And another thing.


What the fuck happened?

Last week all the male models, footballers and  celebrities that people our dull lives were clean shaven and facially well groomed. This week everyone is wearing varying amounts of silly face lace. Or so it seems.

I have looked forward to the resurgence of the fashion for facial hair on men with the same kind of lumpen dread I have awaited the return of Loon Pants and Feather Cuts.

I’ve got to come clean. I hate  beards.  There is something inherently wrong with them; as if the wearer has something to hide (perhaps bits of leftover breakfast, like Roald Dahl’s Mr. Twit.)


And what about the Upside Down Heads?

You know.

Those who insist on shaving their heads while growing luxuriant facial hair, giving the viewer the disconcerting feeling that their heads have been inverted.

For my sins I have never allowed more than a few days growth to accumulate since I was 17. The longest I have been without a shave is when I was in hospital in 2011; when I learned to my horror that despite an (almost) full head of hair which is still (almost) its original colour, my ‘beard’ was whiter than a polar bear using Daz in a snowstorm.

A  freind posted on Facebook recently

‘Should I trust a man who refuses home-baked cake?’

My reply was unequivocal.

‘Absolutely not. I’ll bet his hair doesn’t blow about when it’s windy either’

‘Andy, he doesn’t have any hair. but he has a beard’

I rest my case.
© Andy Daly 2014

Botox Gives Me The Needle

Continue reading

Fluttering To Deceive

A funny thing happens the other day. My youngest and his girlfriend Sunita go out to the movies. Afterwards, she stays the night as she sometime does. Continue reading

Coat tales. Art in Newcastle

Author’s Note: Caution – Some aspects of this post may not be suitable for younger children or those of a nervous disposition. It details actions of my former self which are neither big nor clever.

Long ago, back in the day when Dizzee Rascal was just a Rascal, I was an Art student in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Now I don’t know whether you’ve ever been to Newcastle in the winter, but it is, to use the correct meteorological term, bloody freezing. Therefore, it is essential to be in possession of a good coat to keep the bitter cold at bay. Unless of course you come from Newcastle; in which case it is essential to be in possession of a good vest or cap-sleeved T Shirt. For if you weren’t aware, Geordies are innoculated against feeling the cold at birth and that is why flimsy garments, summer dresses and bare feet are common sights on the town (or ‘Toon’ as it is more correctly known) in mid-winter.

I studied Fine Art at the University. The department, originally the King Edward VII School of Fine Art was housed in a building to the south east of the university quadrangle, once of the former Kings College, University of Durham. I say ‘housed’, in fact it was partly housed; namely The draughty Library, frosty gallery, chilly workshops and studios, in this imposing 1913 structure with its bronze statue of King Edward VII installed in the niche above the King’s Road entrance, wrought iron gates and tower with a double-arched gateway. The rest (cold offices and even nippier workshops and studios) were to be found in an icy Modernist white cube, tacked on to the original building.


Fine Art Department (Modernist White Cube out of sight behind)

In the first year, we were ‘taught ‘(and I use the term loosely here) together in a large warehouse of a studio in the new block. We were a strange bunch: a disparate crew of potential artists-in-the-making, all at different stages in our understanding of Art, what it was, what it might be, and how we fit in to the ‘big picture’ (No pun intended) All issues I have to say, the Fine Art course of the time singularly failed to confront.

As a group, we didn’t gel. I used to look at other year groups and compare: they would meet up at breaktime, sit and have a coffee, chat, socialise – bask in the glow; the result of the heady mixture of wonderment, envy and hate with which other students saw us. We seemed to take it all too seriously, hid away and were ‘tortured’. I gave up with them about half way through the first term. The lasting friendships I made from that time were with people studying ‘sensible’ subjects like Law, History and English.

Until, that was, I discovered – almost too late in the day – ‘The Poly’ (Remember them? AKA Newcastle Polytechnic, now the University of Northumbria) Here, with partner in crime and Blood Brother, Skull Murphy I found that there was indeed life during, as well as after Fine Art. But that’s another story.

The tale I am about to recount is of a spell in my first year 1979-80. It was late November and it was cold. I used to wear a ‘Donkey Jacket’. For those of you who have never come across one, they were workmens’ jackets which became popular in the nineteenth century. Unlined and typically of black or dark blue wool, the ‘Donkey Jacket’ usually had two spacious hip pockets, occasionally an inside ‘poacher’s pocket’ (whatever that was) and a reinforcement panel across the shoulders. This panel may be plain black, grey or in recent years, fluorescent orange or yellow (sometimes with the company name stencilled across) in an effort to increase visibility. I never quite managed the dizzy heights of a fluorescent panel, mine was just plain black. As to the significance of the name? I think it is probably a reference to the wearer – the type of worker and the kind of job expected of him: in other words The ‘Donkey Work’.

