The Key To It All

I was in the Sixth Form at Wyndham School, Egremont, Cumbria. Family committments had necessitated a move from my beloved Rochdale to the dormitory town of Seascale, next door to the British Nuclear Fuels Ltd Sellafield/Windscale plant, which is where I lived for 2 years.

Because so many scientists lived in the area it was dubbed by one of  the tabloids ‘The Brainiest place in Britain’. I don’t know  about that, but when  the students subverted authority they did it with style, as this little tale from 1977 shows.

I hadn’t been at the school long when I was asked if I wanted to take part  in a little ‘make over’ of the Head of Sixth Form’s office one lunchtime. The furniture was removed and replaced with exotic cushions and drapes some of which people had brought in from home in order to dress  the room as an opium smoking den. Some weeks  later we removed all the furniture, again from his room, and wheeled a motor bike from out of the car park and left it on its stand in the middle.

We had a key you see!

A rumour began circulating among the student body that some person or persons unknown had access to their own master key – which enabled passage to all areas of the Sixth form block, including classrooms and offices. But who?

No smoke without fire. In this instance, the Swan Vestas proved to be Smisch and Duane. These two reprobates had ‘borrowed’ a staff master key, then in a gripping race against time, made a mould, returned it, then cast a copy in the metalwork rooms! An alloy copy of a Chubb masterkey. Genius!

Duane 'Butter wouldn't melt!' Pete, Jonathon, Miles.

Duane ‘Butter wouldn’t melt!’ Pete, Jonathon, Miles.

It made life so convenient. Let’s say you wanted to make an amendment on your ‘UCCA’ form – no tiresome wait until the Head of Sixth Form returned from lunch.You simply got the key, let yourself in, got what you wanted, tidied his desk a bit if you felt inclined, and locked up again on your way out. The staff had no idea.

One afternoon, Duane used the key to access the ropes and crabs from the summer camp gear store. He then strung up all the bags belonging to the students at a History class on the top floor on to a guy rope then hoisted  it up. When those in the class turned to look out of the window, they saw their bags dancing up and down in the wind, some 40 feet up.

We even had access at night (remember this was before the advent of CCTV) One occasion, drunk and tired of trying to hitch hike home, we let ourselves in and slept on cushions on the common room floor.

With much ceremony, the key was ritually handed down to the incoming Upper 6th (year 13) But it couldn’t last. People had become, so blasé about using it, that it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened and a year or so after I had left, someone was caught in possession.

And that was that.

© Andy Daly 2016

 

At The Wag With George Michael

I thought you might like to hear of my night out with George in the West End’s exclusive ‘Wag’ nightclub.

This was … errr … now let me see: 1985. My first year teaching. I was living in Bromley-by-Bow, heart of the East End, working by complete contrast in Northwood Hills, comfortable, leafy ‘Metroland’. My school uniform at the time was a mixture of 1950s ‘Rockabilly’ late 60s/early 70’s Skin and Suede Head style Doc Martens, Ben Sherman button collar shirts, high – waisted pleated trousers, bleached Levi jacket, bootlace ties, metal collar tips, pointed leopard print and suede ‘Brothel Creepers’, ‘Harrington’ jacket, Levi 501’s, suits from Johnsons, Kensington Market, shirts from Jack Geach, Harrow and my ever present US MA1 Flying jacket.

‘Playtime’ on a typical week around this period consisted of:

Monday and Thursday – the last hour in the Priory Tavern, Bow once I’d finished my marking.

Tuesday and Wednesday – 5 – A – Side league, Eastway Sports Centre and bar for post match analysis, Stratford (Now the site of the 2012 Olympic Stadium)

Friday – Skinful. East or West End. Long walk or expensive cab ride back from whichever London Underground/Transport terminal I happened to awake at.

Saturday – The Wag. (Then after see Friday)

Sunday – Recovery position

It was Simon, dear Simon who first got me in the Wag.

