Monday, monday

I have thought long and hard ( 5 minutes) about posting this tale; particularly as it is one of the stated aims of this blog that it should not become a dull repository of all things Parkinson. But there are lessons to be learned – especially for me and maybe others as well.

Above all, it shows us how fleeting everything is, and how our lives can be changed completely within seconds for no rhyme or reason.

It is what it is.

Before I begin, a brief look at some of the terms used, which are pretty essential in understanding how People with Parkinsons (PWP) lead their lives (Apologies I if you already know this. It is tiresome, but not very long)


The substance produed by the brain which acts as chemical messenger and allows movement to take place. By the time of diagnosis PWP will have lost about 60% of these Dopamine-producing cells .


A synthetic form of the chemical which will cross the blood/brain barrier. Dopamine itself will not do this. Great at restoring movement, but at a price; as the body gets used to the Leva –Dopa, the more it needs , and as doses are increased very unwelcome side effects kick in.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

This is when an electrical current is passed from a battery implanted in the chest via cables into the skull into two electrodes, implanted into the brain. The current is adusted to give therapeutic results. I had this done in 2011. It is not cure but in many patients it is seen to ameliorate the symptoms.

‘Off ‘

When the leva-Dopa medication or not working. Example. Protein inhibits its absorption. So it may not work after a protein-rich meal.


When PWP have relatively good movement, either because of drug therapy , DBS or a mixture of the two.

Here we go. Monday morning I was getting ready for my 9:30 am weekly Yoga class. It is a five minute walk from my front door. I was alone, everyone had gone to work and I was sitting on the bottom stair, leaning forward tying up the laces on my trainers when I heard an electronic ‘beep’ sound.

I recognised it as the on/off switch of my DBS handset. The handset is about the size of a small mobile phone and allows me to make fine alterations to the amplitude of the DBS settings . I knew immediately what I had done. In the leaning forward motion I had inadvertantly caused the handset, which I always carry in my tracksuit pocket, to swich off.

So now I am getting no deep brain stimulation. Immediately my hands start shaking uncontrollably I am very ‘Off.’ I try and remain calm, noting as I do so that my mobile is in sight but not reach and my medication is in my yoga bag; again within sight and reach, but as good as on the other side of the world to my shaking hands.

It is so difficult to describe the helplessness and frustration. A simple task like putting your hand into your pocket becomes impossible. Nevertheless, after about ten minutes, I manage to get the handset out. I just need to lift it up so I can see. I am trying to keep my hands steady. It is no good, I drop the handset onto the floor somewhere beneath me. My strength is failing. My last Leva-Dopa tablet was at 0:90am. I wonder when it kicks in if it will be enough to propel me to sit up and get the handset. I wait for the familiar sensation of the drug doing its work. Eventually, I can feel it but my condition is so advanced that the tablet barely scratches the surface. It is about 11:00am Time to plan. The chances of my getting help rely on my getting the attention of the postman (who usually comes about 12:30) Of course he doesn’t show his face today. Typical. The amount of shit we get through our door…

It looks like I’m in for the long haul. It will be 5:30/6:00 before my wife gets home. Will I last? I’ve got no option! I spend the afternoon trying to keep wake ( I don’t want to miss someone calling at the door) and periodically shifting my legs to keep my circulation going. My body has slumped, so that I am now lying wedged on the bottom step, the step edge itself under the back of my neck. I am still wearing my jacket and one foot trainer on; the other foot, trainer half off.

My hands in particular are aching due to the constant shaking. My head is arching back at the neck, and feels like it is taking all the pressure from my legs. My fingers are starting to twist. My mouth is dry and I have no swallow.

I listen hopefully for the sound of a vehicle reversing into the drive.

5:45 she arrives. I have planned what to say the moment she gets in the door. My voice is weak, but I have enough of it left to explain what has happened and direct her to the DBS handset.

She switches it on. Bliss! I drop down to the floor and lay on my front.The relief is unbeliveable. I top up with medication. It takes about 15 minutes for this to work and I completely switch ‘on’.

I spend half an hour shaking and rubbing out the cramps (it takes about a week for the aches and pains to ease off)

Over eight hours stuck on the stairs. Nothing I could have done about it. But there was. You see I had got complacent, I had turned off The ‘Panic Alarm’ which is linked to a twenty four hour care centre. It had which had been false-alarming recently. Had that been swtched on I would have been out of my predicament in minutes rather than hours.

