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

Wiz and The D’Oyly Carte

Sorry. Slip of the keyboard. The title should read

‘Wiz and the Oily Car’

So apologies if you were expecting a bit of light Opera. Still, you may as well stay and have a read now you’re here.

On leaving Sudbury Town Chawkey, Wiz and Yours Truly moved up from our cosy little rented semi, to the leafy environs of lovely Ruislip (pron: Raiy-slip) heart of ‘Metroland’ – specifically, a place called Eastcote (pron: Eastcote) – Acacia Avenue, if you must know, where we took possession of a fine, large though dilapidated detached house. We got beautiful light, polished wooden floors, acres of space, prehistoric gas heating, a kitchen ceiling which sagged alarmingly and wilderness back and front. If nothing else, a great party venue.

Here, we (Marión, me: a couple) Chawkey (aka Charles Stewart Hawkey, schoolmaster of the parish of Redcar) and Wiz (aka Ian Vickers, hydraulic hose expert originally of Nunthorpe, Middlesborough) had what, speaking for myself though I think all will agree was an idyllic, largely hilarious and very special time. A shared experience, which continues to bind us as lifelong friends.

Situated close to what was HMS Pembroke on Lime Grove, an outstation of the wartime Bletchley Park codebreaking operation, this damp, but sunny eccentric house used to be rented out to US servicemen posted at the nearby West Ruislip base . Which explains why the kitchen sported an immense 1960s American fridge; but not the surfeit of motor vehicle engines buried beneath the grounds. During our time there we laughed, and laughed at jokes – the sillier the better, tall stories, tales, and many many funny incidents, which one day I will recount in full. However here’s one to whet your appetite.

Wiz bought himself a fancy car, a white Triumph TR6. A British classic. Straight six, gleaming white, Spoked wheels, walnut dashboard, the lot. I used to love how the windows in the house rattled in their frames in response to the engine’s guttural roar. Which they often did, as the car rarely ever went anywhere.

Wiz’s TR6 as I will always remember it: Stationary

You see, what Wiz didn’t realise as he handed over his hard-earned cash for the classic car in question, was that he was in the process of buying the car for which the term ‘mechanical gremlins’ seems to have been invented.

Look at the quality. It’s a shame I never saw either of them turn

One day Wiz says he’s got an oil leak. Not unusual: me and Chawkey both drive Ford Cortina Mk 5’s (I had graduated up from the Marina coupe by now) So someone always has an oil leak. In fact, the drive is so covered with oil it is impossible to distinguish the original ‘crazy paving’ pattern. Maybe not such a bad thing I hear you say.

Anyroad, Wiz, having carefully observed the run of oil on the car’s underside and the distribution of droplets is of the opinion that the culprit is the rear differential. And so, one saturday he puts on his overalls and goes to work as follows. You do follow?

Well to cut a long story short, by the end of the afternoon, Wiz has reached his goal. Gingerly, he takes the differential unit away from the drive and axle assemblies and cupping it carefully, makes to empty out the oil, measure it and see how much it has lost. Highly organised throughout the afternoon’s labour (It would have cost you £420 in today’s money) Wiz has not thought about the practicalities of this aspect of the job. What could he use to measure it? He thinks a while then goes into the kitchen, takes the kitchen measuring jug and carefully fills it with the syrupy black contents of the differential and its housing.

Wiz’s brow begins to knot. He consults his workshop manual.

“Bollocks! It’s got exactly what the manual says it should have in it” Down to the very last drop. “Errr… So it’s not leaking oil from the differential then?” I said, trying to sound helpful. “No it’s not bloody leaking from the differential then” “Oh, I wonder where …” But you can see from Wiz’s face he’s not after help from the mechanically-challenged such as Yours Truly.

So, with a heartfelt “Fuck it” Wiz re-traces his steps and re-assembles and replaces the various components. Miraculously, everything fits, nothing is missing, and he has not been left with half a dozen parts which do not seem to have a home.

By now it is early evening. As he tidies away after his long day’s efforts, Wiz happens to open up the boot (or trunk if you prefer) of the car, to put away some scraps of fabric which he has been tearing up to use as rags.

“You bastard!”

Not one to normally get het-up over things we are all naturally concerned as to what is the matter.

What is the matter is that Wiz has found his oil leak. It is coming from a five litre can of Castrol GTX which has upended itself and courtesy of an ill-fitting lid is slowly oozing oil which has been finding its way out of the boot and onto the axle via one of the boot drain holes!

Isn’t it great when it happens to someone else?

© Andy Daly 2010 First published 11/06/2010

Today’s star word: surfeit (Thanks Norm!)

Up Pompey. Study casts new light on antiquities discovered in Portsmouth and Southsea.