By rights, I should have hated the place, it seemingly embodied everything I detest It was exclusive. If you didn’t look right, you didn’t get in: no matter how much money you waved in the face of bouncer, Winston. It was small and cramped, even after they extended it. The beer was shite and ludicrously expensive, BUT the music!. And I have to say, the people made it a top night out.The Wag played ‘grown up’ Dance Music, Funk, Soul and R ‘n’ B. And I loved it! I remember one night of solid James Brown and James Brown mixes. OMG! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Often our itinerary was The Blue Posts Berwick St. Soho, Intrepid Fox, Jazz and Latin club Frith Street. Oh! and of course there was always someone to meet at the Spice of Life.

How much?!!

How much?!!

And so it came to pass that on one of these magical evenings, I found myself standing at the bar in the Wag. Minding my own business, I felt someone’s elbow graze mine as I idly scanned the bar looking for free staff, letting my mind and body immerse themselves in the music. I turned with a non-committal look, the owner of the elbows smiled.I smiled back, he used the opportunity to get the attention of the barmaid and get served. Bastard! It was George Michael.

As soon as he’d got his drinks, he made a beeline for the VIP area and motioned me to follow. This was around the time of ‘Faith’. I spent a blinding night in his company (and later that of his friends, which included Andrew Ridgely, Pepsi and Shirley among others) swapping the names of favourite singers and bands. We danced till the first morning light. Leaving the club, bleary eyed, I hitched a lift on the back of a milk float to Baker Street, at which point I jumped off and caught the first train back to Bow.

Actually that last bit’s a load of old bollocks. He smiled. I smiled back, he used the opportunity to get the attention of the barmaid and get served then fucked off to the VIP area while I waited another half an hour to get served. BUT the music! … It was a top night out.

© Andy Daly 2010

THE BARON’S CHICKEN SURPRISE

The Baron was my flat-mate at 60, Corbin House, Bow and is perhaps best known for his naked sleepwalk, down into the courtyard of the 1930’s tenement and out on to the Mile End road. But did you know he was something of a chef? Capable of subtle and sophisicated dishes, such as this one: The Baron’s Chicken Surprise.

It was nineteen eighty something or other and like the rest of us The Baron was fond of a few scoops. So much so that he would often go out with friends straight after work with the result that he frequently came home early, starving hungry.

It was an occasion such as this that he perfected his ‘Chicken Surprise’

Recipie

  • Half a chicken
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method

  • Put on baking tray in a cold oven and forget about it for 4 days.

I know nothing of this. Fast forward four days, The Baron asks in passing if I have seen a half a chicken.

‘That’s funny’ he says ‘I could have sworn I bought half a chicken from Tesco’s.

It is sometime later when something draws me to the oven. I open the door to find the dessicated remains of what seems like a bit of Mile End roadkill.

‘I think I’ve found your chicken’ I tell him.

The Baron swears he has no memory of this. Piecing the story together, it seems that The Baron is a little tired and emotional as well as hungry on the night in question. He puts the chicken in the oven, but neglects to turn the oven on. After watching TV for about 20 minutes, he announces he’s off to bed.

looking nothing at all like this

looking nothing at all like this

Imagine if he had managed to turn the oven on and then forgotten about it?

That’s The Baron for you. Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know

© Andy Daly 2016

Monday, monday

I have thought long and hard ( 5 minutes) about posting this tale; particularly as it is one of the stated aims of this blog that it should not become a dull repository of all things Parkinson. But there are lessons to be learned – especially for me and maybe others as well.

Above all, it shows us how fleeting everything is, and how our lives can be changed completely within seconds for no rhyme or reason.

It is what it is.

Before I begin, a brief look at some of the terms used, which are pretty essential in understanding how People with Parkinsons (PWP) lead their lives (Apologies I if you already know this. It is tiresome, but not very long)

Dopamine:

The substance produed by the brain which acts as chemical messenger and allows movement to take place. By the time of diagnosis PWP will have lost about 60% of these Dopamine-producing cells .

