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

Me and Danny Baker

I thought you might like to hear about the time I met writer and broadcaster Danny Baker.

It was when I was working at the Victoria Wine shop in Marylebone High Street in the summer of 1980/81 or thereabouts. One day I got a call at work from My Best Mate Aky. He suggested that after we were both finished I join him and his girlfriend Silvana over in Poplar, East London for a few scoops. Say no more.

Now, I must introduce you to Silvana. Like the amplifiers in Rob Reiner’s classic send – up of the Rock business, ‘Spinal Tap’, Silvana’s controls all went up to ‘11’. Presence, Intensity, Tone, Speed, Gain and Volume – all up to ‘11’. I had never met someone who could talk so much, so loud, so quickly, spin such convincing yarns, rip the piss out people in such a way that they didn’t even realise she was doing it. AND have an opinion on everything – even subjects she knew nothing about. Quite frankly, she scared the shit out of me. I simply could not figure out how to cope with this crackling, fizzing, jumping box of fireworks. Indeed, it was some years later, when quite by chance I wound up teaching in the same school as Silvana in South East London that I began to get the measure of her. But she had  a heart of gold, and the abiding image I have of her implanted in my brain is all-talked-out, but refusing to admit defeat, pushing her ‘80’s wide rimmed specs up her nose, the old map cracking into a smile and laughing her throaty laugh.

Anyway, now I’ve trashed one old friend, I’ll move on to the main task of the day. I made my way over to Silvana’s flat in Poplar: Fitzgerald House, one of the tower blocks on East India Dock Road, sixteenth floor, I believe. I think I must have had a few ‘travelling cans’ (usually a 4-pack of beers designed to combat the stress and boredom of travelling on London Transport) on the way over, because my memory of the evening is decidedly hazy from the outset. What I do remember was that we ajourned to some moody ‘estate’ pub behind the flats.

Silvana announced that we would be joined by a friend of hers: “Danny. He writes for the NME” (New Musical Express. At the time the definative voice on music which, during the 70s had a weekly circulation in the region of 300,000)’. Knowing how keen I was on music Silvana intimated that ‘Danny’ and I should have quite a lot in common. Well, I was brought up on the NME! I remember how at school, my mate Baz would get a copy every week, and our little gang: Self, Baz and Beckett would stand around reading it from cover to cover. News, reviews, tours, cartoons and jokes. I couldn’t wait. When Danny arrived we were introduced and left to chew the fat for a while. Thus, ensued one of the most dismal evenings I have ever spent in a public house.

Danny seemed distinctly reluctant to chat, whereas I was keen to know all about the NME, who he had interviewed, what they were really like etc. etc. It didn’t go too well. It seemed every band I liked, he hated “Magazine? Devoto – Twat!” and vice versa. It was a pretty disagreeable all in all and eventually all civilised conversation dried up. I caught the 106 back to our hovel in Stoke Newington, thinking “That Danny Baker’s a real miserable bastard”. And so it was. I could never quite reconcile the upbeat,cheery public persona with what I knew to be in private, a darkly-tortured soul. And a miserable bastard.

Until a year or so ago.

Having been out of contact with my mate Aky for about ten years, we got back in touch. After a few weeks, I happened to mention my memories of this forgettable evening and what a grumpy git Danny Baker was.

“Ah yes” he says. “What you probably didn’t realise was that Silvana and ‘Danny’ had recently split up”

(My mate Aky, it seems being the primary cause of the stoppage.)

Which probably explains ‘Danny’s’ demeanour on the night in question.

“But you’re a bit mixed up” (probably the ‘travelling cans’)

“It wasn’t Danny Baker … It was Danny Kelly!”

The Dannys: Kelly and Baker, or is it Baker and Kelly?

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about:

Kelly is a music journalist, sports presenter, and internet publisher. He began writing for New Musical Express in the early 80s and was its editor from the late 1980s to 1992. After that he edited the British music monthly, Q, and was awarded the title British Magazine Editor of the Year for his work there. He also launched the sports monthly Total Sport. He often works in partnership with fellow sports fan and radio journalist Danny Baker.

Baker worked in record shops before co-founding punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue in 1976. His work on Sniffin’ Glue led to an offer from the New Musical Express  where he stood out for his wit and comic style. He went on to work on London ITV’s The 6 O’Clock Show in 1982. He became the weekend breakfast presenter for Greater London Radio in 1989, then started working for the BBC on Sportscall, Radio Five, in 1990. In 1992 began writing for TV on clip show TV Hell, then  presented Radio 1’s Saturday and Sunday morning show in 1993, as well as a short-lived late night television chat show, Danny Baker After All, on BBC1. Despite critical acclaim, his radio show was cut in 1996. Writing for Channel 4’s hit show TFI Friday followed in 1996, hosted by Chris Evans, which ran until 2000. He also wrote for comics Jonathan Ross and Angus Deayton and became a regular on panel shows such as Have I got News For You. In 2001 he returned to the BBC from Virgin Radio to host BBC London’s breakfast show, winning Sony’s DJ of the year in 2005. In 2008 he returned to BBC 5 Live, taking over the Saturday morning show in 2009. Diagnosed with cancer 2010. In 2012 his regular afternoon Show on BBC Radio London was axed, despite listener protests.

Baker’s autobiography. Well worth a read

So now you know…

© Andy Daly 2012

Training for the Hurdles

The incredible success of this year’s ‘Summer of Sport’ got me thinking. Although I have participated in many sports such as: Football, Skiing, Climbing, Long Distance Running, Tae Kwon Do and Ice Skating, I cannot really be said to have excelled at any.

Except Train Carriage Hurdles.

My frame – even to this day, compact, lithe and muscular (less objective commentators might say skinny) is perfect for a discipline which requires powerful bursts of speed, agility, the ability to propel oneself to a significant height, after – and, this is where the key factor, balance comes in – consuming copious quantities of alcohol … or indeed while consuming copious quantities of alcohol.

Don’t be surprised if you have never heard of Train Carriage Hurdles; it has been largely an underground pursuit, (no pun intended – much) despite attempts to have it accepted as a demonstration sport in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Of course you need some specialist equipment: such as a Bulleid 4EPB/SR train carriage. Introduced in 1940, they populated the Southern region and remained in service until 1992. You know the ones: with the distinctive luggage racks, known and hated by two generations of commuters, with a three seat one side, two seat the other configuration.

Train Carriage Hurdles

Also essential is a short run of track between two stations. We used to use the now-defunct spur to Woodside from Elmer’s End. It served our purposes perfectly. For one, the journey length; no more than 3 or 4 minutes meant just enough time to complete a race and scramble off the train. And secondly, it was where we lived. That is to say My Best Mate Aky, The Baron, the rest of the gang and briefly, Yours Truly.

