The Softest Cushions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Andy Daly 2016

Which Reminds Me…

Once upon a long time ago, we had a French friend who was at the dinner table
with her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. “Oh I say are you alright
Chantelle?” asked the concerned host as Chantelle appeared to choke on her
food. Keen to impress (as ever) with her wide vocabulary she replied
“Oh yes, I’ve just got something stuck in my clitoris!”

Of course she meant epiglottis.

Andy Daly

Small Beer, Smaller World

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 Iron 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, 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 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.

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 mid 70’s, were local born and bred and had accents you could cut with a knife. I needed all my concentration to unpick and figure out what they were saying. Anyway, 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 west, had met in the early ‘30s working at the Crowgarth mine in Cleator Moor, some four miles or so from the pub.

Arlecdon and beyond to Ennerdale

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 began 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 The Lakes like the back of his hand

My Dad taking a break from waxing lyrical abot the Lakes

My Dad taking a break from waxing lyrical abot the Lakes

He doesn’t need to look at a map. He knows where he’s going. 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.

Ted, rouses 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.

‘Ahhh.. I dunno what all the fuss is about’ he says and in a comment which echoes in my ears still,  continued ‘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.’

My eyes were beginning to glaze over.

Yes! But what water what hills!

Andy Daly

 

The Man Who Fell To Earth

bowie3

I felt I couldn’t let the passing of David Bowie go unremarked.

I am of an age now where my cultural and sporting heroes are all seemingly queueing up to shuffle off this mortal coil.

I remember buying ‘Space Oddity’ from Bradley’s Records Rochdale and in so doing started a relationship with his music which lasted throughout the 1970s and early 80’s. I just loved the story telling in his songs. And so did most of my mates. Everyone was into Bowie.

But it never occurred to me that David Bowie would ever die. On reflection, of course he isn’t dead at all, he still stands before us, a creative colossus whose status as cultural icon is unassailable and whose music touched so many people and influenced a generation of musicians and artists.

© Andy Daly 2016

I Love Football

I love football, don’t you? Ever since King Henry VIII invented the game on the playing fields of Eton in Rugby, by kicking a pig’s bladder, or ‘Casey’ across the grass people have been enthralled by what has become known as ‘The Beautiful Game’

Today modern players on average are paid a lot of money to play football. Which is just as well considering all the shiny red sports cars they need to buy. Players who are good enough aspire to the position centre forward with less experienced players filling up the minor placings such as full back and worst of all, goalkeeper. These players maybe allowed to do a ‘throw in’ or ‘goal kick’ from time to time in order to gain experience.

Competitions include the FA cup and the league. Last year’s winners of the Premier League were Chelsea, while close runners up were Manchester City (formerly known as Manchester United)

Football’s governing body is a money laundering operation in Switzerland run by Joseph Step Ladder and a scruffy French playboy, whose name escapes me for the moment. FIFA  say ‘No to Racism’ but ‘ Aaaah …OK then…’ to embezelment and fraud.

But, nevertheless, football is an inclusive sport: just look at Alice Ferguson’s success, which shows that anyone can do it – even a Scot.

 

Andy Daly 2015

 

A Bigger Splash

Black. For ceremonial duties. My other pair are oxblood: general purpose.

Black. For ceremonial duties. My other pair are oxblood: general purpose.

Now then, we all know of my love affair with Doc Marten Boots, Bouncing Soles, Air Wear and all that.

However, great though they may be, they have as I have said elsewhere, an achilles heel, so to speak. Namely the vulcanised rubber sole, which although resistant to oil, fat, petrol, acid and alkali are bloody useless when it come to heat. Once the integrity of the sole has been compromised by exposure to heat, the air cushions within the sole start to leak and the air starts being squeezed out; so as you walk along your boot gives out a ‘phut phut phut ‘noise.