Leva-Dopa

A synthetic form of the chemical which will cross the blood/brain barrier. Dopamine itself will not do this. Great at restoring movement, but at a price; as the body gets used to the Leva –Dopa, the more it needs , and as doses are increased very unwelcome side effects kick in.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

This is when an electrical current is passed from a battery implanted in the chest via cables into the skull into two electrodes, implanted into the brain. The current is adusted to give therapeutic results. I had this done in 2011. It is not cure but in many patients it is seen to ameliorate the symptoms.

‘Off ‘

When the leva-Dopa medication or not working. Example. Protein inhibits its absorption. So it may not work after a protein-rich meal.

‘ON’

When PWP have relatively good movement, either because of drug therapy , DBS or a mixture of the two.

Here we go. Monday morning I was getting ready for my 9:30 am weekly Yoga class. It is a five minute walk from my front door. I was alone, everyone had gone to work and I was sitting on the bottom stair, leaning forward tying up the laces on my trainers when I heard an electronic ‘beep’ sound.

I recognised it as the on/off switch of my DBS handset. The handset is about the size of a small mobile phone and allows me to make fine alterations to the amplitude of the DBS settings . I knew immediately what I had done. In the leaning forward motion I had inadvertantly caused the handset, which I always carry in my tracksuit pocket, to swich off.

So now I am getting no deep brain stimulation. Immediately my hands start shaking uncontrollably I am very ‘Off.’ I try and remain calm, noting as I do so that my mobile is in sight but not reach and my medication is in my yoga bag; again within sight and reach, but as good as on the other side of the world to my shaking hands.

It is so difficult to describe the helplessness and frustration. A simple task like putting your hand into your pocket becomes impossible. Nevertheless, after about ten minutes, I manage to get the handset out. I just need to lift it up so I can see. I am trying to keep my hands steady. It is no good, I drop the handset onto the floor somewhere beneath me. My strength is failing. My last Leva-Dopa tablet was at 0:90am. I wonder when it kicks in if it will be enough to propel me to sit up and get the handset. I wait for the familiar sensation of the drug doing its work. Eventually, I can feel it but my condition is so advanced that the tablet barely scratches the surface. It is about 11:00am Time to plan. The chances of my getting help rely on my getting the attention of the postman (who usually comes about 12:30) Of course he doesn’t show his face today. Typical. The amount of shit we get through our door…

It looks like I’m in for the long haul. It will be 5:30/6:00 before my wife gets home. Will I last? I’ve got no option! I spend the afternoon trying to keep wake ( I don’t want to miss someone calling at the door) and periodically shifting my legs to keep my circulation going. My body has slumped, so that I am now lying wedged on the bottom step, the step edge itself under the back of my neck. I am still wearing my jacket and one foot trainer on; the other foot, trainer half off.

My hands in particular are aching due to the constant shaking. My head is arching back at the neck, and feels like it is taking all the pressure from my legs. My fingers are starting to twist. My mouth is dry and I have no swallow.

I listen hopefully for the sound of a vehicle reversing into the drive.

5:45 she arrives. I have planned what to say the moment she gets in the door. My voice is weak, but I have enough of it left to explain what has happened and direct her to the DBS handset.

She switches it on. Bliss! I drop down to the floor and lay on my front.The relief is unbeliveable. I top up with medication. It takes about 15 minutes for this to work and I completely switch ‘on’.

I spend half an hour shaking and rubbing out the cramps (it takes about a week for the aches and pains to ease off)

Over eight hours stuck on the stairs. Nothing I could have done about it. But there was. You see I had got complacent, I had turned off The ‘Panic Alarm’ which is linked to a twenty four hour care centre. It had which had been false-alarming recently. Had that been swtched on I would have been out of my predicament in minutes rather than hours.

I know.

A perfect storm.

A perfect shit storm.

© Andy Daly 2016

 

Another Snippet

ART ATTACK

Ephraim J. Goodenough is an Artist.

A Conceptual Artist.