So what did Train Carriage Hurdles involve? Well, assuming you were in an empty carriage at Elmer’s End (it was possible to compete in an occupied waggon, but the risk of being detained by the British Transport Police or getting your teeth knocked down your throat by an irate fellow commuter was significantly increased.) The two competitors tossed a coin to choose start positions: almost always on the three seat side for reasons which will become apparent. Numbers were restricted to two in a race. The only exception being the relay, in which case the second leg runners took their places at the other end of the train in the ‘baton change-over’ area. Once the start marshall was happy, competitors went on the signal ‘Go!’

The object of the race was to jump off the seat cushions, and launch oneself, first between the top of the seat and the luggage rack  in front, onto the next seat then another launch and over – this time beween the luggage rack and the carriage roof. And so on in an ‘under and over’ fashion (you see why most competitors, save for the slightest-built quicker starters opted to start on the three seat row) until the end of the carriage was reached, at which point, they would cross to the opposite side and come all the way back in the same manner. The winner of course, being first home before Woodside was reached.

If ever there was a sport for which I was entirely suited it was this. It is just a shame that it was of an era before the current blurring of the boundaries between sport and criminal behaviour. In fact there are probably fewer than half a dozen people alive on this planet who can bear witness to my prowess as a Train Carriage Hurdler. Those were the days!

Rake’s Progress Pt.2


Somewhere I have generally avoided if the truth be known, save for a couple of forays into deepest darkest Colchester. And the inevitable journeys into the hearts of darkness that are London Underground termini in the early hours of the morning, such as Upminster, Dagenham, Barking etc; which, though pleasant enough they may be during the daylight, are distinctly unwelcoming to the traveller, slowly-sobering as they (me) try to figure out how they have managed to slumber through so many stations and how the fuck am I going to get home.

Having said that, it does occur to me that actually I spent a good proportion of my time learning drive on the roads in the county of Essex.

Learning to drive

But my first driving lessons, however were courtesy of my Dad on the beautiful country lanes (deathtraps) around our home, Seascale in the Lake District.  One day, after sitting in the car for a few minutes, looking out of the windshield at clear blue skies, listening to a grinding, whirring sound as it slowed and faded; the sound of front wheels that no longer have contact with a road surface, but which are running free and gradually losing momentum. (They were able to do this as the fuschia Hillman Avenger* that we were sitting in had come to rest, yours truly behind the controls, at an angle of 45 degrees after taking on a dry stone wall and fence.) My Dad turned to me, stiffly – It may have been the whiplash – and said “Let’s swap places”  reversed it back onto the road and never mentioned it again.

(*It was the ‘70s)

So it was at the age of 26 while living in Bromley by Bow in the East End of London that I eventually learned to drive when the streets of Whitechapel, Mile End, Old Ford, Stepney, East Ham, Ilford and Barking were my training ground. I must confess, I had my doubts about my instructor: not because she was a woman, but because one memorable lesson she told me to drive up the off-slip of the A12, Blackwall Tunnel road just to the north of East India Dock road. All my instincts said ‘Noooo’ and I voiced my concern but she wouldn’t have it until we got to the apex of the tight loop that the road makes to find two lanes of traffic bearing down on us. I think it probably prompted the quickest three point turn I’ve ever done. Funnily enough, she never mentioned it again.

Don’t Dwell

My first car was a 1971 1.8 Marina coupe: GLD 967J. What a car. I remember the day I bought it, which also happened to be the day I moved from Bromley by Bow to Sudbury Town, Wembley. A  Momentous day. It began an icy December morning. I had to get the tube at what seemed like the crack of dawn, from Bow to Ickenham where the car was garaged, collect it, then drive (my first solo drive) down the A40 into and through central London back to Bow to load up my gear. Then a drive in the gathering gloom to Wembley to take possession of a three bed house I was to share for a year with mates Chawkey and Wiz. Not content with that, later the same evening I went to a party I’d been invited to near Rayner’s Lane. In itself, unremarkable except for the fact that it was there I met and fell in love with the woman I was later to marry. But that’s getting ahead a bit.

   Look at that! Marina 1.8 Coupe. Poetry in motion. Sorry that should read Pottery in motion.

On the subject  of the Marina, for those of you who know the stretch of road (A501) that runs from Grays Inn, past Euston, Baker Street and finally onto the Marylebone flyover. Well I’d not been driving long when one night, coming back from watching speedway at Hackney’s Waterdon Road stadium, now, of course virtually the epicentre of the 2012 Olympic Park. I managed to get from King’s Cross to the A40, without a single red light! Couldn’t do it now of course. Too many new sets of lights. And speed cameras.

One of the things about Parkinson’s – what my then consultant, Richard Crawford described as this ‘insidious disease’ is that eventually you lose your driving licence as, quite rightly, you are deemed too disabled to safely control a vehicle. Not a good day when that happens. I don’t dwell on it, but I did love driving, and if you’ll forgive the conceit, think I was a pretty good driver at that.

A real blast

One of the things I used to get a real blast from was driving the school minibuses. The first one I drove was an old Transit ‘crewbus’ with the wooden bench seating in the back, down each side – wouldn’t be allowed of course these days – interior coverered with a generous layer of fine dried mud, kicked off hundreds of pairs of football boots. Naturally you had to undergo rigorous training before you were allowed to take it out. As I recall, my minibus training consisted of driving it in a circle in the school car park and then stopping it.

I remember some good times in it though. Taking it to France with a group of kids and staying in a beautful old French farmhouse south of Boulogne. In Slough for ice skating, getting it stuck under the car park height restriction because of the bloody roof rack. Again at Slough (different school and more modern buses) the one I had elected to drive, unbeknown to me had a slipping clutch. Apart from having to nurse this bloody bus there and back, the nearest I got to the ice was  Wexham Park Hospital where I spent the entire evening with one of the girls who had taken a tumble and hurt her wrist. Needless to say when we needed any ‘wheels’ for jobs at home – clearing out the garage for instance, going  to IKEA  or if the car broke down, there was always the minibus and it became quite a familiar sight outside the house in Sudbury Town.

Ray loading minbus. Ealing Town Hall

The minibus also came in handy when we needed to move the band’s equipment around. At the last school I worked at there were always concerts and talent shows, so for a laugh a few of us got together and decided to do a couple of numbers. We had great fun and soon a couple of numbers became a couple more and a couple more, until we had over an hour’s worth of fairly eclectic covers of songs as diverse as (Iggy Pop) ‘Passenger’ (Radiohead) ‘High and Dry’ (U2) ‘With or Without You’ (Green Day) ‘Pulling Teeth’ to (Van Morrison) ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ (The Beatles) ‘Back in the USSR’ and (Abba) ‘Mama Mia’. At the time, our main rivals were the 6th Form band. Two of whom subsequently stuck at the music caper and now make up 66.6% of chart band ‘Scouting for Girls’, and therein lies a bit of a story.

