As promised…Strange dream, what does it mean?

As part of an occasional series on ‘Are you Sitting Comfortably?’ This is a particularly spooky dream my son had a couple of days ago.

Walking past the swimming pool belonging to an adjacent block of flats he became aware of somebody in difficulty at the far end. A qualified lifeguard, he didn’t think twice, and launched himself in to save the flailing figure

Automatically, he began to carry out the rescue procedure, only to find out that as he did, his ‘victim’ began 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 his life…

….and is rewarded for his efforts with a civic reception in Uxbridge, followed by (and this is where it gets really weird [my US readers … all 2 of you will have to bear with me here]) … Sunday Lunch and an afternoon spent in the company of Harry and Jamie Redknapp!

Jamie and Harry. Sunday Lunch anyone?

What does it mean?

© Andy Daly  2010

My Dad nicked in fuel scam

My Dad went to the petrol station yesterday.

When he got home, he found two ‘Bizzies’ (Local Constabulary) waiting to question him. It appears he was wanted for driving away from the Total garage in Torrishome, Morecambe loaded up with fuel to which he was not entitled – seeing as he hadn’t paid for it. I can´t see it somehow. It’s just not his kind of job. ? Anyway …

He’d bought some confectionary: presumably to ease his guilty conscience on the getaway. I can can almost imagine him throwing  Lemon and Barley boiled sweets into his mouth as he made  good his escape at a steady 30 mph up the A6 towards Morecambe (after the heist, he’d popped into Homebase for a few odds and ends)  laughing, mockingly at the dopey ‘Bizzies’ in hot pursuit. (I’ll just gloss over the fact that they were at his house before him. Ah! no, thinking about it – these were probably a completely new pair of ‘Bizzies’ freshly scrambled from Morecambe Central.)

‘Good morning sir’ said one of the officers.

‘Is this your car?’ The other asked with distain as he eyed my Dad’s Ford Ka: a villain’s motor, if ever there was one.

‘Hmmmm… The old ‘Good cop Bad cop’ routine eh?’ Thought my Dad. ‘They could do with watching a couple of episodes of  ‘The Sweeney’

Come on George ……

Now then, when ‘The Sweeney’ was at its height in the mid/late ’70s, my Dad was, amongst other things the ‘hard case’ deputy head  (any school worth its salt had one) in industrially-blighted, tough West Cumbria while these two jokers were still in nappies. He made such an impression that someone even went as  far as daubing  a slogan on the school sportshall wall in which my Dad´s ‘Strong-arm work’ was compared to that of actor/villain, James Cagney – something of which he was immensely proud. So dealing with Morecambe’s finest plod would I am sure have presented no problem.

‘Yes it is: a jolly good runner too. Very pleased with it. I have the log book and purchase receipt, if that would be helpful. Would you like the dealer’s details – I could put you in touch, if you want?’

‘Thank you sir, but that won’t be necessary … but as you mention receipts, do you have your receipt from the Total garage in Torrishome for a ‘puuurchaaase’ (he deliberately elongated the word and pronounced it ‘…chase…’) earlier today?’

‘Indeed I do, officer’

That’s it: just enough, not allowing anything which might constitute ridicule or condescension, be taken down and used as sarcasm against him and with enough confidence and bottle to suggest they might be dealing with someone who can ‘handle themselves’ (verbally, I mean: my Dad’s never been much of a bareknuckle fighter, and Tae Kwon Do at 60 proved a bridge too far.)

To be fair, he still had no idea what this was all about.

‘It seems’ (said Bad cop) there’s the small matter of a tankful of fuel ….’

The rest of the sentence was left hanging in the air.

My Dad still hadn’t cottoned on – why should he?

‘And ….’

Good cop: ‘Well it seems you didn’t pay for it’

‘I did!’ My Dad reaches into his pocket and pulls out his Thin Lizzy ‘Live and Dangerous’ tour wallet. Both cops raise an eyebrow. He hands them the receipt … for a quarter of Lemon and Barley sweets. Nothing more, nothing less. Ooer … Looks like Dad’s going down.

‘I told him!’  Dad protested ‘Pump three and a bag of sweets’

He had put in the required fuel and went to pay. As he entered he did indeed say ‘Pump three and a bag of sweets’ the CCT tape clearly picks it up. It turns out the dopey idiot in the shop has cloth ears; doesn´t hear my Dad say ‘Pump three’ and as far as he’s concerned then sees my Dad hotfooting it away at a fair old rate of knots – or at least as fast as the Ka will allow. Full of nicked fuel.

As if!

The whole mess sorted. My Dad offers Bill and Ben a tea.

‘No thanks Sir, we must be getting on’ ….

Then almost surreptitiously …

‘So did you see Lizzy then, Sir?’

‘Yes. Yes, I did. At the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, If I remember correctly’ (He does. 19th March 1976. Supported by Graham Parker and the Rumour)

‘Best live album ever,  ‘Live and Dangerous’

‘You know …’  Said Bad cop, again leaving his sentence floating in the air:

‘Mybrother reckons they never planned to release ‘Whiskey in the Jar as an ‘A’ side at all. It was recorded as a joke …’

‘And yet that’s the song that people instantly associate with them. Strange, isn’t it Sir?’

Good job they didn’t ask him about all the tiles in his shed!

© Andy Daly  2010

Getting a kick out of Picasso (1)

Ever wondered what happens when a child who is part of a group that you are responsible for kicks one of the Tate gallery’s most valuable and fragile paintings? Then read on.

Warning: Art-lovers who are of a nervous disposition and anyone who works in the Tate Gallery conservation department or is among its curatorial staff should definately avoid this story.

Tate Gallery, ‘The Three Dancers’ by Picasso 1925

 I’ve always really liked ‘The Three Dancers’. I think it’s the blue. I love that saturated Mediterranean cobalt /cerulean blue that provides the backdrop to the jumbled array of semi human shapes in front of it. I’d always found that it had a ‘contemporary yet retro’ feel about it, which satisfied my teenage post-Punk Jazzy leanings. This was before I knew anything about it; before I knew anything about Art really. ‘The Three Dancers’ used to hang in the largely static Millbank Tate display, now the home of Tate Britain; and along with Matisse’s ‘Snail’ was one of the ‘favourites’ that I used to go and say ‘Hello’ to each time I visited  the old Tate. As I said, I always remember liking it, though for the life of me, I can’t remember when I first saw it or how it was it came about. Of couse, the reason ‘The Three Dancers’ and ‘The Snail’ had this feel about them was that these were works by artists who were hugely influential on the development of the visual language used in commercial art, during the 1950s and 60s. Something, if not knowingly, I was steeped in.

