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, in their second World Heavyweight Championship fight Cassius Clay had knocked out Sonny Liston.
With Clay (latterly Muhammed Ali) winning by first round KO, Ian didn’t arrive in time to witness Liston being struck to the canvas by the Louisville Lip. Although I suspect, as a new-born child my brother’s spirits won’t have been overly deflated at missing this fleeting pugilistic encounter.
Although growing into a toddler with a shock of white hair and aesthetically pleasing looks capable of manipulating the chilliest of souls, our kid was an ugly baby. His flattened visage on arrival leading to midwife suggestions it appeared our Ian, not Liston, had taken the 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 baffling patriarchal naming strategy seeing 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, though, 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 rubbish kid’s toys.
Actually, to be fair to the manufacturers, the bow was complete with string when a family member presented the gift. However, my mum deemed this an inappropriate toy for a three-year-old; as a result removed the twine from the weapon. Subsequently avoiding jeopardy of someone falling victim to a large red suction mark on the forehead.
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 he knocked over a cup of tea and a bedside lamp shortly after arrival.
It wasn’t long before the family arrived bearing gifts of a cold, frankincense and myrrh. Not standard arrival gifts for a 1960’s ‘baby boomer’. However, my dad found the frankincense handy for clearing his sinuses after contracting the cold virus a few days later.
In her dotage, I asked my mum for her recollection of the fateful day her second offspring joined this world. After a brief pause, she ruefully responded: –
“I was upset our Ian broke the lamp. It was 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 ornament next to the lamp on our dressing table made me fairly chipper….. Is that the happy memory you meant?” mater enquired with her endearing 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 maybe I should quit while ahead…. Well, even!
“Ian not breaking the ornament was a joyous recollection.” Her adding “It was an antique toby jug procured around the time Alfred burnt the cakes.”
“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. Pound signs alighting my eyes, along with the kerching of a till bell wandering my neurological corridors.
“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 other’s company, but we’ve had some great times nevertheless.
Seriously, though, our existential odysseys have included thousands of hours playing and watching football/cricket together. In addition to enjoying each other’s idiosyncratic company at a plethora of gigs, breaks away and evenings of alcohol recklessness.
Fond memories, evoking the fun we’ve experienced during over a half century of sibling love; not to mention the arguments about the rules of table football game Subbuteo.
His eccentric musings, such as a recent revelation he can guess the sex of a dog by looking at it’s face (not it’s genitals), and the tale of him ringing a bar to ask if they had any glasses behind the bar after misplacing his specs, just two of numerous yarns I have dined out upon for decades.
Our kid is my lifelong best mate; A sounding board, confidante, the man I trust most in the whole world. I’d go to the end of the earth for him… Well, I would if he paid the travel fare and it wasn’t to retrieve the specs he’s always bloody misplacing!!
Happy Birthday bro, I love you… May your birthday be full of the good things that befit a man of your kindness, warmth, and generosity of spirit.