An Inspector Calls

We used to make some shite in our Craft lessons at school didn’t we?

lollystick fruit bowl (executive model with posh base)

lollystick fruit bowl (executive model with posh base)

I once spent a whole half a term glueing lolly sticks together to create a fruit bowl. Other equally spectacular outcomes were a copper ‘matchbox protector’ (why?), and an orange plastic lampshade. Our bemused expressions on being asked to make them, only matched by those of our parents when we took them home at the end of term. Of course this was in the ‘70s, when you could get away with crap lessons like that, and an orange plastic lampshade didn’t look too hideously out of place in the average sitting room.



Let’s face it; most craftrooms back then were an irresistable treasure trove of exotica to be nicked and fucked about with. The tools! Lathes, drills, buffing machines, chisels, saws. The possibilities for causing death or serious injury were endless. Every time the teacher left the room (which was almost all the lesson in some cases) we would let fly. Pieces of wood, tools, metal, peoples’ ‘Jobs’ (as our work was quaintly known) would be pelted across the classroom. How the fuck we didn’t end up getting cut to ribbons I’ll never know.
All gone now of course. Replaced by the sober workbench and ubiquitous network of PCs. And Technology
All of which reminds me of a story told to me by a teacher freind of mine. She worked at Chantry, a special school for ‘maladjusted’ children as it was known then. She had a particularly difficult group who were almost impossible to get settled and concentrating on anything. That was until she introduced them to a bit of sewing or perhaps more correctly, needlework.

For miracle of miracles; when she got out the sewing kit and once they had got bored with trying to jab each other, they simmered down and got into some learning some basic techniques.
Well, it was into one of these lessons one jolly morning that a school inspector (This was pre-OFSTED) purposefully strode and took up her position to observe the lesson. Apart from making ‘V’ signs behind her back, the kids completely ignored the visitor. Meanwhile, the teacher explained to the students what they had to do, and they got started.

A relative calm descended. The teacher went around, helping out. As she did so Mrs. Inspector takes it upon herself to poke around and give the students the benefit of her expertise. She stood and looked for a long time over the shoulder of one of the boys, which had the visitor even the slightest awareness of body language and the intimate classroom dynamics of such a teaching situation is the boy she would have made a point of steering well clear of.
“Oh no no no!” said the inspector. Silence. The students looked from one to another, open-mouthed.
“Oh no no no! That won’t do. That bit there. It isn’t straight .” You could hear a pin drop.
Without looking up the boy replied: “Yeah? Well you’ve got a fucking big nose, but I wasn’t gonna say nothing”

As it happens the Inspector turned out to be the sister of one of this county’s great female sporting legends.
And she’s got a fucking big nose too.


Well, I promised to keep you posted about my progress (or lack of) on the short story writing course I’m doing. Here’s my first attempt.

Contains language and some scenes which some readers might find upsetting. May not be suitable for those of a nervous disposition

 I took an instant dislike to Major Christian Haslam at our first meeting. A ‘rising star’ in the Grenadier  Guards, he was 32 or thereabouts with one of those smug faces, straight out of the shallow end of the gene pool and an expensive accent to match.

He was the driving force behind the British Army’s new tactical strategy in Sangin and the surrounding area. Operation ‘Front Foot’ he called it. He felt the area had been quiet for too long. What was needed, he said without a hint of irony, was for the British forces to be on the ‘Front Foot’ and take the fight to the Taliban; shatter the calm. For the troops in Helmand province, the ‘Front Foot’ was what was likely to get them reduced to ‘pink mist’ or to life as a multiple amputee.


‘The calm’ as he put it had been regular parolling in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the populace, knowing full well that the Taliban had control of the townspeople and the moment the British returned to the safety of the Sangin District Centre the Taliban were out undoing all their good work. On their first tour of Afghan and with an average age of nineteen, The Royal Irish Regiment had found themselves at the business end of ‘Front Foot’ and were having to adjust pretty rapidly.

Today, I have the pleasure of Haslam’s company as he interviews Private Bailey of 3 platoon. A routine patrol had ended with Private Steven Finch killed and Bailey wounded. I am there in the capacity of witness/notetaker.

It is hot and sticky, about 48 degrees, the atmosphere heavy. Haslam looks irritable as he enters the compound. He dispenses with pleasantries.

