Life as an only child was good. Then just after my first birthday, well just over a month after my first birthday my mum gave birth to a brother for me. For me? I’d never asked for one, and quite frankly I’m not sure it was ever on my Christmas list.. well I got what I was given, as so often was the case.
They named him Andrew, which having just checked the online dictionary of names means ‘strong and manly’ Well I guess one of us had to be, but I’ll reserve judgement on both words.
Having decided that smothering him as he slept as a baby wasn’t an option; my parents were far too vigilent, I decided I had to make the most of it. After all I was a big brother now.
During our formative years we had the odd (read regular) disagreements that siblings tend to have, but I like to think I was there for him: Just ask Jackie Newman. She was the mum of a girl on our estate who was bothering Andrew at school. I may only have been in single figures for age at the time but I told her straight that her daughter’s behaviour was unacceptable, much to our parents’ embarrassment.
Frankly he could be quite (very!!) annoying. He would insult me with some random word and when I asked him what it meant our conversation would go something like this…
A: “You’re a box, you are.”
M: “What’s that even mean? What is it?”
A: “It’s what you are, that’s what it is.You’re a box.”
We also had a fun pinching game, that could so easily lead to tears before bedtime, called ‘Little flea’. This simply meant we tried to pinch each other anywhere on the body as many times as possible repeating ‘little flea, little flea.” This was often a game for long journeys in the car, much to the annoyance of our dad, who although driving would often threaten / ask “Do you want me to come back there in a minute and sort you out?’. To which we often replied “yes”, knowing he was powerless to do anything being in control of an amazing Austin A40. (that’s a car)
He was quite a clumsy lad and around the time we hit our teens he fell off a breakwater in Shoreham (the town of our birth, well at least where the hospital was). I promise that I didn’t push him. In fact I was nowhere near at the time, being ungainly in climbing pursuits myself I was still trying to get off the pebbles onto the breakwater. Cousin Sheridan, who was with us at the time, can attest to this!
In the fall he broke his elbow which meant a mercy dash to Brighton hospital. Although one could rarely call the speed of our dad’s driving a dash. He was more worried about breaking the law than his sons’ screaming in the back seat. Yes: Note the position of the apostrophe: I was screaming too. One of the things that sticks in my mind of that evening was for some reason mum still had her slippers on. Subsequent trips to Brighton hospital fixed up his arm to a degree, but he still hasn’t got full function.
Admittedly I did slam the back door in his face when our parents were away one weekend. How was I to know he’d put his hands up to stop it and put them straight through one of the glass panels. Luckily our mum’s mum didn’t live far away and took control of the situation. A few stitches later he was right as rain, albeit scarred, physically at least, for life. He could make such a drama of these little things.
Andrew wasn’t a scholar, and I distinctly remember the local police visiting our house on one occasion to have a word with him. Our parents were mortified. However he got through the schooldays as we both did. In his teens he bought a double decker bus with a friend and they proceeded to convert it to a mobile home, very successfully I must say. Though I was sure it was just so that the pair of them had a place to take girls.
When I came out, during the reception of his wedding (yes seriously) in the aftermath he said that he’d always known I was gay. It has never seemed a problem for him. Happily he and his (new at the time) wife have always been there, and occasionally here too. During their earlier married days I remember sharing, shall we call them, dating tips with them.
Andrew’s wife, although no angel herself either, has kept him on the straight and narrow. Despite quite an inauspicious start for the two of us we became close too. We may not have started off asvery good friends. In fact I disliked her intensely. We first met at a cousin’s first engagement party..Her first words to me were: “you’re f’ing queer you are”. How she guessed I don’t know. Do you think the dungarees and cut off t-shirt gave the game away, or was it my penchant for hot gossip style dancing? I wasn’t out at the time, and was quite a way from being so.
Over the years Andrew and Jane grew a fairly large family, well three kids seems excessive to me, while Tony and I were travelling and partying the days and nights away. This meant we didn’t see that much of each other for a while, but usually got together at our parents place for (post) Christmas lunches. When our parents passed we grew much closer again.
Andrew is very much a family man. Three kids and eight grandkids (yes seriously!!) later it is clear when he is ever with any of them he is in his element, the grandkids I mean, and the clealry love being with granddad. His own kids continue to give him the occasional headache, I am sure, but he has always helped them out when they’ve needed it. His alter-ego suitably enough is the character of Gramps in the children’s books I have written.
Andrew, like me , is also a workaholic. Hang on… that should be: Andrew, unlike me, is a workaholic. He has built up his own business as one of the premier, if not the premier, pest control businesses in Sussex, and is always on hand to help out all the local old dears with a bit of gardening, handyman jobs, and even shopping if necessary. He has quite a following of ladies of a certain age. I don’t think he can say no to them. He’s also a retained fireman for the village which means he can be called out to an emergency at any hour of the day and night, and often is.
Jane and I have more recently tried to get him to slow down. He is no longer a young man and a heart attack could so easily be around the corner. It’s a genetic thing! Has he slowed down? Has he buggery!
Andrew, if you’re reading this, and I am sure you are; as Jane will have made you, then you must know this: You are the best brother I’ve ever had. (smiley face with tongue out)
Today is Andrew’s fifty-somethingth birthday. He’s 13 months younger than me – just work it out. I know his family will be celebrating somehow and in a way in which I hope tells him just how much they all love him… no it’s not just your money they’re after, although you want to be careful of that….. (Zipped mouth smiley face) Joke!!
I know he’s not found dealing with my current state of mind that easy, well he’s been his usual self and remained fairly tight-lipped. And perhaps that could be a lesson to push him to slow down a bit. Direct message: Can you imagine Jane in a similar situation, old boy. I don’t want to. She’d have the support of your kids but it’s you that she shares everything with, you that she loves.
Andrew, have a wonderful birthday. I’d suggest kicking bank and taking it easy, but I bet knowing you you’ve still got just a little job or two to sort out before you relax.