Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 360

Tuesday 25th December 1984



I got up at 8.15, and at 8.45 I opened my presents. First I got £12.00 off Grandma, Nana and Norma, and then I got a 1985 dairy off mam. Next I opened a Warlock of Firetop Mountain tape, and after that I got 6 free games for the Spectrum.

Last I got a Dr Who annual, an Eagle annual, and the Spectrum itself. I put Jet Set Willy on the Spectrum but I found that I needed a special code so I couldn’t play that. I had a go on Atic Atac, then Trevor and Rose came and gave me a writing set.

At 12.00 we had our Xmas dinner, and then I played Atic Atac, Chequered flag and Chess on the Spectrum. After a few goes I started to write my own Dr Who program, and at 7.30 I saw just good friends. At 10.40 I played Atic Atac, and then I saw Some like it Hot. I went to bed at 12.50.

First of all… a hugely happy 2009 Christmas to anyone brave and bored enough to be reading this on Christmas Day! Don’t let yourself be torn away from the festivities for too long, I’m sure there’s a Harvey’s Bristol Cream with your name on it somewhere. Especially if your name is Harvey. Or even Harvey Bristol. In fact, if your name IS Harvey Bristol, drop me a line with a scan of your birth certificate and I’ll sort out some kind of special prize. (Possibly a bottle of QC Cream, just to be downright bloody contrary)

But YAYYYYYY! Christmas Day. Clearly THE MOST BRILLIANT AND FUN DAY OF THE YEAR. I might have got up at 8.15am, but I’ll have been awake since at least 6am… lying in the darkness beneath my yellow bedspread with my stomach turning like a tumbledrier, desperate (with a sterling display of 12-year-old pride) for somebody else in the house to start moving around so I could pretend they’d woken me up and stumble casually out of bed.

My Mum will have gingerly opened their bedroom door at 8.14am and 59 seconds, and – by the time my square plastic alarm clock had ticked onto 8.15 – I’ll have bolted relentlessly down the stairs (casting parents, dogs and stray lengths of tinsel in my wake) and been boinging up and down like Tigger by the Christmas tree before Dad had wiped the sleep from his eyes and rolled back the bedsheets with a hairy arm. The house will have been freezing, the dogs will have been hungry, the garden will have been in half-twilight and BBC1 didn’t spark into life until 8.40am. So we’ll have listened, without a shadow of a doubt, to BBC Radio Cleveland on the the crackly plastic transistor that had been in the family kitchen since Pagan times. Carols for Christmas and lovely old Keith Proud. 25 years on, BBC Radio Cleveland is now BBC Tees, and – in a move that still seems slightly surreal – my own show is now being broadcast as part of the Christmas Day schedules. I’m in the Christmas Radio Times and everything.

By 8.20pm the curtains were opened onto a grey front garden, the dogs had eaten cornflakes and water from clanking metal bowls, and my Dad – in his best jumper and trousers – was setting the coal fire in the front room, the only source of heat in the house. And I was still greedily eyeing up the presents beneath the tree, as my Mum – bless her – whispered a mantra that became a regular and heartbreaking part of Christmas mornings in the mid-1980s.

‘Don’t open your presents until Grandma’s out of bed… you never know, this could be her last one…’

In 1984, aged 12, I was still sniffing and sneering about this, but my Gran was becoming increasingly frail and forgetful, and I knew – in my heart of hearts – that one year it would be true. As it happened, it was 1988 that was her last Christmas with us. I was 16 by then, and I wasn’t sniffing or sneering any more.

