Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 363

Friday 28th December 1984

At 9.00 I saw Charlie Brown, and at 10.30 Doug came and we played on the Spectrum. Then we had dinner, and at 1.00 we took the mutts on the field. At 1.30 we saw Star Wars to Jedi – the making of a saga, and at 3.00 we played on the Spectrum again.

At 4.00 we played out, then Doug went home and I had tea. At 6.00 I went outside, and at 7.00 I came in and played on the Spectrum. I came up at bed at 11.30.

If you want a template for my early teenage years, then look no further than this diary entry… the occasional foray into the garden for a few gulps of fresh air, the odd half-hour of TV, but – apart from that – HOUR UPON HOUR OF SOLID GOGGLING AT ZX SPECTRUM GAMES. By the age of 13, I had chronic repetitive strain syndrome on the index and third fingers of my right hand (From playing on the Spectrum, before anyone starts…)

Three days after Christmas, and I was still being allowed to plug the thing into our downstairs TV for the full in-colour experience (my world was a blur of magenta and cyan) but – if normal family telly-viewing was required – I had to unplug the whole kaboosh and transport it back upstairs to the crackly black-and-white portable in my bedroom. I’m pretty sure that’s where the Spectrum was when Doug fought his way through a staggeringly slippery frost to appear beaming at our back gate.

‘Hello mate,’ he grinned. ‘Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?’ 

‘SPECTRUM SPECTRUM SPECTRUM SPECTRUM SPECTRUM!!!’ I gasped. It was virtually all I’d said for the previous 72 hours.

We plonked ourselves down on my yellow bedspread, facing the Star Wars curtains, and I loaded up Jet Set Willy. Doug made a pretty good fist of looking impressed. ‘Everyone talks about the graphics in Jet Set Willy, but wow… that’s amazing,’ he rumbled. Honestly, he wasn’t being sarcastic… back in 1984, the game genuinely looked like nothing that any 12-year-old boy had ever seen before. I still couldn’t believe I had one in the house and that it was mine to play with whenever I wanted (A feeling I didn’t recapture until my parents went on holiday in 1992 and I brought a girl home from the Kirklevington Country Club)

We had a quick tinker on Ghostbusters as well, and – I think – vowed to make our third attempt at seeing the actual film the following day. I steeled myself to spend another freezing couple of hours shivering outside the Classic Cinema in the vague hope that we’d be allowed to ACTUALLY WATCH A FILM at some point during the afternoon (the very thought!)

Before that, though, we had – I’m guessing – the last of the turkey sandwiches to wolf down (probably with a couple of Presto’s own brand mince pies and a slab of my Mum’s marzipan-laden Christmas cake, still with a plastic snowman skewered into it with a plastic spike), and ‘From Star Wars To Jedi – The Making Of A Saga’ to watch on Tyne Tees. 1.30pm – 2.45pm.

My Star Wars obsession was very much on the wane by December 1984, not least because the VERY LAST STAR WARS FILM EVER (why would George Lucas be crazy enough to make any more?) was now eighteen months in the past, a huge chunk out of the lifetime of any culture-hungry 12-year-old. But from 1977-1981, I had absolutely lived and breathed those films. I was obsessed with the first film long before the national UK cinema release in January 1978, and – once I saw it, at the fourth attempt – life was never quite the same for me again. 

No exaggeration, I probably thought about Star Wars for about 75% of my waking hours during those years. I voraciously collected the action figures and playsets, and my bedroom was decorated in Star Wars wallpaper, curtains and bedspread. There were books, comics, jigsaws, posters, games, guns and other assorted ephemera (C-3PO soap! R2-D2 Bubble Bath! Darth Vader Choc-Ices!!!) EVERYWHERE. Four random assorted Star Wars memories from my childhood…

1. Having my picture taken with ‘Darth Vader’ on the seafront in Scarborough in the summer of 1979. I was wearing my favourite Star Wars T-shirt, and – in the excitement – completely failed to notice that his costume was clearly constructed from bits of an old Ford Cortina dashboard.

2. Meeting galactic bounty-hunter Boba Fett on the stairs of Leslie Brown’s toy shop in Stockton High Street, amid a heaving throng of hysterical kids. All to launch the new Boba Fett action figure. The costume was definitely genuine, and I’ve seen been told by several reliable sources that it WAS actually the actor Jeremy Bulloch inside it… he did a full national publicity tour in late 1980. Can anyone help out with this? 

3. On a gentle family dog-walk around the Devil’s Bridge footpath  in Acklam, telling my despairing Mum and Gran that I wanted a Jawa for Christmas. ‘Haven’t you got that one already?’ asked my Mum, clearly referring to the action figure. ‘No, I mean a REAL Jawa’, I replied. ‘A living one, that I can keep as a little friend’. It was 1978, and I was five. In retrospect, a short course of electric shock therapy might have been the kindest solution.

4. Circa 1979 – snapping the wishbone of our Sunday dinner chicken, and being told by my Mum to ‘make a wish’. I secretly and silently wished that I would turn into Chewbecca, and spent the rest of the evening listening to the Radio 1 Top 40 countdown while furtively checking my hands and chest for hairs. Be careful what you wish for, kids… I’ve now got great clumps of the stuff sprouting out of my ears and nostrils. In fact, on Boxing Day this year, I was tramping through the snow towards the Middlesbrough v Scunthorpe match when I met my friend Garry. ‘F*** me,’ he said, clocking my current wild hair and winter beard. ‘I thought it was Chewbacca for a second’.

I’ve got the temper, but sadly not the height. 

Anyway, Doug and I giggled and tittered through this amiable little ‘Making Of’… sprawled across our favourite armchairs in front of the roaring fire while my Mum and Gran pottered around the kitchen and my Dad found something to occupy him in the garage. Then we went our seperate ways, and – unusually – it seems I was allowed to plug the Spectrum into our main front room TV for the rest of the evening… all I can imagine is that the schedules were pretty desperate that night.

(rummages for TV and Radio Times…)

Ah yes.. It’s A Christmas Knockout, Choir Of The Year, Survival and the Treasure Hunt Christmas Special. No wonder my Dad preferred to stare at me playing Jet Set Willy for four hours.

Or possibly Jumping Jack! I’ve just remembered this cracking little platform game was one of the free ‘six-pack’ of tapes given away free with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and I absolutely loved it to bits…

Time to boot up my Spectrum Emulator again, I think…


  Drew Smith wrote @

RE number 3 – So that’s why you make me wear that hoody whenever we go out.

  bobfischer wrote @

Too right. Get on your knees and say ‘Uttini!’ and I’ll love you forever.

  Chris Orton wrote @

I’ve started to get that hair growing out of my nose too. WTF is that all about?

  bobfischer wrote @

It’s to stop cold air getting into your brain and making you do inappropriate things for a man in his thirties. Like spending a full year blogging a 25-year-old childhood diary every day instead of working… 😉

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