As to whether Ephraim J. Goodenough is a good Conceptual Artist is a question for another time. Surfice to say for now that Ephraim J. Goodenough is a Conceptual Artist. He is 20 and lives in London where he shares a delapidated flat in Stoke Newington with the four members of band the Rialtos.

Ephraim J. Goodenough’s schooling was unremarkable. He went to St Saviours, a Northern Catholic Co-Ed Comprehensive full of insecure hyperactive adolescents where he was systematically bullied by students and teachers alike. He was tall (over six foot) Wore National Health prescription glasses, had a pudden bowl haircut, and a tatty uniform whose seams he always appeared to be threatening to bust out of.

A sort of latter day Oliver Hardy.

It was at St. Saviour’s that he picked up his nickname ‘Effy’ (There were a few other names he was called, some of which he answered to, but they are best left forgotten) And it was here that he developed his love of Art. He was bloody hopeless at it of course, but the Art rooms provided some sort of sanctuary far from the madding crowd of nutters, half-wits and head-the-balls who spent each break and lunch time searching for Effy and others like him.

It wasn’t that Effy was lonely; he just didn’t have any friends. So he would spend all his spare time in the Art studios finishing off work or just doodling. His teacher was an old tomato known as Mr. Thomas, who as he said, might be a dab hand at the ‘smudge with the sludge’ (as he called painting) but that didn’t neccesarliy make him a good teacher. Effy and his fellow classmates knew this wasn’t false modesty. Old Thomas had been at the school for years. He bored the kids and they bored him. The story is that back in the day he was brilliant, but not now. A Shrivelled husk, all his get up and go got up and gone. All taught out. But he was an okay sort of bloke who more to the point didn’t seem to mind Effy’s company at these times.

St. Saviours is also where Effy fell in love.

With the female Art teacher Miss Clitheroe (or ‘Miss Clit’ as she was affectionately known by students.) She was a scatterbrained brunette, in her first teaching job. Effy was deeply smitten. For reasons best known to herself, one school summer camp during a trip to the beach, she flashed her ‘Lady Garden’ whilst making adjustments to her bikini bottom in the line of sight of a group of Sixth Form lads. Effy was the only one who saw it. Of course nobody believed him when he told them. He was convinced it was for his benefit, but for his tormentors it became just another stick to beat him with. It is more likely that as Miss Clitheroe seemed to have eyes only for Mike Fitzpatrick (and so the rumour went, his brother Steve) that they were her intended targets.

After secondary school, Effy somehow managed to blag his way onto a degree course in Fine Art. He was given two ‘E’s by the Admissions Tutor after interview: which just goes to show how bad the drug scene was in Higher Education, even then.

There his lack of ability was seized upon as a fresh and unpretentious approach to Art making. His cack-handedness was effectively nurtured. He certainly wasn’t taught anything about making Art; or making better Art.

The Fine Art department, originally the King George V School of Fine Art was housed in a building to the south east of the university quadrangle, I say ‘housed’, in fact it was partly housed; namely the Library, gallery, workshops and studios, in this imposing 1923 structure with its bronze statue of King George V installed in the niche above the Queen’s Road entrance, wrought iron gates and tower with a double-arched gateway. The rest (offices, more workshops and studios) were to be found in a Modernist white cube, tacked on to the original building.

The first years were ‘taught ‘(and I use the term loosely here) together in a large warehouse of a studio in the new block. They were a strange bunch: a disparate crew of potential artists-in-the-making, all at different stages in their understanding of Art, what it was, what it might be, and how they might fit in to the ‘big picture’. (All issues Effy had to say, the Fine Art course of the time singularly failed to confront, but then what did he know?)

Effy found himself as lonely here as he had been in school. He lacked the confidence to bask in the glow (a result of the heady mixture of wonderment, envy and hate) given off by his fellow artists.

In the foundation year at the end of every project there was a ‘Crit’ during which every student’s work was veiwed in turn and evaluated. Comments were passed by students and staff. One of the first they were set was entitled something like ‘Object and Environment’ and was clearly an attempt to elicit responses from the students to the likes of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Ready Mades’ which aside from using materials in an innovative way – in a sense to represent themselves, had started to (apparently) ask all sorts of awkward questions of the received aesthetic script that was Modernism.