Still, my Gran was soon with us in the front room, and – by 8.45am – the fire had been lit, the Play School Christmas Show (with Carol Chell) had sparked into life on BBC1, and all four family members were pottering around with a cups of tea. Chocolate liqueurs and walnuts and After Eights piled up on the table. And then the words I’d been longing to hear. ‘Go on,’ said my Mum. ‘Sort the presents into piles…’

I loved this. One by one we’d pull oddly-shaped and garishly-wrapped presents from beneath the sagging boughs of our first real Chrismas tree… the room scented with the glorious, overpowering smell of pine. We stacked them into orderly towers: ‘That’s for me… that’s for me Dad… that’s for Trevor… that’s for Grandma…’ and then, with my heart pounding, I started to tear the paper from the first one.

Little ones first. Mouth dry, determined to savour the moment. A Terry’s chocolate orange. That’s lovely, thanks. I like a chocolate orange. Then my Gran to open a present. And my Mum. And my Dad. Then back to me, and the unmistakeable shape of a tightly-wrapped Toblerone. We carried on like this in turn, as the excitement mounted and the gloom turned to nervous daylight throught the windows. Envelopes containing pound coins from my two Grandmothers and my Auntie Norma in Redcar. Various scattered Spectrum tapes, and a Doctor Who Annual that looked like this…  

And then, inevitably, one box left. One modest-looking cardboard box wrapped in red paper with dancing snowmen. I remember tearing the wrapping from the corner of the box and seeing – with a wave of sheer delight – the multi-coloured logo of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It was mine. Actually MINE. I was a  ZX Spectrum computer owner. I turned the words over and over in my mind, and they still seemed vaguely unreal and ethereal.

Polystyrene was cast aside, and aerial cables switched over in the back of our ancient, grumbling, rented TV. I’d played on Spectrums before – at school, and at Ian ‘Ozzie’ Oswald’s house – so I knew what I was doing. We had to fiddle about with the TV tuning for a while, but then – through a haze of static – appeared that gorgeous white screen, and the iconic, beautiful legend…

(C) 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd.

JET SET WILLY! JET SET WILLY! JET SET WILLY!!! Absolutely THE Spectrum game to own, I’d bought it with my birthday money back in November and for SIX WHOLE WEEKS it had lived in a cardboard box beneath my bed, stashed away alongside fellow 80s must-have game Atic Atac, a pile of TDK D90s containing recordings of the Radio 1 Top 40 charts from June 1984 onwards, and an impressive collection of light purple fluff. But NOW! I COULD FINALLY PLAY IT!!! ME!!! A ZX SPECTRUM OWNER AND A JET SET WILLY PLAYER!!! Except…

…I couldn’t. Because playing the game required me to entire the codes from a little plastic ‘security card’ that the girl in Boots in Middlesbrough had completely forgotten to put into the cassette casing back on Saturday 17th November. From hyperactive elation to crushing disappointment in a matter of seconds. Still, there was always Atic Atac…

And from then on, the day passed in something of a blur. A blur of clicking, blooping figures on our TV screen. I ate triangular chunks of Toblerone with one hand while operating the Spectrum’s rubber keys with the other. Trevor and Rose – my Uncle and Aunt – arrived in mid-morning, with their two-year-old toddler son Christopher in tow. They added a lovely, expensive-looking selection of ballpoint pens and writing paper to my pile of goodies, and the front room began to fill up with jokes and laughter and the first cheeky glasses of gin, beer and Harvey’s Bristol Cream, as my Mum and my Gran pottered back and forth to the steam-filled kitchen.

For Christmas dinner, we moved the dining room table – with, of course, the leaves fully extended – into the front room and chomped away on mountains of sprouts, roast potatoes, turkey, stuffing and carrots. Then Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, all accompanied by the pounding soundtrack of the Noel Edmonds Live Live Christmas Breakfast Show (Yes! From the top of Telecom Tower, and Yes! Featuring that legendary clip of Feargal Sharkey on the aeroplane) and the Christmas Top of the Pops… Culture Club, Duran Duran, Nik Kersaw, Wham!, the Thompson Twins and – of course – Frankie Goes To Hollywood. ‘Any chance you can put your Spectrum back on?’ asked my Dad, with a wry grin spreading across his face. Trevor cracked jokes, I laughed like a drain, the dogs scavenged for falling sprouts and my Gran turned bright pink after a glass of home-made wine.

