Friday 25th April – My existential odyssey began on this day in the 1960’s; the location of delivery a West Yorkshire maternity home. I’ve no idea whether I arrived standard post or recorded delivery – Thankfully, though, I was a package my parents wanted so avoided having ‘Return to Sender’ stamped on my forehead.

That fateful spring day I was welcomed into the bosom of a loving family. One who’d go on to bestow me an environment of security, warmth and support – Emerging from my fledgling years with sufficient attributes to cope when it came to vacating the nest. A legacy I’ve hopefully bequeathed to my offspring.

Anecdotally, my arrival coincided with a number of unexplained phenomenon in the ward where my mother and me resided. Reported paranormal behaviour such as items spontaneously combusting; not to mention a pale, dishevelled man moaning grotesquely as he roamed the aforementioned room.

I can’t confirm this, but I suspect the latter wasn’t a spiritual manifestation, moreover my pasty-faced uncle Ted. He a disenchanted, cantankerous man with a hobby of arson,  possibly also implicating him with the incidents of combustion. Mere speculation on my part, but if it’s correct I’m glad he didn’t treat the ward to his other favourite pastime…… Archery.

On hearing the new born was going to be named Gary, uncle Ted’s cynically quipped to my parents “What is he – A bloody cowboy?” A reference to actor Gary Cooper who had a penchant for donning a Stetson, and settling saloon confrontations with a colt 45.

To be fair to my uncle Ted, when it came to my early adult attempts at DIY he wasn’t too wide of the mark with his cowboy quip.


Other attendees at my inaugural maternity home viewing were uncle Jeroboam and auntie Peggy. Two great relatives from the Yorkshire town of Normanton.

Incidentally, when I pen ‘great relatives’ I’m referring to the fact they were a great aunt and uncle of mine. Not that they were fantastic members of the clan – Although I’m sure had I got to know them I’d have found them splendid company.

Evidently, idiosyncratic auntie Peggy had intended to bring a coat she’d knit for her new-born nephew. Unfortunately, she brought a cake (containing a file) she’d baked for her husband’s friend Alvin in Armley jail – To add to the confusion of the day, she inadvertently delivering the coat to the convict.

Legend has it the item of woollen clothing fit Alvin, leading to him retaining it for wear on chillier days in the exercise yard. A fact that indicates he was either an extremely diminutive felon, or my ditzy great aunt completely misinterpreted the knitting pattern.

I’m unaware what he was incarcerated for, but I’d like to think Alvin’s prison life wasn’t made harder for wearing an outsized woollen baby coat. Hopefully the sartorial snobbery of fellow inmates Mick ‘Gucci Shoes’ Mackintosh, Frank ‘Gucci Shoes’ Harris or Eddie ‘Gucci Shoes’ Treadmore*** wouldn’t have reared it’s ugly head in the face of Alvin’s home-made attire.

*** Evidently, Gucci shoes were very popular with Leeds villains at the time.

Uncle Jeroboam was apparently a man disillusioned with his existential lot. Not only did he have to endure wearing the worst home-knitted clothing in the Wakefield area, his biblical sounding moniker resulted in all forms of strange requests to perform miracles……. One of those the hair brained scheme to spring his mate Alvin from Armley Jail with a cake containing a file.

As a meek man who liked to stay in his wife’s good books, one of the many miracles Jeroboam failed was to discourage his spouse from knitting him sweaters, gloves, balaclavas and golf tees…… Although, I’m told his mate Alvin used to take the balaclavas off his hands during times of liberty.

To conclude, penning this monologue has made me ponder – ‘Has any incarcerated person in history ever gained their liberty utilising a metal file hidden in a baked cake?!’

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