I was a big fan of the ‘second wave’ punk band The Ruts right from the outset and remember their first airing on John Peel’s show. I had seen them live, twice in Newcastle and liked their energy, intelligent songwriting and their ablity to bring in other musical influences (specifically Reggae and Dub) without it sounding blue-eyed and artificial . I played  their first album “The Crack” again and again in the slug-infested flat I shared in Stoke Newington with my best mate Aky and the former members of Sade’s band. I can’t think of a single person I played it to over the years who didn’t like it. Key to it all was the distinctive guitar sound and innovative playing of Paul Fox.

The Ruts
(Paul Fox far left)

Now, it was coming up to the Christmas concert and the Sixth Form band had a little ace up their sleeves in the shape of a promising drummer, one Lawrence (Lorry) Fox. Despite being four years or so younger than his fellow bandmates he got the gig because he was so talented and had his own pretty cool Gretsch drumkit. It wasn’t until the night of the concert as we stood on the hall stage admiring this professional-looking drumkit, that I was introduced to proud dad Paul, who was there to see his son’s debut. And then the penny dropped. It was Foxy, the legendary Ruts’ guitarist; and the drumkit, of course was the band’s original kit, given to Lawrence, by drummer Dave Ruffy. Anyway our band dutifully did our slot which closed the first half just before the interval, during which, Paul sought me out. “It was crap wasn’t it?” I said. He looked at me, thought for a while, grinned and said “Well, put it this way Andy…I wouldn’t give up the day job!” And so began beautiful freindship only sadly cut short by his untimely death in 2007.

Four Weddings and a Funeral

To be able to out-perform the Sixth Form band when it came to school concerts was one of the things that prompted us to get ourselves organised and get out and about to play ‘real’ gigs: weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, you know the sort of thing. And so it was that our first live appearance as The Crabs (not my idea) with yours truly on bass and vocals was at Eastcote Hockey club in Middlesex, A ramshackle clubhouse with function room and bar and which sported a mass of corridors and a labyrinthine collection of passages and was prone to flooding.

Russ our, guitarist, discovered these passageways and was soon able to navigate most of the hockey club – in the dark.  In fact, most of the exits opened out into the changing rooms which were our green Rooms – Lovely! a pungent mix of mud, Deep Heat, sweat, lager and stale farts.

Well, to cut a long story short… On the night, Russ decided to go ‘walkabout’ during one of his guitar solos in Oasis’ “Some Might Say” using his ‘wireless radio’ guitar lead. He’d planned his route: Main Bar, Gent’s toilets, playing all the time, from there he was to go through the juniors’ changing room and up on to the back of the stage – except that unbeknown to him, one of the doors had been locked so he had to go back and of course, got lost. Meanwhile, as we continued to play on stage, no idea where he was, his guitar lead began to pick up the local cab service signal, the Police waveband, Heathrow Air Traffic Control and a Turkish Radio programme. He finally made it back after we had played 47 choruses, got all the Turkish league football scores and ordered everyone’s taxis home for the night.

We must have played twenty-odd gigs during our time which (honestly) included four weddings and a funeral. (Strictly speaking a memorial service. But close enough.) One of the weddings we were booked for, I couldn’t make as I was in Spain, so the Bass player from the band Ride took my place. Apparently when he saw my amp he was delighted ‘A Carlsbro Stingray! I’ve always wanted to use one of those.’ Then midway into the second song he blew the bloody speaker.

A to B In the Yellow Beastie

Getting our gear from A to B had also begun to get a lot easier and a lot more fun, courtesy of ‘The Yellow Beastie’. The school had bought an old banana yellow Land Rover Defender for use in preparing the school grounds for the frequent car boot sales and fairs it used to run. Whenever we had a gig and there was no fair or boot sale, in exchange for a donation to school funds, it was ours. And by far and away the most fun vehicle I have ever driven, even though it handled worse than a Lancaster bomber, and had a wider turning circle. It was a pig to control in narrow suburban streets, but when you cranked it up and travelled in a straight line, it was like shit off a shovel. The only problem was you had to plan your braking about fifteen minutes in advance if you wanted it to stop.

Yellow Beastie

One booking involved travelling over to Stow on the Wold. Another wedding, it was a beautiful summer’s day. A  Saturday. We had packed the ‘yellow beastie’ the night before and I had parked it outside our house overnight. I set off about midday with Russ and Nic (drums). Trevor (guitar) was already over there as he was one of the wedding guests. Ray (Our sound and lights man) was playing cricket and would join us later, which meant that we would have to set up all the gear without Ray’s watchful presence. Well, the journey was great, the ‘Beastie’ was in fine form and we pulled in at Stow in plenty of time. We bought two bottles of chilled white wine. Then on Nic’s direction we made a beeline for the most amazing house belonging to friends of his, and for which he had a key. Its owners were on holiday – so we had the run of the place: tennis courts, sun loungers and a beautiful outdoor swimming pool. Wine opened, we were in heaven.

We were also late for our rendezvous with Trev who was beginning to get his knickers in a twist more than somewhat, sitting in a village hall looking at a bare stage. Especially since we had neglected to phone or text him.

Rehearsals for Stow gig.


Preparing stage for Stow gig


When we finally showed he was almost apoplectic.

But there was no real harm done, once Ray had arrived and sorted out all our ‘stage spaghetti’  thus reducing our chances of electrocution by 100%.  In fact it was great. A lovely warm summer’s evening. We played pretty well. One of our best I reckon. I remember part way through one song, looking across at Russ I was beaming a huge smile, he caught my eye, he was doing the same thing. I knew he was thinking the same as me, that this was just fucking great. I could do this every night for the rest of my life.

Pictures and audio:  “Do Anything You Wanna Do”

Unfortunately, I had to get back to London that night, so once the ‘beastie’ was packed, I left the lads to carry on drinking in the village square and made my way home. The Land Rover was brilliant. I drove fast, but felt completely safe. I got back about 2am, but paused a bit before going in and making for bed, just to savour that summery quiet of the wee small hours.

All things considered

Moving band equipment about wasn’t always as straightforward. I’ve been in and out of a number of bands over the years, but the one I have most affection for looking back was called The Pressure Drop in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Now believe it or not on one occasion we took all our gear:  bass amp, guitar amp and drum kit to the venue we were booked to play at (Havelock Hall, one of the Leazes university halls of residence) on the number 41 bus! I’ve no idea how we managed it, especially since there was a fair walk from the stop at the Spittal pub to the venue.