I know.

A perfect storm.

A perfect shit storm.

© Andy Daly 2016


Waste of Ink

I can’t help help feeling partly responsible for this. As those who know me will attest, many is the time I have droned on to anyone who will listen extolling the virtues of tattoos and tattooing – particularly since having one done on October 14th 1983, by Ossie ‘The Wizard’ at his studio on Byker Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne. It cost £5.00. It should have been £7.50 but ‘The Wizard’ didn’t have change.

What is it? Well, it is a rose on my left shoulder. Not terribly good really, but it strikes a nice balance between the raffish old-fashioned Portsmouth back-street style of tattoo, and a more modern sensibility in which my rose (or red cabbage – it depends on how I’m holding my arm) becomes symbolic: of fidelity and honour – my talisman.

Which brings me back to my point. Why are there so many crap tattoos around? These days it is rare to see an untarnished body, one without some dreadful scrawl on it.

When you see real tattoo mastery, the Japanese Irezumi, for instance, where the tattoo, its imagery and execution over musculature are ineluctably bound with the social and political stance of its wearer – or at least it was during its heyday of the 1850s and 60s. Much of today’s ‘flash’ (pre-prepared designs which usually decorate a studio walls, and which the client selects, usually by number) pales into insignificance.

Felix Beatto. 1860s. Japanese Tattoo (Hand Coloured Print)

Felix Beatto. 1860s. Japanese Tattoo (Hand Coloured Print)

I am reminded of a lachrymose Scot who happened to be in the bed next to me when I was in hospital for my last bunch of surgery. As he tearfully explained to the surgeon. His main concern, despite the severity of the operation was not haemorrhage, infection, or possible paralysis, but the thought that the scarring would ruin the tattoo on his neck. He was delighted to find on regaining consciousness and his subsequent return to the ward from the recovery room that his fears had been unfounded.

And his tattoo? It was a series of dashes which formed a line around his neck, a small image of a pair of scissors and the legend “Cut Here”.

Cut here

Andy Daly 2016

If you want to see quality contemporary tattooing

go to

London Tattoo Convention

World of Tattoos

Antony Flemming

Dopey Cow

Here’s a little story to keep you going. It concerns Deputy Headteacher at the last school I worked at; one Mrs Denise Fajita: a ‘dough-basher’ by origin – a cooking teacher with a chip on her shoulder, ‘Born-Again Christian’, a bear of very little brain, sworn enemy of the  Arts and anything which involved Creativity, a concept she singularly failed to understand. She was an ‘I-will-be-a-Headteacher-at-any-costs’ Cv-builder.

Well, it came about that the incumbent Heateacher who had thought long and hard about retirement, decided that on balance and taking all things into account, it was time for a rest. The calling of the cool, leafy green arbours of sweet Hayes and a Heateacher/Consultancy at a school therein was simply too strong.

And so it was that this combination of audacious arrogance, twinned with monumental ignorance, Mrs Fajita stood up in the staffroom, during a friday morning meeting shortly before the interviews for the new Headteacher were due to take place, and attempted a lame joke, whose punchline revolved around the fact that at that time, each of the deputies: herself, Greg Hill and Bill Carter all drove Volvos. With true lack of self awareness and comic timing (lack of, I mean) she garbled the words at the critical point and announced to an aghast staff that an appointment was only to be made to someone who had a ‘vulva!’

I mean, I know the school management has been consistently criticised for its gender imbalance, but I felt it a bit of crude indicator of suitability for the post.

© Andy Daly 2010

Bad Influence

Now I’m not saying me and My Best Mate Aky used to drink a lot when we were younger; but we used to drink a lot when we were younger.

And I know it’s all relative. One person’s ‘skinfull’ is another person’s ‘aperitif’ and all that.

I’ll give you an example. Once upon a long time ago me and Aky decided to track down a school mate, Peter Hughes. Pete, or ‘Huggis’ as he was more commonly known was in our year. When Suky wasn’t around, or Aky, I would always try to sit with him.  We arranged to meet the erstwhile, meanwhile and once-in-a-while Mr. Hughes for a drink in town and to chew the fat about the good old times.

It was about 10:00pm, and we’d had a few. The pub was then run by a local ‘entrepreneur’ (ie Layabout/small time crook) called Joe Walsh He had a wife who seemed to model herself on a mixture of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Joan Collins, swanning from bar to lounge, carrying her stupid poodle and treating her clientele to foul-mouthed tales and bitchy gossip. Never fond of hard work, hubby Joe is behind the bar ‘supervising’ clearly inexperienced (or inefficient) bar staff.

