I feel compelled to not let Baroness Thatcher’s passing go unremarked.

Iron Lady. Rust In Peace

Iron Lady. Rust In Peace

So I’ll sum up my feelings by recounting a little tale about my dear old Mum.

Before I was born, in the late ‘50s my Mum was a social worker in the North West. She had a big patch and drove her Ford Popular to get to her appointments. (A bit like ‘Call the Midwife’ on four wheels) Back then, social work wasn’t tarnished with the brush of scandal and incompetence that rightly or wrongly it has been in recent years. All the same, it was about tackling poverty and deprivation and trying to improve the conditions for society’s most vulnerable.

After stopping work to have the family and a hip-replacement operation, she retrained to be a Primary School teacher, first in Greater Manchester and later in the poorest area of Whitehaven, in the shadow of Haigh pit and the Marchon chemical works.

She hated Thatcherism and its uncaring, hectoring style. I knew that from the way she would answer back to the news on radio and TV. But she never discussed her own politics. To this day I don’t know how she voted.

Anyway, the year is 1982 or thereabouts, in the run up to local elections. Mid morning one day there was rat-tat at our front door. I was upstairs and heard my Mum go to answer it.


‘Good Morning, Madam. Lovely day’

There seemed to be two visitors on the doorstep. I listened on.

‘I wonder whether we might be able to count on your vote in the forthcoming election?’

‘And you are ..?’

Well, it was the Tory candiate, long-forgotten; while the other introduced himself as one Piers Merchant, a young Tory smoothie and unsuccessful candidate for Newcastle Central in 1979. Presumably Central Office were allowing him to hone his campaigning skills ready for the next general election campaign.

‘May we ask what line of work you or your husband are in then we can give you an idea of some of the ways the Conservative Party are going to be able to transform your lives?’

‘As it happens we are both in Education’

‘Ah! Schools’ said Merchant ‘A subject close to Mrs. Thatcher’s heart and one that I think you will find the Conservative Party …’

‘What does she know about schools?’

Talk about ‘lighting the blue touchpaper!’ For a good fifteen minutes, my Mum laid into them, wiped the floor with them in fact, on every aspect of Tory policy Education, Health, Energy, Tax, The Falklands. I listened on in glee, getting prouder and prouder of my Mum as they got more and more uncomfortable. Eventually to resounding cheers from upstairs, she slammed the door on them and they scuttled off, tails between their legs.


Piers Rolf Garfield Merchant got his wish and was elected to parliament representing Newcastle Central in the 1983 election. He lost his seat in1987. He returned to parliament as MP for Beckenham in 1992. His resignation was precipitated by the ‘Sleeze Merchant’ Affair in which the married MP was photographed and filmed in what are generally referred to in these cases as ‘compromising situations’ with a 17 year old Soho based ‘Hostess’. In 2005, he was the UKIP candidate for the Torrington Rural ward in the Devon County Council election, but finished fourth of the four candidates.

The point being of course that the Iron Lady image was a myth perpetrated by the likes of spineless lackeys like Merchant. In overcoming adversity, battling a lifetime of ill health (not that often you would know it) my Mum was an Iron Lady, so was her Mum, and My Best Mate Aky’s Mum. And Jackie and Jane and Caroline …


Dick’s Out!

Before the complaints come trickling in. The apostrophe IS in its rightful place.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bear with me. I am writing this in Spain in a ‘Cyber Cafe’. A vile and loathesome place peopled by well-off, but badly-behaved and foul-mouthed delinquent Spanish teenagers, and (forgive me, for some of my best friends are …) surly Poles and Rumanians. I can hardly hear myself think above the din of Air Hockey, Pool and Table Football; and the associated arguments and squabbles. I am tempted to keep the lot of them back at the end of the evening until they can show me how to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. It will be their own time they are wasting … So if I’m not up to my razor-sharp best there’s the reason.

I’ve been in Spain and I’ve been thinking a lot about Clive.

Clive loved Spain.