No it doesn’t. The above is just a shameless ploy to entice more visits and so improve my Blog readership figures. Still, as you are here you may as well join us on a journey into antiquity in order to get an insight into what life was like in Roman times for the graffiti writer. Admittedly not the most attractive of activities, you may think, but hold! There is more to it than meets the eye (just) and graffiti is as much a part of the history of the Romans as the literature of Ovid, Horace, Virgil and Seneca.

Pompeii

Please note this post deals the issue of Roman and contemporary toilet humour and while every attempt has been made to clean it up (if you see what I mean) It may not be suitable for those of a nervous disposition.

My Dad was in his element over Easter. This well-known and respected Latin and Classics scholar (at least he is to us) was in his element because he had an audience, one hanging with rapt attention, on his every word as he waxed lyrical about his visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum and the treasures he saw there. The audience was made up of his 6 grandchildren, to whom I am reliably informed by our eldest and senior of the group:

‘He is a ledge, Man’*

And deservedly so. He is.

Initially uncertain, his audience (whose ages span from 10 to 19) has been caught out many times before by their wily grandparent who starts out in all seriousness, well-informed and erudite with just the right balance of playful  humour and authority to command attention, only for him to spring an unexpected punch line, pun or go off at a tangent  on some ‘Shaggy Dog’ story or tall tale. (It will probably come as no surprise that he was a schoolmaster back in the day, and a good one at that too.)

But it seems that today they are to be spared a trip down the garden path. There are no traces of any wicked grins playing round the corners of his mouth. His charges relax.

In fact, he is doing something he loves, which is to explain some facet of  the Classical world with reference to our own, or vice versa; and in so doing, put whatever the subject under investigation, into context for his listener. Today the subject is graffiti. I forget exactly what prompted it, but he is telling them about some of the graffiti in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Pompeii. Vesuvius in the background

Part of the tableux of a life lived in 79CE and left to us, courtesy of the devastation caused by the eruption of Vesuvius, is a rich and vibrant collection of graffiti in all its forms. Bawdy toilet humour, messages, jokes, riddles, politcal comment.  At one end of the scale some of it is surprisingly literate – translations or adaptations of classics of Latin literature such as Virgil, Ovid and Seneca, tantilisingly suggestive of a plurality that is almost Post-Modern. But hey, let’s not get carried away here. What we are interested in is quite the other end of the scale, such as the messages left on the walls of latrines or down back alleys. As my Dad points out much of this graffiti is surprisingly familiar, despite it being close to two thousand years old. He gives some examples like that on a latrine wall which kindly informs us:

(Apologies for any errors and the rather free tanslations. All of which are the sole responsibilty of the author)

‘Secundus hic cacat’ (‘Secundus had a dump here’)

And

‘Apollinaris medicus Titi imp(eratoris) hic cacavit bene’ (‘Apollinaris, the doctor of the emperor Titus, succesfully parked his breakfast here.‘)

Meanwhile, he compares the contemporary notices helpfully posted by the groundsman at a nearby recreation ground. In the ramshackle toilets he reminds patrons in no uncertain terms about proper use of urinals (apparently some youngsters – and maybe a few oldsters – are still unclear about the distinctly different modes of operation of water closet and urinal and the type of use each are designed for.) Along with the warning signs down many of the back alleys round where he lives that are intended to remind the general public of their responsiblities re: bodily waste, be it human or animal (notwithstanding  any local by-laws) he draws parallels, first with the inscription on a water tower in Herculaneum:

‘Qui vult hic assidere admonetur ut sequar. Si uero eum admonendo, habebis poenam solvere…..’

(‘Anyone who wants to drop the kids off at the pool at this point is advised to move along. Penalty charges  are in operation.’)

                                                                                                                                         

Cacador cave malum

And found on a wall painting of Fortuna in  a corridor leading to latrine of IX.7.21/2.

‘Cacator cave malum, aut si contempseris, habeas Iovem iratum.’ (By Jove – perhaps in the style of Ken Dodd … –  By Jove, missus whoever it is who keeps crapping round here is going to make him (Jove) very angry)*

 ‘So,’ as my Dad concludes: ‘You see, things haven’t changed that much in the nineteen hundred  years since the volcano erupted and showered Pompeii with dust.’

Boom

At which point, it becomes clear that not all the group have been listening with quite the level of attention we had thought, as our eldest pipes up on hearing this:

‘A volcano? In Portsmouth? Where?’

It was quite some time later, that we were able to dry our eyes and look at each other without triggering a recurrence of fits of giggles. Priceless.

