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

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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