Once you have a hole that is it. Worst is winter when you have a permanently wet/cold foot. I know this because I once go around for six months with a holy boot (see http://wp.me/pMUy3-2d ) Here’s how it happened.

In 1983, briefly, a jumble of arms and legs wrapped up in a leather jacket known as Dave Kimberley moved into our cosy 3 bed semi in the West End of Newcaste. Dave’s looks were not disimilar to those of a young Sid Vicious but with better skin. Plus he didn’t do drugs unlke soppy Sid who is the biggest smack heroin head until he is sent down to Robben Island, then Alcatraz where he meets a guy called Jean Genet who can turn himself into a butterfly or Papillon and they both escape only to meet with disaster when they fly too close to the sun and plummet to their deaths in the Hudson River (N.B. Don’t take this as gospel. I may have got my prison stories a bit mixed up)

Anyway, it is summer time and we decide to go somewhere for a holday, and that somewhere is Filey. Dave drives down on his blue Honda CB 250. While I get the bus.

Dave's Honda

Dave’s Honda

Well, we get some weather and spend a glorious few days on the beach going among the rock pools, sunbathing, eating fish and chips and getting pissed as much as possible.

At the end of the week, Dave offers to take me back to Newcastle on the bike and foolishly I agree. Ever had a bad idea? The first drops of rain began to fall as we said ‘farewell’ to Filey and got underway. I was unprepared for the journey to say the least. I had Dave’s spare helmet, a cagoule over my MA1 jacket and my Docs on my feet. I was certainly not prepared for the storm of biblical proportions which followed. Nevertheless, we soldiered on. After an hour or so we came upon a flooded road junction. Dave was taking it slowly, the water lapping at the footrests of the bike just as some tosser in a Range Rover coming in the opposite direction takes the junction way too fast and creates a tidal wave that Hokusai would have been proud of. Dave sees it coming and leans into it, so the body of water hits the top of his crash helmet. Me, I am looking to the left for approaching traffic. I turn to look right at precisely the wrong moment and well … you know how cagoules have that zip at the neck, which when unfastened forms a funnel-like shape? … I take the full force of the wave. It poured straight down this convenient funnel, soaking me from the inside.

300px-Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2

Bastard.

Hell’s teeth what a journey! I have never been so cold in my life… and it was July! I remember stopping on the A19 not far from Stockton for a piss and being so stiff I couldn’t even get off the bike.

We got back to our cosy semi about nine o’clock. I was so cold. We lit a fire using some old furniture in an attempt to thaw wor oot. Nothing could stop me from shivering, hot cups of tea – nothing, and it was sitting like this, with my legs up on the fire surround, that I melted my Bouncing Soles.

The perfect end to a perfect day.

Andy Daly 2015

Snow White Does But Walt Disney

Try it in a Scots accent

Try it in a Scots accent

The first in an occasional series which examines the problems inherent in language acquisition, context and meaning by the use of a crap anecdote.

Once upon a time, I was in Spain sitting at the table with my wife’s family who it so happens is Spanish. For some reason, I forget why, we were discussing Walt Disney films and characters.

I had picked up the translation (or so I thought) for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and planned to casually drop it into the conversation to show how smart I was. However, when I did my comment was met with hoots of laughter, especially from my young nephews and nieces, for:

Blanca Nieves y Los Siete Anitos

While coming close, misses the mark by one vowel and one consonant, making my translation

Snow White and the Seven Little Arseholes.

Which, to me at least at any rate suggests a film every bit as good, if not better than the original.

Andy Daly 2015

A Rough Crossing Without A Guide

Climbers on the Napes Needles including women in long skirts: About the turn of 20thcentury. Photo: Abrahams Brothers/ FRCC

Firstly, some background. My Dad, Bernard was born in Lancaster. His parents both died quite young. I never knew his Dad, like him called Bernard. His Dad, also Bernard, was killed at Ypres in 1915, just a few months before his kid brother. Their father, Bernard (You’re begining to spot a trend here…) a Shankhill Catholic had retired to Belfast after a distinguished career in the army. As my Dad has pointed out, the Dalys may have been brave professional soldiers, but they were pretty unimaginative with their childrens’ names.