Me, Aky and Huggis wait patiently at the public bar, nervously twitching and eyeing the clock – remember, these were the days of a strict regime of ‘last orders’ at 10:30, out by 10:45 (11:00 on Friday/Saturday) unless of course you were a local ‘entrepreneur’  in which case, ‘last orders’ was anywhere between 01:30 to 06:00am. The bar was busy, the number waiting to be served increasing all the time.

Reluctantly, poor old Joe dives into the fray as the clamour for drinks reaches fever pitch and proves as feckless as his dopey teenage barstaff. It’s close to 10:20 now, and already two people, have been served before us. Aky and me are thinking the same: What can we order, when he finally comes to us, that will really fuck things up for him?

‘Six pints of Guinness’ I suggest ‘two each?’

‘Make it nine’ says Aky. Huggis’ eyes have glazed over long ago.

You know just how LONG Guinness takes to pour. Joe’s face is a picture

‘Nine pints of Guinness?!’ he yells.

Nine Pints?! That's almost a gallon!

Nine Pints?!
That’s almost a gallon!

You can see he’s on the verge of refusing to serve us. So at last orders, 10:30 on the dot with 2 packed bars of drinkers waiting to be served we watch with glee as he attempts to cope with our order. Wonderful! only one problem remaining….Well there wasn’t a problem with the first two for me but I must admit, the third pint in 15 minutes was a bit of a struggle. Of course ‘The Fish’ Atkinson, just glugged them all one by one; the downing of the final dregs of each followed a wiping of his mouth with the back of his hand and his familiar beery grin.

We said our goodbyes to Huggis in the Town Centre. He blethered on about what a night he’d had and how we should keep in touch. We continued to wave as he veered precariously from one side of the pavement to the other while he attempted to eat his meat and potato pie, chips and gravy, eventually disappearing into the distance.

Definitely a danger to shipping.


Well, it turns out that Huggis seems to disappear from the scene for a while after our little night out.  And it is some weeks later when we bump into him in town.

‘You pair of bastards’ He says: ‘I am never going drinking with you two again.’ And to be fair, in the 35 years since, he’s kept to his word. For it seems that Old Huggis arrives home in a bit of a state on the night in question. So much so, in fact that he gets lost in his own house, and is discovered by his father in the early hours, on the landing; disoriented and talking in tongues, having vomited in a variety of locations – some of which remained undiscovered for weeks. Huggis is in the dog house more than somewhat.

Andy Daly 2016


Alright. Hands up, who knows what Swailing is?

Almost certainly Norse in origin. (Icelandic: Svaela meaning heat with thick, dark smoke). Swailing describes the age-old art of managing overgrown heathland and clearing the ground of dead vegetation so that new growth can appear, by means of prescribed burning.


Or as we knew it in Rochdale, where I was brought up, the simple union of Pennine breeze, dried grasses, moss and Swan Vestas. Swailing was treated by us kids as a perfectly acceptable robust outdoor activity during the summer months. Indeed, it sat quite comfortably alongside other healthy practices such as nesting, breaking into disused industrial buildings, walking up reservoir overflow pipes, testing out old mine workings, getting underneath old chimney stacks, swimming wherever we could and playing day-long games of ‘Walley’


I can’t believe that my former self engaged in such wifull acts of vandalism. All I can say in my defence is that we never left a fire burning out of control … and it was the 70’s. We must have been a dead giveaway to our parents; returning home, at the end of the day, stinking of smoke, grey, sooty faces with white eyes and black moustaches showing where we had rubbed under our noses.

I had always assumed that ‘Swailing’ was local dialect, which described a perculiarly ‘Rochdalian’ thing to do, but in fact it is in general circulation and used to describe this ancient process throughout the country..


Don’t do it.

It’s not big and it’s not clever.

Andy Daly 2016




Would you like ice with that?