Poster. I used Cecil Beaton’s war photographs on all the band graphics

The band was Self: guitar and vox, Keith: bass, Stalker (AKA Simon Stalk/ Stalker Suave) drums and later, Jill: frilly dresses and vox. and of course our ‘honourary’ member roadie and sometime driver, Naughty Nige. We set out with a true punk ‘Do it yourself’ ethic.  I could play guitar, but neither Keith nor Stalker had instruments let alone the ability to play them. We all worked during the summer 1980, and by the september had the basic gear and a sufficient level of musicianship to get us off the ground. The Jam was our loose template. I wrote most of the songs, which were mainly comments on what I saw or heard around me, or personal relationships. For instance there was one song we played which (although he never realised it) was a commentary on my deteriorating relationship with the drummer. I’ve got to say, all things considered we did develop into a tight little unit, and although only a threesome, with nothing much to fill out the sound: no keyboards, effects or suchlike, we made a pretty good noise, largely the result of Keith’s intelligent and solid bass playing which allowed Stalker the framework around which to build his machine gun fills and thumping bass kick.

Live at Balmbras. Note Ruts T shirt

We played our fist gig to a packed house. Literally; it was a house party in Benwell and it was packed full. We were in the upstairs front room. There could only have been space for 15 to 20 people in there. The recording we made of the evening’s performance features the arrival of the local constabulary, investigating complaints about the noise, and shortly after, a deep ‘boom’ followed by muffled shouts and the appearance of people covered in what seemed to be white circus make up. In fact, it was plaster dust. The ceiling below had collapsed. As we packed our gear up and made our way home, the streets were covered in sets of white footprints all of which emmanated from the house in question.

The Londsdale

We then went on to perform at a variety of venues over the two years or so we were together;  The New Darnell (off Barrack Road) The Londsale in Jesmond, Newcastle University, Balmbras  – The famous music hall in the Bigg Market (reputedly where ‘The Blaydon Races’ was given its first public airing.) We gradually became more competent as we got more organised. We had a rehearsal space over in Felling. It was an unused room above a builders workshop/storeroom that we had access to, pretty much when we wanted. We never got bothered by anyone – however loud we played AND there was a pub pretty much next door. Brilliant! The only problem was its distance from home. For about eighteen months, the band was our lives, and we spent whole days – whole weekends rehearsing.

Other bands who were on the scene, so to speak as us were Punilux (Punishment of Luxury), Arthur Two Stroke and The Chart Commandoes,  Insecure, Eaten By Missionaries and The Rythmn Methodists, who were sort of our mentors. They had recorded and released an independent single “Don’t Rely On Me”. They took us under their wing, but often we found ourselves in a ‘catch 22’ situation where we wanted to play live, but venues – such as there were, were reluctant to book you if you weren’t self-sufficient (eg with your own PA, transport etc all of which cost money: the one thing we never had.

Cooperage interior.

The Sabrejets above, sadly not us. Our ace cameraman booked for the night we headlined was due (to technical reasons) unable to provide us with suitable images. He forgot to put a fucking film in the camera.

Probably the best venue in the city at the time was The Cooperage, a really atmospheric old dingy quayside pub, with a function room which featured a low, beamed ceiling … and no stage. So the performers were at the same level and touching distance from the audience. Much to our surprise and glee we came home on afternoon to find a note pushed through our door, from The Rythmn Methodists, who had been booked to play the Cooperage the following night. They needed a support: would we do it? Too right. It was a mint gig and off the back of that we got our own headline slot.

The gig we took all the gear to on the 41 bus!

Top of the bill at the Cooperage, along a brief tour of the North West (one night in St. Helens: long story) were probably the most satisfying gigs we played. By this time was had expanded the line up to include the drummer’s girlfriend. She ticked all the boxes – that is with the exception of the one marked ‘Ability To Sing’. She was always flat. I think people thought is was just part of our quirky sound. To tell you the truth I needed someone else to help me front it. Neither Keith nor Stalker sang. I was pretty confident with my voice, and playing the guitar  belting out into a mic was no problem. In fact, it has always felt/feels the most natural thing in the world. I could cut all the Weller/Strummer shapes quite convincingly I think (this was why with the exception of the songs I took in the Crabs – ‘Anything You Wanna Do’, ‘High and Dry’ and harmonies here and there; I always felt like a spare part playing the bass. I was a bit lost without a mic in front of me) No, I was crap at all the ‘in-between’ songs bit. The talking to the audience, introducing the songs. All that. I guess I was too shy. I’d written most of the lyrics and music, arranged it, sang and played it, but just couldn’t do the ‘frontman’ bit. Be different now, of course, after a working life spent at the front of a classroom.

Tea with the Mayor (and getting drunk with Nick Brown)

Anyway, the ‘Newcastle scene’ proved too small to sustain even the small number of bands around and in 1982 the inevitable happened and we split…. Just as a more interesting Newcastle scene began to emerge. I became a founder member of a musicians’ collective which emerged from council-run workshops in conjunction with Special Projects ( a kind of drop in centre for musicians and those interested in stage sound and lighting and funded through the Recreation Department of the City Council) Originally called Band Aid – this is well before Geldof and Ure – we joined forces with another group of like-minded individuals around at the time who called themselves Metropolis, and re-named the group Lula Music in September 1982 Leading lights at this early stage were Julie Cranston, Rob Meek, Nev Punilux and Keith Jeffrey. It was basically set up to bid for Inner City Partnership money via the council to set up rehearsal and recording facilities which would be accessible for local bands, and a music venue; along the lines of Sheffield’s Leadmill. We used to meet at the city library. An EP was recorded and released to raise awareness of the project, featuring four bands Darkness & Jive, who Jeffrey managed – so no conflict of interest there then –  Kant Kino, Prayer Before Birth and frankly, the only decent thing on there, the mesmerising “See the Light” by Illegal Sane. It sold 400 copies, one of which I am the proud owner of. Anyway, around this time the project was causing some interest and representatives of the group we invited to take with the mayor up at the Civic Centre. (this is true!) It was so funny, because we weren’t the only ones there: it was a sort of weekly ‘meet and greet’ session. So there was this ‘Blue Rinse’ set a sprinkling of golf club types and then this rabble of red  and green- haired herberts in leather jackets, lurid mohair tops, bleached jeans or tartan bondage trousers, Doc martins or monkey boots! But it was great. There was no spitting or fighting and we all sat round sipping tea from dainty cups and nibbling cucumber sandwiches and cakes.

A few of  us stayed on, and made a bee-line for the bar when it opened. We were treated to free drinks all night by the local councillors and MP Nick Brown, later a member of Blair’s cabinet. Needless to say my recollections of the evening from 7:30 onwards are somewhat  hazy. What I do remember is I was starting to get cheesed off with the petty politics of it all. I had also met by this time, through an advert in Windows (The city’s main music shop) a great bass player, Mark Jackman and was starting to rehearse with him and a drummer. He was a terrific musician and we had one of those relationships where, when we jammed each seemed to know what the other was going to do next. Incidentally, his girlfriend, Liz had the most spectacularly soulful voice.

