Did You Know?

Guess where I am going to?
I’ll give you a clue. It begins with ‘H’.
Hell?
No, but you are close.
Of course, it’s Hospital!
This time the surreal nonsense begins in the cab. The driver furnishes me with all manner of interesting facts. Such as:
“Did you know the human body can live for 40 days without water?”
“Really?”
“Or is it food? Yeah, must be food….”
“Well, I suppose, if Jesus did it ….”
“Did he? He done all that then?”
“Well, according to the Bible, 40 days and 40 nights in the desert …”
“That must be Lent then? When you give up chocolate? Just imagine 40 days and 40 nights without chocolate. It’s a good job Easter falls when it does”.

It's just as well Easter falls when id does: Chocolate Jesus

It’s just as well Easter falls when it does: Chocolate Jesus

 

© Andy Daly 2014

 

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On The Edge Of Memory

IMG_0751

Skiing a parallel turn.
Walking without having to think about it.
The smell of our new born babies.
My Great Grandmother’s kitchen.
Having a good criac in the pub with friends.
Teaching a class of children.
My first bike.
Playing football.
Draught Boddingtons Bitter Beer.
The taste of Stimarol chewing gum.
My Taekwondo patterns.
Changing a set of brake pads.
Carrying our two beautiful boys.

© Andy Daly 2014

Posted in Parkinson's, Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Letter

letter

“Dear Alex (she had written) Sunday was so sad. It nearly broke my heart.
I don’t know how I walked away. I thought I was being strong.”
I look at the envelope, postmark London NW 2. I stare at the familiar looping script on the crisp white notepaper, and read on.
“I phoned you because I wanted very much to talk to you and find out your plans. I realise now that I shouldn’t have done. Just as I shouldn’t have sent the text or come to see you on Sunday. I thought it would help things, but I realise it was being very ,very selfish. All along I know I have been very, very selfish.”
I reach into the top cupboard and take down a bottle of Becks, holding the letter in my mouth as I open the beer and resume reading.
“I can only ask you to forgive me for the way I’ve behaved. I don’t deserve it. Believe me this really is all my fault. I wouldn’t blame you if you never wanted to speak to me again. All along you have been so reasonable I can’t believe it. You really have been marvellous. A saint. This only made me feel worse, and behave more unreasonably myself. It is not your fault Alex. It isn’t. It’s me. I did it. I thought that by choosing Kevin I was doing the right thing for all sorts of reasons.”
I take a good slug from the beer. It tastes metallic in my mouth, but I can feel the familiar comfortable glow as it hits my empty stomach. I grab the bottle and with my free hand holding the letter now push open the door to the front room and walk in.
“The thing that really confuses me about all of this is that I don’t know what I want. The fact that I can’t make up my mind means I believe that something is wrong. I still don’t know what it is.”
I sit down in one of the chairs and take another swig of the beer.
“You were right when you said that you thought I had got myself in so deep I didn’t know what to do. Things happened so quickly that I lost control over events. Believe me I wanted to tell you so much, but I felt that there was so much else to sort out in our relationship that it would just be the final straw. I thought you would go mad, walk out. I misjudged you then and I know I did you a grave misservice; but can you understand that – thinking that way? I couldn’t tell you because I didn’t feel ready or prepared to lose you.”
I put my feet up on the table and light a cigarette. I take a deep pull on it and exhale the thick smoke through my nose and mouth.
“So many times I looked at you and thought ‘What am I doing? I can’t bear to lose you.’ I did think it might all blow over, but it didn’t. In a way it is because it was a less sure choice. I knew if we stayed together it would have top be 200% commitment and sureness. Compared with that Kevin was just a prospective relationship with all the usual sorts of reservations and uncertainties.Less demanding I suppose.”
Cigarette In hand, I pick a stray bit of tobacco from my tongue.
“He used to ask me what you had that he didn’t. I tried to explain how special it was, but I don’t think he realised. I know he’s never had a first love so I didn’t expect him to. You’ve still got a part of me that no-one will ever have.”
Smoke eddies from the tip of my cigarette.
“I did think that once I’d decided something I’d be happy. But I wasn’t and I’m not. I just feel lost and displaced. I suppose that this is a natural reaction when someone who has been there for so long suddenly isn’t.”
I take another long pull at the Becks and find myself snorting quietly
“I never expected Kevin to replace you though. I knew no-one else would. All the things I said on Sunday were true. I still love you very much. I miss you. Nothing is the same. Please forgive me Alex, I don’t trust myself any more, or anything I feel or decide. I am trying to do what’s for the best even if I’m wrong.
I will always love you.
Ruby XX”
I realise that it is starting to get dark, so I get up and turn the light on. I screw the letter up, take a last deep drag of my cigarette and stub it out on the ball of paper, I walk through to the kitchen, drain my Becks and throw everything into the bin.
Now the real question is do I have time for a soak in the bath before I go and pick up Juliette? We are going into town tonight to the cinema.
I think I can manage it.