“There’s a shit storm brewing over this in the media back home” he rants. “The mother is claiming that Finch’s life could have been saved, that the MOD is covering up.”

I call Private Bailey. A tall, wiry unshaven man, he sits on the compound floor, after first saluting his senior officer.  Haslam perches on the corner of some ammuniton boxes. He fixes Bailey with his startling green eyes.

“Now  Private Bailey, I presume you know what this about?”

“Sir” He mumbles.

“We just want to get a clear picture of what happened on the patrol which led to Finch’s fatal injury and your wound”


Bailey describes how the two platoons formed up in the wadi outside the compound at dawn. Then carried out their orders which were to clear their section of town of insurgents, weapons and IEDs, then make their way to a known Taliban stronghold where 1 platoon would attempt to provoke an engagement with the enemy. Bailey and Finch were at the front of the section, Private Finch acting as Point Man.

“We walked out of an alleyway and into a sort of orchard, when we see five fucking Taliban with weapons, ammo belts, everything, right in front of us. Without thinking, Finch and me open up and drop them. As soon as we do, we come under massive fucking fire. A wall of lead. We’re pinned down. After about two or three minutes I think “I’ve fucking had enough of this” and throw a grenade over the wall where most of the fire is coming from, so we can pull back. Then Finch looks at me and says

“Billy I’m hit”

And he falls at my feet. Well, I thought this is starting to get fucking serious. This is really happening.”

“And so what happens next?”

“I shout ‘Man down, man down!’”

“And then what”

“I pick up Finch’s machine gun and spray the area while Woodward the Medic assesses his wound; then Sargeant Gregg comes running down the alley. “Where is he? Where is he?”  He’s shouting.

“That’s when I get hit when a round grazes my shoulder.”

“Go on.”

“We’re still under fire. Sergeant Gregg organises a stretcher party. They were using a hammock and Finch kept falling off. We’d never practised using one before. The straps were trailing on the ground and the boys kept tripping over them. Sargeant Gregg was screaming at them. It was a bloody nightmare.”

“And in your opinion, was the casualty still alive at that point”

“Yes Sir. I remember Woodward saying he had a pulse, it was shallow and weak but he was definitely alive. They took him all the way back up the alley and across the ground we had cleared earlier to the compound”

“Now this is what I don’t understand.” Said Haslam “You took the casualty back to the compound and requested MedeVac from there. Why? Why was it left another … what was it? ten minutes to make the call? Why didn’t you make the call straight away?”

“The radio wasn’t working, Sir”


“The fire control radio wasn’t working Sir. The antenna was broken. We had been waiting a week for a replacement.We had to rely on the Bowman radio Sir, and we were in a flatspot. We kept losing the signal. “

“Jesus Christ! So you had no Comms? Was your commanding officer aware of this?”

“Yes Sir”

“And the casualty died on the way to Bastion – you were with him?”

“Yes Sir”

“Bailey, under no circumstances do you mention any of this without consulting me first. Is that understood?”

Bailey scuffed the dry earth with his boots, and for the first time raised his eyes to meet Haslam’s.

“Bit late for that Sir. “

“Why is that?”

“I rang his Mum”

“You’ve spoken to the Mother?” Hissed Haslam suddenly, all the colour was drained from his face.

“Yes sir. I know his family well. I stay round there sometimes when I’m on leave. I’m going out with his sister”

“Are you familiar with the term Operation Minimize corporal Bailey?” Asks Haslam, barely able to hide his fury.

“Sir. It’s the procedure that is put into force when someone has been killed in action”

“Meaning?” Prompted Haslam.

“No calls or texts home, so the parents and family hear first from the MOD”

“Exactly! So then family don’t get the news from the gutter press … or God knows who. What did you tell them?”

“Everything. I thought the Operation Minimise period had passed”.

“Rubbish … Oh Jesus.” Haslam’s head drops and he begins to rub the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.

‘This isn’t over yet’ Growled Haslam.

There is a dead silence.

“Okay. That will be all Private’ I dismiss Bailey.


“Do you believe him?” I ask Haslam when Bailey has left the room.

“I don’t know!”