Guess What?

Anyway, back to the tale. It was bloody cold, and the point was that – as you will know if you were paying attention – the Donkey Jacket: trusty, fine exemplar of British Working Class attire though it may have been, was an ‘unlined ‘garment. So, even when buttoned up, my Donkey Jacket let howling gales of icy cold Easterly wind which swept directly off the Siberian steppes straight through my coat into direct contact with my navel and midriff. I took to wearing it with a jacket underneath, but I was still cold.

Then one evening, I was in our studio, with one of my fellow artists, Anne, having a wander around the cavernous hole, looking at everyone’s work: sketchbooks, drawings, colour studies, paintings, as well as notes on paper, models and maquettes. It lay where they had left it at day’s end (with either a four-minute warning or a call to the pub by the looks of it) on desks, the floor and/or pinned to the wall or screens in their respective studio spaces.

If I can be serious for a minute, there really is something magical about looking at artists’ and designers’ workplaces. To be able to browse through the visual distillations of their thoughts and ideas as expressed in tentative first marks/sketches: wobbly-legged initial attempts at solving the visual problems they have been posed. Sketches, notes, books and art artefacts, some finished others not; complemented with doodles, reminders, visual references – a bus ticket, a bottle top, a scrap of a hotel menu and contextual relationships with a particular artist or artists’ work. Genuine treasure troves – and always so different to each other: from the obsessively tidy, to the manically unkempt, they are a reflection of their owners’ approach to the creative process. Looking at the visual traces of the development of an artist or designer’s ideas – no matter how insignificant they may be, is something I regard as a privilege:

And how generous and trusting: to leave one’s inner thoughts for all and sundry to see. I bet there weren’t many other departments in the university on that November evening which you could step into off the street and immediately get such an intimate snapshot of how a particular student or group of students were responding to a task set.

I think that now, but of course I didn’t think that then. Then it was more a case of ‘Howay, let’s get to the pub, I’m freezin’ Likewise, not everyone’s workspace was blessed with the kind of visual treats I have waxed lyrical about above. Take mine, for instance. As I recall, it had very little of anything to show. I don’t actually remember the project title, but it would have been something like ‘Object and Environment’ and was clearly an attempt to elicit responses from us to the likes of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Ready Mades’ which aside from using materials in an innovative way – in a sense to represent themselves, had started to (and still do) ask all sorts of awkward questions of the received aesthetic script that was Modernism.

Now, in 1979, although familiar with Marcel Duchamp’s work (I had even seen some of it) had I been asked as my ‘Starter for ten’ to explain the above, I would have been found sadly lacking. In the event, I wound up by making a surprisingly elegant sculpture out of broken chairs from the refectory which took me all of 5 minutes to plan and execute and was as Modernist as you can get.

‘Fountain’ Marcel Duchamp 1917

I didn’t have a bloody clue.

The walk round the studio was punctuated by having to negotiate several large piles of rubbish, for the initial stages of the project seemed to induce in some people, (Yours Truly included) a kind of ’Skip Fever’ in which the contents of, apparently, every skip within a two-mile radius were brought back to the studio as potential source material. I had recreated part of a skip I had found behind the Playhouse.


‘Why?’ I can hear you ask: Why indeed. Anne called me over to look at Caligula’s work. That wasn’t his real name. In fact, I don’t recall why she called him that, unless it was because he looked like John Hurt, the actor who played the character in the ‘70s BBC dramatisation of Graves’ book ‘I Claudius’. Whatever, the case – if only for a brief period, the name stuck. Caligula it was.

‘Bloody Hell’ She says ‘Would you look at that’. She was pointing in the direction of Caligula’s workspace. ‘What a bloody mess. I don’t know how he works here!’ It was a tip. Literally. For it seems as though Caligula, cold sweat, heart racing, stricken, like me with ‘Skip Fever’ had done the same thing, but on a massive scale. Either that or together, the students in his area of the studio were doing some serious collecting, dumping their stuff near his table. The pile was now threatening to engulf his desk. Despite all this, Caligula appeared to be, if memory serves correct – and I think it does, making a small painting of an apple, the subject of which was hanging on a string suspended from the ceiling.

‘What do you think of the painting?’ Anne asked me.

