The Softest Cushions

Our story starts with a blood red sunrise, which stains the sky with a deepening scarlet seeping into vivid blue as the giant orb slowly and majestically gains height and finally brings the dawn of a new day to an expectant half of the world. We are at that mystical, magical point where East meets West. Where cultures collide and echo to us down the centuries, speaking of a common human bond – a kinship, which is sadly overlooked in today’s busy and hectic world. The sunlight begins to play on the curves of the Great temple, to which hundreds of thousands make the pilgrimage at various times of the year to worship their Gods. Sadly, as is often the case, sanitary arrangements are insufficient for such influxes of people as a result, a fetid smell hangs in the air during the summer months.

That’s right! We’re in Wembley. Or rather YOU are. I’m not. Never mind all that ‘blood red sunrise’ bollocks, I’m still in bed. I haven’t seen any of it. Never one to avoid throwing myself whole-heartedly into heavy drinking, I have awoken after last night’s excesses with a ‘creeping’ hangover which will peak about 5 or 6 O’ clock: which is just when I plan to be going out again; unless I do something about it. This usually means ‘Hair of the Dog’. One I am going to have to catch and scalp in Wembley. For today is the day that Chawkey, Wiz and yours truly go to inspect and hopefully sign a contract for a rented house in Sudbury Town, to be exact.

We meet up, the intrepid threesome at the appointed hour, 10 O’Clock, in the offices of the Estate Agents handling the property, Benton and Crook.These are up on Wembley High Street while the house is right down in Sudbury Town. We are given the keys and left to go and have a look. Wiz drives us down there. On a street called the Dell just behind the parade of shops, it is perfect. Good sized rooms – we could even get away with sub-letting the ‘box-room’, clean, tidy with no garden to worry about. Handy for work, plenty of curry houses about, it ticked all the boxes. All agreed? Aye, let’s do it. So we made our way back up to the High street to sign the necessary papers and lighten our pockets to the tune of £280 deposit and a month in advance.

All paperwork done and dusted. It’s eleven thirty and we’re each spitting feathers. Time for a few scoops? Yes indeed! We wound up in that big ugly pub, just after the road branches off down to Wembley Park

Wiz didn’t hang around long, as he was driving, but Chawkey and me stayed a bit, chewing the fat. Although, I’d worked with him for over a year, I was really only just starting to get to know him. I enjoyed his company immensely.

In fact, Chawkey and me stayed a lot longer, so much so, that my ‘Hair of the Dog’ had done its trick, I had, at last begun to feel human again, but was dangerously close to getting pissed anew: which wouldn’t do at all, considering my evening arrangements.

So off we went into the rapidly fading light of this late afternoon Saturday. We made for Wembley Park on foot, Chawkey after an Uxbridge train to get to Ickenham, where he was staying, and me an Aldgate train and then a District line to Bromley-By-Bow. We said our goodbyes and legged it down to our respective platforms. I juuuust made it onto my train, which was quite busy for the time of day. As I sat down, I noticed to my right, a woman in a beige overcoat reading a paper.

I was soooo tired, the carriage lovely and warm …. I began to doze …

This desert was hell: so unforgiving … I simply remember being so exhausted, I could take not a step further. I fell where I stood. But they still wouldn’t let me sleep. All these questions: why? Although unable to distinguish individual voices or specific phrases, I could tell they were questions. I was convinced of it. I was aware of being carried and slung onto the ground

I had been moved – inside, judging by the absence of wind and a warm, comforting scent that played around my nostrils. I summoned all of my strength and opened one eye. I appeared to be in a large, sumptious tent. Everywhere I looked, every object and artefact seemed to be there purely to provide comfort. I slowly took it all in. Most tempting of all, right in front of me an enormous pile of beige cushions. I dug deep and summoned all of the strength I had, tottered over and with abandon, gave myself to the cushions. They were indescribeably comfortable. I plumped them up with my hands and finally … finally sank my face, my body deep into their yeilding softness ….

From far away, I was aware of a strangled scream. My body suddenly jolted to the left, My eyes opened to the sharp, harsh rustle of an aggresively shaken newpaper while the woman next to me bounced on the seat to the right, a very exaggerated attempt to move away. Opposite, two lads apopleptic with restrained laughter. Then the penny dropped. Oh no! … beige overcoat? …. beige cushions? … … I must have fallen asleep on this poor woman’s boosom.