© 2014 Andy Daly

(Another Story written for my Short Story Writing course)

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Crafty Bugger

We used to make some shite in our Craft lessons at school didn’t we?

lollystick fruit bowl (executive model with posh base)

lollystick fruit bowl (executive model with posh base)

I once spent a whole half a term glueing lolly sticks together to create a fruit bowl. Other equally spectacular outcomes were a copper ‘matchbox protector’ (why?), and an orange plastic lampshade. Our bemused expressions on being asked to make them, only matched by those of our parents when we took them home at the end of term. Of course this was in the ‘70s, when you could get away with crap lessons like that, and an orange plastic lampshade didn’t look too hideously out of place in the average sitting room.

Lovely!

Lovely!

Let’s face it; most craftrooms back then were an irresistable treasure trove of exotica to be nicked and fucked about with. The tools! Lathes, drills, buffing machines, chisels, saws. The possibilities for causing death or serious injury were endless. Every time the teacher left the room (which was almost all the lesson in some cases) we would let fly. Pieces of wood, tools, metal, peoples’ ‘Jobs’ (as our work was quaintly known) would be pelted across the classroom. How the fuck we didn’t end up getting cut to ribbons I’ll never know.
All gone now of course. Replaced by the sober workbench and ubiquitous network of PCs. And Technology
All of which reminds me of a story told to me by a teacher freind of mine. She worked at Chantry, a special school for ‘maladjusted’ children as it was known then. She had a particularly difficult group who were almost impossible to get settled and concentrating on anything. That was until she introduced them to a bit of sewing or perhaps more correctly, needlework.

For miracle of miracles; when she got out the sewing kit and once they had got bored with trying to jab each other, they simmered down and got into some learning some basic techniques.
Well, it was into one of these lessons one jolly morning that a school inspector (This was pre-OFSTED) purposefully strode and took up her position to observe the lesson. Apart from making ‘V’ signs behind her back, the kids completely ignored the visitor. Meanwhile, the teacher explained to the students what they had to do, and they got started.

A relative calm descended. The teacher went around, helping out. As she did so Mrs. Inspector takes it upon herself to poke around and give the students the benefit of her expertise. She stood and looked for a long time over the shoulder of one of the boys, which had the visitor even the slightest awareness of body language and the intimate classroom dynamics of such a teaching situation is the boy she would have made a point of steering well clear of.
“Oh no no no!” said the inspector. Silence. The students looked from one to another, open-mouthed.
“Oh no no no! That won’t do. That bit there. It isn’t straight .” You could hear a pin drop.
Without looking up the boy replied: “Yeah? Well you’ve got a fucking big nose, but I wasn’t gonna say nothing”

As it happens the Inspector turned out to be the sister of one of this county’s great female sporting legends.
And she’s got a fucking big nose too.

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HORNETS’ NEST

Well, I promised to keep you posted about my progress (or lack of) on the short story writing course I’m doing. Here’s my first attempt.