Hmmm?… What?’ Something had caught my eye. In amongst all the clutter and debris was the obligatory shopping trolley. Hanging out over the back of the trolley was what looked like a donkey jacket. I had a closer peek. Well, it was slightly more than an ordinary donkey jacket. It was a much heavier fabric, slightly longer … and it was lined! The lining was torn on one side, admittedly, but there was definitely a lining. Before I knew it, I was trying it on. A perfect fit! (Not often words found in the same sentence when it applies to Yours Truly and clothes) … but more to the point it was warm!

Art – or is it the other way round? See how difficult it is?

‘What do you reckon?’ Do you think it looks like rubbish? I asked Anne. ‘Aye, it looks like bloody rubbish from where I’m standing’

‘No, what I mean is do you: 1) think it’s someone’s real jacket and that has been inadvertently left here? Do you: 2) think its ‘Art Rubbish’ that is part of a combination of real objects, intended to elicit responses about ‘What makes art Art and what makes rubbish Rubbish? Or do you: 3) think its real rubb……..’

‘I know what you mean, idiot. I think its real rubbish. Anyway, man, who’s going to care about a scavvy bit of material like that?’

True: and so, without another moment’s thought, I put it on, and immediately felt warm as toast. Done deal! And off we went.

Now it came to pass that some months later, around March the following year I guess, that I was in the University Student Union one night. We didn’t go there often, preferring to drink, go to nightclubs or see bands at other venues in the town such as The Strawberry, The Spital, Crown Posada, The Forth, The Bridge, Balmbras, The Bacchus,The Belle Grove, The Royal Bar, The Newcastle Arms, The Prince of Wales, The Leazes, Trent House, Red House, The Lonsdale, The Baltic, The Mill, The Percy and The Hotspur (but only if desperate) The Stage Door, Tiffany’s,The Poly, The Cooperage,The Buffs Club, The Bier Keller, The Mayfair etc. Not that we went out much…

However, on Friday nights, The Union did used to do a fairly decent disco. Anyway, whatever the reason, band or disco, I was in The Union and at one point, towards the end of the evening found myself in the Gents toilets – I have to admit, dear Reader, rather the worse for wear. Mind you, I was still a long way off the loss of control of bodily functions stage, and hadn’t yet started with the ’Bedroom Whirlies’, I could have got home unaided without stops to sleep in skips, bus shelters etc, but I would have had trouble ordering in the Stanhope St. Chippy or refusing another drink. I stood at the urinals, pondering the above, casually wondering where the evening would take me, when I became suddenly aware that I was not alone. At the other end of the urinal was a crooked, decidedly unkempt figure. He definitely had the ‘Whirlies’, for with cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, he reeled backwards and forwards trying to maintain his balance as he relieved himself.

Recognition. It dawned on me who it was: Caligula! Oh shit! And guess what I was wearing?

Probably conscious of my gaze, Caligula slowly turned and looked. He reeled backwards as he did so and in adjusting his position found he had turned his head too far. He made to bring it back. This time, he tipped forwards, regaining his balance just in time to prevent falling (still relieving himself, cigarette still hanging from the corner of his mouth):

‘Aaallrrrougtthhh?’ He said Trans: ‘Alright?’

I replied: ‘Alright?’ Which I felt to be the closest approximation. I still had no idea whether he even recognised me. Any further doubts on this score were firmly put to rest when he let go of himself with one hand and (thankfully, for I feared for the jacket he was wearing as the glowing cigarette tip was getting longer and more and more fragile) took a long pull on the ciggy, caught hold of himself again and looked at me once more. His eyes had narrowed to the tiniest slits, bothered as they were by the wisps of smoke as they sidled up the side of his face. His body swayed backwards and forwards as, unable to get a response from his eyes, he tried to focus on me ‘the long way round’

‘Ey! Thath’s my futthen coa…’ Trans: ‘Hey that’s my fucking coa…’

Without thinking I blurted out:

‘Yeah, and you know what? It’s a disgrace the lining’s all ripped on one side. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be expected to wear it in this condition’

Still rocking and rolling:

‘S’my futhecoaaa..ey! Fyoouwannit yu cannavit. Y’heear me? Fyoouwannit yu cannavit. Annever licchtet anywaaaah, phut!’

Trans: ‘Its my fucking coat. If you want it you can have it. Do you hear me? If you want it you can have it. I never liked it anyway, phut!

And with that, he spat into the trough and I made my exit.

Which is where the story should have ended, except for the fact that the remainder of my relationship with the coat was to be short-lived; as in a wholly appropriate turn of events, someone nicked the coat from me a few weeks later at a party in Benwell.

And what of the coat’s original, and as it happens, rightful owner? Well, if you were to ‘Google’ The Fine Art Department, part of the School of Arts and Cultures, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne; there you would find details about its staff, and in particular, its current Professor, a renowned sculptor, whose work is a ‘response to the materiality of landscape.’