Now it is possible, dear Reader, especially if you are not  familiar with English placenames and their histories: true or otherwise, that you may be feeling cheated of a punchline, particularly after having negotiated such a sloppy piece of writing. My apologies. Let me explain:

You see,  our eldest had, it seems been only half – listening to his Grandad’s wise words, for he had mixed up the names Pompeii –  famous Roman town overlooking the Gulf of Naples, devastated by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE and Pompey – nickname for the English naval town of Portsmouth (where there is a noticeable absence of volcanos) and its football team. The moniker being result of one, the other or none of the following:

Pompey

Bombay was part of the wedding gift of Catherine of Braganza to Charles II.

Portuguese seaman saw a resemblance between the two ports and may have called Portsmouth “Bom Bhia” which to English ears sounds like Pompey.

Dame Agnes Weston was describing the murder of the Roman general Pompey at a lecture to a naval audience. A member of the audience exclaimed “Poor old Pompey!” and this phrase stuck.

A drunkard’s slurred pronunciation of Portsmouth Point.

Ships entering Portsmouth harbour make an entry in the ship’s log Pom. P. as a reference to Portsmouth Point. Navigational charts also use this abbreviation.

 Up Pompeii

La Pompee was a captured French ship moored in Portsmouth and used for accommodation. (Captured 1793 and broken up 1817). There is a Yorkshire term “pompey” for prison or house of correction. Which is useful to know as Yorkshire is some 270 miles away.

Volunteer firemen in the eighteenth century (known as pompiers) exercised on Southsea Common.

In 1781, some Portsmouth sailors climbed Pompey’s pillar near Alexandria and became known as the “Pompey boys”.

The pomp and ceremony connected with the Royal Navy at Portsmouth led to the adoption of the nickname, “Pompey”.

Take your pick.

‘Ledge’ or not, My Dad is left nonplussed, thunder stolen the result of  his grandson’s short attention span. Or was it? Part of me suspects  a ‘knowing ambush’ of his Grandad’s denouément  – if so his timing and delivery were faultlesss. I must ask him about that.

* Strictly speaking this – the bringing on of guest voices –  is considered very bad form in documents of a historical nature, but I just couldn’t resist it. Sorry.

*’Ledge’: Legend

Further Reading:

Beard Mary (2008) ‘Pompeii: The life of a Roman Town’ Profile Books Ltd.  

Mary Beard Blog: ‘A Don’s Life’

Harvey B K (2001) ‘Graffiti from Pompeii’ Pompeiana.org.

Origins of name Pompey based on information from Royal Navy Museum.

Special Guest: Ken Dodd

Pic credits: Virtual Tourist, destination360.com, en.wikipedia.org, Current Archaeology, http://www.bibbymaritime.com , Daily Mail.

© Andy Daly 2011

If It’s Thursday It Must Be Tintin!

At school one day, out of the blue, the lad who was sitting next to me, and with whom I’d had a fairly tempestuous relationship, involving at least one fight said:
“Why do they always put Tintin on telly on a Thursday?”
“They don’t” I said. “I saw it on Monday last week”
“No, no …” the urchin replied “It’s definately Thursday. They always announce it at the start”
“What are you gabbing on about?”
“They announce it!” he said, emphatically, and taking a deep breath he attempted an impersonation of the stentorian voice of the M. C. who did indeed initiate the programme: “Thursday’s adventures of Tintin!” He boomed.
I quickly weigh up the relative benefits and the likely timescale involved in explaining that the announcer was in fact saying “Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin”, then of course,who Hergé was and so on; compared to simply letting sleeping dogs lie.

It didn’t take long.
“Hmmm! Yeah so they do. Well I never … Tintin only on Thursdays eh?”

Art Attack

Attachment

Finally! Today I get round to E Mailing my tutor with the outline plan for my dissertation. I’m studying Fine Art at University and typically, like all Art students, can’t string a written sentence together and resolutely leave any written work until the very, very very last minute. So, anyway I finally send the wretched thing off as an attachment to a grovelling E Mail in which I plead forgiveness for the lateness of my proposal. It is still a long way from being finished (The Plan that is) but I am pleased with my morning’s efforts and satisfied that it is just enough to keep her off my back, treat myself to a lazy lunch of fish and chips and a couple of beers.
 

Unable to open this

 
The reply from my tutor is terse.

“My dear Andrew, thank you for taking the time to send me your proposal. I read your letter” (at arm’s length holding my nose” – she might have added) “However, I was unable to open this.” Referring to the attachment. “Unless of course you actually meant to send me a line of tiny grey boxes, surrounded by the letter a.”

Bugger it! 

Bugger it! The file must have corrupted. A bit of quick thinking needed here:

Horseshit

“But Miss Bliss” I reply. “I am surprised you didn’t spot the fact that it was  a reproduction of Ephraim J. Goodenough’s entry for the Turner Prize “Opus 32”, which is (and I quote) “A clinical, objective/ introspective examination of the Post-Modern dilemma which faces us all: Concrete or concept?”