He died out here, suddenly just over a year ago. I worked with him: or at least taught at the same school as him for 10 years or so. I miss him terribly. We weren’t ‘Best Pals’ but we did spend a lot of time  together. Like many others we fought against half-baked thinking and the inadequate grasp of fundamentals in education, nay in human relationships, and especially so when it came from the unleavened Mrs Fajita. (See ‘Dopey Cow’) Hapless management, more so in later years, made our day, but at what cost?

We shared some of the same interests in music, although it has to be said we didn’t agree on everything. On another note, I have forgiven him for, unbeknown to me, turning my trusty WEM Dominator amp off  while he did some acoustic numbers at a social do in the school hall. We then took to the stage where I spent the first eight bars trying to work out why my amp or guitar: one or the other, was goosed.

‘It was ‘Buzzing” he said.

‘It’s a 1970s British valve amp.’ I said ‘ It’s what they do!

Ooooooh I was cross with him.

I enjoyed his blog ‘Going to the Dogs in Swindon’, while Clive was complimentary about my writing (if not my spelling) which meant a great deal to me and gave me the confidence push it on a bit … come to think of it, he has a lot to answer for …

We were tutors in the same (Sixth form) year group. I remember a right old day out in Southsea. Ostensibly, a Sixth Form end of term trip, we skidaddled straight away and during the course of the afternoon – this is before the arrival of my uninvited guest of course* – drank a bucketful of beer, ate the second largest plate of fish and chips I’ve ever seen (It takes a lot to beat the Waterford Arms at Seaton Sluice) chewed the fat more than somewhat, and ended up on some hideous ride/torture machine at the funfair. By then, we had met up with other staff, who though sober, still accompanied us. Poor Denise B. I’ve never seen anyone go soooo green

Then there was that memorable day in Valencia. Of all the people over the years who have said ‘I’ll pop across and see you, I’m only in Javea/Denia/Xativa/Valencia/Almeria/Extremadura/Santiago de Compostella/Wherever ….’ Clive and Sue (and Tim Brown) were the only ones who ever did – come to us I mean. We ate paella (which, if you have never had the real thing you have no idea …) To round off the day, I gave our eldest a dollar for the fruit machine, and he won the bloody jackpot ¡Ay caramba!

He loved the Simpsons, and in particular, Homer’s half-witted, lugbrious attempts to  be  a real father; wholly the opposite of Clive . I remember descriptions of his readings of bed time stories from ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ which were gripping enough to ‘reel – in’ neighbourhood kids and passers-by!

We laughed at the same kinds of things, both of us unashamedly cynical. But he never let his … ‘worldliness’ let’s call it, cloud his teaching. He was a great teacher to those who were prepared to listen – and often those who weren’t ….

Clive turned me on to Irvine Welsh, (when he was good) ‘The Watchmen’, which I read cover to cover. Not bad for someone who hates comic-books, while I used to love hearing his tale of how he booked Paul Simon to play at  the folk club he ran in Swindon. I assume this must have been 1965, when Simon was living over here. As Clive recalled, it was not long after this that with Art Garfunkel, (Quick check – yes it is spelt like that) he began to achieve his first major success.

Anyway, the story I am about to relate is true, and it happened  at a West London/Middlesex secondary comprehensive  during a friday morning staff meeting (A time when most present were still actually in a deep state of unconsciousness) Not Clive. No, I think Clive had been preparing himself for some time for that particular morning’s meeting; one which was to be chaired by the school’s First Deputy, Greg Hill.

Now, the reason that the responsibility for the weekly staff meeting – indeed the whole school, lay in Greg’s capable hands was that Headteacher, Dick Duggan, a man of principle and honour (if also worryingly long sideburns and crispy fried seaweed comb-over) was not in school, but attending the Hillingdon Association of Secondary Headteachers’ conference. Or ‘HASH’ as it was known. (I swear I’m not making this up)

Calling the meeting to order, with a most unfortunate turn of phrase which he to this very day swears blind was unintentional, Greg booms out:

‘Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dick’s out’

To which, quick as a flash Clive replied:

‘Is that an order?’

Now, I don’t know whether you have ever seen a teacher spontaneously awake from a profound slumber; let alone half a roomful. It is not a pretty sight. It’s very funny, as those awake enough to get the joke first time – then watch the spectacle of their colleagues variously choking on dentures, hot tea, coffee, spilling same over weeks’ worth of marking, exam papers and in one or two cases even wetting themselves – will attest. Very, very funny.