I managed a weak smile, then clamped my eyes tight shut until I could sense Mrs. Beige had got off.

Beige cushions … Bloody Hell! I’m lucky I wasn’t arrested!

© Andy Daly 2016

Love Thy Neighbour

(Warning. Content which might offend. May contain nuts)

Overheard on a tube train last night…

‘So, I’m getting really pissed off with the noise, so I thinks ‘Right I’m going to fucking sort this out’ So I get a can of yellow paint out the shed, I go over there and chuck it all over the fucking windows and the door. I’m wearing my Reeboks, y’know the black ones? And then I realise it’s on my fucking trainers leaving prints everywhere.’


‘ I had to run three times round the estate, before it wore off and I could go home’.

© Andy Daly 2015

Fluttering To Deceive

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

Where does yoghurt come from?

Where does it come from?

Where does it come from?

Now this is a subject I don’t give a great deal of thought to, there being much more pressing matters in the world at this moment in time eg. Poor umpiring decisions at Trent Bridge, and should Tulisa leave the country for good (Yes please, and take Dappy and the rest of N Dubz with you.)

However I am obliged to consider it when it raises its ugly head as a topic of conversation one breakfast time. I am sitting with my colleagues on a sunny picturesque balcony surrounded by honeysuckle and jasmine. (To tell you the truth, I have no idea what we are surrounded by, but writers always seem to mention same, so I figure the odds are that there is at least a bit of one or another) enveloping us in their heady scent as we enjoy a ‘continental breakfast’ of rolls they could practise their batting on up at Trent Bridge, fruit and yoghurt.

Whereupon someone announces they can taste ‘the cheese’ in their yoghurt. Now I am a little perplexed at this statement, never having considered cheese to be an ingredient in the humble yoghurt, and express my surprise.

It transpires that the ‘cheesy’ flavour is the result of the fact the yoghurt comes from milk, which as it happens is where cheese comes from too. Well this is news to me, (not about the cheese, but about the yoghurt)

‘Well where did you think yoghurt came from?’

I sense they are trying to catch me out, but have none of it: ‘From the supermarket of course’

‘No, no before that. How is it actually made?’

As I say from the outset, it is not a matter that bothers me much. But after being put right by my fellow diners I am left all day trying to figure how they pour the milk from bottles or cartons into those little pots, or is it squeezed straight in from the cow? Very labour intensive, I conclude. And what about the fruit? How and when does that get in there?


Confused of Ruislip.

This post is sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board and any characters represented herein bear no relation to any persons living or dead.

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!

Hangovers: The SAS Captain

It has always been a source of puzzlement to me how the elite British Army regiment the SAS (Special Air Service) manages the heroic feats that it does. Because every member or ex-member of the SAS I have met over the years – and there have been a considerable few – have been without exception, as half-witted and physically unco-ordinated as they are socially inept. I am beginning to suspect that this legion of long distance lorry drivers, supply teachers and mini cab drivers were not all telling the truth. Let me give you an example.

One day during the long hot summer of 1984 (even hotter at Hangovers because the heating in the cellar space below was going full blast and no-one could figure out how to turn it off) Me and My Best Mate Aky were interrupted from our game of baseball when a nondescript bloke walks into the shop. I know what you’re thinking. ‘Baseball: In a shop?’ You see in order to allieviate some of the lazy afternoon boredom we had taken to playing a ‘scaled down’version of the tarted-up game of rounders that passes for Sport in some parts of the world. We would fashion a bat and ball out of rolled up, and scrunched up newspaper and sellotape. Then once we’d flipped a coin to decide who was going to be the New York Yankees, we took up positions. We pitched from one end of the counter (no mound) while the batsman took up position in the doorway which led through to the other part of the shop unit, and stairs. This was to allow the batsman more elbow room, as well as presenting him the possibility of hitting the ball clean out of the shop and into the street (Home Run). We didn’t actually run – the shop was far too small for that. Instead the interior was split into ‘zones’ which corresponded with bases, so you had three pitches in which to reach a sufficient number of bases to constitute a run or, indeed, go for the big hit.

