmas tree’. A real one, of course… a gorgeous, towering pyramid of rustling pine to replace the tickly 1970s plastic affair that had been in the front room for the previous fortnight and that I’d NEVER STOPPED COMPLAINING ABOUT (I hated it).

So my Dad – bless him – decided to make my Christmas. It was the first real Christmas tree we’d EVER had in the house and the smell – the fresh, tingly scent of pine – still sends me back every December to this glorious, giddy afternoon 25 years ago today. But where, dear reader, do you imagine this new tree came from? Do you think he popped down to our local garden centre? Our nipped into one of the local timber yards with a crisp £20 note in his pocket?

No. He, erm… ‘found it’. An hour earlier, he pulled on his giant blue parka and he announced – mystifyingly – that he was ‘taking the dogs for a little wander’ for the second time that afternoon. Neither me, my Mum or my Gran noticed him grabbing his saw from the garage before he vanished out of the garden gate, innocently whistling his breath into a darkening December sky.

Yes… our first-ever REAL Christmas tree… was pinched. Nicked. Fell off the back of a passing forest. I was sprawled across the body of my favourite window-side armchair (‘lazing around’) when he returned, and I still remember the sound of my mother’s flabbergasted laughter from the kitchen. ‘Bloody hell, GEOFF! BLOODY HELL!!! Where the… how the hell are we going to fit THAT into the front room?’

He emerged through the lounge door in an explosion of smiles, pine needles and panting collies. I didn’t stop laughing solidly for about an hour. I still don’t know – to this day – where he’d got it from, but the countryside for miles around our house was dotted with vast, sprawling woodland and copses, one of them now hastily relieved of a Christmas tree that was well over seven feet tall, and whose tip bent sideways as it scraped against the front room ceiling.

My mother rolled her eyes, my Dad winked cheekily and my Gran chuckled despairingly into her knitting. I felt like Danny, The Champion of the World. The old plastic Christmas tree went back into the loft, and the carrier bag full of George’s presents was gleefully based beneath the new one’s lower branches. Decorations were lovingly transferred over, and the ‘snow’ that I covered it with came out of an aerosol can… I’d clearly bought it during  our magical expedition to Stockton two nights earlier.

BOUGHT it, you’ll notice. Paid for it with my hard-earned cash. I don’t follow in my father’s footsteps. Although I suspect several local landowners might have tried to.

And yay! ‘Sports Review 1984’ was – of course – home to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, won for the first time by a duo – Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. Who, in possibly the campest sporting presentation in human history, received their award from a straw-boater sporting Elton John.

‘What DOES he look like, the big poof…’ said my Dad. 
‘He’s not a poof, he’s married’ replied my mother.

She was right, as well. He was. 1984 was a strange place to be.



  Mark Hirst wrote @

It was just before Christmas 1984, when my disabled and partially sighted grandmother, rang and complained that a man had crept into her back garden and chopped down her beloved pine tree. She was 103, living in Yarm at the time, and the shock of witnessing this heinous crime all but finished her off!. If I ever find out who was responsible……………….

  bobfischer wrote @

*whistles innocently*

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