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

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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

 

A Fist Full Of Pencils

Now then. Long long ago when Professor Green was still  in the infants, a friend of mine teaches in a secondary comprehensive school in West London. He is an alright kind of teacher: not brillliant, but not hopeless either. In fact, he keeps his classes in pretty good order, which is the type of thing Headteachers and senior teachers generally approve of, because it means less work for them. Moreover, he gets on pretty good with the kids and their parents too, and is thought of as a safe pair of hands when it comes to the teaching dodge, which is just as well as he is at it for well over a decade by now. Besides, he teaches Art so nobody gives a cuss anyway as long as no-one is throwing paint around or walking about the school looking like Coco the clown.

For six years my friend is a Sixth Form tutor. This means the kids it is his responsibilty to register and look after in what is known as ‘Pastoral Care’ are of the older variety and studying for important exams such as A level, AS level, GNVQ, NVQ and FA. On the whole these kids are much more mature than the younger ones and it is usually thought of as an easier ride than having to cope with hundreds of ankle-snappers. Although what with sorting out love-affairs, hungover students, what radio station to have on in the mornings and the ‘ghost writing’ of endless UCAS applications for university and colleges the kids have no intention of going to, I’m not so sure.

Well it seems that someone is looking a bit too closely at the allocation of teachers to form classes and they spot that our hero is generally having a fine time; whereas they could put any old dipstick in to look after a six form group it is so easy; and use him far more profitably ‘up the sharp end’ let’s say, as a form tutor to a band new crop of eager-faced, enthusiastic Year 7 students. (My friend says there is nothing to make his blood run cold such as eager-faced, enthusiastic year 7 students.)

In considering this state of affairs, it is evident that his relationship with these eager-faced, enthusiastic year 7 students could last as long as 5 years: until they reach year 11 and their GCSE examinations. He ponders a while about the year 11s he teaches and the year 11 forms he knows and how he will be blowed if he has such a shower of shi – apologies I was about to use an educational term there which not everone would have been familiar with; he will be blowed if he has such a group of disaffected and disobedient pupils in his form in 5 years time.

So he figures on training up his new class of eager-faced, enthusiastic crumb-chasers so that they know things like what is right, what is wrong, where to hang  their coats and bags, to always carry their homework diary (signed) and probably most of all: to stick together in the face of adversity. And how does he manage the latter in prticular? Well on their first day in their big school, they get to go around and have fun taster lessons in subjects like science and technology. You know the ones which use all the cool equipment and apparatus that you never ever see again all the time you are at school. After that they have something called ‘lunch’ then go to their form rooms with their new teachers for ‘a de-brief.’

It is at this point the pencils come out. Right. Who’s feeling strong? (says my friend). Some hands go up (This is a good start. No 30 voices all yelling out together) OK. One is chosen and thrown a pencil. See if you can break it. Well, snap naturally, snap it is no big deal, snap. Anyone else? Hands go up. Snap, snap, snap and so on. After about 4 tries my friend chooses the biggest, strongest in the class and chucks them thirty pencils, tied together with 2 elastic bands. Now, have a go with that. Well, this guy ends up going purple in the face trying: he can’t do it. Eager hands go up again, and the next one has a try and so on and so on until they get to bashing them on the table and just as someone has the bright idea to drop them out of the window, my friend takes the pencils back.

You know what these are? He asks them. He sees 30 eager-faced, enthusiastic children staring back at him (in fact, he tells me to this day he still sees those same 11 year old faces and admits that if he was an old softy it would choke him up more than somewhat, but that thankfully he isn’t)

You know what these are? He asks again. These are like our class. We all stick together and look out for each other, for if we don’t, look what happens; at which he takes a couple of pencils from the bundle, and breaks them snap, snap like so. If we don’t stick together, people will be able to break us easily or wear us down. In this class we take care of each other.