The customer looked mildly surprised as a ragged mess of torn newspaper and tape hit him square on the shoulder, but if he was offended, he didn’t show it. He merely looked at the spot it had struck and with only mild irritation, performed a theatrical ‘sweeping’ motion with his hand, before commencing to browse.

After a few minutes Aky asks ‘Can I help you? Are you looking for anything in particular?’

‘You got any Bollinger (Champagne)?’ Asked the stranger.

‘Vintage?’ tried Aky, hopefully.


‘It’s just above your head right in the middle there.’

‘Fine, I’ll take a case’

Ahhhhh! Now, this was starting to look interesting. Trying not to draw attention to ourselves Aky first slipped off the newspaper baseball cap he was wearing, while I did my best to hide my battered newsprint catcher’s mitt beneath the counter.

The mysterious customer was now closely inspecting the Red wines.

‘I’ll have a case of Nuit St. George and one of Mouton Cadet … Do you deliver?’

‘Yeah, as long as it’s in London’



‘Better get some white. I don’t want anything too dry though. Anything you recommend?’

‘As it happens that Piesporter’s not bad’

‘Okay, case of that, and mmmm …’

‘This is for when?’ asked Aky, mindful, like me, of the fact that what we had was on the shelves – none of this was in stock.

‘Oh, Friday. We’re having a bit of a ‘do’. Hmmmm, now where did I get to? Yeah, 6 bottles of Johnny Walker and what’s that draught Ruddles like?’

‘It’s good. Have a try’

For a couple of weeks we’d been trialling selling draught beer, specifically Ruddles County. There was a tap on the counter and a keg in the cellar. Hoping he wouldn’t notice the barflies as I waved them away, I poured him a plastic cup full for him to taste.

‘Mmmm … Nice. So how does that come?’

‘We usually do it in 16 pint polypins’

‘Okay, I’ll have six of those as well and that should do it’

‘I’ll just tot that up for you then … £409.22* and where is it for?’

’22 SAS Chelsea Barracks and its Capt O’ Leary.’

Unseen to Capt O’ Leary, I noticed that after raising his eyes to the heavens, Aky had already screwed the order form up in his hand and tossed it into the nearest bin.

‘See you Friday then lads’ and with that he disappeared.

We of course took the precaution of phoning Chelsea Barracks, just in case, but as expected the officer at the guardhouse explained that they could neither confirm or deny whether a ‘Capt O’Leary’ was currently stationed there and assured us that even if there was, he would have been in breach of protocol in requesting the delivery of such items to a military base because of the security risk.

Barking Mad.

*This is worth £409.22 in today’s money.

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.

Sunday Lunch anyone?

As the penultimate in the recent series of stories about dreams, I offer you a particularly spooky dream my eldest son had a couple of months ago while on holiday.

Amongst other things, he is a qualified Lifeguard and as such a very handy person to have around if you happen to be near water (eg. Bathroom, Kitchen etc)

Well his dream goes like this. He is walking past the swimming pool belonging to an adjacent block of flats and  becomes aware of somebody in difficulty at the far end. Of course, he doesn’t think twice, and launches himself in to save the flailing figure.

Automatically, he begins to carry out the rescue procedure, only to find out that as he does, his ‘victim’ begins to fight and force him under…. Now this wasn’t in his training programme. You expect a bit of resistance from petrified potential fishbait, but not this. This was a strong, fit young man who had obviously been lying, or more correctly´’floating’ in wait for him.

Anyway, cut a long story short, my son ‘saves’ the man and drags him out of the pool, by which time assistance has arrived…

(This is where it gets weird) … because of his demonstration of selflesness and public spirit he is rewarded by the local council with a civic reception in Uxbridge, followed by Sunday Lunch and an afternoon spent in the company of Harry and Jamie Redknapp!

Jamie and Harry. Sunday Lunch anyone?

Have a crack at that one, Sigmund.

© Andy Daly  2011

(For the benefit of my ‘Global’ readership, some of whom will not be familiar with the Redknapps: they are former Football (Soccer)player and now manager of Tottenham Hotspur, Dad Harry; and former player, now TV pundit, son Jamie. As random a pair as you could pick in the context of the above)

Recurring Dream: What would Freud have made of it?