Anyway, my Dad’s Dad served in Africa during the Second World War. Back here in Blighty he drove the family Bakery van, and was then a conductor on Ribble buses. My Dad’s Mum was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and then Hodgkinson’s Disease. I was born about 2 years before she died, but of course, have no memory of her.

The point is, my Dad and his parents lived with his Mum’s parents in their big old house in Bowerham, Lancaster. In fact, the house wasn’t their’s at all. It was bequeathed to them by an old school mistress to whom they had been in service, for the term of their natural lives – something my Dad didn’t know about until after his Grandmother, who outlived her husband, had died…. and the house had been emptied and most of its contents, including family possessions had been auctioned off.

It is of this house that I have some of my earliest memories.

Ethel (or ‘Tompt’) as she was known, was my great grandmother, and as I remember her, dressed in black bodice and big skirt, her hat held with pins, born in 1881, she was the genuine article: a Victorian Woman She could be stern at times, and certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly and would occasionally silence a room with her coarse sayings and bawdy jokes – ‘straight out of a Millom iron ore works!’ as my Dad remembers.

Her husband was Thomas, after whom I take my middle name. He was from Walney Island off the coast at Barrow. A pattern maker at Waring and Gillow, he was a kind, gentle man. Also known as ‘Nandy’ due to the fact that as a child, this is what my Dad, unable to say ‘Grandad’ called him. He almost always wore a flat hat, starched collar, braces, pin-striped jacket and had a bushy moustache. I was his favourite! He used to come down early in the morning to light the fires. I was the only soul allowed down. I helped/hindered him clearing out the grate, then intricately folding sheets of newspaper to make long-burning, almost ‘double helix’ shaped firelighters. He would always make two mugs of tea. One for him one for me. After stirring, he would drink his with the spoon still in – and so that’s how I drank my tea.

So many legends seemed to hang in the heavy air of their house in Lonsdale Place (Like the story of the mysterious ‘Mediterranean Blood’ in the family. This, on investigation has proved to be no more than a muddling of my Great Grandad’s (on my Father’s side) wedding, which took place when he was stationed in Gibraltar, and the birth of his first child, this time when stationed in Barbados) One of the most oft-repeated yarns was the great story of the perilous Lake District crossing in atrocious weather from Eskdale, Skirting Scafell Pike down to the Wasdale Head Hotel in the summer of 1904. A cautionary tale, it was felt to be sound advice from ‘Those that Knew’ to get the listener to look before they leapt.

Apparently, in the July of that year, my Great Grandmother, Thomas (who was courting her) along with her parents, two sisters, Molly and Annie: possibly also with escorts and a ‘mystery man’ from Kent had decided to take a trip over the fell from Eskdale down into the adjacent valley (admittedly with some quite rough terrain and steep drops for the unwary or those unwilling/unable to read a map) As was the case in those days, a guide was appointed to see them over. For some reason, on the morning in question, he did not appear, but the party decided, perhaps unwisely, to go ahead anyway.

For no sooner had they begun than the weather began to close in. It got cold, wet, rocks began to get slippery. Visibility was reduced. Suddenly every now and then, the impenetrable mist would swirl violently and clear to reveal some yawning chasm or steep drop below or equally without warning, damp rock walls would loom up at them from the depths, blocking their path. It must have been quite hair raising at the time, but they were made of strong stuff. They arrived safe, if cold, wet and not a little shaken; my Great grandmother extremely vexed (as she used to say) with those who persuaded her against her better judgement to take part in what she referred to everafter as “That Rough Crossing Without A Guide”

Well, it comes about that one Easter – 29th April 1983, to be exact, I find myself with my Dad and my brothers at the annexe to the Wasdale Head Hotel. It just so happens that my Dad, and brothers are keen climbers and, as such hold membership of the British Fell and Rock Club; who it transpires have organised an exhibition of climbing photography and videos to commemorate the centenary of the first ascent of the ‘Napes Needle’, a particularly spectacular climb in Wasdale. Members had been asked to give up their time to provide invigilation for the exhibition on a rota basis. As I was home from University and kicking my heels, I decided to join them.