Effy had gone ‘skip-hunting’ a popular activity for Art students at the time, when they couldn’t think of anything better to do or had no money to buy materials (in Effy’s case both) Ostensibly it was validated as a search for new Art media and Effy had, by the end of the project amassed a sizable rubbish tip in his work space. From this rubbish tip he had reclaimed some multicore telecommunication cable He was half-heartedly making some diorama thing with figures made from the stripped wire which was supposed to say something about the experience of entering and leaving a building. It wasn’t finished, and even with the addition of some drawings hastily rattled out the previous evening, it didn’t look like two week’s work.

So the ‘crit’ began, the tutors picking away at sketchbooks and notepads like vultures round a carcass. They were lead by the first year Foundation Course leader William Panter. Panter was a well known Art critic for a national newspaper. He had a broad forehead behind which was a shock of salt and pepper curls, with which he favoured wooly crew necked jumpers and elephant cords, not forgetting a bushy moustache. Finally they got to Effy’s workspace. His hands were sweating his stomach had dropped like a stone. Ignoring the wire figures, Panter squatted down like a North American Indian (hence his nickname amongst the First Years ‘The Great White Chief.’ And after gazing at the pile of rubbish, finally spoke

‘But it’s beautiful’

he cooed in front of the collection of detritus. He held a cigarette between the first joints of his very straight first and index fingers took a long drag and exhaled blinking his right eye where smoke had gone in. (When he did this he looked for all the world like the actor James Finlayson, probably best remembered as the villain in Laurel and Hardy films.)

‘Don’t you think?’

The tutors looked at one another.

‘I agree’ said Phylidda Laidlaw, Tutor in Sculpture and 3D Studies. ‘It is powerful statement of intent. I am interested in the way it sits in the space. Where does it begin? Where does it end?

Gavin Dobson (Painting and Mixed Media) looked harrassed

‘But there’s no paint’

‘Gavin dear it is so clear that you are still clinging to the last vestiges of Modernism and letting that cloud your critical faculties’announced Fabian Gravy (Lens based imagery)

‘But one of the greatest painters in the world, Picasso said ‘Beauty must be convulsive or cease to be’’ interjected Panter. ‘He would have loved the vision of this piece and its use of found objects’

‘Ah typical. Picasso. If ever there was an artist that illustrated the Modernist preoccupation with a patriarchal sensibilty and obssession with aesthetics’ countered Gravy.

‘But there’s no paint’ repeated Dobson.

‘But.. . it’s just a pile of rubbish. ’ Piped up one of the students, a red-headed girl wearing overalls and Monkey Boots.

‘Ahha!’ said Panter, suddenly animated. ‘It would just be a pile of rubbish if it was out there’ He nodded his head in the direction of one of the studio windows and the car park beyond.

‘But it’s not. It’s in here.’

‘Err, yeah so… ?’

‘The context has changed. It has become something else’

‘Aye a pile of shite’ said the Monkey Boot girl loconically. Her name was Ruby.

‘When is an artwork not an artwork?’ Mused Panter taking another long drag of his cigarette.

‘When it’s a pile of shite’ muttered Ruby under her breath.

TBC

© Andy Daly 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stupidity #2

I was reminded this weekend of classic piece of stupidity and thought I would share it with you.

A former aquaintance of mine told me this sorry tale.

His first job on graduating from University was in the City. Now it comes along Christmas time with office parties and all the shenanigans that go along with them. He of course, only thinking it right and proper, goes along to the party being held by his employers, where he has a good time – although if the truth be told he guzzles a bit too much of the old falling down water, what with it being Christmas and all.

The time comes to go home. Our hero lives near Gatwick, so he makes his way to Victoria to get the Gatwick express which has a regular service running through the night ending in Brighton. What can go wrong?