So with a cracking rythmn section behind me, a burgeoning scene (Lula, eventually did get its venue: The Riverside) The Kane Gang and Prefab Sprout about to put the North East on the musical map again, what did I do? Yes that’s right, turned my back on it to go and work in an off licence down in ‘The Smoke’.

Bring on Hangovers.

The Baron Biddulph of Barking Bares All

Warning. Contains nudity. May not be suitable for minors or those of a nervous disposition

My mate the Baron was, and I hope still is a smashing bloke. He lived with me and the rest of the gang in the old LCC tenement blocks hard-to-let flats, alongside the Bow Bridge flyover. He worked in the Crown Suppliers dodge uptown and like all of us, he enjoyed a drink or seven. He was quite partial to having a few scoops of the old falling down water on a Friday night. If not saturday, sunday, monday, tuesday, wednesday and thursday come to that. In fact, all the years I know the Baron, he never refuses a drink.

Well what happens one friday night is typical of the kind of thing the Baron gets up to when he has been squeezing the hops since early doors. He is drinking since lunchtime with his work pals and has unfortunately forgotten to eat anything, so as you can imagine all that grog on an empty stomach naturally leaves him feeling a little tired and emotional.

Now being the sensible sort, the Baron figures the best thing to do is to go home and sleep it off; it being only five o’ clock in the afternoon. So this he does.

It seems he has a pretty good snooze, because before he knows it he is awake and it is already ten to nine. Late for work! The Baron hot foots it out of the door, down the stairs, across the courtyard and out of the estate onto the Mile End Road. He is headed in the direction of Bow Road Underground station, when he becomes aware that cars driving past him are tooting their horns and flashing their lights. The Baron also becomes aware how dusky the sky is looking for such an early hour.

Slowly it dawns on him that it is not nine a of m, but nine p of m. Nightime in other words. And not only that, but he has sleepwalked the whole way, and moreover has done so wearing only his Y-fronts.

Sheepishly the Baron retraces his steps, gingerly now on bare feet across the courtyard, enduring the cat calls of the kids who hang around there and for whom he has provided much merriment minutes earlier, up the stairwell to the flat door. Now here’s a problem. Of course the flat door is locked now, it having closed on the yale lock earlier when he “leaves for work”. This is where the story gets interesting on two counts. One: unbeknown to the Baron while he was in bed reading the insides of his eyelids, flatmate Peadar had arrived home in a similar state, as our hero , having forgotten to eat his lunch too. Two: the Baron decides in his wisdom to knock on the flat next door and borrow some kind of implement which will allow him to gain access. (His preferred route being through the toilet window – see “Look on the brightside, its Norman Whiteside“) Now, just put youself in the position of the neighbour for a minute. There you are, minding your own buisness on a friday night in your flat on a grubby East End estate. There is a knock at the door which you go and answer to be greeted by the sight of a deranged skinny white nobleman dressed only in Y fronts and apparently talking in tongues. “Hammer!” He pleads – and they give him one!

But the lunacy doesn’t end there. Oh no. As the Baron makes a bit too good job of demolishing the toilet window, he wakes up Peadar, still sleeping up to that point inside. Peadar thinks he is being burgled and begins to shout, taking a variety of voices in an attempt to trick his would-be assaillant that there is more than one person inside.

Finally, the two realise who each other are and as the Baron returns the hammer, Peadar opens the door.

“Jesus what a shock” says Peadar “I need a drink” says the Baron “Fancy a pint?”

And the moral of this little tale? Well if neither of them had forgotten their lunch, none of this would have happened.

Bow Bridge Estate

© Andy Daly 2012

Steve, in the unlikely event you should ever read this, I know you’re not from Barking, but Basildon didn’t scan as well.

In loco parentis

I wonder what the founding fathers of Cheadle Hulme School,  Manchester, England, would have made of this. They adopted in loco parentis as the school’s motto in 1855. Latin for “in the place of a parent”, it refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. Originally derived from English common law, it allows institutions such as colleges and schools to act in the best interests of the students as they see fit.

I don’t wish to to labour the point, and I promise not to reinforce it with yet another clip from the film ‘Kes’ but here is another example of the kind of every day lunacy which was typical of my secondary schooldays.

First day at our new secondary school, St. Wilfrid’s. New stiff uniforms, new classes with lots of new faces. Eagerness, trepidation. All our eyes are fixed on our new form teacher Mr. Bradley as he takes the register for the first time.

“William …. William Walsh?”

“I like to be called Billy, Sir.”

Bradley stares at him and begins to froth at the mouth.

“Do you now? Well, I’d like to be called George Best and have all the money and birds he has, but I can’t can I, lad?”

As the Spanish say “Loco comó una moto” which roughly translates as “Mad as a box of frogs”

© Andy Daly 2012

Thanks to Mark for reminding me of this

Hangovers. The Cast

Let me introduce you to the three key players to start with.

First and foremost is My Best Mate Aky, long-time resident of these pages and the person responsible for securing me gainful employment: first at Victoria Wine 104, Marylebone High Street and eventually at Hangovers.

Arthur. The Boss. The ‘Great White Chief.’ Forget  ‘Only Fools and Horses’, ‘Minder’ and all that old bollocks, Arthur was the real deal: a genuine Cockney wide boy who always fell on his feet. Out of Gillespie Road, Arsenal via Highbury Grove School, where Headteacher  Dr. Rhodes Boyson played a latter-day Gradgrind to Arthur’s Artful Dodger; he had a disarming grin as broad as the northern entrance to the Blackwall tunnel  (which endearingly revealed his missing molars) and an infectious cackle of a laugh. Good-humoured (I never once saw him angry; well, not so you would notice) and generous to a fault, he was impossible not to like. Arthur  always wore a branded T or polo shirt, jeans and white trainers with a light casual leather jacket in the winter time. His only accessory was a rolled up bundle of genuine high-spec folding money stuffed into his front jeans pocket. Because we worked long hours (The shop was open 8am – 8pm) it could often be quite boring with little in the way of ‘creature comforts’ (unless you include draught Ruddles piped up to the counter) so the unwritten rule was that friends could visit at any time, chew the fat and help themselves to whatever they fancied (within reason) as long as they were prepared to pitch in and help out should, say a delivery arrive and a van need unloading or we have a minor panic about something.

Kenneth Whitehead. Ken. Arthur’s mentor. Originally from Sunderland he came down to London in the ’60s to make his fortune. He loved everything about the ’60s: the music and fashion. As with all genuine sixties people he didn’t seem to remember much about it and was noticeably vague and evasive when quizzed about what he actually did during this pivotal decade. When I met him, Ken ran Victoria Wine’s  Berwick Street Soho shop. A shop, incidentally, that Those In The Know, gave less than a month, judging its location as a massively naive mistake on the part of Victoria Wine; the general consensus being that it would succumb either to a single large-scale heist or organised, concentrated and relentless petty thieving. Berwick Street  market, right outside its front door, aside from the fact that at the time it had a number of ambitious … let’s call them ‘Local Entrepreneurs’ working on it, conveniently provided an impenetrable space: ideal should someone or something need to be hidden in a hurry.

