Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 357

Saturday 22nd December 1984


I got up at 10.30, and at 11.00 Gaz came and we went to his house. First we played on the videopac, and then Gaz thrashed me at Snooker. After that we played Skramble and Darts and then we had dinner.

After dinner we played Snooker again, then Hunchback. Then Gaz showed me round the village, and whe we came back we played Chess and Draughts. After that we went out and delivered some Christmas cards, and when when we got back I thrashed Gaz at Chess.

I came home at 5.00 and had tea, and at            I watched The Grumbleweeds Christmas Radio show. Then mam and I played Quest for the rings till            , when I saw Russ Abbot. Then I played Cosmic Conflict, and I also worked out how to play the board game of Quest for the rings.

At 10.40 mam and I played the game, and at 11.15 I went to bed.

Once a TV geek, always a TV geek! Do you know the first that went through my head when I woke up exactly 25 years ago today? I remember it with amazing clarity… shivering beneath my yellow bedspread, switching on the creaky black and white portable TV on my bedside table, watching the Thompson Twins and Slade going through their paces on Saturday Superstore, and thinking…

‘Ooooh! We need to start using the Christmas Radio Times today!’

And then realising that… well, of COURSE we did. It was Christmas Day in THREE DAYS TIME! And this was the first day of the school holidays. And I was going to Gazzie Jones’ house in Hilton for the day, and not only was he one of my bestest mates, but he also had a snooker table, a Phillips G7000 Videopac AND a Commodore 64. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer, obviously, was… nothing. Another gorgeous day, with the annual pre-Christmas butterflies now fluttering their wings in my Toblerone-filled stomach with almost unbearable ferocity. I barely had time to pull on my jeans and shirt (while ‘top skating duo’ Karen Barber and Nicky Slater chatted amiably to Sarah Greene) before Gazzie’s Dad pulled into our drive, his gigantic family estate car crunching excitingly over the frosty gravel.

The Joneses lived in a huge, rambling house in the beautiful village of Hilton, and – as we drove past the sleepy fields and churchyard and the locked-up barn behind which I’d been sick on Saturday 28th January 1984 – I remember being delighted by the frost-covered rooftops and pavements that lent the whole place a gorgeous, Christmas Card feel. The snooker table was in the family dining room, and seemed to be a permanent fixture… I think it was kiddie-sized though, and I remember – on previous visit – taking my customary thrashing from Gazzie while keeping an eye on the TV in the front room, upon which The Les Dawson Show was in full swing on BBC1 (just had a look at a few TV dates, and this would almost certainly have been in January 1983… clearly I only visited the Jones household in the bleakest of midwinters!)

‘Skramble’ and ‘Hunchback’ were both games for the Commodore 64 computer (booo! hissss!), both based on sterling old arcade games, so YES! You too can pretend you’re wasting 10p pieces in a freezing amusement parlour in Redcar without leaving the comfort of your own home!

I’m only amazed I didn’t have a shower or a bath when I got home. I was a dedicated disciple of Sir Clive Sinclair, and a couple of hours on a (cough, spit) Commodore 64 would have left me feeling decidedly dirty and slutty. (They look bloody great now, though… I might have to see if I can find a C64 emulator from somewhere to make Christmas 2009 really go with a swing!)

And I love the fact that Gazzie’s Mum shoved us out into the cold to deliver her Christmas cards! Quite right, too… she was clearly fully aware that were it not for this intervention, we’d happily have spent all day goggle-eyed in front of the telly blasting spaceships and, erm, guiding physically disabled medieval bell-ringers across dangerous castle ramparts. We had a great laugh, though… tramping around the village and sneaking up and down peoples’ drives, desperate to deliver the Jones family cards while skilfully avoiding any contact with the adult world whatsoever.

And then back to Chateau Jones for chess (which I think was a proper, permanent gronw-up chessboard in the front room with expensive-looking carved figures… as opposed to the foldy-up thing with cheap plastic pawns that I usually played on) and back home in time for tea. Awww! Note that, in my 1984 diary entry, I’ve skilfully left gaps because I clearly couldn’t remember what time The Grumbleweeds and Russ Abbot were on TV! ‘I’ll check the TV Times and fill those in tomorrow…’ I’ll have thought to myself, settling down for that tricky third-last sleep before Christmas. Before forgetting about it completely for the next 25 years.

Well I have the 1984 Christmas TV Times on my knee right now, and can bring closure to this traumatic piece of unfinished business by revealing that The Grumbleweeds Radio Show was on ITV at 5.40pm (featuring Wilf ‘Gasmask’ Grimshaw, Muffin De Bricasore, Sid Noxious and Shamus O’Holligan) and Russ Abbot’s Christmas Madhouse was on at 6.50pm, with the Punchlines Christmas Special sandwiched inbetween. Phew! Don’t you all feel better for that? (I’d also forgotten completely that, until the early 1990s, if you wanted complete TV listings then you were forced to buy both the Radio Times AND the TV Times, and NOTHING else was available in advance. State-contolled TV listings magazines! I love it)

And then one last play of last year’s main Christmas present before – predictably – it was packed away forever. Yep, Quest for the Rings (with its accompanying board game) and Cosmic Conflict were both games for the Philips Videopac G7000 console…

And, once more, watching the above clip has just made me desperate to want to the play the bloody thing again. I was about to say that I try not to spend my entire life living in the past and reliving my childhood loves and foibles, but then realised that – two nights ago – I spent £12 to watch The Grumbleweeds in panto at Darlington Civic Theatre, co-starring in Aladdin with Chico from The X-Factor. They were hilarious, and – amazingly – once scene features Robin Colville completely naked on roller skates. I’d like to think that, in 2034, there’ll be a still-traumatised 37-year-old old holo-blogging about it for all his disbelieving contemporaries… (not me, though, I’ll be 62 and living blissfully without technology in a cave at the side of a Loch)


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