What it doesn’t say much about is that some years ago, he, himself was a student at the University’s Fine Art Department.

In fact, he was in my year.

Now, I’m saying nothing else on the subject, except to point out that a difference of opinion over the semantics of Rubbish meant that during the winter of 1979-80, I was a few degrees warmer than him.

© Andy Daly 2010


Let me tell you about Lucy. Continue reading

Frankenstein’s Monster

It’s a good thing we can’t see into the future.
If I’d have known that one day I would be totally reliant on two Titanium rods implanted into the deepest, darkest recesses of my brain, that these would be wired up beneath my scalp, down my neck connecting to a battery/pulse generator implanted in my chest , I would have been horrified.
It always freaked me out as a kid. You know, that part man, part machine thing. I blame Dr Who; which I watched from William Hartnell to John Pertwee. It was that bloody Davros character half man half dalek that did it. Yep, the thought of it would have kept me wake at nights for years.
But we adapt, and now it seems the most natural thing in the world.
And so today. Lovely and sunny, I decide to go for my usual walk around the park and nature reserve at the end of our street – without my stick.
Ever had a bad idea?
I should explain. I don’t use my stick to rest on or take my weight at any point. I use it to create ‘cues’ (A bit of Conductive Education here) I tend to swing it in front of me, presenting a target for my left and right foot in turn to kick. In this way, I am able to create a rhythmic movement of my legs which approximates steps and allows me to perambulate, albeit with a clumsy gait, even when the oral drugs I take have ceased to be effective and I am in what we in the business call an ‘Off’ state.
I am doing quite well until on the way back I go ‘off’. One of the particlar ideosyncrasies of the way Deep Brain Stimulation works for me is that when the oral medication is working, my gait is adversely affected by an increase in stimulation; so I have to wait for a ‘sweet spot’ in my two hourly medication cycle such that the tailing off of the L Dopa allows me to increase stimulation and as a result, it enables me to walk. As I have said though, it ain’t pretty. I’ll try and describe how it feels as I go ‘Off’. I begin to feel like all my strength and energy are being sapped, meanwhile the muscles of my neck lock up, my jaw becomes set and my head feels like it weighs a ton. Arms and legs stop responding to all but the ‘biggest’ movements, fine motor control is shot. I start to overheat as my body loses its ability to regulate its temperature. Any aches and pains I have got are magnified x 2
The absence of stick proves more problematic than I had anticipated, I start to stumble and my footsteps start to run away with me (Festinating Gait it’s called – lovely phrase isn’t it?) I have to think of a suitable ‘cue’ to control this. I finish up by marching, calling ‘left right’ in my head and swinging the opposite arm, the ‘cue’ being the lower arm seen from the corner of each eye in turn.

Handsome eh?

Handsome eh?

It is when turning a corner I discover that my head follows my body without moving, rather than looking into the corner as you would normally. Marching, arms straight, with my big steel toe-capped boots, frozen Parkinson’s mask- face and surgery scars (which look like OS map symbols for a railway embankment or cutting), I am struck by how much I must resemble Frankenstein.
Or rather Frankenstein’s monster as immortalised in Boris Karloff ‘s portrayal in the 1931 movie ‘Frankenstein.’ The creature almost always appears as gruesome figure, with a flat square-shaped head and bolts to serve as electrical connectors or grotesque electrodes on his neck, and thick, heavy boots, causing him to walk with an awkward, stiff-legged gait. It sounds awfully familiar …
Now did you know that to this day, the image of Karloff’s face is owned by his daughter’s company, Karloff Enterprises?
Neither did I.

© Andy Daly 2014

Ellen: A very short story

“One of these days I’m going to quit my job, get rid of all my shit, become a hobo and learn how to play the harmonica”
Which is exactly what Ellen did. Now, when you walk out of Arizona in order to start a new life, how do you decide where to go? Simple. Ellen pinned a map of the world on the wall, turned her back and tossed a dart over her shoulder at it. This was how she fetched up in Italy, a place called Cassole, she fell in love with it; adored how everywhere you looked was the background to a Renaissance painting.
There was a bar on the piazza. Occasionally, when they were short-staffed Ellen did a bit of waitressing. Sometimes after a glass too many, she would take out her old harmonica.
And play the blues.


© Andy Daly 2014

Did You Know?