As you may already be aware the Tate’s collection comprises the National Collection of British art from 1500 and International Modern and Contemporary art from 1900. Not exactly happy bedfellows, I think you’ll agree. Hence, the Tate Modern development which effectively took all the modern/contemporary work to the Bankside galleries and left the ‘boring stuff’ at what became Tate Britain.

In the dark old days before Tate Modern, the collection was housed as I said, at the Millbank site. It had been built on part of the old prison site. (You can still see how local streets to the north follow its groundplan) and was paid for by the great sugar baron Sir Henry Tate. Just think: the existence of one of the most comprehensive collections of art in the country is in a roundabout way responsible for countless thousands, possibly millions of dental caries and cases of tooth decay.

By the 1980’s, it was, if you’ll forgive me, a rather staid collection which had considerably outgrown its accomodation (Apparently it had only enough space to show 10% of its contents). Despite this, the displays changed rarely, although there was, if I remember correctly, a notional annual re-hang.

Saint Sir Nick Serota

Then along came contemporary Art’s ’Knight in Shining Armour’ (Saint) Nicholas Serota. Things soon started to change He started by using the Duveen Galleries to rotate pieces from the collection, the displays became more varied and  although I was in support of Serota’s developments, on more than one ocassion, I found myself ‘caught out’ and plans  to take a school  group visit, had to be hastily adapted or re-arranged as the works I had intended we look at were not in fact on display. And so, it was that one day I found myself on the phone to the Tate Education Department to ask whether a visit could be arranged to see ‘The Three Dancers.‘

Because?  Well, at some point early on in my Art teaching career, I had the bright idea of making, with a group of kids: a full sized version of ‘The Three Dancers.’

Why not give them a photocopy like everyone else?

Ahhhhh! Well, you see …

I’d been doing a painting project with a group of Year 8 students (Old Second Year: those of you who are still confused) and was surprised by how difficult they found it to think of and use paint in any way other than thick blocked flat areas of colour. We had previously done paintings where I had got them to look at scale and proportion using re-sized matchboxes as their subject. They drove me mad as they would attempt to paint and re-paint their work with standard school powder paint to achieve, regardless of what their subject actually looked like, a uniform, even surface – an impossibility.

Mind you, give the majority of the population of the UK a paintbrush, colours and paper and yell ‘PAINT!’ and they would do exactly the same. It was the first time it dawned on me that as a trained artist (I hesitate to say ‘well-trained’ as that is a whole new can of worms I’m keeping in the fridge for another time) I stood in front of the students with years of visual imagery, the vocabulary and command of language, plus all the other baggage that went with it, as ‘Teacher’ and therefore, despite what I may have thought, some kind of expert or specialist. Whereas the owners of the eager faces in front of me – when I could get the little buggers to shut up – were light years away from the frames of reference which would allow them to access the conceptual and contextual  place I inhabited.  Phew! (I hope you notice I resisted the overwhelming temptation to use the words ‘mindset’ and ‘paradigm’ here: A major achievement I feel)

I began to think of how I might get round this and help them –

  • Understand more about the qualities of paint – what you can do with it.
  • Understand how to achieve these qualities themselves in a controlled way through
  1. colour mixing and all that it entails: mood, emotion, symbolism etc.
  2.  Application of paint: brushwork, other methods of application.
  3. Formal qualities like texture, surface, tonal variations.
  4. Methods like impasto, washes etc. Techniques versus Experimentation
  • And to understand why artists do the things they do: the all –important context ; and to give them a bit of respect for what they do. To begin to arm them with some of the basic tools – which would allow them to decipher or read artworks – even if it all it managed to achieve was a little insight, it was better than nothing.

 Kwik Kwiz (Or by-pass it if you prefer) Art in Context. Let’s see what you know!

 

 

 

La Vie 1903

Annunciation C. 1430

Why did Picasso use blue as the predominant colour in his painting ‘La Vie’ of 1903? And why did fifteenth century Italian Renaissance painter Fra Angelico use blue to create The Virgin’s robes and ceiling in his ‘Annunciation’ of c. 1426? Do you know? Answers (Sort of) below

 

So, after much deliberation (Probably the last hour in the Priory Tavern on a quiet week night) I hatched a plan which was to get them into handling paint more freely. By subterfuge. Trick them into it!

All I had to do was find an abstract/ish painting (one which would not allow them to get hung up on achieving a ‘likeness’ to anything they might see, or think they might see in it.) Preferably a painting with a story, which when it was finished, could be revealed and de-bunk the notion that ‘Modern Art doesn’t mean anything’. It also needed to fit the bill in terms of its freedom and handling of paint.

Picasso, You know who and you know what 1965  The year the Tate bought it.

(Pic. The Wonderful Lee Miller)

As I thought about it a bit more (Wednesday and Thursday night in the Priory Tavern) I realised that a Picasso Cubist painting or at least a ‘fractured plane’ painting  would be ideal because it would  allow me to ‘cut up’ the image and distribute it among the class more easily. If I worked out the proportions correctly, each member of the class would have an identically sized piece, which when painted could be assembled the same size as the original. Because of the nature of the original, it wouldn’t matter if the students’ work wasn’t a perfect fit – so they didn’t need to get hung up about that either. I would tell them nothing about their ‘slice’ of the painting. In fact only when all the pieces were complete and the finished painting displayed in school – would they see it for the first time, and then the story behind it revealed. Now then … which painting would fit the bill? The Still lifes were obviously out. What about ‘The Three Dancers’?

And so it was.

Ha! And you thought it was just ‘playtime with paint’ all those years down in the Art department then?

You know what? It worked like a dream.  We were mixing paint with glue, sand and sawdust to achieve textures, some of the kids went to great lengths to replicate the cracks in the original paint surface – by making actual cracks in their work. It was great fun and the finished group piece went up on display. Because of my promise, however, the mysterious story wasn’t to be revealed till the gallery.

