Dodgey Dave and The Toenail


Dave is a “storyteller”. He comes out with the most outrageous stuff!


Dave and Ronny were in their most favourite place in the whole world, the Captain Kidd pub in Wapping.

Dave as usual was holding court. He called over to Ted the landlord.

“Oi Ted, did you hear what was washed up on the other side of the river by The Nelson?”

Ted came over looking intrigued.

“What was it Dave, body part?”

By now a few of the other regulars had gathered round, all curious to find out what had been washed up. Dave continued.

“Well I’ve got a mate that works for the River Police and he gave me all the info.”

Ronny took a swig of his pint then asked the same question that Ted had.

“So go on Dave what was it, torso, head, what?”

Dave leaned forward and looked right and left as though he was about to tell some great secret.


Ted was the first to laugh.

“Fucking Toenail, is that it? So what, not much they can deduce from a fucking toenail!”

“You’d be surprised Ted, the technology these days is amazing.”

One of the other regulars ordered a round of drinks. Ronny took a swig of his beer and turned to look at Dave.

“This isn’t going to be another one of your STORIES is it Dave, like last week when you told us that you used to train Dolphins in the Thames!”

Dave was indignant.

“That was true, thirty years ago the Thames was full of Dolphins, they used to come in through the estuary at Southend, get lost and before they knew it they were up by bloody Tower Bridge, someone had to get in there with them and show them the way back, there was a team of us back then all qualified Dolphin Trainers, we’d turn then and get them back to the coast. If it wasn’t for the new barrier the Thames would be full of the fuckers.”

Ronny and Ted laughed but a couple of the other regulars were nodding as though they agreed with Dave. He continued.

“Anyway, they took the toenail off to forensics, from the size and shape of the nail they can tell what toe it’s from, this toenail was from the toe next to the big one. They can also estimate the size of the toe and from this can tell what size foot it came from. This was a size nine!”

Ronny and Ted were now a bit unsure, this sounded possible. Ted had another sip of his beer eager for some more info.


“Well because it’s a size nine, they know that the nail came from a man’s foot and not a woman’s. It’s extremely rare for a woman to have such large feet.”

One of the other regulars piped up.

“That’s right, I’ve been married five times and I’ve got six daughters and none of them have got feet bigger than a seven!”

Everyone agreed. Dave went on.

“Now the size of the foot is very important, you can estimate the weight and height of a person from it, for example you wouldn’t get a twenty stone man with a size six foot would you, never be able to carry the weight would it?”

Everyone agreed. Made perfect sense.

“So they estimated that the man was five foot nine and weighted around eleven and a half stone”

Ronny was impressed.

“Fuck me that’s amazing, all that from a bloody toe nail.”

Dave nodded eager to continue.

“That’s not all; they can tell the man’s age as well, you see the toenail is made up of calcium, the calcium in the nail forms little ridges along the nail, if you count the ridges it gives you the age of the person.”

Ted was the first to react.

“Like a tree, when you count the rings to find out how old it is.”

Everyone agreed. Dave was quickly back in full flow.

“Exactly the same principle Ted, well spotted, this man was thirty eight when he died.”

Ted put down his pint and ordered another round for everyone.

“How do they know he died Dave, couldn’t it just be that someone lost a nail while working on the Thames?”

Dave was grateful for the new pint and gulped down half of it in one go.

“Decay, Ted, decay. You see the nail had dirt attached to it, the scientists determined that the dirt was from the 1880’s, it’s all to do with the clay and sand element, it’s all very technical but they think that this nail had been in the Thames since the 1880’s”

There was a silence for a few seconds before Ronny decided to give everyone a summary.

“So what you’re saying Dave is that from a single toenail, they have discovered that a man in 1880, who was thirty eight, weighed eleven and a half stone and was five foot nine died somehow in the Thames?”

Dave was chuffed with himself.

“Yep Ron, all that from one tiny toenail, amazing isn’t it?”

Everyone agreed, and pondered this information whilst they took large gulps of their beer. Dave was eager to give them the last of his information.

“You think that’s clever, they now know that his name was Edward and he came from Bermondsey!”

Ted almost spat out his pint!

“How the fuck……..?”

Dave was quick to continue.

“This is the brilliant bit, they searched through all the London Newspapers from the early 1880’s. They found an article in the Dockers paper “The Wharf”. It was dated 18th February 1882, it said that a lighterman had fallen into the Thames and his body hadn’t been found, his name was Edward Barnes and he lived in Bermondsey, he was thirty eight years old, he was five foot nine and weighed eleven stone six pounds and he took size nine shoes. Apparently Channel Five are gonna do a documentary on it.”

Ronny ordered another round.

“Dave, that is an incredible story, I thought at first you were making it up, but it all makes perfect sense. Can’t wait to see it on the box, unbelievable what they can do these days!”

Dave was pleased with himself and decided to go one step further.

“Yep, they’ve also traced his descendants and are going to present his remains to them at a special memorial service at St Georges Cathedral in Southwark later this year, Boris is gonna be there and everything.”

Ted raised his glass.

“Here’s to old Edward Barnes, god rest his soul”

The whole pub raised their glasses, cheered and drank to the late great Edward Barnes.

Dave was still smiling when he left the pub an hour later. He had sunk six pints and two large whiskeys and hadn’t bought a single round.









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