I lived there you see

So my eldest is flat hunting in the East End. Out of the blue he says

Dad, what do you know about Bromley by Bow?’

What? Other than the fact that the area is said to gets its name from the shape of the bridge built over the river Lea by Maude, wife of King Henry 1?

Or that it is built on the site of a medieval convent, dedicated to St Leonard?

Or that following the Dissolution, the priory chapel became the parish church, but Second World War damage and construction of the Blackwall Tunnel northern approach destroyed much of what was left?

Or that the notorious Kray twins had a club on Bow road?

Or that Mahatma Gandhi stayed in the community centre, Kingsley Hall when he visited the UK in 1931.

Or that the Bow Quarter was original site of the Bryant and May match factory and scene of the 1888 strike, when the workers, mainly women went on strike for better conditions.

Or that I celebrated my 25th birthday with a party in the Priory Tavern.

Or that the Spratts Patent Ltd manufactured dog biscuits from the 1860s (It says here) and erected the first billboard in London? It doesn’t say where though

… Isle of Dogs maybe … Barking …?

The view from our terrace. 1985 Bromley By Bow

View from my eldest’s terrace Bromley By Bow 2017

 

Dick’s Out

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

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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

Clive loved Spain.

He died out there, suddenly oh, it must be coming up to 7 years ago now. I worked with him at the same school for 10 years or so. I miss him terribly. We weren’t ‘Best Pals’ but we did spend a lot of time together. Like many others we fought against half-baked thinking and the inadequate grasp of fundamentals in education, nay in human relationships, and especially so when it came from the unleavened Mrs Fajita. (‘Dopey Cow’) Hapless management, made our day, but at what cost to students’ education?

We shared some of the same interests in music, although it has to be said we didn’t agree on everything. We were founder members of that tiresome quartet ‘The School Band’ I have even forgiven him for, unbeknown to me, turning my trusty WEM Dominator amp off while he did some acoustic numbers at a social do in the school hall finally I took to the  stage spent the first eight bars trying to work out why my amp wasn’t working.

‘It was ‘Buzzing” he said.

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

Ooooooh I was cross with him.

I enjoyed his blog ‘Going to the Dogs in Swindon’ and he was complimentary about my scribblings, which meant a great deal to me and gave me the confidence push it on a bit.

I remember a right old day out in Southsea. Ostensibly, a Sixth Form end of term trip, we skidaddled straight away and during the course of the afternoon drank a bucketful of beer, ate the second largest plate of fish and chips I’ve ever seen, chewed the fat more than somewhat, and ended up on some hideous ride at the funfair. Poor Denise Broadbent! I’ve never seen anyone go soooo green

Then there was that memorable day in Valencia. Of all the people over the years who have said ‘I’ll pop across and see you, I’m only in Javea/Denia/Xativa/Valencia/Almeria/Extremadura/Santiago de Compostella/Wherever ….’ Clive and Sue were the only ones who ever did. We ate Paella and to round off the day, I gave our eldest a dollar for the fruit machine, and he won the bloody jackpot ¡Ay caramba!

Clive and Sue

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

We laughed at the same kinds of things, both of us unashamedly cynical. But he never let his … ‘worldliness’ let’s call it, cloud his teaching. He was a great teacher.

Clive turned me on to Irvine Welsh,’The Watchmen’, which I read cover to cover. Not bad for someone who hates comic-books, while I used to love hearing his tale of how he booked Paul Simon to play at the folk club he ran in Swindon in 1965, when Simon was living over here. As Clive recalled, it was not long after this that back in the US with Art Garfunkel he began to achieve his first major success.

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

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

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

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

To which, quick as a flash Clive replied:

‘Is that an order?’

Now, I don’t know whether you have ever seen a teacher spontaneously awake from a profound slumber; let alone a roomful. It is not a pretty sight. It’s very funny though: watching your colleagues variously choking on dentures, hot tea, coffee, spilling same over weeks’ worth of marking, exam papers .Very, very funny

A priceless moment from one of many. Sadly missed. Clive, this is for you with the hope that we may one day chew the fat again like we did down at Southsea.

I’ve looked at Life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It’s Life illusions I recall

I really don’t know life at all

© 1973 Warner Bros

 

© Andy Daly 2017

Beyond The Grave

For reasons which were never adequately explained to me, when we had our extension built, Building Control forced us to have a soak away dug in the back garden rather than simply cut into the existing surface water pipe. The Soak Away’s job is to collect and disperse the run off water from the house and garden.
So we did what we were told and built a Soak Away as required. This meant digging a pit about 6 feet (182cm) deep and backfilling with shingle and stones.
One of the young labourers was tasked with the job and went about it with gusto. He did not use any power tools only a spade, a shovel and a pick axe, but by the end of the afternoon he was standing in a neat 6 foot square hole. The edges were lovingly finished, crisp, and the sides plumb.
I went out to have a natter with him and to take him a cup of tea. I praised him for his speedy work and in particular his tidy finish.
‘Ah yes’ he says. ‘I was grave digger in Poland’

© Andy Daly 2017

Slap happy

Warning. Early 1970’s sexism, and graphic scenes of violence which those of a nervous disposition may find distressing.