I am beginning to warm to my theme.

“As sophisticated viewers – or consumers of visual statements: both contemporary and historical (once known as ‘Art’) Are we more likely to respond to the concrete (ie. a physical entity which exists in this world or any other, including – but not exclusively the mind of their makers)  Or do statements which exist wholly and totally in the cerebellum and visual cortex of the visual entrepreneur (once known as ‘Artist’) meet our dietary aesthetic needs?”

“In short,”  I gather myself triumphantly, “Are we to find visual/intellectual sustenance in the form of objects or ideas?”

And now the weather: It’s looking decidedly wintry as gales (some gusts reaching up to 70 mph)  together with sleet, snow and now horseshit begin to spread across the country.

© Andy Daly 2010

(Please note the author takes no responsibility for pandering to any form of stereotype. In addition,  the characters in  this story bear no relation to anyone living or dead, and especially not the author) (Nor any of his Tutorial staff: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne 1979-83, University of London Goldsmiths College (1984-5) University of London Institute of Education 1995-6)

Wildlife Photography

A ‘Timeless Classics’ production. First published February 2010

In which a family of kingfishers manage to trick a former Art teacher into rejecting a process-led model as a metanarrative of a discredited Modernist formal orthodoxy. It also features some spectacular stunt flying, courtesy of the Red Sparrows.

It has slowly become apparent to me that I’ve been had. Done over.  Hook, line and sinker, I have been stitched up like a kipper by … a family of kingfishers

Why? Because I have failed to listen to my own best advice and have allowed myself to be seduced by Product at the expense of Process. I know! …  Me! The Process Kid! ….Me! who has spent a lifetime  teaching a process-based model (I’m getting more and more angry as I write this) Me! a signed and fully paid up champion of a process-led aesthetic. I can’t believe it. Tricked, out-witted and out-manouvered … by a family of bloody kingfishers. I mean, they’re only 6 inches tall with a brain the size of a pea!

The Readers Digest Book of British Birds describes them as ‘mainly sedentary’ and confines the bulk of its entry to an almost obsessive interest in the spectacular colouring, superlative flying, and dramatic diving. Ha! Where are the warnings that this orange and blue – alright – ‘turquoise’ critter will quite happily lead the unwary out onto one of the most treacherous visual arts battlefields of the Modernist era and leave you beaten and bloodied for your troubles? Where does it suggest that it might be wise to re-aquaint yourself with Walter Benjamin before you go birdwatching?

Here is my story.

 I take my bike from out of the shed and leave the house I share with my wife and two children, at work and school respectively. And why do I do this? … well … it’s because  we’ve got the bloody builders in. They have just ‘knocked through’. Any sign of a dustsheet? No! Any respect for personal space? No! Any interest in the fact that I too may have some objectives I’d like to acomplish –  preferably before sunset and so therefore really cannot  spare the time to make another cup of tea and listen to another ‘Clumsy Tony’ anecdote. No!

So I’m going for a bike ride to escape, because if I hear that fucking dopey roofer sing ‘Karma bloody Chameleon’ one more time I swear I’m going to pound his brains to mush with one of his own roofing tiles.

And so to the park (tip) at the end of our road.

Just listen to that … Silence! … (Well silence that  is if you filter out the playground noise from the school, the trains passing on the Met. line, the plane landing at Northolt, the coarse chatter of the jackhammer from … Oh gawd!..  Our house by the sound of it)

And so I’m off. A quick three lap burn up of the ‘Nature Reserve’ This presents a major test of skill and nerve as you try to avoid the dog crap everywhere, and today? … well, let’s head off down past the park and along the brook (sewer) and back again.

I’ve got to say, all joking apart, that in the dappled sunlight under a flaming canopy of Horse Chestnut, Ash, Hazel and a couple of Oak and Beech, it is extraordinarily beautiful down here … and quiet. The Parrots look a bit out of place though. There’s a … (collective noun for parrots? a squawk? –  sounds alright) There’s a squawk of parrots, about 6 in total who divide their time between the park and the big old tree behind our house. Escapees, I guess. A novelty at first, they are now right up there with the dopey roofer on my hate list courtesy of the bloody awful racket they make: that’s all seven of them.

I am just imagining what roast parrot might taste like and indeed how it might compare with roast roofer (I suspect a parrot, no matter how well fed might present a challenge in feeding a family of  four. The roofer, on the other hand has been nicely looked after and …)

Bloody Hell! See that? A kingfisher! Brilliant!

