Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 366

Monday 31st December 1984

I got up at 10.00 and I typed in some more of my Doctor Who program. At 12.00 I had dinner, then I went upstairs and started to type in a game called The Worm game, but I packed it in.

Then I went outside and played on the tarzie, and at 4.00 I came in and played on the Spectrum. I typed in a game called Denbar, and at 8.00 I saw the Morcambe and Wise classics.

Then I brought the Spectrum down and typed in a game called Scrumper. At 12.00 I did the first foot in, and at 12.10 we watched Singin in the rain. I went to bed at 1.50.

Well, blimey… here we are. As a certain TV Time Lord once said, ‘It’s the end… but the moment has been prepared for…’ As per usual, I don’t think I’ve done any preparation whatsoever, but – after 365 consecutive days of living 25 years in the past – it IS the end. Just as it was back in 1984, except… except…

…New Year’s Eve really wasn’t much of a big deal to me as a kid. I suppose there was the excitement of staying up a bit later than usual and (if I was lucky) walking into the house at midnight with a lump of coal from the bunker in my hand, but – essentially – all I really did was sit in the front room with my family watching the telly all night. Which is pretty much what I’d done for the other 365 days of the year as well.

It certainly wasn’t a patch on Christmas Eve. I can describe the details of all my childhood Christmas Eves with a fair bit of clarity, but it’s quite telling that I can only really remember three childhood New Year’s Eves AT ALL… 1984 (which is handy), 1979 (when I stayed at my Gran’s bungalow and watched ‘Will Kenny Everett Make It To 1980′ before my Uncle Trevor took me out into the streets to listen to the sound of the ships’ hooters five miles away at Tees Dock) and 1983 – the day, of course, before this whole strange diary thing began. I was at my Gran’s bungalow again, and remember sitting in the armchair by the front window as Trevor and Rose – my Uncle and Aunt – and their friend Ian Taylor and his girlfriend wandered in from the Endeavour pub at 11.45am, still carrying half-full pints of Harp Lager in their hands. Which I thought was the most decadent and exciting thing I’d ever seen in my life. We chatted until the early hours before I slept on the settee in the front room… and that (as people used to say in the back row of the Classic Cinema) is where we came in. Exactly a year ago tomorrow. Or 26 years ago tomorrow. Whichever way you want to look at it, really.

Anyway, another day – predictably – spent in front of the ZX Spectrum. I’ve tried and failed to track down ‘The Worm Game’ and ‘Denbar’ online somewhere today, but I guess they’re pretty obscure… they’ll have been included in the latest issue of Sinclair Programs magazine, with the BASIC code printed out across half-a-dozen inky pages for me to type in and ‘Run’ myself. Only for the whole bloody computer to crash and the dreaded ‘C: Nonsense In BASIC’ message to appear across the bottom of the screen, like a message from God to GET OUTSIDE AND STOP WASTING YOUR CHILDHOOD.

And ‘The Morecambe and Wise Classics’ was shown on BBC1 as the highlight of their evening schedule, with Ernie Wise himself bravely introducing a lovingly-compiled tribute to Eric himself, who had – to the nation’s utter shock and dismay – died suddenly seven months earlier, in May 1984. My Gran and I snuggled into our armchairs and let ‘Grieg… with him and him’ wash over us as my parents pulled on their best clothes and took the Reliant Scimitar into Yarm High Street for a cheeky couple of pints in the snug of the Cross Keys pub. I think I had the decency to wait until the final credits finished before haring upstairs to collect that bloody ZX Spectrum, and lashing it up to the ‘big telly’ for the next three and a half hours.

So I spent the dying embers of a tumultuous year typing in a bit more code from the pages of Sinclair Programs. ‘Scrumper’ was definitely a game in which a little lumpy character sped backwards and forwards across the bottom of the TV screen collecting falling apples in a basket. While my Gran’s knitting needles clicked and clacked, and the coal fire glowed amiably on the hearth, and Poggy Doggy and Poggles Ponsonby snuffled around looking for stray peanuts, I spent three hours typing in this rubbish and saving it to my creaking cassette recorder (‘R: Tape Loading Error’), then got to actually play the game for FIVE MINUTES before, at 11.45pm, my parents crashed back through the kitchen door and demanded I put BBC1 back on to watch ‘Live Into 85’, hosted by Tom O’Connor from the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. 

Except they didn’t. They were great about it…  clearly fortified by a couple of John Smiths Bitters apiece, they pulled bottles of gin and tonic from the woody-smelling end cupboard of the sideboard and laughed and cheered as I put ‘Scrumper’ through his paces. The lounge doors were closed, the peanuts finally emerged (as Poggy Doggy laughed and cheered) and three generations of our family were enveloped in a riot of boozy noise and laughter as the seconds ticked down to 1985.