Contains language and some scenes which some readers might find upsetting. May not be suitable for those of a nervous disposition

 I took an instant dislike to Major Christian Haslam at our first meeting. A ‘rising star’ in the Grenadier  Guards, he was 32 or thereabouts with one of those smug faces, straight out of the shallow end of the gene pool and an expensive accent to match.

He was the driving force behind the British Army’s new tactical strategy in Sangin and the surrounding area. Operation ‘Front Foot’ he called it. He felt the area had been quiet for too long. What was needed, he said without a hint of irony, was for the British forces to be on the ‘Front Foot’ and take the fight to the Taliban; shatter the calm. For the troops in Helmand province, the ‘Front Foot’ was what was likely to get them reduced to ‘pink mist’ or to life as a multiple amputee.

soldier

Today, I have the pleasure of Haslam’s company as he interviews Corporal Bailey of 3 platoon. On their first tour of Afghan and with an average age of nineteen, the platoon found themselves at the business end of ‘Front Foot’. Their first day ended with Private Steven Finch killed and Bailey wounded. I am there in the capacity of witness/notetaker.

It is hot and sticky, the atmosphere, heavy. Haslam looks irritable as he enters the compound. He dispenses with pleasantries.

“There’s a shit storm brewing over this in the media back home” he rants. “The mother is claiming that Finch’s life could have been saved, that the MOD is covering up.”

I call Corporal Bailey. A tall, wiry unshaven man, he sits on the compound floor, after first saluting his senior officer.  Haslam perches on the corner of some ammuniton boxes. He fixes Bailey with his startling green eyes.

“Now Corporal Bailey, I presume you know what this about?”

“Sir” He mumbles.

“We just want to get a clear picture of what happened on the patrol which led to Finch’s fatal injury and your wound”

“Sir”

Bailey describes how the two platoons formed up in the wadi outside the compound at dawn. Then carried out their orders which were to clear their section of town of insurgents, weapons and IEDs, then make their way to a known Taliban stronghold where 1 platoon would attempt to provoke an engagement with the enemy. Bailey and Private Finch were at the front of the section, Finch acting as Point Man.

“We walked out of an alleyway and into a sort of orchard, when we see five fucking Taliban with weapons, ammo belts, everything, right in front of us. Without thinking, Finch and me open up and drop them. As soon as we do, we come under massive fucking fire. A wall of lead. We’re pinned down. After about two or three minutes I think “I’ve fucking had enough of this” and throw a grenade over the wall where most of the fire is coming from, so we can pull back. Then Finch looks at me and says

“Billy I’m hit”

And he falls at my feet. Well, I thought this is starting to get fucking serious. This is really happening.”

“And so what happens next?”

“I shout ‘Man down, man down!’”

“And then what”

“I pick up Finch’s machine gun and spray the area while Woodward the Medic assesses his wound; then Sargeant Gregg comes running down the alley. “Where is he? Where is he?”  He’s shouting.

“That’s when I get hit when a round grazes my shoulder.”

“Go on.”

“We’re still under fire. Sergeant Gregg organises a stretcher party. They were using a hammock and Finch kept falling off. We’d never practised using one before. The straps were trailing on the ground and the boys kept tripping over them. Sargeant Gregg was screaming at them. It was a bloody nightmare.”

“And in your opinion, was the casualty still alive at that point”

“Yes Sir. I remember Woodward saying he had a pulse, it was shallow and weak but he was definitely alive. They took him all the way back up the alley and across the ground we had cleared earlier to the compound”

“Now this is what I don’t understand.” Said Haslam “You took the casualty back to the compound and requested MedeVac from there. Why? Why was it left another … what was it? ten minutes to make the call? Why didn’t you make the call straight away?”

“The radio wasn’t working, Sir”

“What?”

“The fire control radio wasn’t working Sir. The antenna was broken. We had been waiting a week for a replacement.We had to rely on the Bowman radio Sir, and we were in a flatspot. We kept losing the signal. “

“Jesus Christ! So you had no Comms? Was your commanding officer aware of this?”