Haslam rounds on me. “All I do know is that I’m going to get hauled over the fucking coals for this. A grieving mother all over the papers and TV, and then there will be an inquest which will want to know why the MOD lied when it said her son died instantly, why she was told his wounds were ‘not surviveable’, why vital communications equipment was not working, why it took so long to get him out. Oh God what a mess.”


The following morning 3 platoon takes delivery of a replacement radio antenna. Then at about 10am we get the news that on Route 611 the Taliban have detonated a huge roadside bomb. I wonder whether Haslam has got through safely.

I find myself recalling his parting words the day before:

“When will people wake up and realise that this is a war, people get killed. It happens”

© Andy Daly 2014

City Lit Tit Bit

Well, after over 200 blog posts, I’ve decided it’s about time to learn to write. So I’ve enrolled on a course at City Lit. Starts on monday. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here’s one from the archive.


Well, by my calculations, as I write this the Royal Party at Clarence House should be just starting the last chorus of ‘Hi-ho Silver Lining’. For some unfathomable reason, this dreary, non-descript, infernal embodiment of crap as vinyl, courtesy of Jeff Beck, has come to signal ‘time’ for the revellers in discos, clubs and bars all over the Western world.

‘Hi-ho Silver Lining’ means, there’s one more song – the ‘slowie’ before lights up. So if you’re not already draped over some one of the opposite sex, or for that matter someone of the same sex, and vaguely interested – and you don’t want to leave alone, then you had better get a move on.

Through the spinning laser lights and the palls of dry ice which still hang in the air from The ViIlage People’s ‘YMCA’ I can just make out Prince Harry lining up for a final approach on Kate Middleton’s sister, Pippa,  presumably building on the not inconspicuous ‘groundwork’ he had started on the balcony at Buckingham Palace –or possibly even before. He is a brave man if this is so, for his girlfriend Chelsy Davy  is well known for her fierce temper. Never mind, if it goes belly-up he’s still got his bacon-butties at dawn extravaganza to look forward to. I have it on good authority that he has arranged for a ‘first-light fried breakfast pick-me–up’ for all those of the Royal Party still on their feet. He sounds like good company over a few beers.

‘Psssst! Fancy a drink later?’

As far as the run-up to this ‘spectacle of Pomp, Pageantry  was concerned, I am afraid to say The Royal Wedding barely registered a reading on my ‘Interest-ometer’. Throughout the preceeding two weeks it fluctuated between indifference and mild irritation. However, little by little as the morning has progressed, I have found myself getting ineluctably drawn into the watching of  the television coverage of the event; and it isn’t long before I get to reminicing … reminicsing … reminiscing (which is a lot easier to do than it is to spell) about    another Royal Wedding many, years ago; and where I watched it from. In fact, it was Harry’s mum’s wedding. Lady Diana Spencer.

I had been indifferent to that too, The hullabaloo and media conjecture over this, that and the other largely going right over my head. Although, it did register with me – a little uncomfortably it has to be said – that we were soon to have a Royal that people actually fancied: a strange new concept.

We, (that is to say me and My Best Mate Aky) had resolutely decided to have nothing to do with it. We would gratefully accept the Bank Holiday thankyouverymuch but there would be no queuing at dawn on our part, no unseemly rush to grab a vantage point on the Mall, no straining of necks to get a better view of ‘The Dress’. No Sir!

I was too hungover on the morning of July 29 1981, for the irony of the situation to fully hit home as we (that is to say me and My Best Mate Aky) arose at 3:20am and soon after were out of  our hovel in Stoke Newington to walk the one and a half miles to Finsbury Park tube station to catch a train to Green Park in order to hopefully beat the  queues at dawn and grab a vantage point on the Mall.

The plan was hatched in the Weatsheaf the previous evening. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. We were travelling light, if you ignore  the 12 rusty cans of Double Diamond beer we each carried. In the Weatsheaf, the possession of such lethal weapons was hailed as the ‘masterstroke’ of the whole expedition. Perhaps I should explain. Aky and I both worked in Off-Licences. As a gesture of goodwill to mark the auspicious occasion of the Royal nuptials, we had been allowed to clear the fridges of all the ‘out of date’ and/or rusty cans and use them to complete our celebrations. Of course, this was back in the day when tin cans were tin and goodness me, they did rust. Not, however a cause for concern for two intrepid thrill-seekers such as me and My Best Mate Aky. Indeed it wasn’t long (in the Weatsheaf) before we realised we actually had an ingenious ‘dual-purpose’ gadget in our possession which could have been tailor-made for the very conditions we were soon to experience. The contents served to quench thirst/provide hair of dog. Then the can, when empty, something to stand on, which if stacked double height, afforded valuable extra inches as one strained one’s neck to get a better view of ‘The Dress’.