Ever had a bad day?
When nothing seems to go right?
I remember one such when I was still in the old Chalk and Talk racket.
Of all the school trips that I organised, one sticks in my mind above all (not counting the epic Tate Gallery visit, which you will find here)
My form class were a were a sporty lot and had won the annual school sports day every year, hand running, and were set fair to do it again in their final year. So I promised them a school trip if they managed it.
Well the upshot was that they did win it, and elected to go Ice Skating!
So Ice Skating it was. The plan was to use the two school minbuses and take them to Slough Ice Rink for an evening’s skating. Colleague Graham Atkinson their Head of Year came on board to help out with supervision. I booked the transport, the school’s two minibuses. Game On! I decided to take the old bus, a filthy old transit which smelled like a rugby players jock strap, and was covered inside with a thick powdery layer of dried mud, while I let Graham have the new bus which was cleaner and easier to drive. I got the parental permission letters, insurance forms completed. Mini bus booking forms filled in.
Dirty old bus

Dirty old bus

Finally the appointed day arrived. After school had finished I decided to collect the bus keys and give them the once over.
Problem. The old bus keys weren’t where they should have been; in a box in the first deputy’s office which he shared with the caretaker/groundsman.Eventually as the school emptied of staff, the receptionist,tidying her desk for the day came across a bunch of keys.’Are these the ones? Sure enough, they were with note tied to them which said ‘ Do not use’ Well what’s that supposed to mean? I had it booked, and it wasn’t due for it’s MOT or anything . I went out and did a visual check of the bus. Tyres – fine, lights and indicators – fine. I started it up – no sign of any leaks, engine sounded fine. I couldn’t understand it. Well no matter, I’d got the keys – time to get a wiggle on, I went home for a quick shower and got changed. By the time I got back to school, the kids were arriving and congregating around the buses. I gave Graham the keys to the new one and we loaded up. Graham set off first.
Slough Ice Rink, Montem Lane.

Slough Ice Rink, Montem Lane.

As soon as I started to accelerate from the junction outside the school it became apparent why the keys had ‘Do Not Use’ written on them. The bloody clutch was slipping badly. Would the bus make it there? And more importantly would it make it back? I decided to press on. I didn’t mention anything to the kids.
Well we got there OK, if a little slowly, debussed and made our way into the ice rink. Some of the kids were old hands and had been many times before, so the exchanging of shoes for skates was done quickly and they were on the ice before we knew it.
Graham and I had collected our skates and were about to put them on when some of the girls came up to us all in a tizzy.

Balance and Poise

Balance and Poise

‘Sir, Emma’s hurt her hand.’ Sure enough I could see Emma being escorted by a phalanx of our kids over to where we were. We called for Ice Rink staff and their First Aider took a look. In fact it was Emma’s wrist that causing the pain. We put an ice pack on it. Nearest A and E? Wexham Park Hospital. Right! Let’s go. I used the new bus: I was not going to risk anything in the old jalopy. Luckily it was not far, and well sign-posted,  I turned into the Car park and reversed into a parking space. I was concentrating on looking in my mirrors that I forgot about the little step that stands out of the back of the bus and pranged the car behind me. Which Emma thought was hilarious (I put it down to the shock)

Wexham Park Hospital

I helped her out from her seat and went to check the damage. Luckily both vehicles were fine.
I can think of any number of places I would rather be than a packed A and E department at Wexham Park Hospital. Our misery is compounded. After a short wait for triage we are told. that the wait for X – Ray is about three hours, and treatment (if needed) could be the early hours. The triage nurse suggested going to a hospital nearer to home. In the event we decided to ring Emm’s parents, have them pick her up here, the take her to Hillingdon hospital. So Emm and I sit down to wait. Then we had the only piece of luck all day. Suddenly there was a gap in the queue for X ray, so we jumped at it and she got it done. Thankfully it was just bad bruising. No breaks. It was a case then, of waiting for Mum and Dad to negotiate the M25 and find their way to Wexham Park. I was thinking about the rest of the party. The rink closed at 10, and it was already half past. Then Emma’s parents arrived. We explained everything and I made my excuses and left.
When I drove into the car park at  the rink was greeted with an ironic cheer.
We still had to get home, we swapped buses and set off back, me nursing the clutch all the way.
We got back to school safe and sound at about 11pm to be met with the inevitable group of worried parents. Soon Graham and I were alone in the school car park.’ Fancy a pint’ he says’ ‘Sounds like a plan. How’s your triple Axel coming on?…’


Ever walked up or climbed a mountain?

Say like Scafell Pike in the English Lake District. There is nothing better I imagine than using the protection of a suitable cairn or trig point, opening up the sandwich boxes and the thermos and having a relaxing bite to eat before heading back down to valley floor and the car home.

