It came to pass that one day in the old school staffroom a new teacher was being introduced to the staff – Picture the scene: air heavy with tobacco and pipe smoke, with every now and then hints of a sweet aromatic smoke coming from where? (The new Art teacher is under suspicion.) “Ladies and gentlemen can I introduce you all to James. James will be joining the Science department this term. James trained at Birmingham, going into teaching after the war, during which he flew Spitfires in the RAF. He has worked in London, the West Midlands and I’m sure you would like to join with me and welcome James to our staff” Hip, hip hooray, bravo, hear, hear etc “so you were in the RAF?” Says someone “Rather!” (Notice how James is portrayed as a stereotypical upper class idiot for comic effect) “Joined up in ’40. Lucky to stay alive. Seat of the pants stuff, don’t you know, lost plenty of chums [You will tell me if I’m overdoing this…] in the drink” “Oh you should have a word with Tom (Viscsak) He was in fighters in the war” “Oh I say, really? I started with Hurricanes at Biggin Hill, moved onto fighter command based in Suffolk, then finished with 23 squadron at Abingdon. How about you Tom? Room suddenly goes quiet. “I was in the Luftwaffe……”
I thought you might like to hear of my night out with George in the West End’s exclusive ‘Wag’ nightclub.
This was … errr … now let me see: 1985. My first year teaching. I was living in Bromley-by-Bow, heart of the East End, working by complete contrast in Northwood Hills, comfortable, leafy ‘Metroland’. My school uniform at the time was a mixture of 1950s ‘Rockabilly’ late 60s/early 70’s Skin and Suede Head style Doc Martens, Ben Sherman button collar shirts, high – waisted pleated trousers, bleached Levi jacket, bootlace ties, metal collar tips, pointed leopard print and suede ‘Brothel Creepers’, ‘Harrington’ jacket, Levi 501’s, suits from Johnsons, Kensington Market, shirts from Jack Geach, Harrow and my ever present US MA1 Flying jacket.
‘Playtime’ on a typical week around this period consisted of:
Monday and Thursday – the last hour in the Priory Tavern, Bow once I’d finished my marking.
Tuesday and Wednesday – 5 – A – Side league, Eastway Sports Centre and bar for post match analysis, Stratford (Now the site of the 2012 Olympic Stadium)
Friday – Skinful. East or West End. Long walk or expensive cab ride back from whichever London Underground/Transport terminal I happened to awake at.
Saturday – The Wag. (Then after see Friday)
Sunday – Recovery position
It was Simon, dear Simon who first got me in the Wag.
By rights, I should have hated the place, it seemingly embodied everything I detest It was exclusive. If you didn’t look right, you didn’t get in: no matter how much money you waved in the face of bouncer, Winston. It was small and cramped, even after they extended it. The beer was shite and ludicrously expensive, BUT the music!. And I have to say, the people made it a top night out.The Wag played ‘grown up’ Dance Music, Funk, Soul and R ‘n’ B. And I loved it! I remember one night of solid James Brown and James Brown mixes. OMG! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Often our itinerary was The Blue Posts Berwick St. Soho, Intrepid Fox, Jazz and Latin club Frith Street. Oh! and of course there was always someone to meet at the Spice of Life.
And so it came to pass that on one of these magical evenings, I found myself standing at the bar in the Wag. Minding my own business, I felt someone’s elbow graze mine as I idly scanned the bar looking for free staff, letting my mind and body immerse themselves in the music. I turned with a non-committal look, the owner of the elbows smiled.I smiled back, he used the opportunity to get the attention of the barmaid and get served. Bastard! It was George Michael.
As soon as he’d got his drinks, he made a beeline for the VIP area and motioned me to follow. I spent a blinding night in his company (and later that of his friends, which included Andrew Ridgely, Pepsi and Shirley among others) swapping the names of favourite singers and bands. We danced till the first morning light. Leaving the club, bleary eyed, I hitched a lift on the back of a milk float to Baker Street, at which point I jumped off and caught the first train back to Bow.
Actually that last bit’s a load of old bollocks. He smiled. I smiled back, he used the opportunity to get the attention of the barmaid and get served then fucked off to the VIP area while I waited another half an hour to get served. BUT the music! … It was a top night out.
© Andy Daly 2010
Because of this blessed extension we’re having built: trees, cards, decorations, presents, Yuletide glow (whatever that is) Peace and Goodwill to all men – in fact all things Christmas were last on our minds. Hence the presents: my two sons a tyre pressure gauge and 1½ litres of Castrol GTX and my wife, 8 kilos of barbeque briquettes respectively were all I could find in the last shop open at 12:45am Christmas morning: the local filling station.
After weeks of feeling like unwelcome visitors in our own home as troops of Irish brickies, plasterers, Polish and Lithuanian labourers, hyperactive roofers and plumbers with Tourette’s wandered around clutching endless cups of tea, looking quizzically at us when we cast disapproving eyes over unnecessary dirty foot and hand prints, breaking our mugs and their wind, Christmas, however brief, meant a bit of respite.
I was dreading their return!
Today the kitchen is being fitted: so far casualties include the fridge door handle (Tony: “I hardly touched it “) The new hob (cracked) and my son, at home too ill to go to school, and who is now in addition bordering on hypothermia – why don’t they ever shut the fucking doors?
Then there’s “Foxy”, Tony’s alter ego who has spent the last 40 minutes looking for his glasses. (I found them in a bucket of filthy water in the old kitchen!) and the hyperactive plumber with Tourette’s (“Where’s me fuckin’ spanner?”) He has just (thankfully) had it pointed out to him that he has connected the cold to hot and vice versa on the kitchen sink.
God give me strength.
© Andy Daly 2009