And so it came to pass that instead of being tucked up, fast asleep in bed, like most normal people; 5:00 am on the morning of the Royal Wedding  found me and My Best Mate Aky, emerging bleary-eyed from Green Park tube station to make our way down to the Mall. Our objective was Clarence House. Why? Because it was there that Diana would spend the night before her wedding, and from there the following day that she would depart for the journey by horse and carriage to St. Pauls. These were the only definite arrangements, aside from the ceremony of course we knew about with any certainty on this special day. So, we reasoned, if we were to see Diana, and take the last opportunity to shout to her that she was about to make the biggest mistake of her life and that ‘Here I was’ (Or ‘here he was’ in Aky’s case) then Clarence House had to be the venue. It has just occurred to  me writing this years later that although both of us firm in our belief that  we could each give Diana a better life than  she could ever hope for with old ‘Big Ears’, we had no contingency plan, nor had we discussed what we would do in the event that she called a halt to her carriage, and holding onto her veil, jumped down onto the kerbside and ran into one  or other of our outstretched and open arms. No, I think  in hindsight it is just as well she stayed in her carriage. I can feel my toes, even now, curling up with ‘virtual’ retrospective embarrassment, as I imagine myself face to face with Diana, standing on the Mall, somewhere in the region of a million people in the centre of London and a television audience of billions all listen and look on in hushed silence as I mumble to her something about not really being fully prepared, not having thought it through properly and that she might actually be better off with Prince Charles, in the long run after all.

See the guy in black? Standing on tins of Double Diamond

Now I don’t know whether you know this but in the City of London, if  you are caught short, and find there are no public conveniencies, ‘bathrooms’ or pub toilets handy; if you shout ‘In pain’ three times, you are, under ancient by-law able to relieve yourself where you stand and the Old Bill – or to use their quaint nickname, The Metropolitan Police can do nothing about it. However, on the Mall, I did feel a little self conscious about doing so, given the numbers of people around. I was in pain, alright. After drinking twelve cans of Double Diamond and standing around doing nothing for five hours, I was in pain x 3. There were rumours of some temporary toilets in Green Park. Aware that to give up one’s hard-fought vantage point – if only for a short while – so close to the start of proceedings could spell disaster. (Worst case scenario being that after everything you have endured you hear the cheers of the crowds as the Royal family and its guests make their way down the Mall, but you are stuck in a queue for the toilets, too far away to see anything.) I had to make a move. So I did.

1981 The Charles and Di periscope: No match for cans of Double Diamond

On my return, as I neared our ‘spot’ (on the north side of the Mall/Admiralty Arch side of Stable Yard Road if memory serves correct) I noticed signs of Police activity. This was bad news. They were cutting off Stable Yard Road in preparation for the exit of Diana’s carriage. Bollocks! I was right in the meleé here. I’d lost my good viewing point. And my cans! Bugger it! All that Double Diamond. And for what? Actually, the truth was that the cans weren’t such an innovation after all. As more and more of them were guzzled, standing on the empties, they became increasingly unstable. As did I. In fact I was begining to get quite unpopular with my fellow man, as on at least three occasions, my ‘tower of cans’ collapsed, to go tumbling all over the feet of those nearby. Closely followed by myself. With that dogged determination characteristic of those who have consumed too much alcohol, each time, I picked myself up and opened one of the remaining full ones, took a good slug before collecting the rest and re-building my tower. Finally a gentleman, possibly an ex-PE teacher or Police Officer who, getting more and more irritated by my shenanigans picked me up – a little more firmly than the situation warranted I felt – after yet another failure to grasp the fundamentals of construction, materials and their properties and simply said ‘I think that’s enough now’.