Wonderful! One of my favourite birds as a child. Not that I ever saw more than about three. Seeing a kingfisher gave me an electric thrill (and still does) as the streak of sapphire and orange flashed past, seemingly unconcerned, but busy nevertheless.

Who would have thought it?  On smelly Yeading Brook. I saw it again the following day and again and again. I was surprised talking to local dogwalkers, regulars along the brookside path, that although ‘vaguely aware’ of the bird’s existence at some time or other, no-one had seen it (or them) this season. Yet I, having begun to observe the bird’s pattern of behaviour and favourite branches on which to perch, saw it two, sometimes three times a visit.

I resolved to bring my camera, which I did (oh how I rue the day!) There was a lot of activity that morning: I’d seen it two or three times – It had of course occurred to me that there could be more than one: a pair? I was on the verge of leaving when right out of the blue/turquoise/saphhire whatever you want to call it, close by the lower entrance to the park it landed on a branch overlooking a bend in the brook. It was about 70 yards away. Against all odds, which included a standard 50mm lens – no telephoto and uncontrollable shaking as I tried to focus (In fact, if the truth be known, I had a quite incomplete grasp of the procedures for focussing my Canon 450D for having had it for two months, I was too lazy to have read the instruction manual) The shot was an accident: I was pressing the button for a meter reading and overdid it. I got another one in, but with a shutter sound like a skoda car door slamming – that was it. The kingfisher was off!

 

Can you spot it? 

 But I had it! After thoroughly testing the image manipulation giant that is Photoshop CS3 (Extended) I had it!  Okay, it wasn’t exactly David Attenborough: but then I wasn’t on his kind of money.You had to look hard deep into a mess of trees, riverbank, undergrowth but there it was the unmistakeable shape of a kingfisher. Ha! I was about to prove to everyone that this was no fig roll of my imagination…

But it was also to prove my undoing … My dissatisfaction with the quality of my kingfisher picture,  which despite all the power of Photoshop was still grainy and fuzzy, began to be replaced by a growing conviction that here was an opportunity to extend my range as a budding photographer. Yes! It was time to move on from those interminable artsy ‘coffee table book’ guitar pictures( http://www.andydalyphotography.co.uk/  in case you’re interested. I accept Pay Pal and all major credit cards) Let’s face it, any clot with a serviceable camera and a spotlamp could do them – you just had to remember, Do ‘em in black and white and don’t forget: Loads of shadows! No: this was real photography: wildlife photography.

And here, dear reader is where the wheels began to come off. I can hear myself thinking, althoughI never actually uttered the words, but sure enough, like so many of my wayward students over the years I thought them. Words which are enough plunge even the most experienced, hard-bitten, battle-scarred Art teacher into a trough of despair:

“But I know exactly what it’s going to look like”

I know, I know …. Me, the Process Kid! As I sit now staring at words on the screen I can barely believe it. But there I was, a week later, armed with a telephoto lens (courtesy of E Bay. Incidentally, I picked up a delightful plaster cast of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and a complete Morris Marina workhop manual at the same time. Who says it’s a Global Car Boot Sale eh?) and assorted camouflage garments, more usually associated with members of fanatical paramilitary active service cells: ready to do battle with the kingfishers for the ultimate Kingfisher photograph ….

[A small hollow in a sandy bank overlooking Yeading Brook and a family of Kingfishers are sitting around, reading the morning papers and childrens’ comic supplements]

Oh God! Here he is again!

Who’s here again, Darling?

That idiot. You know, the one with the camera.

The one with the wooly hat? You’re too hard on him. You should stop teasing him and leave him in peace.

Leave him in peace? What about us? What about him leaving us in peace? I’ll leave him alone when he stops invading our privacy. Three times last week…three times. You know what I’m like about my fishing –

[The children pipe up] Oh yes! We all know what you’re like about your fishing. We’re not allowed to talk..

We’re not even allowed to breathe!

Now, you two, come on…What your father is saying is that he just enjoys his privacy..

Exactly! Alone. So I can think and unwind and relax. Without having some half-baked would-be ‘wildlife photographer’ sticking his zoom lenses into my beak. And anyway, where do you think your meals would come from if I weren’t allowed to ‘dip this beak’ unhindered?

I caught one yesterday!

That was not a Minnow.

What was it then?

Well, it wasn’t a fish … Now let’s leave it at that … Oh God!

What is it now? You’re ever so tetchy these days…

It’s those bloody parrots, again. I wish someone would sort them out…send them back to where they came from.

But Dear, you can’t say that…

I just did. Okay! So who’s coming to have a bit of fun with old ‘David Attenborough’ then?

Me!

Me!

Me!

Daaad?

Yes, sunshine?

Do you think he knows there’s five of us?

Hmmmmm…Difficult to say… I think he knows there are at least two.