Looking back, I think this probably the last of my real childhood Christmases. Christmas as it always HAD been throughout my childhood – with my parents and Gran and Trevor and Rose swopping presents and spending the day together, and me still very much as a child… full of life and excitement and wonder, and resolutely not the geeky, slightly sulky teenager that I’d become by Christmas 1985, six week after that watershed 13th birthday. It was a lovely day, and – when I look the snippets of TV that I’ve dotted throughout this entry, I’m instantly transported back to an unbelievably happy time.

So thankyou for that, Mum and Dad. And don’t worry… there’s a still a huge chunk of it that always comes back whenever Christmas morning rolls around.

Just Good Friends was a brilliant, flashback, feature-length episode – the story of Vince and Penny’s first meeting at a Rolling Stones concert in the late 1970s. Trevor and Rose and the kids had gone by then, and I took some persuading to unhook the Spectrum from its socket, but once we did we chortled along at all the naughty jokes, fuelled by wine and chocolate and the incredible richness of life and laughter that flows through the bloodstream as Christmas Day rumbles headlong into evening. And I managed to sneak in another half-hour of Atic Atac before Some Like It Hot, with my Mum and Gran both agreeing that ‘we can’t keep up with that… the little men move around FAR too fast…’

And what better way to round off the perfect Christmas Day than with Some Like It Hot? With the front room in darkness, save for the twinkling red, blue and green flashes of the Christmas tree lights. Two exhausted dogs (and one purring cat) curled up by the glowing remains of my Dad’s coal fire,  and all four of us chuckling along to this most beautiful of madcap comedy classics.  The last embers of the fire failing as Joe E Brown say’s ‘Nobody’s perfect!’ and the lights go out on a gorgeous family Christmas.

And it’s a strange thing… I’m writing this blog entry at around the same time of day… it’s now 1.30am in the early hours of Christmas Eve, and I’ve spent two hours on the ramblings above, fighting through the most terrifying array of emotions – self-conscious chuckles at our own stupid antics, moist-eyed sniffles for my late, lamented Grandma and a huge chunk of wistful nostalgia for a childhood and a long-lost 1980s that I probably spend far too much of my adult life inhabiting.

And then, for no reason, I leaned over from my PC desk to tug back the spare room curtains to find that -while I’ve been writing this – it’s been snowing relentlessly outside, and my house, the street, and EVERYTHING in Yarm is now covered in the most gorgeous blanket of crunchy, virgin white snow that – back in 1984 – I’d have given my Jet Set Willy security card for.  So yay! Just for the moment, I’ll have 2009 back… and I can’t resist taking you out into the garden for a little walk.

It might be all gone by the time you get to read this, or we could all be stuck in our houses waiting for the Territoral Army to dig us out. Whatever the case… be with the ones you love, tell them that you love them, give your pets a big hug, raise a Harvey’s Bristol Cream for me and – if you have a Grandma – wait until she’s out of bed before you start to open your presents.

Merry Christmas Everyone.


  Fiona Tims wrote @

Your vid made me chuckle. Firstly because you’re enraptured and all I can see is blackness ;p

You sound like you wanted to run down the street screaming in ecstacy hehe

Sadly our snow came a week too early-nice and sunny now and making me think of Spring-bizarre!

Hope you had a good xmas :O)

  bobfischer wrote @

I know, sorry about that! It looked great on my camera, but came out a bit dingy on Youtube. It was great though – all the snow seemed to be vanishing, but then suddenly, in the early hours of Christmas Eve, I looked out of the window and there was a blizzard blowing past the window and a fresh two inches of snow on the ground! It stuck around as well, we had a lovely white Christmas here on Teesside. It’s just starting to melt now.

I had a great day… hope you did too. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: