On this day in mid-1960’s my younger brother Ian made his inaugural appearance into the world. Born at our Leeds home, our kid arrived shortly after Cassius Clay’d knocked out Sonny Liston during their second World Heavyweight Championship fight.
With Clay (latterly Muhammed Ali) winning by first round KO, Ian didn’t turn up on time to witness Liston being struck to the canvas by the Louisville Lip. Although I suspect, as a new-born child wrapped in swaddling clothes, at the time my brother’s spirits won’t have been overly deflated at missing the fleeting pugilistic encounter.
Although growing into a toddler with a shock of white hair and aesthetically pleasing looks capable of manipulating even the chilliest of souls, our kid was an ugly baby. His flattened visage on arrival leading to midwife suggestions it’d looked like our Ian, not Liston, who’d recently took a pounding from Clay.
Family folklore records that the new-born infant was named Ian by our Leeds United supporting father as a tribute to the side’s 1960’s midfield enforcer Bobby Collins. This a baffling patriarchal naming strategy also saw me christened Gary after Leeds central defender Jack Charlton.
Being a toddler at this juncture, I recall little of the day my brother was born. I suspect I’d have been sat on the family sofa holding my stringless bow and arrow, rueing the fact I was born in a decade of utterly rubbish kids toys.
Although to be fair to the manufacturers, the bow was complete with string when a family member procured the gift. My mum, though, deeming this an inappropriate toy for a three year old, and ‘fearful’ the suction pad on the arrow may kill someone, removed the twine. Subsequently, rendering impossible any means of launching the wood and rubber projectile.
Anecdotally I’m informed our kid was a bouncing 6lb 8oz babe……. Bouncing an apt way to describe the babe – His legendary clumsiness soon evident when shortly after arriving he knocked over a cup of tea, along with breaking two dressing table ornaments.
It wasn’t long before the family arrived bearing gifts of a cold, frankincense and myrrh. Not standard gifts for a newly born 1960’s ‘baby boomer’. Regardless, though, familial anecdote recalls my dad later found the frankincense handy for clearing his sinuses on contracting cold a few days later.
This week I ask my mum of her recollection of the fateful day her second offspring joined this world. After a brief pause, she responded ruefully:-
“I was upset our Ian broke ornaments of sentimental value.”
“No I mean happy memories of Ian’s arrival, mum.” I attempted to clarify.
“Well, the fact he didn’t break the other two ornaments on our dressing table made me fairly chipper….. Is that the happy memory you meant?” mater enquired with her habitual eccentricity..
“No, not really. I’m referring to genuinely joyous recollections from one of the biggest days of your life.” I proceeded, despite notions that I should quit while I was ahead…. Well, even!
“Ian not breaking the other two ornaments was a joyous recollection….. One of them was an antique toby jug procured around the time Alfred burnt the cakes.” she pointed out .
“Don’t be daft, mum!……… Toby jugs weren’t manufactured as far back as 9AD.” I countered patronisingly.
“I don’t mean King Alfred, you fool…… I’m talking about your dad’s uncle Alfred from Normanton……. He bought it in an antique shop in the 1930’s. Apparently, it was worth a fortune “ she clarified.
“Do we still have that toby jug, mum?” I enquired with pound signs in my eyes, and kerching of a till bell in my mind.
“No. Our Ian broke it playing football in the living room eight years later.” mater crushingly responded.
Anyhow, back to my brother’s birthday……….
Despite living in different parts of England for three decades, we’ve had some great times over the last fifty plus years. None of them were in each others company, but we’ve both had some great times nevertheless.
Seriously, though, our existential odysseys have included thousands of hours playing and watching football/cricket together, attending gigs, breaks away, socialising. Not to mention, arguing over whose turn it was to commentate and make crowd noises while playing table football game Subbuteo.
Fond memories evoking the brio experienced on a half century odyssey in the company of my lifelong best mate. Happy Birthday bro…… May your birthday be full of the good things that befit a man of your selflessness, warmth and generosity of spirit.