“Yes Sir”

“And the casualty died on the way to Bastion – you were with him?”

“Yes Sir”

“Bailey, under no circumstances do you mention any of this without consulting me first. Is that understood?”

Bailey scuffed the dry earth with his boots, and for the first time raised his eyes to meet Haslam’s.

“Bit late for that Sir. “

“Why is that?”

“I rang his Mum”

“You’ve spoken to the Mother?” Hissed Haslam suddenly, all the colour was drained from his face.

“Yes sir. I know his family well. I stay round there sometimes when I’m on leave. I’m going out with his sister”

“And what did you tell them?”

“Everything.”

“Oh Jesus.”  Haslam’s head drops and he begins to rub the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.

There is a dead silence.

“Okay .That will be all Corporal” I dismiss Bailey.

“Sir”

Haslam rounds on me. “I’m going to get hauled over the fucking coals for this. A grieving mother all over the papers and TV, and then there will be an inquest which will want to know why the MOD lied when it said her son died instantly, why she was told his wounds were ‘not surviveable’, why vital communications equipment was not working, why it took so long to get him out. Oh God what a mess.”

afghan

The following morning 3 platoon takes delivery of a replacement radio antenna. Then at about 10am we get the news that on Route 611 the Taliban have detonated a huge roadside bomb. I wonder whether Haslam has got through safely.

I find myself recalling his parting words the day before:

“When will people wake up and realise that this is a war, people get killed. It happens”

© Andy Daly 2014

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City Lit Tit Bit

Well, after over 200 blog posts, I’ve decided it’s about time to learn to write. So I’ve enrolled on a course at City Lit. Starts on monday. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here’s one from the archive.

DOUBLE DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER: TWO ROYAL WEDDINGS

Well, by my calculations, as I write this the Royal Party at Clarence House should be just starting the last chorus of ‘Hi-ho Silver Lining’. For some unfathomable reason, this dreary, non-descript, infernal embodiment of crap as vinyl, courtesy of Jeff Beck, has come to signal ‘time’ for the revellers in discos, clubs and bars all over the Western world.

‘Hi-ho Silver Lining’ means, there’s one more song – the ‘slowie’ before lights up. So if you’re not already draped over some one of the opposite sex, or for that matter someone of the same sex, and vaguely interested – and you don’t want to leave alone, then you had better get a move on.

Through the spinning laser lights and the palls of dry ice which still hang in the air from The ViIlage People’s ‘YMCA’ I can just make out Prince Harry lining up for a final approach on Kate Middleton’s sister, Pippa,  presumably building on the not inconspicuous ‘groundwork’ he had started on the balcony at Buckingham Palace –or possibly even before. He is a brave man if this is so, for his girlfriend Chelsy Davy  is well known for her fierce temper. Never mind, if it goes belly-up he’s still got his bacon-butties at dawn extravaganza to look forward to. I have it on good authority that he has arranged for a ‘first-light fried breakfast pick-me–up’ for all those of the Royal Party still on their feet. He sounds like good company over a few beers.

‘Psssst! Fancy a drink later?’

As far as the run-up to this ‘spectacle of Pomp, Pageantry  was concerned, I am afraid to say The Royal Wedding barely registered a reading on my ‘Interest-ometer’. Throughout the preceeding two weeks it fluctuated between indifference and mild irritation. However, little by little as the morning has progressed, I have found myself getting ineluctably drawn into the watching of  the television coverage of the event; and it isn’t long before I get to reminicing … reminicsing … reminiscing (which is a lot easier to do than it is to spell) about    another Royal Wedding many, years ago; and where I watched it from. In fact, it was Harry’s mum’s wedding. Lady Diana Spencer.

I had been indifferent to that too, The hullabaloo and media conjecture over this, that and the other largely going right over my head. Although, it did register with me – a little uncomfortably it has to be said – that we were soon to have a Royal that people actually fancied: a strange new concept.