Some weeks later

‘I’m afraid it’s not on display’ (Imagine a voice on the phone ..)

This is not what I wanted to hear. The students had made such a fine job of the ‘patchwork painting’ and were so interested in its story, that I’d (rather hastily) promised to take them to see the real thing.

‘Is it possible to see it in the vaults, or wherever it’s kept when not on display?’

‘You mean The Stores? We only allow that usually under special circumstances’

‘Pleeeeeeeeeeeease’

‘Okay, I’ll see what I can do. Call back in about half an hour’ …..

Which I did:

….. I’ve spoken with the Heads of the Education and Curatorial Departments and they have agreed on this one occasion only to allow you access to the stores with your group. Please report to the School’s Reception on arrival.’

Result! We’d done it!

Came the big day, and I was as excited as the kids. I always loved doing gallery trips; it only got tiresome when we were into our third or fourth year of doing the infamous ‘Monster Trips’ (2 halves of a whole year group (90 kids each visit) on consecutive days – on the TUBE, believe it or not. I was a great believer that contact with original artworks and the people who make art, be an ‘entitlement’ to all students. Regardless of whether they are able to operate a London Underground ticket barrier or not. Yes, to be honest, finally, those extravaganzas began to do my head in. Despite everything though, we never had any disasters (Well, nothing that anyone ever heard about); students were generally well behaved and conducted themselves appropriately when they came into contact with the public.

On our Picasso trip, I’d pushed the boat out. I mean we didn’t sail up the Thames or anything like that. No on this particular occasion, I’d hired a small bus (and driver) So, off we went, worksheets fluttering out of the back window in the lap of luxury to the Tate and our (by now) beloved ‘Three Dancers’.

Well, it was something else. After leaving our coats and bags (and probably the remainder of the worksheets) in the education area, which I seem to recall was downstairs on Level one. We were guided –somewhere, unfortunately my memory is hazy about how we got to the Stores, or indeed exactly where, beneath the galleries thronging with people above, they were. I must have had a lot of deliberation to do over lesson and project plans in The Priory Tavern that week.  Before we knew it we were in what resembled a concrete underground car park. The door to the stores, a HUGE door, at least a metre and a half thick was already open in anticipation of our arrival. I pretended to be quite blasé about the whole thing but in fact I was completely overawed by what I was seeing. Over to the left of us was someone I presumed to be our education department guide, waiting for us. The dungarees were a bit of a give away. Behind him, along the length of this cavernous space there were what appeared to be a long series of enormous box files, all slotted together, appropriately labelled on their spines.

Tate storage. No, they weren’t from IKEA

As we approached, one of the stores staff  selected one of these spines, and using a handle about three quarters of the way down, drew out a huge metal grille display panel on wheels. On it was a Georgio de Chirico, a couple of Salvador Dali’s and our beloved ‘Three Dancers’. The pictures were tied to the grille with fabric or canvas in an attempt to prevent damage to the frame or the work within it.

‘You okay then?’ Asked the storeman  ‘Yes, we’ll be fine, won’t we?’ said our education guide with a cheery smile that rapidly transformed into an imploring look. It was no use, my lot were sitting, many open-mouthed at what had been presented before them.

‘Thanks Stan.’

‘ Ten minutes?’

‘Yes Stan, we’ll be done in ten minutes’ I doubted it. Our education guide, who introduced himself as Simon, looked more comfortable now that Stan had left.

This was the quiet before the storm: any second now, a sea of hands would shoot up, then as if having no connection as a precursor to or a niceity to be observed before the bombardment with a shower of questions, like lethal arrows fired by well-drilled Roman Sagittarii … were left still pawing the air.

‘Sir! It’s not the same colour as my picture in school …!

‘Sir! I can’t find my piece!’

‘Oi You said she was a woman. Where’s her ….?

You never know who you are going to get from the education departments on these sorts of jaunts, or their ability (or lack of) to communicate with young people. I needn’t have worried. Simon announced:

‘Ah! … Any more of that horrible noise and this (he motioned over his shoulder at the painting) goes straight back in. Do you realise how lucky you are to be in here? I’ve worked here for years and this is only the second time I’ve been down here’

My throat had begun to get very dry. ‘Bloody Hell, how did I manage to blag this?’ I thought to myself.

Quiet again. Simon began by asking the kids about their paintings in school. To what extent their own individual pieces and then the group piece matched the original. He then studied with them, the original and got them to look specifically for things they had not spotted in their reproductions and paintings such as the thickness of paint in the top left of the left hand window panel and the strange hieroglyphic shapes in the background. He then drew their attention to the contorted female face on the left. Why?

‘She could have been dead’ Why?

‘Shot’ or?

‘Disease’ What kind of disease?

‘Aids? … Yeah maybe he wished she had Aids’

‘But what kind of person would wish that on someone?’

‘Someone that hated them’

And so the story began to unfold …

Just over seven feet high, Picasso painted ‘The Three Dancers’ in spring 1925 in Paris. X-ray images show a much more conventional painting of three more rounded realistic figures beneath. Something had happened to cause Picasso to make a new start and take a more drastic direction. The backdrop to this was his rapidly disintegrating relationship with his wife Olga Kokhlova, a Russian ballet dancer with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. But the ‘something’was a death. The death of one of Picasso’s oldest friends from his youth in Barcelona, Ramon Pichot. In fact Picasso once said ‘While I was painting this picture an old freind of mine Ramon Pichot died. I have always felt that it should be called ‘Death of Pichot’ rather than ‘Three Dancers’

Pichot (or his ghost) appears in the painting as the ghostly black sillhouette on the right. He is significant, because to Picasso, Pichot had been a link back to his formative years in the Catalunyan capital. He was one of a group of regulars at a bar known as Els Quatre Gats which, when it opened in 1897 became the centre of a cultural movement known as Modernismo. (‘The Four Cats’ which you can still drink in today) Other members included Carles Casagemas. Casagemas and Picasso who were almost the same age became very close freinds. Indeed, at the turn of the century they were sharing a studio for which Casagemas apparently paid.