Well, it all starts to unravel when Our hero falls asleep before he gets to Gatwick and wakes up in Brighton. He is clearly upset at making such a school-boy error, but not  unreasonably thinks the night is still young.’I’ll just get a train back in the opposite direction and alight at Gatwick’

fellasleep

Except he doesn’t does he? No he falls asleep again and wakes up in Victoria.

Back to Gatwick, he wakes up in Brighton.

He spends all night in various modes of slumber going backwards and forwards to Brighton and Victoria until at 6am. he finally decides to call it a day and return to work.

Truly a hard day’s night

 

Snippets #1

The Phone Call

On saturday night I went to an Ann Summers party – fab clothing, shame about the fight….not kidding…drinks were thrown. I just trampolined with the dog.

Sunday dragged a bit after all that excitement. I was nursing a mild hangover and decided to see whether a bath might restore my flagging spirits. So it was with some annoyance that as I slipped into the soothing water my peace and quiet was shattered by a ringing of the phone.

‘Leave it’

I said to myself. But it went on and on, so I gathered a towel around me and padded into the bedroom  Where is it? In the pocket of my jeans?.Only for the bloody thing to stop just as I get to it.

‘Typical’

But as I was just about to return to the cooling waters of my bath, when it went again.

‘Oh for fuck’s sake’ I said to myself thickly as, once again I rushed into the bedoom to locate my phone.

‘Hello’ I said

‘Err Hi.Is that Paula? A male voice asked.

‘No, you’ve got the wrong number there’s no-one here called Paula’ I replied curtly as I glanced through to the bathroom.

‘Oh …Sorry. I was sure I had the right number’

‘What number are you looking for?’ I asked

My impatience was growing

‘Let me see … 0796 838 2122’

He replied

‘That’s why, this is 0786 838 2121 …You have dialled a wrong number’

‘Oh I’m sorry. Sorry to bother you’

‘Okay’

‘By …

Paula pressed the red button before he finished. She went to the bedroom and checked the call-back service but it was a witheld number.

‘Hmmmmm’ she thought to herself as she returned to the bathroom.

She laid the towel on the radiator and slipped back into the tub.She tried running a bit more hot water but the immersion heater was empty.

So he had her phone number.

Thanks to Hannah

Dolores Valium: Actress and Socialite

As soon as the director yelled ‘Cut’ Dolores exploded. Brice Surtees recoiled. The crew and sound guys stood, holding props, cables and coffees open-mouthed, as She launched into a tirade of invective at Harvey. Everyone was aghast. Dolores left no-one in any doubt about what she thought about his abilities as a lover or of his ‘dumbass story’ As far as she was concerned’  Harvey could ‘Blow it out of his ass’

’Your’re a cheap bastard, Harvey Hampersand, and I never want see you again’

And with that, Dolores tore off her false eyelashes and flounced off the soundstage and into the parking lot.
New York City seemed a much better proposition than calforn-aye-ey . Dolores had the apartment at Lexington and 63rd she had bought with her late husband Philco Carburettor a theatrical impressario with sideline in protection, extortion and money laundering. It was a swell joint and had been the venue for many exclusive and memorable parties in the Roaring Thirties

Ypres 1915

I find myself in a large room with a single small table and two chairs placed oppsite each other. It looks for all the world like an old hospital ward. There are large floor to ceiling height windows which curve around the end of the room, and I surmise means that the building I am in forms a cescent at this end. Long fine white drapes hang down over the windows, letting in a surprising amount of light, but diffusing it, so that shadows play slowly on the curtains and into the room. The place smells of carbolic, like the bathroom in my great grandparents’ house. Otherwise it is empty

I pull out the nearest chair sit down and wait.

After what seems about three or four minutes, behind me I hear the noise of a door opening. Someone enters the room, closes the door firmly and walks over to where I am sitting, pulls out the other chair, and sits down. As he does so I notice that I hear a sprinking sound of dried mud as it drops from my companion’s trousers and tunic; which are of a drab faded khaki onto the floor.