Wasdale. Looking up the valley to Wasdale Head

Wasdale. Looking up the valley to Wasdale Head

On arrival, I had a good look round at the exhibits. There were great large format ‘box camera’ photographs, some by the famous Abraham brothers which were simply stunning. Crystal clear, tonal tours de force. Then there was Bonnington and Whillans filmed on Dovedale Groove; but the one thing that caught my eye was the open visitors book dated 1902 – 4 from the Wasdale Head Hotel. Open, because it contained the signatures of a group of famous pioneer climbers, the Slingsby family and friends. Of much more interest to me, however was what was written on the opposite page, dated July 17th 1904 in a confident, though slightly shaky hand:

“J C Dawson, J J Dawson, E Dawson (my Great Grandmother) P Dawson, A Dawson, M Dawson (and their place of birth/residence: all of Millom) T. Townson, Walney (My Great Grandfather) P Priest, Liverpool, M Wall, Millom, M Borrow, Dover. A rough crossing without a guide!”

This is a copy of a scan my father did recently of the ‘Dawson’ page after being given permission to record the document by the hotel’s owners. Sadly, it had been allowed to deteriorate significantly since 1983; so much so that it was almost unrecognisable as the same image.

Click on image to scale it up.

© Andy Daly 2015

I wanna be me!

Regular readers will know I’ve always tried to resist talking about the elephant in the room in this blog, but from time to time I get a bee in my bonnet about something and feel compelled to let it all hang out. (If that’s not mixing my metaphors too much)

Guess what?

Guess what?

When does the neuro degeneration of the brain rob you of your identity?

I have been living with my uninvited guest now for 15 years. That’s almost a quarter of my life. Not withstanding the brilliant treatment I have had from The Functional Neurosurgery Department at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosugery; and the improvement in drug therapies generally, which mean I have a better quality of life than patients a generation ago, there are stll so many things in life that I have lost the ability to do or enjoy.

In fact I sometimes I think if I were cured tomorrow (unlikely I know) would I be able to remember ‘Me’? Could I return to being the person I was? Could I replace all the pieces of the shattered jigsaw?

Xray image of a human head brain

 

It makes me appreciate how fragile is that exquisite piece of wiring. Look after it.

© Andy Daly 2015

WHITE LIGHT DEEP HEAT

Deep Heat. I guess you are all familiar with this family healthcare product, the UK’s No. 1 selling pain relief heat brand, marketed by The Mentholatum Company, Inc. since 1889. It is a deep vapour rub, active ingredients: 30% Methyl salicylate and 8% Menthol, and is designed to offer effective and targeted pain relief with the relaxing benefits of heat therapy. (It says here)

Suitable for Joint problems, muscle strains and rheumatic pain.

Not then to be confused with something like, say for instance toothpaste.

Enter my old mate Chawkey.

One Sunday morning after the night before, tongue like the bottom of a parrot’s cage, eyelids like flypaper, Chawkey stumbles into the bathroom to brush his teeth. To compound matters Deep Heat is sold in a tube. Not good for those of us who for a variety of reasons (chiefly the consumption of alcohol) have to perform functions in the bathroom by braille.

In his haze what does he do (and I think you may be ahead of me here ….) but only start to brush his teeth with same mix of menthol and methylwhastsit …

Hot Stuff

Hot Stuff

colgate_toothpaste

He says he couldn’t taste anything for 2 weeks after,

He’s only done it the once.

© Andy Daly 2015