Pichot was married – Now this is where it gets interesting or messy depending on your point of view. Pichot’s widow was none other than Germaine Gargallo – love interest and ultimately subject of obsession, twenty five years earlier of Picasso’s best but increasingly unstable freind. In 1901, while Picasso is in Madrid and his friend in Paris, Germaine finally spurns Casegemas who in response, invites freinds, who include Germaine for a meal in the Boulevard De Clichy, at the end of which, he stands, produces a pistol which he aims at, Germaine and  fires. She avoids the bullet and has the sense to stay down and feign injury, whereupon Casagemas turns the pistol to his own right temple. This time he doesn’t miss. (Probably just as well from that range) His autopsy reveals he was impotent.

Picasso later says that it is Casagemas’suicide that prompts his ‘Blue Period’ and indeed, the male figure in‘La Vie’(Kwik Kwiz) is none other.

‘What’s imputent, Sir?’

‘It’s when you can’t have kids innit’

‘That’s OK cos then he wouldn’t have needed to use …’

‘Alright, let’s get back to the painting and the figures it shows, now that we know who they are’

In what strikes me as an innovative move, Simon has invited some of the kids out in front of the painting to get into the positions held by the protagonists and ‘act out the picture’ Top Banana:  some Kinaesthetic Learning. Excellent! We have Pichot with his big nose who seems to be part of the futuristic, stylised brown and white figure. To the left, the grinning, grimacing, diseased, gun shot head of Germaine.

My mind begins to wander, and I find myself reflecting on the fact that although I’d always loved the painting, until this work with the kids, I actually knew nothing about it. In fact, I’d always completely mis-read it. I’d assumed it was simply a jazzy image of people dancing. Not the dark and psychologically charged piece of work the unfortunates from my group were attempting to recreate.

‘Now try to get into that same arched position. How is it?’

‘Painful’

It is at this point in the writing of this long-winded epic that I realise that unusually for me, I have absolutely no recollection of the names of any of the names of the students involved. I just remember them as a lovely group. So sadly, the identity of our next volunteer to play the part of Olga Kokhlova / crucified Christ / Casagemas and at the same time very nearly write himself into the Tate Gallery’s ‘Book of Notoriety’ is lost in the mists of time.

‘Come up’ encourages Simon. Our volunteer obliges, and goes on to attempt the ‘ballet-stance’ of the central figure.

‘Good!’ He has just about been able to clasp hands with his two colleagues. (Supple then)

My throat has just gone very dry again. I struggle to raise a sound. Too late anyway.

‘That’s it now you’ve got to get your left leg back here … kick it back, that’s it kick it right back!…..

I had seen too late what was coming. What I didn’t expect was a perfectly executed back kick, chambered in the old way with the knee tucked under the mid section, shoulders square looking away from his opponent (painting) delivering full power through the heel of his flexed foot. Good rotation, balance, strength. Ten out of ten. Jackie Chan would have been proud.

Boom! 

The hollow noise reverberated around the stores. As it did, the frame of the painting and the piece of perspex (thank God it wasn’t glazed!) wobbled crazily, like some insane Rolf Harris instrument. I remember the reflected light flashing up and down the painting until it finally settled which took an appallingly long time for it to do.

Simon flashed me a glance which said ‘What the fuck are we going to do?’

I flashed him a glance which said ‘We? What do you mean We? What the fuck are YOU going to do?’

Simon’s face went from white, to grey to a sickly green, like a ghastly traffic light.

All I had in my head was a silent image of Trevor McDonald fronting News at Ten with a picture of ‘the Three Dancers’ behind him, followed by a photograph of me – From my Goldsmiths’ College student ID card photo. Where on earth had they bloody got that from?

Now it may interest you to know that ‘the Three Dancers’ is one of the Tate’s most fragile and friable pieces of work. You may not have noticed, but it never goes out on loan. Nor will it. ‘The Three Dancers’ is an Art conservationist’s nightmare. In fact, the gallery and its powerful conservation staff (Forget the curators: they might have all these great display ideas, but if the conservation staff say ‘No way!’ It’s ‘No Way!’)  actively limit its exposure to light to slow down future changes and to preserve it for future generations. Picasso, the little rascal enjoyed using commercial oil-based paints which would have had quite different properties to artists’ oil paint. They would have been machine rather than hand ground for a start and not designed for permanence of colour. If you can, take a close look at ‘The Three Dancers’ There some decidedly ropey looking bits and large cracks (possibly just that bit wider since the visit of a certain school group) When asked in 1965 about cracks in the paint surface, Picasso said ‘some people might want to touch them out but I think they add to the painting. On the face you see how they reveal the eye that was painted under­neath’ He seemed to relish the notion that the viewer now had a glimpse into how he created his work. Ah yes, but how might he have reacted to them using it for Taekwondo sparring practice?

‘Thank Christ!’ Simon bleated, when it became clear that for some inexplicable reason, the surface of the picture, which is what I had feared for (I had a mind’s eye image of a perfectly preserved frame and perspex panel  featuring at its bottom, a dusty pile of rubble.)

‘WellgreatSimonI’msureweallenjoyedthatdidn’twe?Nowit’sprobablytimeforustomakeamove’ I spluttered. Half the kids were (again) open-mouthed at what they had seen. The other half were giggling uncontrollably.

‘Okay then?’

I froze: Stan!

‘Everything Okay? I mean you’ve not damaged it have you?’ Laughed Stan.

‘You’ve got no fucking idea ….’ I thought.

Simon went through his traffic-light sequence once again, and we made to leave. Stan none the wiser.

Without speaking another word, we went back up to Level One. I thanked Simon for his valuable input, and again without another word about what had just happened, he departed.

It was time to get out of there PDQ,  so I assemble the kids for a ‘toilet break’ before we hit the road. I send them in, two at a time and remain outside to supervise those who have returned, are waiting to and those lucky enough not to need to. I went last after the kids had finished.

God Almighty! I was desperate for a slash, I entered and took my place far left of the Gent’s urinal. / Ah! The relief! I’d been waiting for it all morning… Oh that? / No, it’s not a mistake, it’s a slash. And a Forward Slash at that too: no Backslashes … I mean I know I’d done a lot of deliberating in the Priory Tavern this week, but I certainly didn’t have a hangover. I began to ponder on how working in schools, with their regimented days, lessons controlled by the sounding of bells, specific time slots for this and that, has left me with awesome control over my bodily functions. I am suddenly shaken from my meanderings as the door swings open and a tall, thin, elegantly-dressed, rather stern looking man wearing rimless spectacles enters.