And just how did they get up there? Tins of Double Diamond

It is at this point that my memory starts to get a little hazy and my account of the next couple of hours begins to differ more than somewhat from Aky’s. In my version, I get stuck on the Palace side of the Mall. In Aky’s, he manages to get the Police to let me cross again before the coach leaves. In mine, all I get to see of Diana are a few white flashes from her dress,  the rest of her, as she is seated on the far side of the carriage is obliterated by the sizeable frame and head (looking for all the world like it was made from plasticine by a child) of her father, Earl Spencer, Viscount Althorpe. In fact what I saw, very spookily is almost exactly this:

What did he have in the inside pockets of his suit? Tins of Double Diamond

Aky, on the other hand recalls that he too didn’t see much of Diana, because in his case, the Queen Mother was hogging window space.

Well, that’s Double Diamond for you.

What is for sure, is the three of them couldn’t have squeezed into the carriage – even if they had put the Queen Mum into one of the overhead luggage racks. Anyway, who cares? The point was we had gone to all that trouble and still not seen  the star of the show. I have to admit, I felt slightly cheated. We’d had enough. We weren’t prepared to wait for the return of the procession from St. Paul’s. From that point, apart from bumping into my mate Keith, with who I shared a house with in Newcastle (see ‘Coat Tails #2’) and who, throughout the whole of the morning had been standing unbeknown, a matter of feet away; the day began to take on a fairly dismal typical ‘Bank Holiday’ air about it.

In an attempt to prolong the excitement, we decided to make full use the cheap London Underground travel cards that were available on the day.

‘Where shall we go?’

‘How about somewhere that has an interesting name – somewhere we’ve never been before?’

‘Gospel Oak?’ ‘Parsons Green?’ ‘Dollis Hill?’ ‘Kilburn High Road?’

Then as if from nowhere, an image from long, long ago appeared in my mind’s eye. A family: the parents and their three boys sit round a tiny blue formica-topped table, eating tea and listening to a spoof radio quiz show.

‘I know!’ I said ‘ …. Mornington Crescent!’

And so it was.

And the moral of this little tale? Well nothing really, except things aren’t always what you expect them to be. Charles and Diana’s wedding and my small walk-on part in it has always seemed an anti-climax.  As for Mornington Crescent, fittingly the ‘I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue’ team had the last laugh because there’s absolutely nothing to get excited about there at all.

Except Mornington Crescent.

© Andy Daly 2011

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Return of the Mc


Mhairi McFarlane’s second novel doesn’t disappoint. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to, although following ‘You Had Me At Hello’ must have been a daunting prospect. In ‘Here’s Looking At You’ once again her cast brim with life and burst off the pages, which sparkle and fizz with wit and racy dialogue.

McFarlane’s powers of observation are stunning. The result is characters that are utterly convincing. You love them, hate them, pity them and ultimately feel slightly bereft once they are gone. I go from wanting to re-arrange Fraser’s film star good looks with a few well directed punches to feeling like offering him my shoulder as he pours his heart out about Eva over a couple of  pints of Guinness. In fact, McFarlane gets under the skin of male psyche like few other. A feat in itself.

A comparison. Not long ago, I read a critically acclaimed novel by an established author (No names!) Great plot, great Mediterranean location – but the characters were tissue-thin.  Reading It reminded me of the way children perform in a nativity play: “Onceuponatimelonglongago…”

Not so here. With an enviable ability to create the magical from the mundane McFarlane, with her surgical skill, strips the layers of sexual politics and manners (or lack of) from relationships, until you get to the bare bones … and where does that fine line lie betweeen freindship and love?

AND how refreshing: a book which doesn’t make you feel you ought to go take a shower after reading.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is some sort of twee Rom Com. This is a Grown Up’s book for a Grown Up audience. Enjoy!

© Andy Daly

Chelsea Makes West London Man’s Day

Full Story Below

I keep in touch via ‘Social Media’with many ex-students from my days as a Secondary School teacher of Art and Design.

The pupils I taught were in the age range 11 to 18, mixed ability, boys and girls from a variery of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

Now, I don’t make a habit of doing this, but I thought I would share this with you, because it was so out of the blue.

It came in the form of a message last Saturday morning from … let’s call her Chelsea to save her embarrassment. Although Chelsea and I have been ‘friends’ for years and I have always been a fan of her upbeat Facebook greetings (and occasional rants!) we have never corresponded. This is the first time and is reproduced word for word below.