Remember yesterday, when you and Mum had already gone up to bend in the river with the wooden platform, but when I flew past, he went in the opposite direction?

Yes, that was odd. I just don’t think he’s very observant.

…He’s always half asleep

Yes, I’ve noticed that, Dear. I don’t think he gets enough rest…

Rest?! Oh for pity’s sake woman, we need to get rid of him, not mother him. I want my peace and quiet back.

Dad! Let’s try and get him to drop his big camera into the river

Yeeeaah!

And how are you going to do that?

Oh it’ll be well easy … Did you see when he dropped his hat in the river?

That’s right:  So far …Let’s see …  His gloves went in….

… his hat …

… (Twice) …

… His lens cap …

… and he got bitten by a dog! …

[Together] Twice!

It is easy! All you’ve got to do is make him wait till he starts to get tired…

It’s best to sit quite high up

… and behind him. He still thinks we only ever fly or perch low along the course of the river.

Watch him. Watch his shoulders.  After a while he starts to go into this position and his shoulders hunch over.

What’s ‘hunch’?

Y’know, go all rounded

Then it’s time to fly… Straight at him if you can

Yeaaaah!

He goes all shaky! It’s dead funny.

Okay? We all ready? You staying here, Love?  Oh! Before I forget, I’ve left an article out for you… might like to read it. I thought it was quite good. It’s a frank new appraisal of Benjamin’s ‘Work of Art In An Age Of Mechanical Reproduction’ In fact, I think it will throw more light onto the near polarisation of the visual arts and the acendency of a Post Modern,  pluralist aesthetic for the end of the twentieth century. See what you think. Okay kids? We off?

Chocks away!

[Some weeks later. The Builders have now gone]

                                                               …. ready to do battle with the kingfishers for the ultimate Kingfisher photograph.         

 [Reader]: So?

What?

[Reader]: So where is it?

What?

[Reader]: The ‘Ultimate Kingfisher Photograph’?

You see, people don’t realise just how difficult wildlife photography is. They just think that the photographer turns up, whips out their camera, Click! Click! Home in time for tea and crumpets. No way! It requires methodical planning, deep knowledge of the habits and environment of the subject and consumate camera skills. Never mind thinking … aperture?… exposure?… focus? … ooops, lens cap off … when there’s a kingfisher flying at you. It needs to be instinctive … it’s raw!…It’s man versus beast in an extreme and hostile environment.

[Reader]: ‘Extreme and hostile’? What? Yeading Brook? In Roxborne Park?

Yeah … err … it’s pretty hostile. I came close to losing my hat in the drink on one occasion.

***   Kingfishers 1 ‘David Attenborough’ 0   *** 

 [Reader]: So how long have you been waiting for this ‘ultimate photograph?

Let’s see, where are we now? March .. That will make it uhmm …  Five months … it’ll be five months

***   Kingfishers 2 ‘David Attenborough’ 0   *** 

 [Reader]: And how many pictures have you taken?

Oooooohhhh loads!

[Reader]: Of kingfishers?

Two

***   Kingfishers 3 ‘David Attenborough’ 0   *** 

[Reader]: So your original image and two new ones?

Ahhh ..  No. My … errr…original shot and one new one.

***   Kingfishers 4 ‘David Attenborough’ 0   *** 

 [Reader]:  It must be spectacular … the other one? It must be if it’s your ‘ultmate kingfisher photo’ Can you describe it? I’m fascinated by the notion of it being a battle between man and nature in order to wrest the image you want exactly as you thought it was going to look. That must be some result eh? The suspense is killing me … Thanks … No, don’t see it. Ahhh! That’s because I’ve got it upside down … no wait …. No, Still don’t see it ……..what the hell am I looking at?

Well … can you just see behind that branch…?

[Reader]: You mean that blurry brown line?

Hmmmmm…It’s that spot of blue …. Juuuusssssst ……. there!

*** Game Set and Match: Kingfishers ***         

 Epilogue

Never has the pursuit of artistic endeavour so exausted me. Never has so much time been invested for such little reward. How could I let myself walk into such an obvious trap? One which, because of my training and experience I should have spotted from the outset.

My ‘Ultimate Kingfisher Photograph’ hangs on the chimney breast (I tell people it’s one of a series of abstract paintings I’m working on – sort of diffused spatial enquiries … ‘Yes, they can sometimes look like out of focus photographs. I’m glad you spotted that’) My misery is complete when the Dopey Roofer decides he likes it and offers to buy it.  It reminds him of the lighting effects used at last year’s Ministry of Sound New Year Party. ‘It was sick man, I’m tellin’ yah I was well out of it’.