‘Oh bloody hell! I’ve been rumbled’.  It’s only bloody Nick Serota: Director of the Tate Gallery.

‘It wasn’t our fault, the Education guide said ‘Kick it back…’ I almost blurted out. Much to my surprise, Serota studiously ignores me until he becomes conscious of my prolonged stare. I quickly avert my gaze – I don’t want him to recognise me. Surely the incident has been reported by now?  Starting to panic now, I become conscious of (how can I put it?) the ‘robustness’ of my flow.  I don’t want to draw attention to myself. With my escape route in mind, I begin to try and locate the hand driers. I look right. As luck, or bad fortune (you decide) decrees it, it is precisely at this point that ‘Saint’ Nick decides he has banked his deposit and in turning – as a result of his height – see  his Turner Prize occupying rather too much space in my immediate line of sight.

Whereupon he gives me a look that resembles a slapped arse, re-adjusts his dress, washes and dries his hands. He says nothing, but on his way out fires me another look which seems to suggest that my copious offering is the last straw in a series of events which will ultimately see the closure of the Tate and the sale of all its work to the highest bidder, while he has to stretch Jobseekers Allowance more than somewhat to keep himself in the style to which he has become accustomed.

‘Phew! He’s gone’.

Like I said working in schools has left me with awesome control over my bodily functions .

Now…. Kids, bus and home!

I must say, I spent a nervous couple weeks, half expecting a letter to delivered to me from the Tate’s lawyers, Withers, Linklaters, Brachers requesting the prompt payment of a cool $100,000 to cover the cost of repairs. And then I forgot all about it.

But every time I see ‘The Three Dancers’ ….

Kick Kwiz Answers:

In Picasso’s case, the picture comes from what is commonly referred to as his ‘Blue’ period, during which he painted gloomy, sometimes rather pat – looking scenes of poverty and misery. Paintings are usually monochrome: constructed from a range of blue, blue/green and blue/violet tones. Blue being a colour, which in the West has become symbolic of suffering.  Fra Angelico on the other hand uses his ultramarine blue, derived from Lapis Lazuli, pound for pound more expensive than gold, to denote the importance of Mary and the significance of the event.

So now you know!

(Tate storage  Photograph: David Levene)

© Andy Daly  2010

One Size Fits All Joke

I thought you might like to amuse yourselves with this ‘One Size Fits All’ joke, while you wait patiently for ‘Getting A Kick Out Of Picasso’.

Instructions: Say the following (preferably to an audience)

“Hey, this pasta isn’t ‘al dente’ … ” Then add punchline provided … “Its Al Pacino”

It may work best if you can use it in some stereotypical Italian/pasta context, but this is not essential. Give it a try yourself, now. First-timers, take  it slowly. It’s trickier than it looks. Remember that the key to greatiming comedy is.

All done? Wonderful. Now below is your introductory set of punchlines. Use them as you see best: where you think they will get the most laughs.

Or, don’t use them at all. Think of your own punchlines. It’s even more fun

“Hey, this pasta isn’t ‘al dente’ It’s:

Al Jolson    Al Gore    Al Murray     al-Qa’ida    Aldi

Alcoholics Anonymous    Al Green (‘Let me say that si-i-i-ince, since we’ve been together…etc’)

Al day and al of the night    Al Jancovic (Man is he weird)    Alabama

Al Di Meola    Ali float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee    Ali Baba and his 40 corrupt British Politicians

Al Capone (‘guns don’t argue …’)    Aluminium    Al get that later

Bollocks to this I’m off to bed.

If You Only Ever Read One Book

The Father I Had 

by Martin Townsend

Bantam Press 2007  

If you only ever read one book in your life …

… Make sure it is this one.    

It’s a gem, which tells the  story of the Townsend family and in particular the relationship between eldest son, Martin and his Bi-Polar/Manic-Depressive father. Achingly sad, but genuinely very funny in places, it tackles the issue of living with a person who has mental health difficulties and the impact that this has on family life, head-on.  

Not quite the mindless holiday reading you were hoping for? Do yourself a favour, put down the Danielle Steel and give this a go. It will take you – I almost said …’on a roller-coaster emotional ride’ which, apart from being an awful cliché, suggests something which is much less subtle: faster, noiser, hysterical. No,…this book will take you on an emotional voyage that I guarantee you will not forget in a hurry; and is moreover, one from which you will return with a greater understanding of the strength of the Human Spirit, its resilience and capacity for love.  

“The Father I Had” allows you the priviledge of  a window into the life of a remarkable family. Its daily battles with ignorance, prejudice, often, an intransigent Heath Service; and most poignant of all its attempts to be as normal a family as possible are all thrown into sharp focus via Townsend’s writing. You share the family’s happinesses, their laughter and their pride, just as keenly as you feel their sorrows, sometimes despair, but never hoplessness at their predicament. All set against the backdrop of North West London in the 60s, 70s and 80s which is painted, it must be said with unnerving accuracy and a keen eye (and ear) for the sort of detail which will strike a chord with those who lived through the same period.  

Don’t be put off. This is not some doomy tome which will end its days stopping the kitchen door or propping the window with the broken sash. Far from it, for despite its uncompromising subject, I believe Townsend’s book will leave you uplifted, and enlightened and maybe – as it did me – cause you to look at relationships in your own life from an altogether different perspective.

© Andy Daly  2010 (Originally posted in July 2009)

Double Brainfreeze

You know Brainfreeze? It’s that awful feeling when you’ve got something cold
in your mouth which seems to go right through your fillings. I’m assuming you
have some. If not you are a jammy so-and-so. Perfectly healthy teeth are but the vaguest of memories for me, probably the result of a minor addiction to Liquorice Allsorts  or more likely being too drunk or incapable of being in possession of a toothbrush. I get excessively envious of those who don’t have a mouthful of mercury and other toxic metals or resins.