I imagine there’s nothing better anyway because I’ve never had the experience. Let me explain.

My Dad was a skilled and committed climber back in the day. He had trekked and climbed in Scotland, Wales, The Peak District as well as Norway and the Alps but he always came back to his beloved Lake District.

My Dad (On right)

My Dad (On right)

He knows every inch of it, and was so compelled to have his regular fix of it that when my brothers were small often on a Sunday he would wake me up at the crack of dawn and we would kit ourselves up, get in the car and go to The Lakes for a fell walk. Or a quick couple of routes if it was climbing weather. My Dad would make sure we always had the right gear: Sturdy boots, waterproofs , ropes, compass , map, whistle. We went prepared for anything. Except eating. He was so eager to get onto the fells that on the way out he would just grab anything that he thought might sustain us by way of provisions. Food was a very low priority. Besides my Dad was notorious for going the whole day with just 20 Embassy to fortify him.

I remember one occasion stopping for lunch on the summit of I forget where, for my Dad to open his rucksack and produce a tin of pilchards in tomato sauce! Pilchards! Ugh! We ate them out of the tin with our hands.



But the best example of this cavalier attitude to food was on Crinkle Crags. And thereby hangs a tale of survival and derring-do.

We’d headed for some snow, hopefully to try out some new skis. But instead found ourselves on the top of Crinkle Crags in white-out conditions. Snow being blown horizontally. You could barely see your hand in front of your face. It was so cold and windy, ice was crystalizing on the front of my jacket. We found a bit of protection in the lee of an outcrop of rock. My Dad had a primus stove and two eggs he planned to boil. Fat chance of that!  It was simply too windy to light the bloody thing.

Crinkle Crags

Crinkle Crags

‘Don’t worry’ says my Dad, pulling out a tin of beans. He went about opening the tin with a tiny ‘wiggle and cut’ opener and passed the can to me ‘At least they are already cooked’ So we shared the tin ‘drinking’ the beans while trying not to cut our lips on the shredded metal. Suitably ‘refreshed’, we considered our position. My Dad took the view – which I shared – that we were in danger of outstaying our welcome and that we ought to call it a day, even though we were only half way through the walk.

White out condtions on Crinkle Crags

White out condtions on Crinkle Crags

The trouble was the lack of visibility. We were on the traverse of the crags, but which gully to descend by? Get it wrong and it was goodnight Vienna. We consulted the map again and made our choice. I wasn’t scared in the least. I never was when I was out with my Dad.The snow was about knee deep in the gully. The most dangerous thing was avoiding lose rocks and boulders hidden by the snow. After about 20 minutes we broke through the cloud and saw we were spot on with our direction finding – exactly were we should have been – It was still snowing, but much less windy now we were off the tops. In fact we skied the final third of the descent. Not exactly Kitzbuhel but there you go. And home in time for tea and crumpets.

My Dad

My Dad

NB. Scafell is pronounced ‘scorefell.’

Andy Daly 2016


Parkinson’s Awareness Week

As regular readers will know I make a point of making posts to this blog Parkinson’s-free. But, as it is Parkinson’s awareness week may I present this to make you even  more aware.

The boy who fogot how to smile

Now if anybody tells you that these days, Parkinson’s is not so terrible and that it can be easily managed with drugs, you can say nothing, just punch them as hard as you like on the Philtrum (It is the vertical groove or ‘channel’ we all have which runs from the nose to the top lip) There are lots of nerve endings here which make it extremely painful when bopped.

With any luck, fragments of bone will be shattered away and lodge themselves in the Know It All’s brain too.

“Well, it seems your GP was correct, you have Parkinson’s Disease” I remember distinctly the tall beech trees that I could see behind Consultant Neurologist Richard Crawford, through his window. I was transfixed by them as they swayed in the stiff breeze. His words seemed to echo around the room, while briefly, still captivated by the trees I left my body and looked down on the scene in the room from somewhere above the window but which still allowed me a view of the trees as well. The gentle squeeze of my left hand brought me back down to earth, and back to my body. Crawford leaned back in his chair and began to chew on his spectacles. He had taken off his jacket earlier when he got me to do the gait tests (to my humiliation, out in the corridor in front of a packed clinic waiting room) and sat there in blue striped shirt and tie with red braces. He began to speak. His eyelids closed and fluttered as he did so. There was the tiniest hint of a stammer in his voice.