We, (that is to say me and My Best Mate Aky) had resolutely decided to have nothing to do with it. We would gratefully accept the Bank Holiday thankyouverymuch but there would be no queuing at dawn on our part, no unseemly rush to grab a vantage point on the Mall, no straining of necks to get a better view of ‘The Dress’. No Sir!

I was too hungover on the morning of July 29 1981, for the irony of the situation to fully hit home as we (that is to say me and My Best Mate Aky) arose at 3:20am and soon after were out of  our hovel in Stoke Newington to walk the one and a half miles to Finsbury Park tube station to catch a train to Green Park in order to hopefully beat the  queues at dawn and grab a vantage point on the Mall.

The plan was hatched in the Weatsheaf the previous evening. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. We were travelling light, if you ignore  the 12 rusty cans of Double Diamond beer we each carried. In the Weatsheaf, the possession of such lethal weapons was hailed as the ‘masterstroke’ of the whole expedition. Perhaps I should explain. Aky and I both worked in Off-Licences. As a gesture of goodwill to mark the auspicious occasion of the Royal nuptials, we had been allowed to clear the fridges of all the ‘out of date’ and/or rusty cans and use them to complete our celebrations. Of course, this was back in the day when tin cans were tin and goodness me, they did rust. Not, however a cause for concern for two intrepid thrill-seekers such as me and My Best Mate Aky. Indeed it wasn’t long (in the Weatsheaf) before we realised we actually had an ingenious ‘dual-purpose’ gadget in our possession which could have been tailor-made for the very conditions we were soon to experience. The contents served to quench thirst/provide hair of dog. Then the can, when empty, something to stand on, which if stacked double height, afforded valuable extra inches as one strained one’s neck to get a better view of ‘The Dress’.

And so it came to pass that instead of being tucked up, fast asleep in bed, like most normal people; 5:00 am on the morning of the Royal Wedding  found me and My Best Mate Aky, emerging bleary-eyed from Green Park tube station to make our way down to the Mall. Our objective was Clarence House. Why? Because it was there that Diana would spend the night before her wedding, and from there the following day that she would depart for the journey by horse and carriage to St. Pauls. These were the only definite arrangements, aside from the ceremony of course we knew about with any certainty on this special day. So, we reasoned, if we were to see Diana, and take the last opportunity to shout to her that she was about to make the biggest mistake of her life and that ‘Here I was’ (Or ‘here he was’ in Aky’s case) then Clarence House had to be the venue. It has just occurred to  me writing this years later that although both of us firm in our belief that  we could each give Diana a better life than  she could ever hope for with old ‘Big Ears’, we had no contingency plan, nor had we discussed what we would do in the event that she called a halt to her carriage, and holding onto her veil, jumped down onto the kerbside and ran into one  or other of our outstretched and open arms. No, I think  in hindsight it is just as well she stayed in her carriage. I can feel my toes, even now, curling up with ‘virtual’ retrospective embarrassment, as I imagine myself face to face with Diana, standing on the Mall, somewhere in the region of a million people in the centre of London and a television audience of billions all listen and look on in hushed silence as I mumble to her something about not really being fully prepared, not having thought it through properly and that she might actually be better off with Prince Charles, in the long run after all.

See the guy in black? Standing on tins of Double Diamond

Now I don’t know whether you know this but in the City of London, if  you are caught short, and find there are no public conveniencies, ‘bathrooms’ or pub toilets handy; if you shout ‘In pain’ three times, you are, under ancient by-law able to relieve yourself where you stand and the Old Bill – or to use their quaint nickname, The Metropolitan Police can do nothing about it. However, on the Mall, I did feel a little self conscious about doing so, given the numbers of people around. I was in pain, alright. After drinking twelve cans of Double Diamond and standing around doing nothing for five hours, I was in pain x 3. There were rumours of some temporary toilets in Green Park. Aware that to give up one’s hard-fought vantage point – if only for a short while – so close to the start of proceedings could spell disaster. (Worst case scenario being that after everything you have endured you hear the cheers of the crowds as the Royal family and its guests make their way down the Mall, but you are stuck in a queue for the toilets, too far away to see anything.) I had to make a move. So I did.