Berwick St. Market Soho.  Immediately outside Ken’s front door

In fact, Ken proved Those In The Know completely wrong for within a week, he and the ‘Local Entrepreneurs’ had come to a series of agreements concerning a variety of merchandise, its handling and storage, which was to be beneficial to one and all; some of which may or may not have included some, all or none of the following: (Firearms, Drugs, Clothes esp. cashmere jumpers, cassette tapes and CDs, cash money, Concert Tickets, Gold Bullion, etc.)  Thus the shop enjoyed protected status and went on to do good business, which would have been even better were it not for extremely efficient practice of its charismatic manager. Bookwork and paperwork out of the way before the rest of the staff arrived in the morning to open up, he would take his first drink of the day (Lanson Black label champagne or a brandy, depending on how the mood took him) just before opening time at 9:am. On the face of it a genial, good-natured bear of a guy with his Dire Straits, casual button down collar, jumper, neat jeans and (like his protegé) white trainers, You underestimated him at your peril, for running through him was a streak of pure steel. It was not considered wise to mess with Ken.

By 11:00, after supervising a tidy of the shop and the ‘bottling up’ of any depleted shelves, the serious drinking would begin. Ken would appoint his ‘Second in Command’ then disappear for the afternoon, popping in from time to time to check things were OK, and if he felt inclined, take us for lunch. If he  ever needed to be found in a hurry (Remember, this is in the days before mobile phones) there were three triangulation points that were key in locating his whereabouts. ‘Moira’s Massage Parlour’ in Queen Anne’s Court,  The Blue Posts, which stands on the corner of Berwick Street market, and ‘The Club’ on D’Arblay Street (This still being the era of much tighter licensing laws) ‘The Club’ was a shabby illegal all-day drinking hole. A ‘Speakeasy’ if you will.

If Ken wasn’t to be found within the ‘Soho Triangle’ which, to be fair was not often, chances were he could be anywhere or more likely in Topo Gigio’s.


Now, here’s a tricky one for you. What is the connection between the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus, The Rileys, a notorious Islington-based criminal family probably best known for their Finsbury Square ‘shoot out’ with rival gang the Adams, and a small parade of shops behind St. Pancras parish church, designed by Thomas Cubitt and built in 1822?

Don’t worry if you’re struggling. There’s probably less than half a dozen people alive on this planet who know the answer; which is of course, Hangovers. Not the physical phenomenon that we all know and love, result of bashing the grape more than somewhat and characterised by headache, dehydration, upset stomach, double vision, death (or close to) depending on how many extra one has attemped to tie on. In fact at one time in my life I am sorry to say, what had become my ‘default setting’ such that occasionally; maybe on a Tuesday or Wednesday I would wake up in my bed and not some wretched, deserted London Transport terminal like Cockfosters, Upminster, Dagenham, Barnet Church etc. and stumble about, blinking in the sunshine, unaccustomed to the levelness of the floor and the agreeable volume at which I found everything. Fit, in fact as a fiddle. Which brings me back to Hangovers.

The next time you are walking around Bloomsbury, which I realise for some of you for reasons of geography, is going to be less likely than it is for others, do yourself a favour. Head north through Tavistock Square, pass the British Medical Association, then between The New Ambassadors and the County Hotel, Stick your nose into Woburn Walk. As if you’ve stepped into a timewarp you are transported from the noise, grime and traffic on Upper Woburn Place to the most wonderful parade of Georgian shops.

This hidden gem was the brainchild of architect Thomas Cubitt, also resposible for, among other things, the East front of Buckingham Palace and was built as London’s first pedestrianised street. The houses themselves are three storeys with stucco fronts , while the shop facades were designed with great skill (it says here) The window stood in the centre, flanked by doorways, each of which were of four panels with rectangular fanlight above.  Each window was divided by very delicate glazing bars into twenty-four panes, four panes high, and curved at each side. Between each pair of doors was a wrought-iron scraper and the rainwater downpipes, with moulded heads, were neatly arranged in alternate recesses between the houses. Number 5 was occupied from 1895-1919 by William Butler Yeats. While from 1982 -1987 it was occupied along with number 3, by Hangovers, the Wine Store.

Aky and self outside Hangovers, summer 1984

Antique shop opposite Hangovers

So there’s the first link. The others I’ll come to presently.

There are so many Hangovers stories. They criss-cross, overlap and are so tightly packed that it is almost impossible to tease them out into one single narrative. So they have been left to mature these last few years and what I am going to attempt to do for you is to slice off some of the tasty titbits such as Stage Door Martin and the Waterloo Bridge incident, The SAS Captain, and The Flower Seller, amongst others.

But all in good time.

© Andy Daly 2012

Pic Credits: West End Notes, London Town, Flickriver 2 , 192.com, Flickriver 2

Going Over The High Side (Again)

Key words:

Idiot, Reckless, Speed, Thrill, Gradient, Air, High Side, Thump!, River, Brakes, Service, Repair, Hip, Bruising, Shit for brains.

(See also ‘Going Over The High Side’)

© Andy Daly 2011

Dad to the rescue

My Dad is generally considered a safe pair of hands.

And rightly so.

After a lifetime spent in schools he has survived the slings and arrows of outrageous children (and one or two teachers) and remains to this day enthusiastic about Teaching. He enjoys being in the company of other people and is naturally inquisitive and quick-witted. He is fascinated by language and the links and connections that can be traced from one tongue to another. He will talk with anyone, especially if they speak a language other than English. He is brave and cool under pressure as demonstrated for instance as a younger man, in his climbing exploits and on the countless expeditions and treks he led or accompanied. As I have said before, I would have followed  him (and still would) to the ends of the earth without once feeling the need to look up and check whether he knew where we were going. However, once or twice, on occasions which hold legendary status in family annals, his ‘superhero cape of invincibility’ has got caught in the revolving door of human frailty.

He won’t thank me for this, but I’m going to share two examples with you.

Once upon a time we had a Vauxhall Viva. (Now there’s a sentence I never guessed I’d find myself writing)  Dreadful car. Looked a bit like a filing cabinet mounted onto a Wickes’ trolley. Me and my two brothers would sit in the back where, particularly on long car journeys we would pass the time by wrestling with each other. After which we would then wrestle with our own particular levels of travel sickness. A major cause of this, I was convinced were combustion fumes, which came up through the small exposed areas  between the gear lever and handbrake. Even with the windows open, this petro-chemical fug persisted  and was not eased by the clouds of tobacco smoke which billowed at regular intervals from the front of the car. My Dad was a heavy smoker (probably 40 a day) My Mum meanwhile, would have the odd one or two at the weekend, saint’s days, weddings, christenings etc.