Here I was minding my own business, being agreeably insomniac, when all of a sudden I’m having these dreams. And not only that, but recurring dreams too. I never have recurring dreams: I’ve had ‘The Old Hag’ dream and woken up to find her sitting on my chest (I’ll tell you about it one day) but never recurring dreams.

Hindu Temple in Neasden

So it was that in the first of these dreams I found myself having to produce a life sized copy of the Hindu Temple in Neasden North London, or perhaps more correctly The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir; Europe’s first traditional Hindu temple. My task was not only to do this, but to do it with flatpack furniture. No easy feat I can tell you, when all they give you is one stupid Allen (Hex) key and no instructions.

Hoover Factory

Then the following night it was but a stone’s throw away … Okay 20 minutes by car (presumably – I was asleep) and to Perivale. The subject was Wallis, Gilbert & Partners’ wonderful  Art Deco masterpiece, The Hoover Factory on the Western Avenue (A40)  My construction materials for the night were packed in brown card boxes and  were stamped IEKA. What a headache. Every boxed item had a silly name, like Sküm and Tossa. I couldn’t tell my Arsse from my Elbö. In the dream, however, I managed it OK.  It just took us 4 hours to get back in the traffic.

Tower Bridge

Then night three and Tower Bridge. I had to use end-of-line bits and pieces from Do-It-All and B & Q. There wasn’t enough stuff! I told them I would need more shelf brackets and door hinges but they didn’t listen. If you look closely you will see my Grade One listed building has no back. Also, Do-It-All and especially B & Q need to sort out their warehousing.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Last night, and after the North London temple, this was the toughest task: St Paul’s Cathedral. I had to complement the main construction with at least two from the hundreds of really interesting buildings tucked away in that sort of triangle created by Bishop’s Gate, Newgate St. and then down to the river. I was really disappointed with this one: I left out ‘The Whispering Gallery! Can you believe it? My other two very rushed offerings were in the shape of a poorly scaled St Mary le Bow and a lopsided Bank of  England. Finding drawer fronts that weren’t already marked or scratched was a problem.

What would Freud have made of it all?

So just what would Freud, that interpreter of dreams, explorer of the unconscious, architect of psychoanalysis – himself a North London resident for the last few years of his life, have made of this?

(Parliament Hill)

Well for my money, I reckon he would have taken off either to Highgate Ponds and the surrounding area on Hampstead Heath, or Parliament Hill, located in the south east corner of Hampstead Heath, and a vertigo-inducing 322 feet high. From here, or hereabouts, he would have had good views variously of Kenwood House, Keat’s House, The Spaniards and the Old Bull and Bush.

(St. Marylebone Church)


(Kenwood House: A museum of food mixers here) 

In the other direction, although unlikely to have been able to see the river, he would otherwise have had much of the city of London laid out before him: Regents Park, St. Marylebone Church, Westminster ahead, To the east The Monument and St. Pauls. Closer, and those symbols of mercantile might, the railway stations: George Gilbert Scott’s St. Pancras, an exceptional example of the Gothic Revival, flanked by Kings Cross and Euston. Together they presented an unequivocal statement of intent by the railway companies. To the West, and moving away from the ‘dirty’ money  – soiled as it were, by work and toil, the relative calm and tranquility of the Palace and Royal Parks.


Think of the possibilities he had – The Houses of Parliament made using empty carbolic soap boxes, The Monument using packets of tea, and Sloane’s liniment bottles, The Old Bailey, a triumph of Soda Syphons and their cases, Kenwood House with timber pilfered from the rail depot at Finchley Road.

You know, in the light of this, I’m of the opinion that we ought to look at dreams and what they mean in a lot more detail.

What do you think? Send in your ideas. Use the comment space after this post.

(Pic. credits: 1, Wikipedia 2, Blinking Charlie)

© Andy Daly 2011

Going Over The High Side

Okay, here we are then, sorry about the wait, I had to ppppppick up a prescription from the Chemist as well. Now, you were asking about Going Over The ‘High Side’.

It has a faintly Romantic, poetic air about it. Don’t you agree? Before I put you out of your misery – if you are still in the dark –  let’s quickly see what you think. What does it suggest to you? What sort of things do you visualise when you hear the phrase?

What do you think?