Well, it seems to work pretty good, for although to begin with my friend plays the ‘Old Mr. Grumpy’ once he feels his class has got it together he begins to kick back a bit, and what do you know, by year 11, they are not a shower of shi – apologies, I have slipped back into complex educational jargon again. They are not a class of disaffected youth with a resentful, isolated teacher but best of friends who spend their morning registration time enjoying each other’s company (as well as sorting out love-affairs, hungover students and what radio station to have on)

In fact my friend tells me he keeps in contact with nearly all of that old class by something called Facebook, which seems to be a bit like the old town crier (You know with the bell and ‘Oye! Oye!’) but works with electricity and is much quicker and quieter. They are all grown up now, some are married, many have crumb-chasers of their own but they always remember the fist full of pencils.

Affectionally dedicated to AD and thanks to Chawkey for the idea.

© Andy Daly 2012

Time for a break

Now then, while visited by two old schoolmates recently we got to chewing the fat more than somewhat about the good old days, after which we came to the conclusion that save for some minor mental scarring our schooldays amounted to a hilarious, surreal experience – a sort of ‘Kes’ in real time. On pondering this I got a flashback the other day from my time at middle school which proves my point. I walked into the boys toilets just at the end of break to find 3 lads (for the life of me I can’t recall who they were), but of the two main protagonists One had his leg fully outstretched, shoe sole against the wall, while the other was taking short run ups and kicking the leg at a point midway between knee and ankle. The owner of the leg hadn’t done his Maths homework and wanted someone to break his leg, so he could get out of the lesson!

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

A Marvellous Night For A Moondance

It’s a marvellous night for a moondance …

Name: Bernard Daly
Birth Place: Barbados, West Indies
Residence: Lancaster
Death Date: 12 Feb 1915. Age 35
Rank: Corporal
Regiment: King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry)
Battalion: “B” Coy, 2nd Battalion.
Number: 8145
Type of Casualty: Killed in action. Sniper Bullet, in trenches near Bois Confluent
Additional information: Son of Capt. B. Daly, Waterloo Gardens, Belfast; husband of Jane Frances Daly, of Bradshaw St., Lancaster.
Grave/Memorial Reference:  Panel 47 and 49.

Memorial:                      YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL

My Great Grandfather

Picture taken in the back garden 11:35 pm 12/02/2011. ‘Moondance’ by Van Morrison

© Andy Daly 2011

 
 

Here’s a tall tale

Once upon a long time ago me and My Best Mate Aky entered the Scawfell
hotel, Seascale, West Cumbria (aged 19 and ¾ ) at about 10:00pm one evening. The pub was then run by a local ‘entrepreneur’ (ie Layabout/small time crook) called Joe Smith.
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
bestowing her conversational benediction on her adoring audience (ie. her
foul-mouthed tales and bitchy gossip) Never fond of hard work, hubby Joe is
behind the bar ‘supervising’ clearly inexperienced (or inefficient) bar
staff.

Well, as me and Aky 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’ or member of the constabulary,
in which case, ‘last orders’ was anywhere between 01:30 to 03:00am.  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) come to us, that will really fuck things up for him? ‘4 pints of
Guinness: 2 each?’ I suggest ‘Make it six’ says Aky. Well, you know how L – O
– N –  G it takes to pour…… Joe’s face is a picture ‘Six pints of Guinness?!’
he repeats. 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 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. What a laugh!

God, when I think how much I used to drink then…………….

© Andy Daly  2010

Great War

Our son went on a school World War One battlefield trip yesterday. They had to be at school for 4:30 am to catch the coach. Their itinerary took in Ypres  – as I’m sure you know – site of the Menin Gate which records the names of the fallen for which there is no known resting place. My Dad’s grandad (also, like him, Bernard) and his brother John were both killed nearby in 1915.

The day before the visit (11/02/09) I asked my Dad who has visited the gate, to text me the panel numbers which contain their names, so that if time allowed, James could search for his great great grandad and his brother. Dutifully, my Dad did as asked; back came the reply with the location of the two names … and a confirmation of the date of death of Corporal Bernard Daly 8145 Shropshire Light Infantry born in Bridgetown Barbados 11/02/15. Exactly 94 years ago to the day.

Leaving his wife, Jane and son, Bernard, my Dad’s Dad.

By a cruel twist of fate, the post that brought the family this devastating news also contained a letter from Corporal Daly especially for his young son …

What do you say….?

© Andy Daly  2010