Well, anyway, Brainfreeze sends the raw nerves behind those unsightly
nuggets of amalgam a-jingling and
a-jangling right up through your jaw and into your head, send your brain
into a maddening tailspin until you can put up with it no more and have to
jetison the the offending source of cold, or if it is small enough, swallow.
it. It’s great fun watching the facial contortions of afflicted
unfortunates.

Not so cool if it’s you, though …

Well I had double brainfreeze the other day. I had  a FAB ice lolly (As in
“F. A. B. Virgil” / Thunderbirds) In fact, those of you who
want to kill two birds with one stone and experience a bit of childhood TV
nostalgia, along with the kind of refreshment experience that can only be
offered by a drink on a stick, would do well to try a FAB. Just be careful
where you consume it: because as I was about to say, we’ve just had oak flooring put
down. I am guzzling my FAB more than somewhat, when horror of horrors the
top half breaks off in my mouth. I stand in the centre of the living room: a
sea of newly-laid oak around me as far as the eye can see. Nowhere, but nowhere to
jetison/spit/or otherwise get rid of this particular slab of frozen
hell in my mouth.

I experience what seems like an eternity of agony, I reckon something
equivalent to 5 minutes of having all my original  drilling operations
performed at once – without the anesthetic this time or sitting through a debate in the London  Assembly: it’s about the same really, until I could finally
chomp up the chunk of now not-so- FAB and swallow it, just before passing out.

See? Double Brainfreeze. I have warned you.

© Andy Daly  2010

Irony

In the early years of the nineteenth century, extensive deposits of Irony were found all over Cumberland and Westmoreland (present day Cumbria) Within a few years, the large scale production of irony was in full swing and continued  throughout the course of the 1800s. It is something we tend to forget when we gaze over beautifully rugged landscapes of the English Lake District – the fact that hundreds of years ago some of these mountains and valleys were heavily industrialised. After the total decline of  irony mining  during the 1870s /80s, which, when it came, was the result of the gradual depletion of the bigger, older workings and was hastened by the availablity of cheap irony on the world market, the Cumbrian landscape went through further change, as populations shifted, works and dwellings were demolished. It is against this backdrop that our story starts and finishes in 1977.

For it was in that year that My Dad and I went for a drink to a pub called the Lowther Arms at Scilly Banks, near Whitehaven, Cumbria. Nothing unusual about that; especially in this part of the world, where every second pub seemed to be called the Lowther Arms, after the Lowther family, the Earls of Lonsdale.

No, what was unusual about this was it was the smallest pub I’d ever been in, and although only seventeen I’d been in a few. The Lowther Arms was basically a ‘two up, two down’ miner’s cottage very typical of this formerly industrialised area of the West Lakes. Small towns built to house the Irony industry’s workforce like Frizington, Arlecdon, Rowrah – (some of them no more than villages or hamlets really)  often consist of  a single row of terraced cottages – no ‘other side of the street’ to look out on. Instead, they stand, almost defiantly ‘staring out’ the bleak mountains of this less fashionable part of the Lake District.

Formerly the Lowther Arms (with the red door)

In our tiny public house (now, incidentally run as a holiday cottage) the beer was served directly from the kitchen, where the pints were pulled and placed onto a rudimentary bar. There was a till. The bar also created a partition between the kitchen and the hall. The front room, to give you some idea of scale, was roughly the size of a front room and served as ‘Public  Bar’. It was furnished with bench seats which ran round almost all of the wall space and a couple of tables each with two pairs of chairs. After that, there wasn’t space for much else – apart from the drinkers. And it was packed. Fifteen people. You can imagine the noise.

You collected your drinks from the bar/kitchen. Being such a small establishment, there wasn’t a lot of choice. If you didn’t like the ale or gin and tonic then you were out of luck, because there wasn’t much else. Otherwise, your drinks were brought to you at your seats by the lovely, but painfully slow septuagenarian hostess. Parched and dry, you sat patiently, eagerly willing the aged barmaid, hip joints creaking and groaning, to make it in one piece; while your pint glasses slid drunkenly from one end of the tray to the other as she negotiated her way: past sleeping dogs, coal scuttles, logs of wood and other drinkers.

It was a fascinating place, made all the more so by a couple of old ‘gadgies’* Bill and Ted, we got chatting to. Typically, my Dad initiated conversation so smoothly that I assumed he had met them before. He is a master at this. He hadn’t. Met them I mean. The two men, I guess in their mid70’s, were local born and bred and had accents you could cut with a knife. I listened hard. I didn’t contribute much – if at all, for I needed all my concentration to unpick the accent and figure out what the more unusual dialect might mean (a lot of it I simply couldn’t get) Anyway, basically it turned out that the pair: Bill born in Arlecdon, six or so miles east as the crow flies, and Ted in Pica, about three and a half miles more or less north, (That will more or less do, particularly if your crow happens to have Sat Nav)  had met in the late ‘20s working at the Crowgarth mine in Cleator Moor, some four miles or so from the pub. They told us the true story of when irony ruled supreme.

Arlecdon and beyond to Ennerdale

Rowrah, towards Arlecdon and the North Sea

Crowgarth was an early starter in the great ‘Irony Boom’ It was opened in 1753 with capital raised by Whitehaven merchants in the Virginian tobacco trade. Of the principal bodies, which constituted just over about half the irony deposits in Cumbria, and typified most of those worked at Crowgarth, the majority occurred in large flats and although subject to earth moving and faulting generally meant easily worked, profitable sites, which were just as easily exhausted.

 

Montreal Mine, Cleator Moor before closure 1934                                   

    Coronation Pit

  

The characteristics  typical of the highest grade Cumbrian deposits were their Socratic seams and  richness  in verbal irony;  a result of their slow evolution over a long period of time and exposure to a variety of influences:  most importantly, Celtic, Norman and above all, Norse. You only have to listen to the Cumbrian accent and dialect to know that. In fact, during the Second World War a certain Harold Manning, a Flookburgh man was posted to Iceland (Is  it just me, or wasn’t almost everybody else being sent in the opposite direction? to France, Italy, the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia etc ?) Anyway, old Harold found that as well as having unlimited access to Black Forest Gateaux, mini Raspberry Pavlovas and Petit Fours, his Cumbrian accent,dialect and claims to have come ‘without any money [pennies]’ (félaus um peninga ) were understood by the Icelanders without any problem. Indeed,the Icelandic Sagas, which date from the twelfth century and recount tales of the tenth and eleventh reveal a strong connection in their terse style, yet well developed sense of irony and humour.