But it is not a pretty sight.

Staff meetings, like assemblies are always worth staying awake for (if you can) in my experience, as it is often at these gatherings that you can make the ‘catch of the day’ And so, there you have it. A priceless moment from one of many. Sadly missed. Clive, this is for you with the hope that we may one day chew the fat again like we did down at Southsea.

I’ve looked at Life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It’s Life illusions I recall

I really don’t know life at all

© 1973 Warner Bros

*Parkinson’s –  if you are still trying to figure it out

© Andy Daly 2011

Not so funny…

I have this dream.

I am on an ugly, filthy, rusty ship with a vile crew of criminals and murderers. These aren’t comic-book or movie characters, these are the real deal. They bristle with aggression and violence and you know they would cut your throat as soon as look at you and feel no remorse.

There are no friends on this ship.

I am standing on deck looking back at the shore where I can just about make out my wife, with our two boys: standing together looking out towards the ship, and occasionally waving (although it is clear that while the ship may still be in view, no longer can they see me)

For my part, I am frantically waving, trying to get their attention. The story is that I’ve been press-ganged. Sitting innocently in a dockside bar I have been attacked and kidnapped, forced aboard this putrid vessel and put to work as a cabin-hand by day, chained to the deck rails by night. Forced against my will to work and fight as a member of this pirate crew.

But my family don’t know this. As far as they are aware, I have just taken myself off, possibly in search of some kind of adventure.  Never to return.  I will disappear. Missing – presumed dead.

As she and the boys begin to slip out of sight, I realise that for some strange reason, I can still clearly hear them, although when I try shouting out. It has no effect.

“Where’s Dad gone?” The Boys keep asking

“Why has he left us?”

“Is he coming back?

“Are we going to go too?”

She sighs “I don’t know, I don’t know … Come on … we had better get back …”

I shout and I shout “I love you, I’ll be back, don’t give up on me …”

But it’s of no use. They can’t hear me.

They become ever smaller dots on the shore until finally they disappear from sight and my ship of horrors slips into the inky blackness.

I am still waving and shouting.

Cry? No. If I started I’d never stop.

 © Andy Daly  2010


I remember on the eve of our son’s 4th birthday, he was lying in bed, I had been reading to him and his brother, who was already asleep. He looked up at me and said “Dad, you know I’ve got a forehead?” “Yes, James?”- not seeing it coming – “When I’m 5, will I have a fivehead?

© Andy Daly  2010

Great War

Our son went on a school World War One battlefield trip yesterday. They had to be at school for 4:30 am to catch the coach. Their itinerary took in Ypres  – as I’m sure you know – site of the Menin Gate which records the names of the fallen for which there is no known resting place. My Dad’s grandad (also, like him, Bernard) and his brother John were both killed nearby in 1915.

The day before the visit (11/02/09) I asked my Dad who has visited the gate, to text me the panel numbers which contain their names, so that if time allowed, James could search for his great great grandad and his brother. Dutifully, my Dad did as asked; back came the reply with the location of the two names … and a confirmation of the date of death of Corporal Bernard Daly 8145 Shropshire Light Infantry born in Bridgetown Barbados 11/02/15. Exactly 94 years ago to the day.

Leaving his wife, Jane and son, Bernard, my Dad’s Dad.

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

What do you say….?

© Andy Daly  2010

Recurring Dream 3

I awoke pondering last night’s handiwork: Hanger Lane gyratory system made from Wickes kitchen units. What would Freud have made of it all?

© Andy Daly  2010

Recurring Dream 2

 Last night: Tower Bridge using surplus IKEA parts.

© Andy Daly  2010

Recurring Dream

I am concerned. I had another strange dream last night, in which I had to make another life size version of a popular London landmark. This time  it was the Hoover building using flatpack components from boxes marked MFI!

© Andy Daly  2010

A strange dream. What does it mean?

last night I had a dream  that I had to build a life sized replica of the Neasden Hindu temple from a flatpack furniture components.

© Andy Daly  2010