1981 The Charles and Di periscope: No match for cans of Double Diamond

On my return, as I neared our ‘spot’ (on the north side of the Mall/Admiralty Arch side of Stable Yard Road if memory serves correct) I noticed signs of Police activity. This was bad news. They were cutting off Stable Yard Road in preparation for the exit of Diana’s carriage. Bollocks! I was right in the meleé here. I’d lost my good viewing point. And my cans! Bugger it! All that Double Diamond. And for what? Actually, the truth was that the cans weren’t such an innovation after all. As more and more of them were guzzled, standing on the empties, they became increasingly unstable. As did I. In fact I was begining to get quite unpopular with my fellow man, as on at least three occasions, my ‘tower of cans’ collapsed, to go tumbling all over the feet of those nearby. Closely followed by myself. With that dogged determination characteristic of those who have consumed too much alcohol, each time, I picked myself up and opened one of the remaining full ones, took a good slug before collecting the rest and re-building my tower. Finally a gentleman, possibly an ex-PE teacher or Police Officer who, getting more and more irritated by my shenanigans picked me up – a little more firmly than the situation warranted I felt – after yet another failure to grasp the fundamentals of construction, materials and their properties and simply said ‘I think that’s enough now’.

And just how did they get up there? Tins of Double Diamond

It is at this point that my memory starts to get a little hazy and my account of the next couple of hours begins to differ more than somewhat from Aky’s. In my version, I get stuck on the Palace side of the Mall. In Aky’s, he manages to get the Police to let me cross again before the coach leaves. In mine, all I get to see of Diana are a few white flashes from her dress,  the rest of her, as she is seated on the far side of the carriage is obliterated by the sizeable frame and head (looking for all the world like it was made from plasticine by a child) of her father, Earl Spencer, Viscount Althorpe. In fact what I saw, very spookily is almost exactly this:

What did he have in the inside pockets of his suit? Tins of Double Diamond

Aky, on the other hand recalls that he too didn’t see much of Diana, because in his case, the Queen Mother was hogging window space.

Well, that’s Double Diamond for you.

What is for sure, is the three of them couldn’t have squeezed into the carriage – even if they had put the Queen Mum into one of the overhead luggage racks. Anyway, who cares? The point was we had gone to all that trouble and still not seen  the star of the show. I have to admit, I felt slightly cheated. We’d had enough. We weren’t prepared to wait for the return of the procession from St. Paul’s. From that point, apart from bumping into my mate Keith, with who I shared a house with in Newcastle (see ‘Coat Tails #2′) and who, throughout the whole of the morning had been standing unbeknown, a matter of feet away; the day began to take on a fairly dismal typical ‘Bank Holiday’ air about it.

In an attempt to prolong the excitement, we decided to make full use the cheap London Underground travel cards that were available on the day.

‘Where shall we go?’

‘How about somewhere that has an interesting name – somewhere we’ve never been before?’

‘Gospel Oak?’ ‘Parsons Green?’ ‘Dollis Hill?’ ‘Kilburn High Road?’

Then as if from nowhere, an image from long, long ago appeared in my mind’s eye. A family: the parents and their three boys sit round a tiny blue formica-topped table, eating tea and listening to a spoof radio quiz show.

‘I know!’ I said ‘ …. Mornington Crescent!’

And so it was.

And the moral of this little tale? Well nothing really, except things aren’t always what you expect them to be. Charles and Diana’s wedding and my small walk-on part in it has always seemed an anti-climax.  As for Mornington Crescent, fittingly the ‘I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue’ team had the last laugh because there’s absolutely nothing to get excited about there at all.

Except Mornington Crescent.

© Andy Daly 2011

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Talkin’ Turkey. A Christmas Ghost Story.

Originally posted on Sitting comfortably?:

Now I don’t know about you, but for me the Festive Season doesn’t  get into  full swing until I awake at somewhere like Barking, Dagenham, Upminster, Barnet Church, Brighton, Uxbridge, Rayners Lane, Hainault, Paris, Queen’s Park, etc after a night out with workmates and chucking back a bit more of the Yuletide grog than my liver is prepared for, eating (optional ) and generally having a good criac.