Guess where I am going to?
I’ll give you a clue. It begins with ‘H’.
No, but you are close.
Of course, it’s Hospital!
This time the surreal nonsense begins in the cab. The driver furnishes me with all manner of interesting facts. Such as:
“Did you know the human body can live for 40 days without water?”
“Or is it food? Yeah, must be food….”
“Well, I suppose, if Jesus did it ….”
“Did he? He done all that then?”
“Well, according to the Bible, 40 days and 40 nights in the desert …”
“That must be Lent then? When you give up chocolate? Just imagine 40 days and 40 nights without chocolate. It’s a good job Easter falls when it does”.

It's just as well Easter falls when id does: Chocolate Jesus

It’s just as well Easter falls when it does: Chocolate Jesus


© Andy Daly 2014


On The Edge Of Memory


Skiing a parallel turn.
Walking without having to think about it.
The smell of our new born babies.
My Great Grandmother’s kitchen.
Having a good criac in the pub with friends.
Teaching a class of children.
My first bike.
Playing football.
Draught Boddingtons Bitter Beer.
The taste of Stimarol chewing gum.
My Taekwondo patterns.
Changing a set of brake pads.
Carrying our two beautiful boys.

© Andy Daly 2014

The Letter


“Dear Alex (she had written) Sunday was so sad. It nearly broke my heart.
I don’t know how I walked away. I thought I was being strong.”
I look at the envelope, postmark London NW 2. I stare at the familiar looping script on the crisp white notepaper, and read on.
“I phoned you because I wanted very much to talk to you and find out your plans. I realise now that I shouldn’t have done. Just as I shouldn’t have sent the text or come to see you on Sunday. I thought it would help things, but I realise it was being very ,very selfish. All along I know I have been very, very selfish.”
I reach into the top cupboard and take down a bottle of Becks, holding the letter in my mouth as I open the beer and resume reading.
“I can only ask you to forgive me for the way I’ve behaved. I don’t deserve it. Believe me this really is all my fault. I wouldn’t blame you if you never wanted to speak to me again. All along you have been so reasonable I can’t believe it. You really have been marvellous. A saint. This only made me feel worse, and behave more unreasonably myself. It is not your fault Alex. It isn’t. It’s me. I did it. I thought that by choosing Kevin I was doing the right thing for all sorts of reasons.”
I take a good slug from the beer. It tastes metallic in my mouth, but I can feel the familiar comfortable glow as it hits my empty stomach. I grab the bottle and with my free hand holding the letter now push open the door to the front room and walk in.
“The thing that really confuses me about all of this is that I don’t know what I want. The fact that I can’t make up my mind means I believe that something is wrong. I still don’t know what it is.”
I sit down in one of the chairs and take another swig of the beer.
“You were right when you said that you thought I had got myself in so deep I didn’t know what to do. Things happened so quickly that I lost control over events. Believe me I wanted to tell you so much, but I felt that there was so much else to sort out in our relationship that it would just be the final straw. I thought you would go mad, walk out. I misjudged you then and I know I did you a grave misservice; but can you understand that – thinking that way? I couldn’t tell you because I didn’t feel ready or prepared to lose you.”
I put my feet up on the table and light a cigarette. I take a deep pull on it and exhale the thick smoke through my nose and mouth.
“So many times I looked at you and thought ‘What am I doing? I can’t bear to lose you.’ I did think it might all blow over, but it didn’t. In a way it is because it was a less sure choice. I knew if we stayed together it would have top be 200% commitment and sureness. Compared with that Kevin was just a prospective relationship with all the usual sorts of reservations and uncertainties.Less demanding I suppose.”
Cigarette In hand, I pick a stray bit of tobacco from my tongue.
“He used to ask me what you had that he didn’t. I tried to explain how special it was, but I don’t think he realised. I know he’s never had a first love so I didn’t expect him to. You’ve still got a part of me that no-one will ever have.”
Smoke eddies from the tip of my cigarette.
“I did think that once I’d decided something I’d be happy. But I wasn’t and I’m not. I just feel lost and displaced. I suppose that this is a natural reaction when someone who has been there for so long suddenly isn’t.”
I take another long pull at the Becks and find myself snorting quietly
“I never expected Kevin to replace you though. I knew no-one else would. All the things I said on Sunday were true. I still love you very much. I miss you. Nothing is the same. Please forgive me Alex, I don’t trust myself any more, or anything I feel or decide. I am trying to do what’s for the best even if I’m wrong.
I will always love you.
Ruby XX”
I realise that it is starting to get dark, so I get up and turn the light on. I screw the letter up, take a last deep drag of my cigarette and stub it out on the ball of paper, I walk through to the kitchen, drain my Becks and throw everything into the bin.
Now the real question is do I have time for a soak in the bath before I go and pick up Juliette? We are going into town tonight to the cinema.
I think I can manage it.

© 2014 Andy Daly

(Another Story written for my Short Story Writing course)