Best art teacher ever. xx

Chelsea, I’m honoured!

Seriously though Mr Daly- best teacher I ever had. A true legend.

What’s brought this on?

Always thought it, but just thought I’d say. Only lesson I actually liked lol

Thanks. Made my day.

R u still teaching?

No. Had to give it up. I’ve had Parkinson’s for 13 years, so life is a bit of a battle.

Your’re a true inspiration sir- u were always my fav teacher. Loved your lessons and always an inspiration.

Thanks. Hope life is treating you well.

All good thank you. I hated school but looked forward to art- u taught me to express myself.

Well to help people to express themselves was all I set out to do. I miss it but when people say the kind of things you have I feel better.

U r a true legend sir.

Look after yourself Chelsea. I love your daily messages – ‘Good morning you gorgeous lot’ Keep ’em coming! X

I will sir- and keep being you! I have the up most respect for you xx

Look at that hair! and the tie ... What was I thinking?

Look at that hair! and the tie … What was I thinking?

A few words that mean a lot.

© Andy Daly 2013

No Comment

MercianregBBC South East news 7th November 2013

UK soldier killled in Afghan suicide attack named

A British soldier killed in Afghanistan has been named as Warrant Officer class 2 David Philip Green. The 42-year-old, from Dagenham, East London, was part of the 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

The Ministry of Defence said he died in a suicide attack on the final day of an operation to disrupt insurgents in the Kamparack area, 25 miles (40km) north-east of Lashkar Gah in Helmand.

His widow Gillian said: “David will always be the centre of my life, he will be remembered as a doting father, loving husband and a true professional soldier.”

He had two sons, aged seven and five.

SONY DSCLancaster Guardian 15th February 1915

Lancaster Soldier Killed In Action

Corporal Bernard Daly 35, serving with “B” Coy. 2nd Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry of 13 Bradshaw St, Lancaster died on Friday, 12 February, in the trenches of the St Eloi sector, Ypres.
His commanding officer, Captain Skinner described Corporal Daly, husband of Jane Frances Daly and father of two as a model soldier who had just completed 20 years service. He was well-liked by all the men and was a keen hockey player. He was shot in the head by a sniper’s bullet and would have died instantly.

By a cruel twist of fate, the post that brought the family this devastating news also contained a letter from Corporal Daly especially for his young son on  the occasion of his birthday.

My Great Grandfather


© Andy Daly 2013


What with all the furore over some baking programme, you may have missed this excellent series which tests the painting skills of its contestants with a series of challenges to find out who is the Master painter.

It all came to a head last week in the idyllic surroundings of the St Ives School of Painting; established by Leonard Fuller in the historic Porthmeor studios at the centre of St Ives’ artists’ quarter in 1938. Artists who have lived and worked in the town include Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, Roger Hilton and Terry Frost  to name but a few. It makes a fine setting for  the grand finale.

And guess who is in the final?

That’s right. Your’s truly. Along with Peggy and Alison.

The Studio

The Studio


If you have no idea what I am babbling on about, The Great British Paint Off is the ultimate painting battle where passionate amateur painting fans compete to be crowned the UK’s Master Painter. Over the course of 10 hour-long episodes, the series follows the trials and tribulations of the competitors, young and old, from every background and every corner of Britain, as they attempt to prove their painting prowess, under the watchful eyes of our judges, ably assisted by random comedians. Each week the painters tackle a different skill, which become progressively more difficult as the competition unfolds. Their knowledge of the practical aspects of painting are thoroughly tested as is their nerve and ablity to cope with pressure.



Testing the painters’ personality, creative flair and painting ability, the main challenge here is to produce something robust and conceptually sound. It will show a mastery of technique as well as confidence with colour whether it be naturalistic, symbolic or expressive.


This challenge separates the wheat from the chaff. Take one basic genre, and with the same instructions, ask our painters to produce a finished product… sound easy? Well, any variation on the finished product will be a result of their own technical knowledge and experience – or lack of. Painters are laid bare in this task and this is where the pressure’s really on in the Paint-off.


The gloves are off in this final challenge where the painters are able to showcase their depth of skill and talent. The complexities of this task call for a professional standard in style AND substance. Are they up to it? The judges will be looking for the most impressive and creative creations.