In fact, I am a dab hand at sleeping through stations on my way home from nights out on the town. Especially stations after the one I am supposed to be getting off at. Not a major problem in itself, under normal circumstances. You simply cross over the platform and get the next train back  towards London and alight, none the worse for the experience, if a little later than planned. But my speciality is the last out-bound train of the night…

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Return of the Mc

mhari

Mhairi McFarlane’s second novel doesn’t disappoint. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to, although following ‘You Had Me At Hello’ must have been a daunting prospect. In ‘Here’s Looking At You’ once again her cast brim with life and burst off the pages, which sparkle and fizz with wit and racy dialogue.

McFarlane’s powers of observation are stunning. The result is characters that are utterly convincing. You love them, hate them, pity them and ultimately feel slightly bereft once they are gone. I go from wanting to re-arrange Fraser’s film star good looks with a few well directed punches to feeling like offering him my shoulder as he pours his heart out about Eva over a couple of  pints of Guinness. In fact, McFarlane gets under the skin of male psyche like few other. A feat in itself.

A comparison. Not long ago, I read a critically acclaimed novel by an established author (No names!) Great plot, great Mediterranean location – but the characters were tissue-thin.  Reading It reminded me of the way children perform in a nativity play: “Onceuponatimelonglongago…”

Not so here. With an enviable ability to create the magical from the mundane McFarlane, with her surgical skill, strips the layers of sexual politics and manners (or lack of) from relationships, until you get to the bare bones … and where does that fine line lie betweeen freindship and love?

AND how refreshing: a book which doesn’t make you feel you ought to go take a shower after reading.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is some sort of twee Rom Com. This is a Grown Up’s book for a Grown Up audience. Enjoy!

© Andy Daly

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Talkin’ Turkey. A Christmas Ghost Story.

Now I don’t know about you, but for me the Festive Season doesn’t  get into  full swing until I awake at somewhere like Barking, Dagenham, Upminster, Barnet Church, Brighton, Uxbridge, Rayners Lane, Hainault, Paris, Queen’s Park, etc after a night out with workmates and chucking back a bit more of the Yuletide grog than my liver is prepared for, eating (optional ) and generally having a good criac.

In fact, I am a dab hand at sleeping through stations on my way home from nights out on the town. Especially stations after the one I am supposed to be getting off at. Not a major problem in itself, under normal circumstances. You simply cross over the platform and get the next train back  towards London and alight, none the worse for the experience, if a little later than planned. But my speciality is the last out-bound train of the night. There are no more trains back into London from where I habitually wake up.

cockfosters

And even if there are, I am not sure I trust myself, under the influence of the old falling down water, to not doze off again and have to repeat the whole process. For instance, I have unhappy memories of one Christmas staying with friends near Crawley. I go for Christmas drinks uptown. On the train back –  unusually, it was a 24 hour service – after sleeping through Crawley and waking up in Brighton, I then spend the entire night going between Victoria and Brighton missing my stop each time, till at about 5:30am I give in and go back to work feeling rough as rats.

In short, you name it, I wake up there.

Tonight it is Cockfosters.

Right at the end of the Piccadily line, it nestles somewhere beween East Barnet and Mordor and is 6 stops after my ‘Target Station’ of Wood Green.

There is absolutely no- one around.  The Taxi rank is deserted. I check my pockets: I wouldn’t be able to afford a cab anyway.  And now it’s starting to snow heavily. I have no idea where I am (other than Cockfosters of course), or which direction I should take in order to make it ‘home’ to Wood Green.

‘Home’ being the floor of my Best Mate Aky’s bedroom in a ramshackle shared house. He has the downstairs back room (otherwise known probably in another life as the ‘Dining Room’) My temporary status due to the fact that I am only staying to work for the Christmas period.

