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

Hangovers: The SAS Captain

It has always been a source of puzzlement to me how the elite British Army regiment the SAS (Special Air Service) manages the heroic feats that it does. Because every member or ex-member of the SAS I have met over the years – and there have been a considerable few – have been without exception, as half-witted and physically unco-ordinated as they are socially inept. I am beginning to suspect that this legion of long distance lorry drivers, supply teachers and mini cab drivers were not all telling the truth. Let me give you an example.

One day during the long hot summer of 1984 (even hotter at Hangovers because the heating in the cellar space below was going full blast and no-one could figure out how to turn it off) Me and My Best Mate Aky were interrupted from our game of baseball when a nondescript bloke walks into the shop. I know what you’re thinking. ‘Baseball: In a shop?’ You see in order to allieviate some of the lazy afternoon boredom we had taken to playing a ‘scaled down’version of the tarted-up game of rounders that passes for Sport in some parts of the world. We would fashion a bat and ball out of rolled up, and scrunched up newspaper and sellotape. Then once we’d flipped a coin to decide who was going to be the New York Yankees, we took up positions. We pitched from one end of the counter (no mound) while the batsman took up position in the doorway which led through to the other part of the shop unit, and stairs. This was to allow the batsman more elbow room, as well as presenting him the possibility of hitting the ball clean out of the shop and into the street (Home Run). We didn’t actually run – the shop was far too small for that. Instead the interior was split into ‘zones’ which corresponded with bases, so you had three pitches in which to reach a sufficient number of bases to constitute a run or, indeed, go for the big hit.

The customer looked mildly surprised as a ragged mess of torn newspaper and tape hit him square on the shoulder, but if he was offended, he didn’t show it. He merely looked at the spot it had struck and with only mild irritation, performed a theatrical ‘sweeping’ motion with his hand, before commencing to browse.

After a few minutes Aky asks ‘Can I help you? Are you looking for anything in particular?’

‘You got any Bollinger (Champagne)?’ Asked the stranger.

‘Vintage?’ tried Aky, hopefully.

‘Nah’

‘It’s just above your head right in the middle there.’

‘Fine, I’ll take a case’

Ahhhhh! Now, this was starting to look interesting. Trying not to draw attention to ourselves Aky first slipped off the newspaper baseball cap he was wearing, while I did my best to hide my battered newsprint catcher’s mitt beneath the counter.

The mysterious customer was now closely inspecting the Red wines.

‘I’ll have a case of Nuit St. George and one of Mouton Cadet … Do you deliver?’

‘Yeah, as long as it’s in London’

‘Chelsea’

‘Fine’

‘Better get some white. I don’t want anything too dry though. Anything you recommend?’

‘As it happens that Piesporter’s not bad’

‘Okay, case of that, and mmmm …’

‘This is for when?’ asked Aky, mindful, like me, of the fact that what we had was on the shelves – none of this was in stock.

‘Oh, Friday. We’re having a bit of a ‘do’. Hmmmm, now where did I get to? Yeah, 6 bottles of Johnny Walker and what’s that draught Ruddles like?’

‘It’s good. Have a try’

For a couple of weeks we’d been trialling selling draught beer, specifically Ruddles County. There was a tap on the counter and a keg in the cellar. Hoping he wouldn’t notice the barflies as I waved them away, I poured him a plastic cup full for him to taste.

‘Mmmm … Nice. So how does that come?’

‘We usually do it in 16 pint polypins’

‘Okay, I’ll have six of those as well and that should do it’

‘I’ll just tot that up for you then … £409.22* and where is it for?’

’22 SAS Chelsea Barracks and its Capt O’ Leary.’

Unseen to Capt O’ Leary, I noticed that after raising his eyes to the heavens, Aky had already screwed the order form up in his hand and tossed it into the nearest bin.

‘See you Friday then lads’ and with that he disappeared.

We of course took the precaution of phoning Chelsea Barracks, just in case, but as expected the officer at the guardhouse explained that they could neither confirm or deny whether a ‘Capt O’Leary’ was currently stationed there and assured us that even if there was, he would have been in breach of protocol in requesting the delivery of such items to a military base because of the security risk.

Barking Mad.

*This is worth £409.22 in today’s money.

Hangovers

Now, here’s a tricky one for you. What is the connection between the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus, The Rileys, a notorious Islington-based criminal family probably best known for their Finsbury Square ‘shoot out’ with rival gang the Adams, and a small parade of shops behind St. Pancras parish church, designed by Thomas Cubitt and built in 1822?

Don’t worry if you’re struggling. There’s probably less than half a dozen people alive on this planet who know the answer; which is of course, Hangovers. Not the physical phenomenon that we all know and love, result of bashing the grape more than somewhat and characterised by headache, dehydration, upset stomach, double vision, death (or close to) depending on how many extra one has attemped to tie on. In fact at one time in my life I am sorry to say, what had become my ‘default setting’ such that occasionally; maybe on a Tuesday or Wednesday I would wake up in my bed and not some wretched, deserted London Transport terminal like Cockfosters, Upminster, Dagenham, Barnet Church etc. and stumble about, blinking in the sunshine, unaccustomed to the levelness of the floor and the agreeable volume at which I found everything. Fit, in fact as a fiddle. Which brings me back to Hangovers.

The next time you are walking around Bloomsbury, which I realise for some of you for reasons of geography, is going to be less likely than it is for others, do yourself a favour. Head north through Tavistock Square, pass the British Medical Association, then between The New Ambassadors and the County Hotel, Stick your nose into Woburn Walk. As if you’ve stepped into a timewarp you are transported from the noise, grime and traffic on Upper Woburn Place to the most wonderful parade of Georgian shops.