He gives the slightest of nods by way of greeting and I do likewise. He reaches up to his breast pocket and pulls out a battered Old Holborn tobacco tin, opens it and motions me to take a roll up cigarette, with a shake of my head and a faint smile, I decline.

He picks one out ( there are about half a dozen ready rolled and a bit of loose tobacco in the tin) and, taking a box of matches from the same pocket, lights it. He extinguishes the match and, without even looking for an ashtray, drops it on the floor, and then grinds his boot on it just to make sure.

He takes a long drag of his cigarrette, I hear the mellow ‘Pah’ sound as he finishes his pull, before    removng it from his lips and inhaling deeply, his eyes never leaving my face. He puts his tongue out a little way and picks of a couple of small pieces of tobacco from it. I notice that his hands are black, with dirt ingrained into the folds and creases of skin and beneath the fingernails. The smoke is blown out of his nose in a great plume, it mixes with the more unruly whisps which come from the cigarette. He sits back in his chair, putting his right foot over his left knee. I notice the dry mud-caked hobnailed boots he is wearing . He takes another long drag, then sits up, his piercing blue eyes searching mine.

“Who are you?”

Waste of Ink

I can’t help help feeling partly responsible for this. As those who know me will attest, many is the time I have droned on to anyone who will listen extolling the virtues of tattoos and tattooing – particularly since having one done on October 14th 1983, by Ossie ‘The Wizard’ at his studio on Byker Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne. It cost £5.00. It should have been £7.50 but ‘The Wizard’ didn’t have change.

What is it? Well, it is a rose on my left shoulder. Not terribly good really, but it strikes a nice balance between the raffish old-fashioned Portsmouth back-street style of tattoo, and a more modern sensibility in which my rose (or red cabbage – it depends on how I’m holding my arm) becomes symbolic: of fidelity and honour – my talisman.

Which brings me back to my point. Why are there so many crap tattoos around? These days it is rare to see an untarnished body, one without some dreadful scrawl on it.

When you see real tattoo mastery, the Japanese Irezumi, for instance, where the tattoo, its imagery and execution over musculature are ineluctably bound with the social and political stance of its wearer – or at least it was during its heyday of the 1850s and 60s. Much of today’s ‘flash’ (pre-prepared designs which usually decorate a studio walls, and which the client selects, usually by number) pales into insignificance.

Felix Beatto. 1860s. Japanese Tattoo (Hand Coloured Print)

Felix Beatto. 1860s. Japanese Tattoo (Hand Coloured Print)

I am reminded of a lachrymose Scot who happened to be in the bed next to me when I was in hospital for my last bunch of surgery. As he tearfully explained to the surgeon. His main concern, despite the severity of the operation was not haemorrhage, infection, or possible paralysis, but the thought that the scarring would ruin the tattoo on his neck. He was delighted to find on regaining consciousness and his subsequent return to the ward from the recovery room that his fears had been unfounded.

And his tattoo? It was a series of dashes which formed a line around his neck, a small image of a pair of scissors and the legend “Cut Here”.

Cut here

Andy Daly 2016

If you want to see quality contemporary tattooing

go to

London Tattoo Convention

World of Tattoos

Antony Flemming

Dopey Cow

Here’s a little story to keep you going. It concerns Deputy Headteacher at the last school I worked at; one Mrs Denise Fajita: a ‘dough-basher’ by origin – a cooking teacher with a chip on her shoulder, ‘Born-Again Christian’, a bear of very little brain, sworn enemy of the  Arts and anything which involved Creativity, a concept she singularly failed to understand. She was an ‘I-will-be-a-Headteacher-at-any-costs’ Cv-builder.

Well, it came about that the incumbent Heateacher who had thought long and hard about retirement, decided that on balance and taking all things into account, it was time for a rest. The calling of the cool, leafy green arbours of sweet Hayes and a Heateacher/Consultancy at a school therein was simply too strong.