The Chuckle Brothers. Paul and Barry Elliott found their first taste of success when they won the television talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1967 and since then have appeared in a number of TV and radio shows, the most memorable being their BAFTA nominated ‘Chucklevision’. Best known for their catchphrase ‘To Me … to You … to Me … to You … PAINT!’




Nicholas Serota and the grand old dame of British painting, David Hockney.

‘Nasty Nick’ is Director of the Tate and with it the country’s major collection of Modern/Contemporary Art at the Tate Modern and British Painting and sculpture at Tate Britain. Formerly in charge of the Whitechapel Gallery, he has also been chairperson of the Turner Prize Jury. It is widely rumoured that he doesn’t in fact like painting at all.



David Hockney is the nation’s favourite painter. After studying at the Royal College, she emerged into the London of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. It wasn’t long before LA called, and Hockney gained attention for her ‘Pop’ treatment of such subjects as portraits and swimming pools. Recently returned to live in Bridlington from where she has been producing landscape paintings with her i-pad.



So, how did I do? (If you don’t want to see the results till you’ve watched it on I Player, look away now)


Well, my initial happiness at being given the subject ‘An Andy Warhol Portrait’ for the Signature piece soon evaporates as I realise it is not as easy as it looks. I make the mistake of trying to be clever and do a modern take on the ‘Marilyn Diptych’, using Miley Cyrus as the subject. I’ve

Marilyn Diptych

Marilyn Diptych

had better ideas. Especially seeing as I didn’t check the composition of the photo emulsion you coat the silkscreen with in order to make the printed repeat heads.  It was  water-based and because I was using acrylic paint, the photo stencil started to break down after five or six prints. I managed to keep it together by plugging the holes with newsprint, but it still came out looking more like Simon Cowell than Miley.

I was dreading hearing Barry Chuckle announce ‘Painters put down your brushes, time’s up!’

Nick was particularly scathing, saying he’d never seen anything so … er I think the word was incompetent, in his life; and seemed to enjoy pointing out that where the failed stencil allowed the ink to run through and mix with the paint it left rather a soggy bottom.

David was much kinder. She thought my textures were ‘scrummy’ and that the painting as a whole had ‘lots of bite’.

However, I get the wooden spoon. Peggy wins this particlar challenge with a cunning portrait of David Cameron painted as though it was one of Warhol’s Death and Disaster series.


So on to the next test, the Technical Challenge.

Which is, explains Paul Chuckle, to produce an altar panel, that uses quatrocento icongraphy, space, colour, symbolism and media. Piece of cake. Now where’s my recipie for gesso and my Lapis Lazuli?

I decide to paint a Baptism of Christ on a poplar panel with egg tempera. Once I’m back from Poplar with the panel, I don’t have a lot of time left, but I‘m still feeling quietly confident. I am using a traditional gesso with a rabbit skin binder (phew!) chalk and some white pigment to create a suitable substrate on the poplar in order to use my egg tempera. It is a tricky business, but once all the layers are dry, I begin painting with the egg tempera; which is basically ground pigment mixed with egg yolk.

I work fast, using Piero Della Francesca as my model. I have Christ and his cousin in the foregound in naturalistic space with the landscape, more banks of the Arno than the banks of the Jordan, sweeping away into the distance. I even manage a bit of hidden geometry as I work in two circles of equal radius, centered on the Dove From Above and the water droplet as it falls onto Christ’s forehead. Adding faces to these circles to create happy and sad emoticons, in retrospect wasn’t a good idea.

Piero Della Francesca Baptism of Christ

Piero Della Francesca Baptism of Christ

The wheels begin to come off, or rather the paint begins to come off as I make my way to the judging table. Bugger! My gesso is lifting off the panel and taking the paint with it.

Nick: ‘This one is a clumsy and crass collision between the traditional and the contemporary’ (See? I knew the emoticons were a bad idea)

‘So it’s Post-Modern then?’ I suggest helpfully.

‘What we’re trying to say’ adds Hockney ‘is that when you do a pain’ing like this, (She doesn’t pronounce the ‘t’) at this level you’ve got to get everything right. I mean this pain’ing would look fine in a little gallery in Harrogate as a Renaissance pastiche, but not really here.’

‘No not really here’ echoes Nick.