Illustrated manuscript of an Icelandic Saga: (‘Eat or you shall be put to the sword’ ‘No! No more chicken Goujons!’)

 As competition in the industry reached fever pitch towards the second half of the nineteenth century, there came the discovery of quite considerable irregular deposits at Crowgarth as at a number of other sites of a baser, harsh  irony often difficult to extract. This was thick with mockery, sarcasm, incongruity. Situational: not subtle at all. The local folk didn’t know what to do with it: had no use for it. Quite unsuitable for home consumption. As a result, the burgeoning Cumbrian mining companies  began to look further afield.  And sure enough they found that indeed, an eager market awaited ….  in the United States. And so, hewn from the mountains and hillsides of the West Lakes, the Irony made its way from the mines such as Crowgarth, Montreal, Crossfield, Jacktrees and Todholes by rail to the ports of Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport. From where it crossed the Atlantic: thousands of tons at a time to fuel what was to become the nascent great American popular culture and entertainment machine.

 In fact, some of it is still in use today. Tune in to ‘Family Guy’ ‘South Park’ or ‘American Dad’ and you’ll see what I mean.

Family Guy (Yeah, I hate  you too, Stewie)

Ironically (there we go…) By the time our two companions in the Lowther Arms met each other at Crowgarth the ‘Irony Boom’ was well and truly over. The Cumbrian Klondike was nought but a mere memory. The irony got harder and harder to extract, became more and more uneconomical such that by the Second World War, Crowgarth was on its last legs and by 1948 it was abandoned.

Amazing to think that such heavy industrialisation, was just a stone’s throw away from some of the most spectacular natural landscapes, hillwalking and climbing in the world. Take Ennerdale for example – less than ten miles away! My Dad had begun waxing lyrical about his beloved Lake District

  Ennerdale Water from above Pillar

He has walked, climbed and camped on every inch of it since he was a boy and knows it like the back of his hand, (or should that be sole of his foot?) He is not a ‘Crag-rat’ (the locals’ derogatory term for the weekend hiker) – you know the type: ludicrously over-prepared for the outing: layers of fleeces and waterproofs, each pocket stuffed with Kendal Mintcake, OS map in one hand; copy of Wainwright in the other: ‘Now it says here … Yes, …  let me see, … that if  you cross the stile here … Looks like that’s the one, then go immediately right along the dry stone wall, you can have a dump without being seen from the footpath. Look! He’s even done a little drawing. Cool!’

Ennerdale

Or his recklessly under-prepared cousin, with cap-sleeved T shirt (vest if it’s cold) pair of tight fitting jeans  and  flourescent rubber beach sandals. Map engraved into the silver paper from a ciggie packet, two Snickers bars in his back pocket and a rucksack full of tins of beer.

No, my Dad is an expert: he doesn’t need to look at a map. He knows where he’s going. Treat the Lakes with respect and they will do likewise – and they do, because they know his passion is genuine. As a kid I would – as I would now – follow him to the ends of the earth and never once feel the need to look up to check we were going in the right direction.

‘Ehhhhhh?…’ pipes up Ted, rousing us from our reveries of cool, sweet-tasting mountain streams, hillsides thick with bracken, the colour of the heather, and the comforting smell of woodsmoke at day’s end …. ‘Ehhhhhh?…’he repeats. His mood has changed; it’s as if what my Dad has just said has revealed us as imposters.

‘Ahhh.. I dunno what all the fuss is about’ he continues, and in a comment which echoes in my ears still, made as it was without the slightest trace of  irony in his voice, he says: ‘People are always going on and on about Ennerdale. I dunno what all the fuss is about. I was born in Pica – lived all my life there. I’ve never even been to Ennerdale. Why should I? It’s only a bit of water and some hills. Too many trippers too, and ‘Crag Rats’,  roads are a bloody nightmare in the summer ….’

My eyes were begining to glaze over now. I wondered did the poorly paid, exploited people who faced the brutal conditions that they did to extract raw irony all those years ago, really understand importance of what they were doing? Or appreciate the potency of the fruit of their labours, its potential, had they realised it, to improve their lives imeasureably and the importance of its role in the development of  British culture, national identity and humour in the twentieth Century?

There again, if they were like Ted, and in 70 – odd years not even bother to drag their arses less than a dozen miles or so to ‘See what all the fuss is about’ they probably weren’t all that bothered about irony. ‘S’pose it went to all those posh folk in Manchester, London and abroad’ volunteered, Bill. After which, signs of natural curiosity began to falter. And who am I to criticise?

Check the map to see the sort of distances we’re talking about

*Gadgies – Old Men

Pic Credits: 3, 4, 11: Simon ledingham 10, Roger Savage

© Andy Daly  2010

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, Pirtek 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.

In this damp, but sunny eccentric house which 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 – 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

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

Timeless Classics presents ‘Gas Man’s Crack’ and ‘Gas Man’s Crack Revisited’

Gas Man’s Crack

I give this to you as an example of the surreal world I currently inhabit.

 The gas suppliers are updating and replacing pipework to houses in the area. (The builders are all in the kitchen incidentally). A few seconds ago I am sitting here at the pc (from  which you can see the understairs cupboard – this houses the meter, supplied by the  pipe which enters the property, running beneath the front door )

 Without a word of introduction, tap on the door or ring of  the bell, a young, slightly porky superviser (he obviously hasn’t seen me) has entered the house and bent down to inspect the pipe – giving me a front row view of his hairy backside!… God give me strength!

 Oh  Fuck! Now the electrician and ‘Clumsy Tony’ have arrived… Must dash and get anything breakable out of  his path.