 That’s it! That’s the bloody thing.

Vauxhall Viva 90 ‘De-luxe  Red’ (?) 1966

So we had this Vauxhall Viva. It began to cause us problems when one day it just stopped. On investigation, my Dad concluded it was  a fault with the fuel pump. Every now and then the vehicle would begin to lose revs, splutter then stop.

My dad had it sorted, all he needed to do whenever it happened, was remove the pipe from the carb feed, get his mush around it and suck the reluctant fuel from the pipe, initiating flow then re-attach: in much the same way as you might syphon off fuel from a vehicle (Oh yes, if any of my dad’s escapades resulted in useful skills/knowledge we were quick to assimilate. Nothing was ever lost. For instance this little gem of practical know-how proved exceptionally popular among my mates when we wanted to see if we could drive the JCB on a nearby building site and needed fuel to accomplish our goal)

While My Dad performed his mechanical wizardry, we would sit in the car, waiting with an uncomfortable mixture of  pity and eager anticipation of the “Yeeeuuck!” and spitting that followed and which signalled a mouthful of 4 star; but more importantly, that we would soon be on our way again.

We put up with this for about a month or so until one day my Dad decided, probably on the back of an outburst from my Mum, to do something about it.

My memory is clear, I can see the car parked on the driveway of our house, which incidentally had been inexplicably christened ‘El Genina’ by its previous owners.  After some exhaustive research recently I managed to find out that this mysterious name carved into the substantial chunk of wood that to this day, hangs on the right hand, front of the house means ‘The Genina’

Just on the left here

It was getting cold and light was fading. Why my Dad was attempting the repair so late in the day I don’t know. What I do know is that immediately he hit a stumbling block.

I am probably imagining this, but it seemed in our house, there were never any spare batteries for any of the implements, tools or toys which required them. Consequently when he went to the garage to grab a torch he found none of them working. However, as he turned to leave, his eyes happened on a box of candles, from which he took one, then a box of Swan Vesta matches from the drawer in the kitchen. He then went out into the quickly fading afternoon light.

I guess by five minutes later I was warming my chilled hands on fairly robust flames which were licking their way out of the engine recess of the Vauxhall Viva on the drive outside our house.

‘Quick phone the Fire Brigade!’

Shouted my Dad, presumably to my Mum, because that’s exactly what she did. In fact, I’ve a sneaking suspicion she began dialling as soon as she realised that he had taken a candle with him. In the meantime we had the fire under control, smothering it until finally it was extinguished. Quick thinking.

The candle, as you may have predicted, although undoubtedly in its element on a table with half a dozen place settings, or  to create a bit of atmosphere; on an altar with bread and wine, was not best suited to such close work of a mechanical nature. Or being in such a cramped space, where everything was liberally coated with petroleum, in air that hung heavy with fuel vapour.

Besides which, the bloody thing fell over before he had even started and went skittling down between the fuel pump and engine block.

‘What’s that? ….’ In the far distance, a siren.

‘Oh bloody hell it’s the Fire Brigade: Tell them it’s OK it’s all under control.’

Now I don’t know whether you are aware, but once the Fire Brigade log a call, they have to attend, regardless whether the emergency has been dealt with, and only when satisfied there is no further danger, can they return to the station. Sensible protocol, I have to admit. However, when you’ve got a fire tender, with the harsh noise of its diesel engine, (which they have left running, as they have the flashing blue lights:) its crew standing around on the pavement outside your house, and the whole neighbourhood out to watch the spectacle, you can’t help wishing they’d just disappear.

Much to our embarrassment, the whole  Son et lumière experience not only continues, but it gets worse.

‘Can we have a word Sir?’ a couple of the senior fire officers take my Dad to one side. My guess is it is not to confirm his entry in this year’s ‘Fire Safety’ awards.

‘Oh shite, here’s another one. We’ll never live this down’

A Fire Engine: In case you have forgotten what they look like

A second tender pulls up, the growling beast blocking the road now, causing even more disturbance. Its crew leap down. They huddle with the remainder of crew one, and talk conspiratorially, the occasional guffaw (I assume at my Dad’s expense) punctuating the evening air. Blue lights flicker, radio crackles. After what seems like days, in a flash, the firemen leap in, engines rev and they are gone. Leaving a street full of twitching curtains and diesel fumes in their wake.

To this day my Dad has never mentioned what it was the firemen said to him about his ‘candle capers’

And I’ve never asked.

‘Phew! That was close’ he said, finally after they had gone, looking uncannily like  Groucho Marx, an oily black smear across his
top lip, his eyebrows, black singed  and shapeless. All that was missing was the cigar …..

…. Christmas that same year, or it might have been the one before, or the one after; it doesn’t really matter. He had the cigar. It was definitely Christmas, because that was the only time he ever smoked cigars, and it was usually when my uncle and family came over to visit. He always brought cigars and thus, sets the backdrop to our second tale.

In which my Dad is smoking a cigar.

I love the smell of cigar smoke. To me it is Christmas.  I would watch intently as my uncle slowly and deliberately went through the ceremony of lighting up. (After first offering one to my Dad of course) To begin, he would prepare his ‘tools’: His cigar cutter – he favoured a guillotine type, with which he would remove the cap, which is the round piece of tobacco glued to the head to keep the wrapper together. The cap is added, during the hand-rolling process to keep it from unraveling and drying out. Matches – good quality; not paper matches or those on which the sulphur burned overlong.

Cigars are hygroscopic in nature. This means that they will, over time dry out when in a dry climate or absorb moisture in a humid one, and they continue to do so until their own moisture content matches that of the  ambient climate around them. A damp cigar will not burn properly. It will be difficult to draw on. The smoke may become too dense leaving the smoker with a sour taste and a rank aroma. Never mind his companions. A dry cigar, meanwhile, will burn too hot. the combustion temperature will be too high and the smoke hot and acrid  against the palate. Lost will be many of the subtle nuances of flavour; the smoke (and sometimes even the smoker) may become overly aggressive.  So they had to be right.  The cigar should not be too soft or squishy, it should only “give” a little. Neither should it be too dry or fragile. He would slowly roll the big Cuban between his thumb, index and forefingers, holding the cigar to his ear he would listen for the faint cracking sound which affirmed that it was in tip-top condition. Satisfied, he would then tap it and unwrap it … or was that the Terry’s Chocolate Orange? (I don’t know. I’m bloody making it up as I go along as usual.)