May contain nuts.

l have said before that my schooldays were a kind of ‘Kes’ in real time. Examination of Ken Loach’s treatment of former teacher Barry Hines’ book ‘A Kestrel for a Knave’ reveals a cast of teachers and pupils captured with just the right amount of lunacy and pathos. A snapshot of life in all its absurdities, which mirrored  our experience with uncanny accuracy.

Among the psychopaths, nutters and loonies at my school I was fortunate enough to find two sane lads who were into the same things as me, and who just happened to be the funniest people I’d ever met: namely Baz and Teck. Like me, a fan of Milligan, Baz is possessed of lazer-like wit, with which he is quite able to reduce his audience to pulp with his no-nonsense view of the world and razor sharp comments. Teck is far more lugubrious. His speciality is ‘The Rant’ along with silly words, sound affects and accents.

Thanks to the Interwebthingumybob we are still  in contact today. Apart from maintaining our friendship the beauty of this is that we are sometimes able to remember events jointly as they actually happened, and even describe what took place from a different viewpoint or perspective.

When looking back and all your instincts tell you ‘That can’t be true … I must have made it up …’ all it takes is a quick Facebook message.

Let me give you an example. I remembered a comical (well not so much for the girl involved) incident from 1972. We were in the second year  ( Year 8 ). The bell had gone for the end of break and we were all milling about in the Languages corridor. In theory we were lining up outside our respective classrooms, when in fact it looked more like a scrummage, complete with Scrum Half about to feed the ball (somone’s school bag) Through this melee of bodies walked Sarah one of the prettiest girls in the year with a group of freinds. In what must have been a catastrophic rush of blood to the head, because it was so out of character, a class-mate by the name of George, casually put out his hand and as Sarah and her friends passed, he cupped her left breast.

A horrified silence descended on the corridor, the two packs disengaged and looked on. You could hear a pin drop. Calmly and without breaking her step Sarah wound her arm back and with a confidence that suggested she was more than a dab hand at unarmed combat adminstered the mother of all slaps to George’s chops. It sounded like hitting a pound and a half of liver wth a cricket bat. The corridor was in uproar again until our French teacher Russell O’ Callaghan arrived on the scene and sorted us out.

Some 40 years later Baz,Teck and me are discussing the the incident in The Regal Moon pub and it transpired we had each been in the corridor, but in different places. Yet on inpection, our accounts of what happened matched perfectly.

And the thing that we each remember most?

That slap.

I bet on a quiet day if you listen carefully down at the bottom of St. Wilfred’s Drive, the estate of new houses built on the old school site, you can still hear the echoes of Sarah’s Super Slap today.

40 years on L-R Self, Kath, Angela, Teck. Baz, Mike

© Andy Daly 2017

Broken English

Shakespeare. No longer fit for purpose.

Shakespeare. No longer fit for purpose.

Why is it so effortful to understand what people are saying these days? I fear English is broken. No longer fit for purpose, going forward.

For sure they will say ‘It is what it is’ and ‘yeah no yeah’ which is true, but I think it’s a whole nother ballgame. For example ‘Breggzit’ what does it even mean?

Confused of Ruislip

In the Swim

Recognise this place?. Unfair question I know. Doubtless you all grew up near one, whether or not you recognise this specific example is more of a test.

dale_baths

That’s right, It is a public baths.

Indeed it is Rochdale Public Baths.This was where we could be found when we weren’t playing Walley, 36-a-side football or swailing.

Or at least it was.The baths are no longer there. They were pulled down in 2012.

Built of  Accrington Brick and York stone  at a cost of £67,131 this Art Deco building opened its doors in 1937 offering Turkish and Russian baths plus the Crush Hall, cafe and spectator areas. The two pools, large and small, were both built wth underwater lighting, and in a bit of forward thinking the building was originally heated by waste burned in the Cleansing Department’s nearby refuse incinerator.

It must have looked a swell joint in its day.

With our trunks rolled up inside our towels, We’d hop on the bus into town and spend the afternoon running, bombing and petting (petting?) until our eyes were blood red from the chlorine and our foreheads an angry mauve, having been slapped so many times as we dived from the high boards.

Self: top left C 1970

Self: top left C 1970

Self: third from left C 1970

Self: third from left C 1970

And when our  afternoon was over, having got changed, we gave in to the fuzzy warm feeling ovecoming us and made our way to the cafe for a cup of the nicest tomato soup with toast you have ever tasted.

My adoptive town. So many happy memories there.

© Andy Daly 2017

 

Joke

… And that’s how Bobby Womack ended up writing ‘Breezin’…

Now then, where was I?

I’ve written ‘Lancaster Cathedral’ down on this piece of paper, what’s that all about?

Ah yes, a joke.

Once upon a time my Dad went to a sunday service at Lancaster Cathedral as he often does, where they just happened to be renovating one of the doors. The congregation was swelled by group of Spanish tourists from San Sebastian (in the Northern Basque territory) One of the priests is an ex-pupil of my Dad’s and so they lingered a bit to chat, and generally chew the fat.

Watching people leave through the only available door, result of the works. The priest had noticed that the Spanish group had managed to clog the door as they filtered out, still taking photos.

As quick as a flash and dry as you like, he says “That’s what you get when you put all your Basques in one exit!”

© Andy Daly 2016

All photos from Lancaster Cathedral Blogspot

Talkin’ Turkey

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 the works Christmas drinks uptown. On the train back – unusually, 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?, 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’

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’…responds 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

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