I begin to walk. It is stupid o’ clock, I am freezing bloody cold and I’ve got to be back in work in six and a half hours. And I’ve no idea if I am going in the right direction. I come across a dual carriageway, the snow is really starting to stick now. Looking at the signs, I reason that going left should take me in the general direction of Wood Green. After an hour of trudging through increasingly deep snow, I take a chance and flag down the first cab I see, and offer all the cash I have to take me to Wood Green. I am a couple of quid short, but he takes me anyway: Relief!

The next problem: how to get in? Because I am only staying for the week, I haven’t a key. How the fuck am I going to get in without waking the whole house?

I stomp down the path to find in a stroke of luck that I am still at a loss to explain all these years later, the house door is wide open. I go in brushing the snow off my boots and coat. Every one is sound asleep.

Hmmmmm! I feel a bit peckish so I go into the kitchen. In the fridge are the remains of the turkey we had yesterday for our ‘Pre-Christmas Christmas Dinner’ So I take it out and after removing the tin foil put it on a plate on top of the microwave. A Turkey and Cranberry sandwich seems like a good idea. But before I can carve any of the meat, a voice asks:

‘So where do you wake up tonight then?’

I scan the room. I appear to be alone, but with all the glasses of Christmas cheer and one thing or another, I’ve downed, it’s kind of difficult to tell.

‘So come on, let’s hear it. Which god-forsaken deserted tube station do you wake up at tonight?

I know this sounds absurd, but the voice seems to be coming from the turkey. Sweat breaks out on my upper lip and I tell it:

‘Cockfosters’

‘Ah Cockfosters is it? If the Underground had piles that’s where they’d be. And how do you get back? On Shanks’ Pony or do you find a cabbie daffy enough to take you?’

‘Err .. Yes. I mean no .. I mean bit of both’

‘And do you have a good night? Is your little detour worth it?

I can’t believe I am being quizzed about my social life by what appears to be the ghost of a roast turkey.

‘And how do you let yourself in the house may I ask if you have no key?’

I have no idea why the ghost of a roast turkey should be party to such information, but explain about the front door being open.

‘Hmmm.. there are some strange goings-on tonight right enough’ Says the turkey; and I’m inclined to agree with him.

I find I am losing my appetite for a sandwich, probably a result of the onset of an attack of the ‘bedroom whirlies’ and so bid the turkey Goodnight and Happy Christmas and make my way to my Best Mate Aky’s room. I hit the floor and am comatose in seconds.

After a restless sleep in which I dream I am being pursued by lots of turkey carcasses, I am getting ready for work the next morning with such a noggin on me. I sit at the table letting the steam from my cup of tea unstick my eyelids and mulling over the events of last night, chiefly my encounter with the ghost of our ‘Pre-Christmas Christmas dinner’. My Best Mate Aky has already gone to work, and it is a couple of days till our paths cross again.

‘Recovered from the other night then?’ he asks.

‘Just about. Hey, you’ll never guess what happened after I got back, I was in the kitchen about to make a turkey sandwich, when it started talking to me’

‘What did?’

‘The turkey’.

‘What did it say?’

‘Well it was asking me about my night out and that I should get a key cut to be on the safe side’

‘You must have been cooking with gas’ says Aky. It is me who is talking to you, you crate-egg. I am in bed, but I open the old serving hatch. I guess you can’t see me because the microwave is in front of it …’

‘With the turkey on top! Of course’ I add. ‘ So it wasn’t the turkey ghost after all. Well I’m glad that’s sorted that out. I am never going to touch another drop if that’s the effect it has on me’

‘Perhaps a bit rash. Could have been something you ate’… ventures Aky.

‘That’s true’

‘Fancy a pint?’

‘Sounds like a plan’

‘Y’know that turkey told me about the band he was in?’ I say as we leave the house, heading for the pub.

‘Really I don’t remember ?’ Says Aky, nonplussed ‘How did it manage to get in a band?’

‘He had his own drumsticks’

© Andy Daly 2013

Posted in Tall Tales, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments