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Martin Day’s Autobiography

Martin was born in 1960 at the start of what must have been the most optimistic decade. One that would see men walk on the moon, the first flight of Concorde at twice the speed of sound and the genesis of the Beatles and the Stones. Although the autobiography is still very much a work in progress, here are a few extracts to provide a flavour.

Extracts from the following chapters:

Chapter 2 – Welcome to my home

Martin’s original home in Cuckoo Vale, Donkey Town, West End

My earliest memory is being lowered out of the back door into snow, snow that came up to under the armpits of my little red one-piece suit. I may have had little wellies on. I should have. But what a memory – snow everywhere, everything white, everything silent – just me and this white everything. Years later, when I was going through my stuff in coaching training, I realised the significance of there being no one else in that memory. One of my parents, both probably, would have been behind me, but I am the only one in the memory. It had only ever been me. Almost certainly this was the famous winter of ’63. That year it snowed just after Christmas and didn’t thaw until March. I would have been just two. Being so far from the main road we would have been snowed in for quite a while. Dad told me the milkman delivered on a sledge. I guess he would have pulled it himself. Back in those days the milkman was like a mobile corner shop. Milk, orange juice, bread and more I suspect. Everyone had daily deliveries from the milkman. In fact, the dairy was years ahead of their time. Back then a milk float was an electric vehicle with big wet lead batteries. It would be on charge overnight and milk would be left, daily, on the doorstep, usually in time for breakfast. And milk was in glass pint bottles that you would wash up clean and put out for collection the next day. Most things liquid came in a glass bottle back then, often with a deposit to be redeemed as an incentive to return them for reuse. In some ways society was wiser back then. Some days the blue tits would get to the milk before we did, peck a hole in the lid and drink the cream. Mum didn’t like that; it was dirty; although I found it charming. On very cold winter’s days the milk would freeze, expand and rise up out of the bottle in a white column with the foil cap on top. Which brings be back to the snow. (See, I may be meandering, but I know where I was. If I don’t tell you about these little details of life back then, how else are you going to know?)

Chapter 6 – Institutional Inductions

John Day in panto

By far the most exciting thing that happened at church was the annual pantomime.  It was fascinating and thrilling to me to see many of the grown-ups, who seemed so straight in their Sunday best, transform into characters on the stage, singing, dancing and delivering their ham lines. The minister would have a role, the treasurer too, other mums would be dressed in tights and slapping their thighs. Dad was always in the cast too – sometimes as a pirate in Peter Pan, or in drag as the dame. One year he did a Marlene Dietrich spoof complete with fishnet tights and beret. He sang with a heavy German accent, “Underneath the lamplight getting very wet …” The scripts were littered with in-jokes and local references. I loved it. Everyone loved it. I’m sure more people would go to Church if they all did pantomimes.

Chapter 14 – And into the Jungle

Ronnie Biggs
Was Ronnie Biggs John Smith’s uncle?

Smith must have gotten into some trouble over the incident and word came around that he was going to get me for it. He lived at the far reaches of West End where Hookstone Road meets Bagshot Road in a large modern brick building that I can only describe as a ranch. The rumour was that his family were related to Ronnie Biggs the escaped Great Train Robber. Although this was doubtless all bunkum it would have explained his contempt for the establishment. He was probably a fifth year, much bigger than me and, as if he needed it, he had an older brother with a car. I know this only because that older brother careered into the top entrance of the school seemingly trying to run children over, presumably hoping that one of them was me. This incident was brief as he looped around and drove away fast, I guessed that John was riding shotgun. Despite there being no injuries it created something of a stir around the school and put the frighteners up me. Because Smith lived in West End, like me, it meant that he would take one of the same busses home as I did.

Chapter 17 – Hard Times

Martin the athlete

There was one particularly long day where the Woking AC coach took us all the way down to Brighton. It was a baking day and it was so tempting to take a long walk down to the sea, but I couldn’t be sure there was enough time before my events. On the way home the coach stopped at a roadside café (or services) for a wee and refreshment break. In the toilets there was a mysterious vending machine selling ‘johnnies’. Here was an opportunity, I thought. The possibility of an embarrassment free transaction for a just-in-case purchase must not be passed over. I hung around the toilets, going in an out, until for a minute the area became fee. I fumbled my now hot 50p into the machine, turned the knob and then shoveled the resultant blister pack into my pocket, without daring to look at it. Mission accomplished.

I should say that there was a point during my teenage years that the hormones suddenly kicked in. With that came an urgency that set my moral compass spinning. My sexual curiosity was fired and I went from wanting to save myself for the right girl to just wanting to know what it was like, what the other boys were talking about, what they were boasting about.

The works of Dickens
The works of Dickens

I wanted to know, preferably with the right girl, but eventually I just wanted to know – It’s well named as Carnal Knowledge in legal circles. So when I got home from the athletics meet I knew that my parents must never find this illicit emergency garment. It had to be hidden, but where? Somewhere they would never find it. On the shelf in my bedroom sat the complete works of Dickens. This dusty collection of yellow paged hardbacks had found its way into my room because I had few books of my own, but there was plenty of shelving that betrayed my parent’s academic hopes for me. No one had ever picked out one of these classics to read and no one ever would. I would hide my just-in-case-an-opportunity-should-ever-arise stash behind one of these volumes, but which one? ‘Great Expectations’ seemed too obvious. ‘Little Dorrit’ would have been demeaning. So I settled on ‘Hard Times’ – perfect.

Chapter 21 – Hell’s teeth

So now I’m looking up at a strange man dressed all in green with a little green hat on. There is a gradually deepening pitch of vibration in my top lip as he pulls the thread through and loops back down for another stich.

“Hello” I say, conversationally. “Who are you?”

The room is bright, very bright and clearly not the cloakroom I last remember being in. I realise very quickly that I am in hospital. I have seen western movies where they get a patient drunk because a bullet needs removing but there is no aesthetic, so it’s fortunate for me that I had the forethought to make such good preparation. And it works too; I can’t feel much. Everything in and around my mouth is numb, like when you’ve come out the dentist’s. But the man doing the sewing seems sympathetic. He is pulling an expression like it’s hurting him more than me, which is probably true. The problem is I can’t feel my front teeth, the significance of which is yet to sink in. When he’s done Mum and Dad who have been hovering in the corridor come in. They seem very sombre – a mix of concern and disappointment. But we all recognise that it’s too late for lectures as it seems that the worse has indeed happened.

Martin still with teeth
Martin still with teeth

The next morning I woke up in a strange bed. I had dropped off to sleep very quickly the night before and slept soundly. My lips felt very swollen and numb, but not numb enough to feel tender. I got up to find the loo and all four of my limbs seemed to have come through the night unscathed. As I walked down across the room I noticed a window to another room and a bloke walking parallel with me. I stopped to look at him just as he turned to look at me. Our eyes met for a second. He was a right mess with a dreadful facial injury. This wasn’t anyone I had seen before, but neither of us looked away and it started to dawn on me that this was no window, but a mirror. To my eyes I was unrecognisable; well the eyes themselves had a familiarity about them, but the nose and lips were all swollen and weeping scabs. It looked as though someone had dragged a chainsaw diagonally across my face. I tried to pull some expressions to ensure that it really was me, but with it was hard to get any response beyond blinking. My lips had to be about four times bigger than usual and all bruised and lumpy from all the stiches. I could barely get them apart to confirm that my two front teeth had indeed gone missing in action. What that action had been was yet to be determined. Sadly, they were not only gone, but completely gone, roots and all. Although they had been perfectly displayed in my, oh so kissable, mouth only a few hours before, the orthodontistry that had dragged them into position had left them loose enough to ping right out.

Chapter 36 – The Splicing

Gradually the church filled up with all the usual long lost relatives and the great hordes of our palls from Keyhole and church. It was a big occasion. The plan had been for the hired car to ferry Tracy and Jill’s mum to the church and then go back for Jill and Bev. St James’ Close was only a quarter of a mile from St Johns Church so it was a logical economy. The driver completed the first leg and then parked up to enjoy a fag whilst waiting for the service to end. Meanwhile Jill, who had planned everything so carefully, was pacing about at the house getting more and more anxious about the missing car. At the same time, I was sitting at the front of the church getting more and more nervous. There were some whispers behind me about the bride’s prerogative to be late.

dreamy best man
Martin, Jill and the dreamy best man

In the lead up to the wedding Jill had been seized by sudden doubt. She knew that she loved me, but wasn’t sure if she loved me enough for marriage to work. She had been to see Jimmy about it and the old sage had asked her some very down to earth questions and helped put her mind to rest. I had seen plenty of films where the bride stood the groom up at the altar, but despite this I never for a moment thought she wouldn’t turn up. However, there is something involuntary that happens to me when I am nervous – I start yawning. It may be psychological, with my subconscious thinking that if I go to sleep it will all go away, but the net effect is I appear bored and detached. With the bride getting later and later and the groom looking weary of the thing, I suspect that not everyone though that this wedding was going to happen.

Jill was just about ready to march down the main road to the church but, in one last attempt to find the car, Kath was dispatched in her car to find the driver (remember mobile phones hadn’t been invented yet). So with the driver retrieved and reprimanded, Jill finally arrived at church maybe only 20 minutes late. There was no elegant gliding to the altar, as had been planned; instead she marched up the aisle at some speed. I think she was bursting to tell me what had happened, but there was something more important to attend to.

Jill maintains that she couldn’t look me in the eye when it came to the vows as she was worried I would make her laugh, which was why she made all her promises looking at my dreamy best man.

Chapter 47 – Rock god status

The curtain was down, I say the curtain; they actually had the choice of eight or nine of the things. They had chosen one that gave a good space in front for the dancers. Rob, Simon and myself had about six feet behind it with Andy on the drum riser behind us, but he wasn’t at the back of the stage by any means. The stage was that big that there was a great space behind him to the back wall. Just behind Andy was the lighting gantry that would rise up as the curtain did. The dry ice machine was turned on and the back stage started to fill up with fog. Quickly it was well over our heads. Dry ice being carbon dioxide, it did pass through my mind that we could pass out without oxygen, but it would break like a dam when the curtain rose so I guessed everyone knew what they were doing.