 I let it go for £5:49 with which I buy a new wooly hat. The house is cold and lonely, the wind whistles through the gap in the front door, making a sound like a maddened wailing banshee. I’m beginning to miss the builders … they weren’t that bad after all.

Cause of all the trouble

  

The Ultimate Kingfisher Photograph’

  HELPLINE

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this post, call 0800 4746 4746 to talk in confidence

© Andy Daly  2010

Timeless Classics presents “Mirror, Mirror”

(First published Feb 2010)

Not suitable for young children, the squeamish or those of a nervous disposition. “Celebrity Big Brother” on at the time was the prompt. 

There’s been a lot of talk about ‘Male Banter’ recently.

It’s been the final week of the last ever ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ and as ever I’ve been glued to it. Can’t fathom it really, because normally I have zero interest in the lives of the rich and famous, but it’s just fascinating watching ‘Celebrities’ out of their little comfort zones, being told what to do, being given menial and degrading tasks to do (I pass on the disgusting eating tests: a bridge too far, personally) and sometimes even reaching meltdown on live TV.

 Well, the final few hours of ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ 2010 seems to have been notable (If you believe all the pundits, commentators and hangers-on etc.) for the quality of ‘banter’ between remaining male contestants who outnumbered sole female Stephanie Beecham 4 to 1. They were Vinnie Jones (Ex-footballer/Actor), Alex Reid (Cagefighter/boyfriend to Katie Price/’Jordan’), Dane Bowers (Ex-Boyband member: I forget which) and Jonas Somebody or other (Swedish ‘Euro-Pop’ Recording Artist)

 From where I was sitting, it was decidedly average. Unless I was somehow sitting in a parallel universe and watching a complete simulacrum of the ‘real’ Big Brother … or was it?… but I digress, the point is that I didn’t find the ‘Male Banter’ on offer all that good. Especially when I compare it to banter, jokes and laughs I   have enjoyed, courtesy of some of the lads who drifted in and out of my life, particularly during the early/mid eighties. As well as My Best Mate Aky, people like Skull Murphy, Stig, Gibbo, the Baron, Andy Kav, Jonah, Mo the Header, Dinks, Glenn, Wayne, Peadar, Arthur, Ken, Rob, Bouncing Bob, Chawkey Neil and Wiz. Compared to some of the comments, insults, antics and tall tales from this little lot over the years, the ‘Big Brother’ quartet would have been found sorely wanting.

 It was while mulling over some of the highlights of these hangover-stained years (eg. “The Great White Chief” stopped by Police on Waterloo Bridge at two in the morning, drunk as a monkey, driving – if you can call it that – without lights, The Baron’s drunken sleepwalking escapades, one of which lead him, semi-naked, out of his flat and all the way down onto the Mile End Road to ‘Get the bus for work’ at eleven o’clock in the evening, A 21st Birthday Party at ‘The Ukranian Club’ in Rochdale, coming home from which we got ‘lost’ less than 200 yards from the house in which My Best Mate Aky had lived in all his life, Chawkey ironing his stomach etc etc) that I was reminded of the tale of Dinks’ anus. I will never forget him telling me this story and the helpless laughter it left me with, and for which I only have to recall the story’s dénouement to have it re-kindled.

 Dinks, despite being from ‘Sheff’ (Sheffield) was a smashing bloke. Bit of a nuisance when he was drunk; but then so are a lot of people. He had a tendency to square up to, or a wish to discuss the finer points of issues with Lads (and sometimes Ladies) of considerably bigger build, and who seemed to have an air of greater ‘combat experience’ behind them. He was never a great-looker, bless him (Use these words to form a sentence of your own: Pot, Black, Call, Kettle)  the last time I saw him, he wore baggy (as in no arse at all) army surplus trousers, a Sex Pistols T-shirt and a denim jacket. His head was shaved, revealing an angry lunar landscape of spots, blackheads and acne scars. His only hair, bleached, sprouted from a point to the front of his crown, and for the most part dangled down over his eyes and face.

 “Did I ever tell y’t’ story of when I saw me oan arsehole?” He asked one day in the pub, apropos of nothing.

“Well, I were on’t’ bus comin’ oam fr-fr- fr-fr- frum college one dinner time…” (he stammered too)

 I was immediately hooked and listened intently.

“Aye, I were on this bus, when I thowat: Y’ knurr, twenteh too yeayurs on th-th-th-th-this planet and I’ve n-n-n-n-n-never seen me oan arsehole.”

Then and there, Dinks resolved to do something about it. He hatched a plan. What sort of bizarre meanderings and tortured thought processes lead a human mind to close focus of such an issue is beyond me. However, unimpeded by such concerns, the intrepid Dinks prepared to alight.