God knows why, but I imagined him as a schoolboy. Public school of course: taunted, teased and bullied because of his blessed stammer and, I suspected, a complete lack of co-ordination and interest when it came to sport. I found myself feeling sorry for him. Strange, really in the light of the news he had just given me. I had first seen him a little under a year before, with the same symptoms. Stress and Writer’s Cramp he concluded. I think he knew then, his diagnosis possibly intended to ‘buy’ me a few more worry-free months, maybe more. In the event, it did the exact opposite: the intervening year being one blighted by increasing concerns as to whether there was something wrong with me or whether it was all imagined. By rights, I should be on his desk now slamming his head in the drawer.

Well things have moved on apace since that meeting in Crawford’s consulting room, it is sixteen years later and I am still battling away with my devious and wily opponent. In the meantime I have tried all manner of drug cocktails in order to keep him at bay: Pergolide, Pramipexole, Neupro, Apomorphine, Entacapone, Stalevo, Amantadine, and of course L-Dopa. Each one comes with its own particular set of unwanted and frightening side effects – Nausea, movement disorders , Obsessive/Compulsive Disorders, Impulse Control problems, Addictions, Hallucinations, Psychosis, the On/Off Phenomenon, characteristic of long term use of Leva Dopa, of course, the alarming and exhausting diskynesias.

So Parkinson’s is much more than a tremor or slowness of movement, motor deficiency. As the condition progresses the non-motor issues become more difficult to deal with and their management becomes more complex. Luckily I was thrown a lifeline in the shape of Deep Brain Stimulation which I had done in 2011. If it weren’t for this I would be in a very dark place indeed. I went into it knowing that possible side effects were impairment of speech and Depression and in the event both have been problematic. My gait is also a bit clumsy but DBS has meant that I have remained on the same drug regimen for the last four and a half years plus it has given me back a measure of independence. There is no doubt that it works, but my perception is, whether the DBS, the drugs, the underlying condition or external factors (probably a combination of all four) that my personality has changed.

Scan of my brain. Dead centre there are two circular shapes, to the left and right are two semi-circular shaped which look like spanner ends. This is where the DBS electrodes are located.

Scan of my brain. Dead centre there are two circular shapes, to the left and right are two semi-circular shaped which look like spanner ends. This is where the DBS electrodes are located.

Lack of self confidence and self esteem are key issues. Although I have been retired now for 6 years or so I still haven’t found my ‘niche’ in a post employment world; while many things I once took for granted are now only on the edge of memory – walking without having to think about it, driving, Having a good criac in the pub with friends, teaching a class of children, my Taekwondo patterns, replacing worn brake pads on the car, the ability to write by hand, to enjoy music, to play the guitar.

And who has front row seats to my humiliations and inexorable decline? The people I love most and whose approvaI I seek more than anything: my family

Sometimes I feel like I am in a ‘bubble’ and ‘real life’ is taking place around me. I don’t speak or engage because it is too tiring to manipulate my mouth to get anything intelligeble out, other times it is simply because I don’t feel I have anything to contribute.

And the ‘Smile’? This is a reference to what is known as ‘The Parkinson’s Mask ‘ Where the muscles of the face lock, leaving me with a ‘blank expression’ which in turn makes smiling difficult. So I am not gumpy or cheesed off, I am just at the mercy of the level of Dopamine in my brain, So I’ll pass when it comes to the ‘Selfies’ I f you don’t mind.

Andy Daly 2016



Chawkey does the ironing

Not suitable for vegetarians and those of a nervous disposition.

As a rule I try not to laugh at other peoples’ misfortunes, but the day Chawkey ironed his stomach, I very nearly wet myself.

Chawkey and me go back a long way. In fact, we go right back to the beginning; which if you know your ‘Sitting Comfortably’ posts mean The Softest Cushions’ and Wiz and the D’Oyly Carte’. We all lived (that’s Chawkey, Wiz, Marión and me,) in Betjeman’s leafy green ‘Metroland’ of Ruislip, where for a peppercorn rent, we were entrusted with a grand detached house in a state of elegant decline.

I have described the house elsewhere, so I’m not going to repeat myself, save to say it was as enigmatic as it was formerly elegant. From the beautiful wooden floors to the car engines and gearboxes buried in its grounds. (We used one unearthed, a mini, as the stand for a low ‘drinks’ table in the back garden) From the wheezy, bronchial gas fires to the monumental iconic 1950s American fridge which stood like some armoured sentinel, guarding the kitchen door. From the breezes blowing through net curtains and birdsong on a warm sunny sunday morning, to the big back garden bonfire, guests in fancy dress and complaints to the police about our behaviour.