I am beginning to wish he would shut his cakehole.

Alison takes the Technical with her paintings of scenes from the life of St. Peter done as pradella panels.

I am beginning to get a bad feeling about this.


And so, onto the final test, the Showstopper Challenge. Barry and Paul send the judges out of the studio and I close my eyes as they announce our final test: ‘Domestic Interior’ and ‘No slacking’. That’s all they say. Oh crikey! I wasn’t expecting this.  Alison has made a flying start and is working on a still life on a table in front of a window, showing the flowers from the cottage garden outside.

Eggs, bacon and a slice. Do you want anything else with that love?

Eggs, bacon and a slice. Do you want anything else with that love?

Peggy goes for an ambitious composition, loosely based on Velazquez’s ‘Old Woman Cooking Eggs’ – ‘Old Woman Making Sushi’ while I go for a Georges Braque/Patrick Caulfield-inspired kind of Synthetic  Cubism Still Life with collaged real objects. What could go wrong?

Patrick Caulfield

Patrick Caulfield


Well. Quite a lot as it happens.

I tackle a canvas which is way too big in the time allowed and I don’t fully resolve the rich textured surfaces of Braque with the flat minimalist colour areas lifted from Caulfield. ‘Oh dear oh dear’ says Paul as he looks from my painting to the clock and back again. I scratch some scraffito passages down the left hand side which look OK. The paint looks lovely and buttery but it is obvious I have bitten off more than I can chew, even if it is al dente (or do I mean impasto?) Anyway, the result is more ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ than idyllic interior scene.

Finally, the Chuckle Brothers put me out of my misery and we are banished from the studio as the judges deliberate.

It doesn’t take them long. They emerge from the studio and Barry makes the announcement.

‘It has been a hard-fought contest, hasn’t it Paul? But there can be only one Master Painter, so without further ado, the winner of The Great British Paint Off 2013 is …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Alison!’

Well I could see it coming frankly. Alison gets the trophy and I get to clean the brushes.

I’m done with painting. I reckon I’m going to dust of my Mum’s old cookery books and have a go at some baking.

©Andy Daly 2013..

Unfortunately it has not been possible to show any of the paintings produced in the competition due to copyright issues (Phew!) Thanks to all the Veroccio Gang Summer 2013, The St. Ives Gang Autumn 2013, Maggie, Rob, Pat, Gary, Alice and Marion.

Police Escort

As the government’s decision to give the contract to build a new nuclear reactor at Hinckley Point to the Chinese and French, with an agreement to pay double the current market price for the energy it produces for the next thirty years, so nuclear power is under the spotlight as once more the pros and cons of reactor design, build, efficiency and safety are batted back and forth.

It is comforting to know that we live in a country where successive governments have put a premium on the public’s safety and complete transparency as far as the nuclear industry is concerned.

Or have they?

My Dad tells a story about his cousin’s husband, who after the War, worked at the Windscale plant in West Cumbria.

Windscale. Lovely place.

Windscale. Lovely place.

He remembers one Friday night in the mid-50’s, a knock on the door of the family home in Lancaster. It was my Dad’s cousin in law Dick. He had called in to drop off a bottle of his wife’s home made wine for the family.

‘I can’t stay’ He says ‘I’ve got a police escort waiting outside, I’ve got to take some plutonium down to Aldermaston’

And with that, he bundled back into his Hillman Minx and drove off, police outriders falling in around him.

And where do you suppose he put this nugget of weapons-grade material?

In the glove box of course.

Not one of these

Not one of these

One of these!

One of these!

© Andy Daly 2013

(Aldermaston: the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment)

London Busman’s Prayer

The 73. My bus to work. From Stoke Newington to Marylebone High Street. From the ridiculous to the sublime.

The 73. My bus to work. From Stoke Newington to Marylebone High Street. From the ridiculous to the sublime.

Our Father who art in Hendon

Harrow Road be thy name

Thy Kingston come

Thy Wimbledon

In Erith as it is in Hendon

Give us this  day our Berkhampstead

and forgive us our Westminsters

As we forgive those who Westminster against us.

Lead us not into Temple Station

and  deliver us from Ealing

For thine is the Kingston, the Purley and the Crawley

For Iver and Iver

Crouch End.