Anyway, whatever … It had a touch of class about it, back then in what was otherwise the cheap plastic/ K-Tel/ Watney’s Red Barrel/ Brentford Nylons mess known as ‘the early 1970s.’ The perfumed smoke spiralled and eddied around our front room and carried us off, away to exotic foreign climes. On return from which, us kids: me, my brothers and my cousins formed a disorderly queue to ‘have a drag’ which, of course was almost enough to make us throw up on the spot, but not before each of  us in turn had gone through a palette of sickly greens and greys. ‘Subtle nuances of flavour’? I thought – or would have done if I had known what it meant. ‘ That’s awful’. Which is why I to this day, love the smell of cigar smoke … as long as someone else is smoking them.

Slowly roll  between thumb, index and forefingers, listen for the faint cracking sound which affirms that it is in tip-top condition.

Then the Cretins descended upon us. The Cretins were a thoroughly disagreeable family from two doors down, who thought nothing about inviting themselves in and ransacking your house and spoiling whatever it was you were doing. Smart arse, whingeing, four-eyed, buck-toothed, no-neck little shit-cake bakers, they were all of them Gobshites, as we say in Old English. As I recall, there were three boys, possibly two of them twins. And a dopey sister. She was just as bad as the boys, only three weeks behind.

I remember being outside their house one time. The elder – Richard or maybe Nicholas was arguing with a younger brother over something minor and trivial, as the younger lad made to walk away, his sibling carefully and deliberately stuck out his foot to trip him over. Which he did, falling literally flat on his face. As he lifted his head up off the road (It was horrible really, but pure Tom and Jerry) and started that familiar deep inhalation which signalled an ear-curdling wail was on its way, I noticed to my horror that his two (new) front teeth were lying, snapped off like two pieces of chewing gum – fresh out of the pack on the tarmac before him

‘You bafftard’ he shouted after his vile brother, who was fast-disappearing  into the distance.

My cousins looked nonplussed as the Cretins took over. It seemed they wanted to play ‘Top Dog!’ A simple enough game, it was one they had invented themselves and entailed each in turn going through a list of their Christmas presents in order to decide ‘Who got the best stuff’ and whoever did – usually one of them – was winner or ‘Top Dog!’

Some five minutes later, Nicholas or maybe Richard was duly announced ‘Top Dog!’ by none other than himself. At their insistence we moved on to another version of the game in which ‘other significant possessions’ acquired during the course of the year were examined in the same way. This was one step too far for our relatives, who at this at this point bailed out.  Unfortunately, I for my part was not doing too well. My stuffed Jackdaw and birds’ egg collection had failed to ignite much interest. And while my signed photo of Barry Sheene was enough to raise a couple of eyebrows and reveal some buck teeth, it simply wasn’t in the same league as the sleek, formula 1 styled go cart, and Raleigh Chopper of the Cretins. However, the fishing tackle belonging to my brothers had a big impact. They demanded to see more.

In order to score the maximum visual effect, we decided to lay everything out in the front room so they might get a better view. This also meant that the handsome wicker fishing kreel (robust box or basket which serves to carry one’s gear, and once fishing, something sit upon.) could be emptied, fully inspected and admired.

Much in the style of a ‘table top’ jumble or car boot sale, all the items were presented on the carpet in their full glory. Reels, line, lead shot and ledgers, disgorger, bait tins, hooks, flies and spinners. Spinners! those ingenious devices of painted or enamelled metal or wood, designed so that when dragged through the water by the ‘reeling in’ action of the fisherman, they mimic the colouring, marking and most clever of all, the movement characteristics of small fish or water animals in order to catch a bigger fish.

Spinner. Looks great. We never caught anything with them.

‘Let us look’ screeched a Cretin and snatched the Spinner I happened to be holding, and which was tied to a line (and rod) ready to fish. ‘Wassis?’ He demanded, so I explained.

It was a close call, but in the end, there was no doubt: A Scalextric, Subbuteo (with floodlights) plus an Action Man with a German uniform. We had no chance. Richard or Nicholas was pronounced winner and immediately demanded his ‘prize’. What prize? There was a long pause, followed by that familiar deep inhalation which signalled an ear-curdling wail was on its way. ‘Oh your Prize …. Ahhhh, Now then ..’  I hesitated, then suddenly had a great idea. In keeping with smoking etiquette, my Dad and my Uncle had left long butts on their now-extinguished cigars. Of course  it is deemed to be bad form’ to smoke the cigar so that it burns close to its head. Each still had a good  four inches of  ‘smokeable’ tobacco’ . I glanced at the remnants in ash trays on the table. My brothers seemed to have cottoned on. It didn’t take long to convince the Cretins that with their ‘prize’  they had struck smoking gold. With a handful of matches, they were packed off home with their ‘prize’, via the back of next door’s garage, where, (as we hoped) they ‘sparked up’ the cigar butts. Now they may have been experienced cigarette smokers, but they were unprepared for the searing, burning of their throats and lungs, when as we had instructed them, they drew the cigar smoke in as deep as they could and held it. Whereupon each of  them in turn went through a palette of sickly greens and greys and threw up.

Of course you don’t, as a rule, inhale cigar smoke.

Later that afternoon, my Dad and my Uncle indulged themselves in a second cigar.

Once again the room became host to the spirals and eddies of thick tobacco smoke. But he post-meal quietude was suddenly shattered with a curse and a yelp of pain. My younger brother was hopping about, one foot in the air.  Oh bugger! The fishing tackle! One of the Cretins had left a ‘spinner’ on the carpet. It was the ‘business-end’ of one of these handsome objects consisting of three hooks, which was now tightly embedded in my brother’s foot and source of all the mayhem.

After lengthy attempts to remove it (unsuccessfully) and a lot of cursing by my brother (successfully, in as much as he selected appropriate words – some of which we didn’t even know he knew, and used them in an appropriate context) the only solution was a visit to Casualty concluded my Dad.

So my brother was bundled up in a blanket, injured foot hanging out and some 6 inches or so of fishing line (now cut from the rod you will be pleased to know) dangling from the offending hook and carried out to the car, nobly by my Dad, second cigar still clenched between his lips/teeth, much in the manner of an American comic-book war hero. Once alongside the car (yes, that’s the self-same Vauxhall Viva we all know and love.) my Dad, carefully stoops down to hand my lame sibling into the vehicle. However, as he does so, to add insult to injury – or more properly injury to injury – his cigar end is brought into sudden and painful contact with the forehead of my stricken brother, causing a handsome burn as it does so.

‘Not to worry …’ assures my Dad ‘… They can look at it while they do your foot’

Whereupon, he climbs in, shuts the door and starts the car. It fires up, he backs out of the driveway, and with a glance back at my brother to check his condition, my Dad puts his foot down: destination Hospital. At which the car loses revs, begins to splutter and stops …

© Andy Daly 2011

Pic Credits: Google Earth, freephoto.com, UKStudentlife.com, Tedcarter.co.uk