It was a great house to live in, and one full of many happy memories. It still stands, though of course modernised, now. I wouldn’t step into it for all the tea in China.

Well, the day Chawkey ironed his stomach started much like any other. Nothing untoward, no portents of things to come. It was so unremarkable that I have no recollection of the day’s events, except that it was a saturday. It was warm. I do remember that, because not long before contact between hot steel and prime British beef, Chawkey, barechested due to the heat, announced he was going to do some ironing and left the front room, where we lolled over furniture and floor, watching the TV and looking like we’d all been dropped out of an aeroplane.

Chawkey was fastidious about the care of his clothes, and in particular, his ironing. Unlike me, I am ashamed to say. It took me the same time, more or less to learn how to use an iron as it took Jesus of Nazareth to tell all his parables, cure the sick and lame, learn a bit of carpentry, turn everyone out of the temple, (including the Scribes and Pharisees) perform some general-purpose miracles with wine, fish and bread, be tempted for forty days and forty nights, commission the disciples and apostles, give a sermon on the Mount, find himself arrested, fitted up, executed, then three days later come back to life for a while, and squeeze in a Last Supper.

So there we are, saturday evening watching some old crap on the TV, Probably ‘Blind Date’. We are just considering whether Lee of Dagenham has made an error of judgement in choosing Annelise from County Durham.

There is a strangled yelp from next door. We look at each other nonplussed, then straight back at the TV to hear what Kerrie from Lichfield is going to ask Malik, Aidan and Jed from Neasden, Portrush and Rochdale respectively.

The living room door is flung open. It’s Chawkey, in shorts and flip flops, iron (unplugged) in one hand and a bottle of Budweiser in the other.

‘You’ll never guess what I’ve just fucking gone and done …’ and before we can even attempt a reply. ‘ I’ve only just gone and fucking ironed my own stomach!’ .

We all leap across the room to see. Sure enough, there is a very neat V-shaped weal across Chawkey’s belly, light pink; but getting darker by the minute.

‘But how the fuck did you manage that?’

‘Well …’ and Chawkey goes onto explain that taking up a relaxed posture at the ironing board, meant that his belly (no shirt remember) – not big by any stretch of the imagination, slightly overhung the ironing board. It seems that Chawkey, gripped by what Annelise and Lee are going to get as their ‘date’ for next week, doesn’t realise there are 2lbs of ribs and some liver lying on the ironing board, and irons right over them. Thankfully we are spared the searing sound as he brands himself – possibly for life. The weal is standing proud now and a vibrant red in colour.


Treat this as a cautonary tale. Remember your posture and think carefully before you answer the telephone when ironing

The Poetry Archive

©Andy Daly 2016


Look On The Bright Side, It’s Norman Whiteside!

It’s a Saturday morning and my mate Dinks is chuffed to bits, for despite his hangover he was up and out, early doors and into Stratford, found a DIY store and having measured up, bought the glass and putty needed to repair the toilet window at 35, Corbin House, Bow Bridge Estate London E3, his current place of residence.

For reasons which escape me, but which almost certainly involve large quantities of alcohol and possibly a hammer, the toilet window had been smashed. And, because like our flat at number 60, the bathroom is adjacent to the front door, it means a broken pane or panes of the frosted glass allow callers to the flat uninterrupted views of … Well, you see what I mean.

In order to protect the modesty of unsuspecting visitors (more so than the occupants, it has to be said, who couldn’t really have cared less) a photograph of Manchester United and Northern Ireland international Norman Whiteside of the appropiate size is placed strategically behind the broken glass. And it had been this way for months.

Norman Whiteside’s at the window

Until Dinks finally took it upon himself to repair it.

“Job’s a good ‘un” smiled a gratified Dinks, probably one of the world’s most unpractical people, as he stands back to admire his handiwork, rubbing the putty from his hands. “Fancy a pint?”

“But Dinks …” – I don’t know how to break it to him. – “The glass …”

“What about it?”

“Well it’s clear. It should be frosted … Did you ask for frosted glass, Dinks? … Dinks?”

“Fuck. Fucking Hell … Well, bollocks, I’m not doing it again.”

And so Norman Whiteside was returned to his rightful position.

And for all I know, he’s still there.

© Andy Daly 2016