A Scottish poem or song? Okay, Let ‘s run with that. You mean the kind of quaint ditty you might expect to find rugged locals in equally rugged Highland bars selecting for their weapon of choice as they spontaneously burst into song  – as the Scots, of course, are apt to do:

‘Ah’ll  gae iver th’ High Side, ye gae iver th’ Low Side an’ ah’ll git thir afore ye …’

Whereupon they roam round the bar in their kilt of family tartan, complete with sporran gazing one by one into the eyes of each punter before turning to the (imaginary) TV camera and the (imaginary) audience watching at home… perhaps intent on wishing them a Happy Hogmanay, good luck in the Curling or to thank Auntie Mo in Glasgow for the Christmas cake she sent: a resounding success, she had decorated it with icing over a generous layer of Tamazepam.

Mountains?  Yes, mountains. It could suggest hideously treacherous, doubly-difficult alternative routes on peaks at the roof of the world that are even closer to the sky and which only the bravest or foolhardy Englishmen (in hob-nailed boots, pieces of cardboard stuck over their noses and pockets stuffed with Kendal Mint Cake) or Americans (in Beany hats, Oakley sunglasses and surfing shorts) would attempt to conquer, as water, ice and boulders as big as cars rain down on them from all points.

I’m going to jump on my bike

Entertaining, both of them, but Going over the ‘High Side’ is none of these.

Tell you what. I’m going to jump on my bike and show you something.  Why don’t you join me? Literally – I mean: if you have ‘Google Earth’ or ‘Google Maps.’ Otherwise, metaphorically come with me. Just imagine it – like we used to have to do in the old days.

Either way, I’ll meet you in Hillingdon, Middlesex, UK. At the juncton of Field End Road and Sunningdale Avenue in Eastcote. While those of you that are taking the ‘interactive’ option attend to that, I ought to say by way of introduction, if you are not aware, you are about to navigate roads built during the 1930s. The styles of houses, street planning and layout are all very typical of London’s suburban ‘Metro-land’. A pastoral idyll, within easy reach of the office. A little slice of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, or in this case Middlesex, that in the 1930s was what one aspired to in order to escape the brutality and coarseness of our capital city. Or Manchester, or Newcastle Upon Tyne, or Birmingham or wherever.

Sunningdale Avenue  

All here? The Wonder/Evil of Google Earth

Now, We all here? If you can, navigate to ‘Street Level’. That’s right, drag the little man there. (Sounds hideous doesn’t it? “Drag the little man down to street level – where he can live in the gutter: that will teach him to get ideas above his station” For the uninitiated this entails dragging a symbol of a human figure onto the aerial Goggle Earth image, which results in the picture on your monitor re-configuring itself so that you see what you would, more or less at eye level were you actually standing at your chosen spot.) And very alarming it is too, I have to say. A wonderful resource? I don’t know. Personally I think it’s a step too far.

Anyway face north east-ish, and you should have your back to Field End Road. Look to the left here you will see a post box and to your right a Nissan dealer’s garage. We need to go carefully here folks; you would do well to study  very carefully the parking restrictions and avoid ‘taking a chance’. We’ve seen the ‘Ticket-Happy’ wardens round here, park illegallythemselves, go do 10 minutes furious ticketing, then bugger off somewhere else.

We are headed along Sunningdale Avenue, about to turn right into Newnham Avenue. As we do – careful with that silver Volkswagen; he/she looks in a bit of a hurry. As we approach the junction with Newnham, taking care with the same Volkswagen we met a few seconds ago, and which seems to be going back in time (or doing a lot of reversing.)

Now, just before we make our turn right into Newnham Avenue, quickly cast a glance left: you  should see a double-fronted building with a green door and porch. This is no longer there. Some kind of Local Area Health Authority care centre, it was recently sold off for development, and last week it was undergoing demolition.

Building second left, now demolished 

My Story starts here

My story starts here. Last Friday around five o’ clock, Iwas cycling back from the shops at Eastcote, rucksack  on my back, laden with food for our evening meal. Just prior to making the right-turn into Newnham Avenue, I saw that the demolition work on this site was underway. It caught my attention, as for ever on the look out for interesting subject matter for my photography, it seemed an appealing prospect. Both roads were clear: in fact there wasn’t another soul around.



