Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 355

Thursday 20th December 1984

I got up at 8.00 then Doug came and we went to school. It was free Science, Music and geog, then at 12.00 I had dinner. It was free RE, DT and history, and at 3.40 I came home.

I had tea, and at 5.30 I saw Grange Hill. At 6.00 I went outside and played on the tarzie, then we went to Yarm. When we got back we did the Christmas cake marzipan, then we made some presents for the cake.

At 8.00 I saw Commercial Breaks and at 8.30 I saw Zoo 2000. I went to bed at 9.00.

With Christmas a mere five sleeps away, our whole house seemed to be building up to an amazing crescendo of excitement, and I remember this evening with amazing clarity… buzzing around the kitchen, up to my 12-year-old elbows in marzipan, food dye and icing sugar as me and my Mum dug out the pneumatic drills and put a few more finishing touches to the BESTEST CHRISTMAS CAKE THE WORLD HAD EVER SEEN.

It was a night on which even the walls of our house and the trees in the garden seemed to be buzzing with excitement. I remember, as the closing theme music to Grange Hill faded, racing outside to swing around the garden on the tarzie and feeling that everything was just PERFECT in my world. It was a cold, cloudless night, and the moon and stars danced sparkling pirouhettes around our chimney stack as golden shards of light and heat beamed outward from the kitchen window.

And then my Mum popped her head outside into the freezing night air and asked it I ‘wanted to go to Yarm to get a few bits for the cake?’ And, of course, I did. I think – by this stage in the 1980s – a few braver shops had started experimenting with late-night opening on a Thursday, so we all piled into our Reliant Scimitar and rattled a mile down the hill into a bustling Yarm High Street.

My Mum probably came back laden with several hundredweight of industrial-strength marzipan. I think I popped into Boyes, and bought an aerosol can of fake snow to coat our stolen Christmas tree in yet another deluge of highly-flammable material. I remember emerging from the shop front and seeing the twinkling lights of the High Street’s towering Christmas tree surrounded by the unmistakeable purple uniforms of the local Salvation Army band. As I pranced back to the car, a lilting brass rendition of Once In Royal David’s City floated into the night sky, and I felt like I was a character in a film.

And then I spent the night making a bloody nuisance of myself in the kitchen. Scoffing chunks of marzipan when my Mum wasn’t looking, nibbling bits from of the gorgeous, fruit-laden Christmas cake and tormenting the dogs with the pipe-cleaner decorations I’d made over the previous few nights… a brown, red-nosed reindeer (completely with boggly, cartoon eyes drawn with felt-tips on circles of cut-out paper) and a red, slightly wonky sleigh to be half-buried in the ‘snow’ of my Mum’s impressively solid wall of icing. The ‘presents’ were little cubes of marzipan, dyed with red and green food dye, to go on the back of the sleigh. I arsed around and wittered on with my usual cack-handed excitement, but paid extraordinary, obsessive attention to all the tiny details. Something I’ve never grown out of, really.

And my one, abiding, glorious, evocative memory of all this ludicrously cosy stuff is an odd one… as we toiled away joyfully, we left the lounge and dining room doors wide open to allow the burblings of the telly and the warm glow of the roaring coal fire to drift out to us in the kitchen. And, with the smell of marzipan hanging heavily in the air, me and my Mum both sang along gleefully to Paul McCartney’s ‘We All Stand Together’.

Yep, the bloody Frog Chorus! I’ve treasured this strange little memory for years, but couldn’t remember which show we must have been listening to, as – unusually – it isn’t recorded in my diary. I’ve just been utterly thrilled to discover, though, that it absolutely MUST have been lovely old Top of the Pops… presented, on this occasion, by Simon Bates and Janice Long.

• Band Aid – Do They Know Its Christmas [Promo Video]
• Bronski Beat – It Ain’t Necessarily So [Performance]
• Council Collective – Soul Deep [Performance]
• Foreigner – I Want To Know What Love Is [Promo Video]
• Paul McCartney & The Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together [Promo Video]
• Roy Wood – I Wish It Could Be Xmas Everyday [Performance]
• Spandau Ballet – Round & Round [Promo Video]
• Thompson Twins – Lay Your Hands On Me [Performance]

Sneer all you like, Beatles saddos, ‘We All Stand Together’ is a gorgeous song. It’s Macca at his most whimsical, and childlike, and beguiling, and hearing this single (and watching the above video) will never, ever, ever fail to bring back in a giddy, overwhelming rush, the magic of this simple night at home and the unbearable excitement of Christmas 1984. My parents, and that house, and our dogs and Doug and my Gran and that bloody ZX Spectrum… it’s all in there. Standing together. Forever. Magical.



  Thing wrote @

I’ve a feeling they may also have played a lengthy clip of The Frog Chorus on that Russell Harty interview with Paul McCartney part of which appeared on Youtube earlier in the blog, although it may not have been on that bit.

  Patsy wrote @

Thanks for posting the vid Bob – I’ve never seen it before (unless age really is decaying the memory). although not ‘Christmassy’ it has put me in the mood tonight 🙂

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