And so it was that this combination of audacious arrogance, twinned with monumental ignorance, Mrs Fajita stood up in the staffroom, during a friday morning meeting shortly before the interviews for the new Headteacher were due to take place, and attempted a lame joke, whose punchline revolved around the fact that at that time, each of the deputies: herself, Greg Hill and Bill Carter all drove Volvos. With true lack of self awareness and comic timing (lack of, I mean) she garbled the words at the critical point and announced to an aghast staff that an appointment was only to be made to someone who had a ‘vulva!’

I mean, I know the school management has been consistently criticised for its gender imbalance, but I felt it a bit of crude indicator of suitability for the post.

© Andy Daly 2010

Bad Influence

Now I’m not saying me and My Best Mate Aky used to drink a lot when we were younger; but we used to drink a lot when we were younger.

And I know it’s all relative. One person’s ‘skinfull’ is another person’s ‘aperitif’ and all that.

I’ll give you an example. Once upon a long time ago me and Aky decided to track down a school mate, Peter Hughes. Pete, or ‘Huggis’ as he was more commonly known was in our year. When Suky wasn’t around, or Aky, I would always try to sit with him.  We arranged to meet the erstwhile, meanwhile and once-in-a-while Mr. Hughes for a drink in town and to chew the fat about the good old times.

It was about 10:00pm, and we’d had a few. The pub was then run by a local ‘entrepreneur’ (ie Layabout/small time crook) called Joe Walsh He had a wife who seemed to model herself on a mixture of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Joan Collins, swanning from bar to lounge, carrying her stupid poodle and treating her clientele to foul-mouthed tales and bitchy gossip. Never fond of hard work, hubby Joe is behind the bar ‘supervising’ clearly inexperienced (or inefficient) bar staff.

Me, Aky and Huggis wait patiently at the public bar, nervously twitching and eyeing the clock – remember, these were the days of a strict regime of ‘last orders’ at 10:30, out by 10:45 (11:00 on Friday/Saturday) unless of course you were a local ‘entrepreneur’  in which case, ‘last orders’ was anywhere between 01:30 to 06:00am. The bar was busy, the number waiting to be served increasing all the time.

Reluctantly, poor old Joe dives into the fray as the clamour for drinks reaches fever pitch and proves as feckless as his dopey teenage barstaff. It’s close to 10:20 now, and already two people, have been served before us. Aky and me are thinking the same: What can we order, when he finally comes to us, that will really fuck things up for him?

‘Six pints of Guinness’ I suggest ‘two each?’

‘Make it nine’ says Aky. Huggis’ eyes have glazed over long ago.

You know just how LONG Guinness takes to pour. Joe’s face is a picture

‘Nine pints of Guinness?!’ he yells.

Nine Pints?! That's almost a gallon!

Nine Pints?!
That’s almost a gallon!

You can see he’s on the verge of refusing to serve us. So at last orders, 10:30 on the dot with 2 packed bars of drinkers waiting to be served we watch with glee as he attempts to cope with our order. Wonderful! only one problem remaining….Well there wasn’t a problem with the first two for me but I must admit, the third pint in 15 minutes was a bit of a struggle. Of course ‘The Fish’ Atkinson, just glugged them all one by one; the downing of the final dregs of each followed a wiping of his mouth with the back of his hand and his familiar beery grin.

We said our goodbyes to Huggis in the Town Centre. He blethered on about what a night he’d had and how we should keep in touch. We continued to wave as he veered precariously from one side of the pavement to the other while he attempted to eat his meat and potato pie, chips and gravy, eventually disappearing into the distance.

Definitely a danger to shipping.

And?

Well, it turns out that Huggis seems to disappear from the scene for a while after our little night out.  And it is some weeks later when we bump into him in town.

‘You pair of bastards’ He says: ‘I am never going drinking with you two again.’ And to be fair, in the 35 years since, he’s kept to his word. For it seems that Old Huggis arrives home in a bit of a state on the night in question. So much so, in fact that he gets lost in his own house, and is discovered by his father in the early hours, on the landing; disoriented and talking in tongues, having vomited in a variety of locations – some of which remained undiscovered for weeks. Huggis is in the dog house more than somewhat.

Andy Daly 2016