And then we did watch ‘Live Into 85’. Just for a little while. A typical BBC1 New Year’s Eve extravaganza… Bucks Fizz and Chic Murray, Maggie Moone and the Pipes and Drums of British Caledonian Airways. And then we counted down to midnight itself! 5-4-3-2-1… HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

‘Who’s doing the first foot in?’ asked my Gran, already turning crimson after a glass of home-made wine. ‘Come on, get your shoes…’ said my Mum, dragging me by the scruff of the neck, with the ZX Spectrum still tucked under my arm. ‘You’re dark and pretty tall for your age, and you’ll have to do it because your Dad’s too pissed…’ 

So I did. An absolute honour! My and my Mum stumbled back through the kitchen door, and out into the garden as an icy blast of winter darkness tore the breath from the back of our throats. Giggling, I stuck my hand into the coal bunker and pulled out a filthy, black nugget, and then I think we actually went for a walk… not very far, just two minutes around Crossroads roundabout and back again, but enough for me to ruminate on the passing of another year.

‘You’re getting old…’ said my Mum, with a hint of pride in her voice. ‘You’ll be thirteen this year!’

‘God, and FOURTEEN next year!’ I gasped. It seemed impossibly mature, and actually took me aback a little bit. I think I made a half-hearted attempt to be vaguely philosophical and talk loftily about my hopes, dreams and ambitions for the years to come (‘I want… I want to present a stupid local radio show and write a book about meeting Doctor Who fans in provincial hotels…’) before we arrived back at the kitchen door, and I proudly strode across the threshold before mischieviously letting Poggy Doggy have a nibble at the piece of coal I’d been carrying around for the last two minutes in my sweaty right palm.

And then it was back into the front room. I think I had a couple of glasses of home-made wine myself, and the WHOLE FAMILY settled down to watch Singin’ In The Rain… ‘a PROPER film’ said my Dad, swigging gin and tonic and refreshing everyone’s glasses. It was 12.10am when the opening credits rolled, and – at 1.50am – when it finished, all four of us were still lazing happily around our various settees and armchairs having basked in the glow of ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, ‘Good Mornin’ and that sensational title song for the first two hours of the brand new year. And my Dad never missing the opportunity to rekindle his dormant teenage lust for sensational leggy guest star Cyd Charisse. 

And then a BBC announcer turned up to wish us all a Happy New Year, remind us that ‘our colleagues at Radio 2 will be broadcasting throughout the night’ and play the National Anthem before switching off all the lights at TV Centre and plunging the nation into metaphorical darkness. I helped my Mum and my Gran tidy up the glasses, bottles and peanut bowls, gave Poggy Doggy a cheeky scratch on the neck, brushed my teeth (pretty sloppily, probably… I tended just to make a few ‘tooth-brushing-type-noises’ to keep my mother happy) and went to bed dreaming of Denbar and The Worm Game. 

And when I woke up it was another year.

And that really is the end… but the moment HAS been prepared for.

I’ve laughed and cried writing this blog this year. Absolutely literally. Sitting by myself, at the PC in the spare room, barking with laughter. Or – just as often – full of tears and snot and heartache and regret. And do you know why? Because 1984 was the year I grew up. I didn’t realise it at the time, or even a year ago when I started doing this, but throughout the course of the year I went from being a very naive child to a slightly annoying adolescent. And it’s an hilarious and painful journey… from playing on bikes to writing computer games, from painting at primary school to peering through microscopes at the beginning of seven years of scary secondary education.  

But it was a brilliant journey to make at the time, and it’s been almost as much fun to make it again. There have been days when I didn’t want to write an entry… when work was tight, family duties were calling, when I was ill, knackered, depressed or on holiday. But – without exception – as soon as I forced myself to sit down and write – the words and the memories started flowing like my Dad’s home-made wine. Yes, slightly lumpy, and with a frequent bitter after-taste.

Thanks SO much for everyone who has come along for the journey. To everyone who has posted their own memories of 1984, their own memories of me (you swines!), or – indeed – just read silently and happily as I’ve hammered this stuff out every day. Huge thanks and love, obviously, to my family… who have taken the whole thing in tremendous spirit and helped out with their own recollections wherever something sprang to mind. To my Mum (Doreen) and Dad (Geoff), to my Uncle Trevor and Auntie Rose (and their son Chris, who was a toddler in 1984 but still counts!) to my Auntie Norma and… well, everyone else that got a mention along the way. And, of course, to my Gran… Mary Eliza Atkinson, who died in 1989 but would have chuckled along to this rubbish with the rest of them.