This hidden gem was the brainchild of architect Thomas Cubitt, also resposible for, among other things, the East front of Buckingham Palace and was built as London’s first pedestrianised street. The houses themselves are three storeys with stucco fronts , while the shop facades were designed with great skill (it says here) The window stood in the centre, flanked by doorways, each of which were of four panels with rectangular fanlight above.  Each window was divided by very delicate glazing bars into twenty-four panes, four panes high, and curved at each side. Between each pair of doors was a wrought-iron scraper and the rainwater downpipes, with moulded heads, were neatly arranged in alternate recesses between the houses. Number 5 was occupied from 1895-1919 by William Butler Yeats. While from 1982 -1987 it was occupied along with number 3, by Hangovers, the Wine Store.

Aky and self outside Hangovers, summer 1984

Antique shop opposite Hangovers

So there’s the first link. The others I’ll come to presently.

There are so many Hangovers stories. They criss-cross, overlap and are so tightly packed that it is almost impossible to tease them out into one single narrative. So they have been left to mature these last few years and what I am going to attempt to do for you is to slice off some of the tasty titbits such as Stage Door Martin and the Waterloo Bridge incident, The SAS Captain, and The Flower Seller, amongst others.

But all in good time.

© Andy Daly 2012

Pic Credits: West End Notes, London Town, Flickriver 2 , 192.com, Flickriver 2

What A Racquet!

The

‘Poc -uhh, poc -yaaahhh, poc -uhh, poc -yaahhh, poc -yaaahhh, poc -uhh, poc -yaahhh  ………… poc -Nnnuuuhh! (combined ‘Oooohhhhhh!’ from the crowd) poc -Eeeeyaahhh! poc -uhhurrf… ‘Out!”

as it lazily issues from the TV and the rain pitter-pattering on the window remind me that Blimey O’ Reilly, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis championships have come round again. Where does the time go?

It seems not more than two minutes since the heroic Men’s final of 1980. You must recall, it was McEnroe and Borg. Strangely etched on my memory, I spent the afternoon with My Best Mate Aky in the Off-Licence he ran on Seven Sisters road, more or less halfway between the Rainbow Theatre and Holloway Road. I’m not even sure we watched it, as for that you needed a TV – even in those days. We may just have listened to it on the radio.

What I do remember vividly is that it was dead that afternoon. Not a soul around.  A real bore.

So, like lost souls cast adrift in the middle of the ocean, we devised simple games to keep up our morale, to maintain the kind of clarity and lucidity needed to face the painful, impossible, yet inevitable question that awaited us and that we had both been putting off: The Wheatsheaf or Rochester Castle?

Onesuch game involved pre-empting the definitive tabloid headline for the following day’s editions.

Winner was (I’ll never forget it)

“Ice Borg sinks Mac the Strife in Titanic struggle”

I never did check to see if it was used. New balls please.

© Andy Daly  2011

Pic credits: both All England Tennis Club

Greedy Greedy Guts Guts

Once upon a time, I was up in Camden Town at the Dublin Castle to meet some friends who had come down from the North for a spell in the smoke.  We had a couple of beers together, before they had to shoot off to meet another party: I think, to go boozing up Highgate/Hampstead. I didn’t fancy it, so I went off down Parkway, towards the tube; as it was early, probably intending to head for home (Bromley-by Bow) and finish off in the Priory Tavern.

At the time, on Parkway, just below the Dublin Castle, was a no-frills English restaurant – I think also called ‘Parkway’. We used it a lot. They used to do a great all – week – round Sunday roast, and we’d often end up there for some nosebag if we’d been ‘getting the taste’ in Camden.

As I walked past the restaurant, I instinctively looked in the main window – I think I was a bit peckish and was half hoping that there might be someone in there I knew, who I could go join neck some scran. Well, whaddaya know, sitting at the window table: it’s only my best mate Aky and his girlfriend. I wave and grin like an idiot. Something approaching a smile briefly flutters across her lips, then her face hardens as she realises the possible implications of my sudden appearance (ie no more cosy meal for two) Aky, meanwhile is oblivious to this as he’s taking a big slug out of a pint glass and doesn’t see me. I do the honourable thing and walk on. However, he must have spotted something, or his girlfriend given something away, because he’s soon calling me from the restaurant door. I walk back up to and into the restaurant, ask for a third seat and join them; stressing that I do not wish to disrupt their evening together. While Aky says “Noooo, the more the merrier.  Listen, we’ve just this minute ordered, what are you having?” his girlfriend’s eyes are suggesting that whatever it is, I enjoy it, because if she’s got any say in the matter, it will be the last meal I have.

“The usual, I reckon” That was roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, roasties, two veg and gravy. “Yeah. Me too” says Aky.

So we order some beers and presently the food arrives. It is politely and efficiently served and we get stuck in. Aky, a real ‘trencherman’ is first to finish, wrapping up the proceedings by draining the dregs of his pint, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and giving me his familiar beery grin. I’m not far behind him, but I’m more in the skinny git with hollow legs mould.

“Ahhhhh …” I said, contentedly: “Y’know what …  I could eat that all again”

“Why don’t we?” says Aky, mischievous glint in his eye. His girlfriend is horrified.

We call over the waitress.

“Can we have it all again. Just the same, one each, all over again.”

She didn’t seem to understand: “What? Was there something wrong with it?”

In the meantime, the head waitress had appeared. She seemed braced for trouble:

“Is there a problem?”

“No, not at all, we enjoyed it so much, we just want the same again, if that’s OK”

“Certainly!”

… and so off we went again! Everything was polished off, and I do believe we even – much to Aky’s girlfriend’s annoyance – had a pudding too!

A great night. If I tried it now, of course, I’d be crippled for days!

Andy Daly  2010