We could now hear cheering and shouting at the dancers and then the compares. It certainly sounded like a lot of people a few yards away from us.

Then came our cue, “…from Woking, Salt Solution.”

The band started chugging and a stage hand pulled on the rope to  bring the curtain up, but nothing happened, well not exactly nothing, the curtain lifted a couple of inches and then fell down again. It was somehow snagged. He tried again but still nothing. Although it was hard to see through the pea-souper we were in, there was suddenly a lot of activity to our left. Being the only one not tethered to an instrument, I was pacing about and asking, should we carry on or should we stop? Surely we couldn’t play the set from behind the curtain. I didn’t even have a microphone; it was waiting for me in its stand at the front of the stage. Time went on, but the curtain wasn’t budging. Eventually, Andy was tiring of bashing away at his cymbals and instead settled in to a regular rhythm. Rob followed and started to noodle and then solo over this with his monster guitar sound; Simon too. This was now a jam and how we usually started most rehearsals. We could do this all night. Then I could hear the sound of the audience clapping along with us. All this drama was serving to hype them up; they thought it was part of the show! They wanted us, but we couldn’t get to them.

By now all the dry ice had dissipated and wouldn’t be rolling anywhere. Then suddenly the curtain jerked up by about three feet. Rob wasn’t going to stay caged a second longer and shot under it, like a rat up a drainpipe, in case it dropped down again. Simon and I followed. The show was on again and so I headed straight for my effects to plug my leads in. I then pulled the mic out of its holder and the lead fell out the bottom of it. Now, it’s part of my nature that I can ride over one problem, but when a second thing goes wrong I can get a serious hump on. To me everything was going wrong now and being on this stage was suddenly the last place I wanted to be. I caught the lead, turned my back on the audience and reconnected it, only for it to swing lose a second time. I was really fed up now and would spend the rest of the song holding the cable in with my little finger until the backstage crew could get a replacement to me.

I issued my count-in and the band powered into the song proper. Gradually I warmed back up to my task; it didn’t take long. The audience were crammed right up to the front of the stage and stretching away from me into the darkness at the back. They were up for the gig. The lights were fabulous and Rob was bouncing about like the Duracell bunny that we knew him to be, making full use of the vast width of the stage. As the final chord rang out, ‘curtain-gate’ had turned a three minute song into a seven minute one.

YouTube player

Watch the video of the above tale in which the disastrous 4 minute section has been ingeniously edited out!

Chapter 60 – Great balls of fire

Bryan had set us up with an assembly gig in a nearby school that would also serve to promote the festival and our own set later that same evening. This was my first chance to add the fire breathing into our performance. I had decided to include the stunt during the instrumental playout of ‘Unwilling Guest’. The song’s final line was ‘Where’s his throne and king’s attire? Where’s the wind and where’s the fire?’ I thought that enough of an excuse for the flaming theatrics. I had already realised that it would be unwise to shower the audience with a slimy paraffin slick at best, or set them alight at worst. So I angled my flame across the width of the stage. As it turned out this first attempt could well have been the last. The lung capacity I had developed during my glassblowing years produced an unbelievably large fireball. Not only was it shockingly bright, but even the back row of the 250 children in the assembly hall could feel the burst of heat (in the same way you feel the heat of a bonfire, even at a distance).

Martin's first try at fire breathing
In the garage – Martin’s first try at fire breathing

I discovered that day that another effect of such a large fireball is the mushroom cloud effect. It seems the mushroom cloud is not restricted to atomic bombs. The initial burn used up all the available air from the outside in and left a heart of unused fuel in the centre. The heat of the burn caused a secondary flare to rise igniting mushroom-like out of the top. The fireball was taking on a life of its own and, for a second, seemed to light up the stage’s tab curtain and creep across the high tiled ceiling. Thankfully, it was just displaced dust that was being burnt and nothing actually caught fire. Needless to say, the children were completely wowed by this stadium-quality effect and I’m guessing the attending teachers assumed we knew what we were doing, although, of course, we didn’t. (Risk assessments weren’t really a thing in the ‘90s.) For me, it was an important lesson in how to control my most special of special effects.


Because my parents both died comparatively young, and being an only child, I have no one to ask about the deep past. So I decided to regurgitate all I could remember about my own childhood memories and the whole of my life to date so that when I am long gone and my children reach the great age when they become curious about the past and their own roots I will have left them something to read. And should I become suddenly and unexpected famous I can be ready with my memoirs!


The project was started in early 2020 and would be my answer to the question, “What did you do in lockdown?”

At time of writing I am over a quarter of a million words in. In book terms I would be towards the end of my second volume by now and I am only up to the point of my first child having been born! Absolutely no proof reading has been done yet nor editing and little in the way of reading back. I’m sure it will need a lot more work to make it properly readable.