At his stop, he scuttled down the stairs and off the bus. He quickly covered the quarter of a mile or so to his house.

“Twelve-thirty: brilliant, me Mum won’t be ‘oam till at least wun. Should be perfect!” he thought to himself as he glanced at his Tintin watch

He described reaching home, hurridly unlocking the front door, and racing straight up the stairs into the bathroom.

 Once in, he threw off his jacket. The bathroom, though clean and tidy, was small and poky. The only mirror was that on the front of the vanity unit placed high on the wall, adjacent to the sink. Now this was going to be tricky, it would require nerve, balance and more than a little agilty. Not to worry! Our Hero had done his planning and, after feverishly unbuttoning, dropping and stepping out of his pants, naked from the waist down, he began his ascent. Careful!… one foot on the basket that housed spare toilet rolls, old newspapers, and inexplicably, a can of WD 40. Good! … it did’t give. A step up with the other foot onto the window ledge. Easy! The fan light was open causing the net curtain to play in the fluttery wind. This was the big one … Ready? One, two, three … Hup! Other foot into the ‘soap space’ corner of the sink, behind the tap … Will it hold my weight? …. Yyyyeeessss! Done it!

 I recall the expession on his face as he reached this pivotal point in his recounting of the whole tale: a mixture of triumph and relief.

“At last! The Holy Grail!” (His words!) “I could see me oan arsehole!”

He should have taken more notice of the open window, for no sooner had his face of triumph clouded with revulsion at what he beheld in the mirror than the bathroom door (which in his haste he had forgotten to lock) swung open, and his Mum walked in.

“Jeremy!” She screeched “What on EARTH are you doing….?”

 “I’m br-br-br-br-brushin’ me teeth Mum!”

 “…..Well, I just said first thing that came into me ‘ead”

© Andy Daly  2010

Mirror mirror

Dinks, despite being from ‘Sheff’ was a smashing bloke. Bit of a nuisance when he was drunk; but then so are a lot of people. The last time I saw him, he wore baggy army surplus trousers, a Sex Pistols T-shirt and a denim jacket. His head was shaved, revealing an angry lunar landscape of spots, blackheads and acne scars. Bleached hair sprouted from a point to the front of his crown, and for the most part dangled down over his eyes and face.

“Did I ever tell y’t’ story of when I saw me oan arsehole?” He asked one day in the pub, apropos of nothing.

“Well, I were on’t’ bus comin’ oam fr-fr- fr-fr- frum college one dinner time…” (he stammered too)

I was immediately hooked and listened intently.

“Aye, I were on this bus, when I thowat: Y’ knurr, twenteh too yeayurs on th-th-th-th-this planet and I’ve n-n-n-n-n-never seen me oan arsehole.”

Then and there, Dinks resolved to do something about it. He hatched a plan. What sort of bizarre meanderings and tortured thought processes lead a human mind to close focus of such an issue is beyond me. However, unimpeded by such concerns, the intrepid Dinks prepared to alight.

At his stop, he scuttled down the stairs and off the bus. He quickly covered the quarter of a mile or so to his house.

“Twelve-thirty: brilliant, me Mum won’t be ‘oam till at least wun. Should be perfect!” he thought to himself as he glanced at his Tintin watch

He described reaching home, hurridly unlocking the front door, and racing straight up the stairs into the bathroom.

Once in, he threw off his jacket. The bathroom, though clean and tidy, was small and poky. The only mirror was that on the front of the vanity unit placed high on the wall, adjacent to the sink. Now this was going to be tricky, it would require nerve, balance and more than a little agilty. Not to worry! Our Hero had done his planning and, after feverishly unbuttoning, dropping and stepping out of his pants, naked from the waist down, he began his ascent. Careful!… one foot on the basket that housed spare toilet rolls, old newspapers, and inexplicably, a can of WD 40. Good! … it did’t give. A step up with the other foot onto the window ledge. Easy! The fan light was open causing the net curtain to play in the fluttery wind. This was the big one … Ready? One, two, three … Hup! Other foot into the ‘soap space’ corner of the sink, behind the tap … Will it hold my weight? …. Yyyyeeessss! Done it!

I recall the expession on his face as he reached this pivotal point in his recounting of the whole tale: a mixture of triumph and relief.

“At last! The Holy Grail!” (His words!) “I could see me oan arsehole!”

He should have taken more notice of the open window, for no sooner had his face of triumph clouded with revulsion at what he beheld in the mirror than the bathroom door (which in his haste he had forgotten to lock) swung open, and his Mum walked in.

“Jeremy!” She screeched “What on EARTH are you doing….?

“Well, I just said first thing that came into me ‘ead”

“I’m br-br-br-br-brushin’ me teeth Mum!”

© Andy Daly  2010