Massive thanks to the old schoolfriends who popped up and helped out and equally took their ribbing in good faith… to Gareth Jones, Ian Oswald, Chris Byers, Tom Stainer, Joanne Oxley, Claire Otterson, Janet Haigh and Ian Farrage (have I missed anyone? If so pipe up… my memory of 1984 is great, but short-term I’m a dead loss these days!) And also to my old teachers Mark Hirst and Geoff Millward… meeting up with you both again after 25 years was one of THE highlights of my year. An absolutely thrill to see you both again, and I really can’t thank you enough for your contributions.

And bloody hell! Alan Garner posted here as well! Was that just a dream, or did it actually, really happen?

So there you are. Naturally I’ll still be scribbling here regularly, so please pop by, and obviously all the 1984 stuff will stay here for posterity, so feel free to pass it on to anyone you think might be interested. And keep commenting if you like! I’m happy to talk about all of this stuff until Arnold The Cow comes home.

And, lastly, I dedicate the whole thing – every last word – with love and utter respect to my friend Doug Simpson. Doug died in October 2008, just short of his 36th birthday, and I found my 1984 diary about three weeks after that. I miss you, Doug. You brought fun and filth and light and laughter into my life, and I’ll hold you close to my heart forever.

Happy New Year, everyone.

See you on the other side.


  Stuart Downing wrote @

I can’t think of anything profound enough to say here, but thanks Fischer, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reliving 1984. Although I’d like to point out that I was a year older than you (well, 50 weeks to be exact) and would look down my nose at some of your childish escapades. Whilst doing the same sort of stuff myself on the quiet.

  bobfischer wrote @

I still think we must have crossed paths somewhere in 1980s Acklam while not meeting ‘officially’ until the mid-1990s. Maybe in a pantomime fashion, with you repeatedly walking out of sight around the corner of the Endeavour just as I emerged from Mr Murray’s newsagents. Every weekend for ten years.

  Gav wrote @

Thanks Mr F for your effort and well done. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reliving 1984 with you, albeit not getting the Weary Valley thing, surely it’s Trout Bridge? Happy New Year.

  bobfischer wrote @

Heyup Gav, good to see you round here – didn’t realise you were following this rubbish!

It was definitely Weary Valley when I was a kid, that’s just what my Dad called it! I don’t think I heard it called Trout Bridge until I got to Conyers, but then I adopted it myself because I’m weak-minded and easily led.

Hope you’re well anyway, and have recovered from your cross-country run 25 years and two months ago! Happy New Year too.

  Chris Orton wrote @

I can’t quite believe that it is all over… I have to say that it has been a real joy and pleasure reading the thoughts of Bob the Younger over the past year. I’m just amazed at how much of what happened to Bob struck a chord or chimed with me. Being someone who also spent his childhood growing up in a small north-eastern town in the 80’s it could almost be as if I had written swathes of the diary.

So thank you Bob for a really entertaining year of blogs and for sticking at it for all 365 days! I’ve enjoyed reading it all and enjoying sharing my thoughts on things too.

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks Chris – it’s been great having you along, I’m really grateful for all your contributions! I think what I’ve realised more than anything was that the 1980s was a really exciting time to be a kid… we were still doing traditional kids things – bikes, football, exploring the woods and being utter nuisances – but it was also the start of the video gaming era as well, and we managed to dovetail the two really nicely. The best of both worlds, really.

And mid-80s TV and pop music was fab, naturally.

  Patsy wrote @

Bob, thank you so much for sharing a year in your life with us all, I’ve enjoyed every bit of it even though I was not a young boy growing up in the north east 🙂 In fact, after a bad day at work I’d come here knowing there would be something that would make me smile (and even occasionally make me sniffle). It’s been a real pleasure and I’ve been dreading the end of the year and no more diary, so am so pleased to hear that you will continue to write on here. Thank you again, and I wish you a very happy, peaceful and successful New Year.

  bobfischer wrote @

Patsy, it’s been a pleasure! Thanks for all your contributions and for sticking with it. I’ll definitely keep popping stuff on here throughout 2010, and I MUST write another book as well… it’s been far too long!

  Drew Smith wrote @

It’s been a privilege Bob and I continue to marvel at your perfect recall. Even if it isn’t on paper, this is your second book.

  bobfischer wrote @

…and the third, fourth, fifth and sixth books as well. 🙂

Thanks mate!

  Mark Hirst wrote @

If I was marking this work, I’d have to give you an `Excellent!`, which doesn’t come easily from my red pen! It’s a little piece of history for us all.

Really enjoyed being part of this and it brought a lot of good memories flooding back. It’s nice to know that the young minds I worked with back then, are all doing their stuff as `mature` adults.

Most teachers like to think that they have made some impact, however small. They were good old days back then. I think Geoff would join me and say that your recollections, observations and kind comments have made two old men very happy.