(Originally posted 07/01/09)

© Andy Daly  2009

‘Gas Man’s Crack (Revisited)’

It’s certainly very comforting to know that the water companies take the issue of water leaks as seriously as they say they do. They (‘Three Valleys Water’) have come today to fix the leak outside our house. It’s not much of a leak: it leaves a long ‘pond’ in the gutter from its source, somewhere under the pavement as far as the next drain in front of our neighbour’s house – about 20 feet. But it is a leak, nevertheless. I reported it when I first spotted it shortly after building work on the extension began (Not that I hold the builder in any way responsible. Far from it: he was quite meticulous about making sure that no loads were parked on the pavement or on our block paving in such a way as they might risk causing damage)

 Well, that was late September/early October.

 It is now …  let me see … Ah yes! …  

 It is now May. Eight months and two calls to the Three Valleys Water ‘Leakspotter line’ later, they turn up to fix my leak, proceeding to interrupt me every 10 minutes to tell me what they are going to do next.

 I couldn’t care less!

It’s not my leak! It’s theirs! I was only being public-spirited in an attempt to avoid wastage of a valuable  resource. (Although, as it finds its own way to a drain, I am assuming it gets incorporated into the system/cycle again: or is this being stupidly naive and uniformed?) Other than that, I don’t want to know. They are not doing me any favours. In fact, my suspicions are that quite the opposite: it is going to cause considerable inconvenience …

And so: what’s the first thing these dopey fuckers do? That’s right! They cut the gas pipe by mistake. Now I’m no expert on the sphagetti that lives beneath our feet, but I would imagine a gas pipe, especially one laid as recently as ours, would be fairly clearly marked. But then what do I know?

Yes! … yes! the pipe so lovingly laid on that miserable freezing friday back in December by the gang of villains, rogues, ex-cons, headcases, gypsies, tramps and thieves that were The Transco Pipelayers (See ‘Gas Man’s Crack’) In fact, I’d have paid good money to have  had a couple of them here this afternoon – the cocky ‘Chirpy Cock-er-nee Sparrer’ foreman, his cap always at an outrageously jaunty angle, and the fitter with one eye and cauliflower ears, for instance; secretly watching the hapless Three Valleys gang making such a dog’s dinner of their handiwork. Then the ‘Transco Tag-team’ chewing them up and spitting them out all down Woodlands Avenue as they head back for the M25 and Kent (which is where they came from every day, believe it or not) in the Friday afternoon traffic.

 Speaking of which … Ha!  I notice that the Three Valleys Water gang omitted to come to the door and inform me of this particular piece of information … As I write, at 2:40pm, Friday their van kicks into life and before you can say ‘Three Valleys Leakspotter Line’ they’ve fucked off for the weekend, leaving a ten foot deep, flooded  hole in front of our drive. It is debateable whether we’ll be able to get the car out.

Still, for no extra charge, I got to watch the four-strong Three Valley’s team stand around and look blankly as the British Gas pair made good their pipe, while thankfully (and perhaps most importantly) you will be pleased to know that I was not treated to any kind of improptu dispay of the gas inspector’s nether regions as he checked the supply.

 Thank Christ for that!

 I await developments next week with utter indifference,

Incidentally, I’m sure you’ll be tickled pink to know that although the builders are no more, their presence is nonetheless felt almost daily in what has become the most tortuous and truly surreal stage of the works. In case you’ve forgotten (I know you couldn’t give a shit, but I’m going to tell you anyway) we’ve had:

  1. Design and planning: (That was the bit on the back of the fag packet)
  2. Enabling Works: Site preparation (Caterpillar and Dumper truck speed trials: All comers)
  3. Footings (during which our builder seemed to have cornered the world market in pre-mixed concrete. It looked at one stage as if he had confused our plans (fag packet) with those for a personal nuclear fallout shelter (9oz. Old Shag Rolling Tobacco packet) This is the last time next door’s cat was seen alive.
  4. Block and Brickwork: (Respect. Be in awe. We are not worthy etc.)
  5. Roofing: (Which nobody notices unless something or somebody falls off it)
  6. Knocking Through: (Severe trauma. Best forgotten about)
  7. Internal walls and plastering: (Forget the brickies! RESPECT, BE IN AWE, WE ARE NOT WORTHY etc.
  8. First Fix: (You didn’t want it here? What makes you think you have a choice?)
  9. Snagging: ( “There’s just a few minor bits and bobs … Shall we start with the roof? “Sure …. Where?” “Well … All of it … “)

(Originally posted 05/05/09)

Andy Daly  2009

‘Timeless Classics’ present Double Brainfreeze

You know Brainfreeze? It’s that awful feeling when you’ve got something cold
in your mouth which seems to go right through your fillings. I’m assuming you
have some. If not you are a jammy so-and-so. Perfectly healthy teeth are but the vaguest of memories for me, probably the result of a minor addiction to Liquorice Allsorts  or more likely being too drunk or incapable to be in possession of a toothbrush. I get excessively envious of those who don’t have a mouthful of mercury and other toxic metals or resins.

Well, anyway, Brainfreeze sends the raw nerves behind those unsightly
nuggets of amalgam a-jingling and
a-jangling right up through your jaw and into your head, send your brain
into a maddening tailspin until you can put up with it no more and have to
jetison the the offending source of cold, or if it is small enough, swallow
it. It’s great fun watching the facial contortions of afflicted
unfortunates.

Not so cool if it’s you, though …

Well I had double brainfreeze the other day. I had  a FAB ice lolly (As in
“F. A. B. Virgil” You remember! … Thunderbirds) In fact, those of you who
want to kill two birds with one stone and experience a bit of childhood TV
nostalgia, along with the kind of refreshment experience that can only be
offered by a drink on a stick, would do well to try a FAB. Just be careful
where you consume it: because as I was about to say, we’ve just had oak flooring put
down. I am guzzling my FAB more than somewhat, when horror of horrors the
top half breaks off in my mouth. I stand in the centre of the living room: a
sea of oak around me as far as the eye can see. Nowhere, but nowhere to
jetison/spit/or otherwise get rid of this particular slab of frozen-over
Hell in my mouth, let alone dribble or drip!

I experience what seems like an eternity of agony, I reckon something
equivalent to 5 minutes of having all my original  drilling operations
performed at once – without the anesthetic this time or sitting through a debate in the London  Assembly: it’s about the same really, until I could finally
chomp up the chunk of now not-so- FAB and swallow it, just before passing out.

See? Double Brainfreeze. I have warned you.

© Andy Daly  2010