As you can see

Interactive followers, if you haven’t done so already, make your turn now. As you enter the street, which runs downhill, fairly steeply for this area of Ruislip: aside from the couple on the right, pruning their hedge, you will notice on your left two driveways, providing rear access to some garages
and beyond, highlighted by the yellow roadmarkings, Newnham School  entrance. It was somewhere between the two that I went over the ‘high side’.

Newnham Avenue

Stand (you really are getting a full kinaesthetic experience today) feet about shoulder width apart, dip your left knee – not too deep. Now, before you make any realignment or compensation, your right side (knee, hip,  shoulder) are all higher than  your left. In other words, your ‘high’ side; and if you repeat with your right knee … You get the idea.

Going Over ‘The High Side’

Going Over ‘The High Side’ is a term used to describe a crash in which a motorcycle or pushbike is leaned over, often when cornering. Usually rear wheel traction is lost then suddenly and forcefully regained again, violently flipping the bike away from the direction of lean and throwing the rider over the ‘high side’. Most injuries occur as a result of a high side since the rider has much further to fall. The bike then basically rotates using the bearing in the axle of the front wheel as an axis, and more often than not, follows the rider into the air and then it comes back down, to frequently land on top of him. The most common injuries are broken collarbones, shoulders, arm and hand, particularly a small bone called ‘the Scaphoid’ which often becomes victim as the rider attempts to break his or her fall.

Over we go!

For my part, I was riding along, picking up speed after having slowed down to look at the demolition site back on Sunningdale Avenue. I was standing up off the pedals and to increase momentum, allowing the bike to flip from one side to another beneath me. Without warning, just before the
school entrance, I felt a sharp jolt on the bike (I thought the chain had come off and snagged) this is where traction was lost, enough to make my right foot slip off its pedal. As the bike lurched, I lost balance and with the bars twisting violently around and under me, it uncermoniously spat me off.

Ate tarmac right around here

My immediate thought was ‘Please, not a break!’ … what with surgery in the offing and all …  I was granted that strangely clear and lucid slow motion ‘life passing before your eyes’: a moment I remember a little too fondly from childhood. Ominously, I saw myself plastered up after injuries sustained; leaving me just time enough to think: ‘this broken up old tarmac with its holes and loose stones is going to hurt …’




I lay on my right side, legs tangled up in the bike. My shoulder and right arm took  most of the impact. Miraculously, my head avoided contact and my arm and shoulder on initial inspection seemed okay.(I had feared a broken collarbone.) I got up, collected the bike, counted my arms and legs, checked the contents of the rucksack and continued back home. Closer inspection back at base revealed surprisingly small patches of ‘Road Rash’ on my hands, knees (and boomps-a-daisy) elbow plus a bit of bruising to my shoulder, ribs and some squashed scones. The worst thing has been the soreness to my ribs – possibly the result of the handlebars twisting round under me as I got out of shape, then I guess a wallop from the end of the bar  or more likely the brake lever as I hit the deck.

Now it was the following day that I cycled up to take photos of the demolition site. As I cycled back down Newnham Avenue again, my words from the day before came back to me:

The biggest potholes this side of ….

‘this broken up old tarmac with its holes and loose stones …’ I stopped and took a closer look. The road surface here has been bad for a long while, particularly so after the winter, but what I saw came as quite a shock. For the stretch where I had come off was pock-marked with the biggest potholes this side of … of …wherever there are lots of big potholes.

Hmmmm… Going into one of these things would have certainly been enough to throw my foot off the pedal and cause such a spill as mine.

Biggest potholes this side of ….

The offending holes

So, there we have it. As I said, at the time of the ‘incident’ both roads were deserted, there wasn’t another soul around to have witnessed it. Interestingly, however – and I am not making any suggestions, nor drawing any conclusions and I freely admit I wasn’t looking 100% forward, after straining backwards to catch a glimpse of this demolition site: in my experience never the best  position to pilot a moving vehicle from, but – within a few days I noticed that the offending holes (if you’ll pardon the expression) had been hurridly and in my humble opinion, inexpertly filled.

I wonder …?

© Andy Daly 2011

Pic Credits: 1, 2, 5, 7 © Google Earth

For a more complete discussion of crash terminology go to ‘The Carbon Fibre’s In The Kitty Litter’ 

Link to Casey Stoner Assen ‘high side’ pic. sequence

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