All the best for 2010 and get that (difficult)second book out!

  bobfischer wrote @

Mr H, it’s been an absolute honour to have you along for the ride on this strange adventure! When I dropped that speculative e-mail to your school back in April, I had no idea what you’d make of it all (or if you’d even remember any of this stuff) and was bracing myself for a stern rebuff!

There was nothing small about the impact that you and Mr Millward (and our other Levendale teachers – I never did find Mrs Keasey, sadly!) had on me as a kid, and I know from speaking to some of my old classmates that they feel the same as well. They were great times, and we couldn’t have asked for a better set of teachers to guide us through those wayward years!

Keep in touch, and I’ll drop the proofs of that second book round sometime in 2010, so you can put your trusty red biro to work. 🙂

Happy New Year!

  Thing wrote @

Enjoyed the blog, despite my sometimes forgetting about it for two or three days and having to get through half a week’s worth in one day to catch up. It’s brought back a large number of half-forgotten memories based on TV in particular, also music, film, comedy, sport, various things really, and it’s been good to have a keyboard chinwag about some of them. I’d be tempted to reread my own diaries (I started one in 1985), if I still had them. Chucked them out ages ago, which may be a good or bad thing for me. Not sure!

I do find myself wondering if anyone in 2034 might be writing a blog based on their childhood diary from 2009, and wondering whether there’s any kids left using Wii, Facebook, iplayer, ipod, and reflecting that hardly anyone under twenty even knows what emails are…

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks Thing – glad you enjoyed it, and thanks so much for the amazing research (and memory-digging) you’ve done for so many of these entries!

I wonder if kids today still write ‘secret’ diaries in little books hidden under their beds, or if all their daily thoughts and activities are just lived out online these days? Twittering and Facebooking?

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Oooh I’m all teary-it can’t be the end!
I knew it was coming, but had forogtten when I started reading this last entry :O(

It’s been a joy to read and have had lots of laugh out loud moments. I reckon the ‘you’ from the future travelled back in time to the ‘you’ from the past to instruct him to keep a diary for fututre entertainment ;O)

And so we close the last page on your 1984 diary. I loved it and feel a little bit sad, just like I do every time I finish a really good book!

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks Fiona… that’s really nice. Thanks as ever for all your contributions, it’s been a pleasure!

And don’t get me started on timey-wimey stuff, we’ll be here all day… 🙂

  Claire Otterson wrote @

Have thoroughly enjoyed being taken back to 1984 with your diary entries, though thankfully without the blue glasses and page boy haircut!
If you come across any more recollections I’d love to hear them!

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks Claire… really pleased you found this place, and enjoyed it! Thanks for being part of this minor 1CW online reunion.

I’m quite tempted to try and organise a real-life reunion sometime this year, but only if I can find Mrs Bush to call the register in the pub at the start of the night…

  James Morton wrote @

Kurt Vonnegut once said that we all see our lives as stories, and yours albeit a brief window into life as a teenager in the 80s was a delight to read and follow. I enjoyed the little trip down memory lane and found a lot that reminded me of my own experiences in the 80s. I doubt I will start going to conventions again, but I am buying a lot of boxed sets of TV from the 80s “Tales of the gold monkey” and every Dr Who (tom baker of course) I can get my hands on!

  bobfischer wrote @

Thanks James – that’s lovely!

I don’t know if I dare watch Tales of the Gold Monkey again, it CAN’T be as good as my memories of it! Can it…? (Let me know!)

  James Morton wrote @

You know, it is just as pulpy as I remember it. Just watched the first 4 episodes with a silly grin on my face. It came out around the time of the Indiana Jones films and it does have that vibe, as well as a nod to the old RKO serials that inspired it.

  bobfischer wrote @

That’s reassuring to hear, actually! I might bite the bullet and give it a go.

  Justin wrote @

Late,I know (I read this at work daily and have only just caught up after Christmas!) but just had to say a simple “Thank You” for a thoroughly marvellous treat every day of this year… I’m already missing your daily entries even as I type.

  bobfischer wrote @

Hi Justin, an absolute pleasure – thanks for following it, and posting here so much! I’m already hatching a scheme for something fairly regular to go on here in 2010… (I must write another book though before I get too old/lazy/distracted)

  Phil Shoo wrote @

Just wanted to add my appreciation and thanks. The amount of work that has gone into this is staggering, every entry came with analysis, records of side-trips you made and vid-links to bits of TV-past (the number of links you must have been through to find the right one doesn’t bear thinking about). The number of them per entry increased as the year progressed – no wonder my download speed struggled each time I visited.

  bobfischer wrote @

Cheers Mr Shoo… sorry for buggering up your connection! Just put a cold milk carton next to your 16K rampack, things will be fine…

  AJ Garrett wrote @

well done, I liked all the game bits best

  bobfischer wrote @

Look out for my Jet Set Willy concept album, coming late 2010. Possibly.

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