Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Saturday List #51 - Sibling rivalry gone mad - Tales of woe from my youth & adult life

Sharp eyed readers of this blog will know I am the youngest of six siblings. I was born in 1962, at the time my eldest twin brothers Laurie and Frank were 16, Cath was 14, Valerie was 9 and Caroline was 4. From the very beginning, I was at a disadvantage. All of my brothers and sisters had been whopping great babies weighing several stone at birth (well not quite, but you know what I mean). I was a skinny little runt, born six weeks premature and weighing in at a tad over 5lbs. As soon as I appeared, I was deemed to be  "Blue Baby" (the reason I support Manchester City) suffering from the Rhesus factor (something to do with monkeys I believe). I was whisked away from my mother, given three blood transfusions and stuck in an incubator for three days. My mother told me that she thought I'd died and they were simply not telling her. Back then, hospitals kept mums away from babies whilst they did their business. Welcome to Edgware General Rog. I suspect that this rather rude awakening to the real world set me in good stead.

Anyway, I arrived home to find an environment governed by what we call "sibling rivalry". One where the best thing in the world was to put one over on your nearest and dearest. It wasn't long before I found out what a harsh world I'd entered. This list contains some of the finest examples of Sibling rivalry from our home. Here is this weeks Saturday list, the ten greatest sibling wind ups from our family archives. 

1 - Flushed down the toilet. I'd been home a week or two. I was frail and weak. My mum was also frail and weak. She was resting when she heard a pitiful scream. She rushed out to find my four year old sister Caro dragging me up the stairs. She quizzed "What are you doing?" Caro replied "I don't like this baby, I'm going to flush it down the toilet". Needless to say, my mum explained the error of her ways.

2. Wee Wee. I learned revenge is a dish best served cold. I didn't however learn that you need to cover your tracks. My sister Caro became a successful child model. My parents had a professional portrait photo of her blown up to a 4' poster size. I cunningly added a voice bubble saying "Wee Wee" on it. Despite my protestations of innocence, no one believed me, to this day I've never figured out why!

3. "Laurie". Of course girls are far cleverer than boys. My sister Cath, when she was 2 was fed up with my Brother Laurie, who is the worlds biggest wind up merchant. She plotted a cunning plan (unlike mine) to ensure he got a good clobbering. My Dad had just painted a wall and was highly pleased with it. Cath watched Laurie writing his name and hatched a scheme. She practiced and practiced writing "LAURIE" and when it was perfect, waited until no one was looking and wrote it in big letters on the wall. It had the desired effect. Dad was livid and Laurie was suitably chastised. His protestations of innocence were met with inceredulity "Who else would write it". Cath only recently owned up !

4. The Wall. As I mentioned, Laurie was the worlds biggest wind up merchant. My Dad built a wall at the end of the Garden. He announced to us all that it would survive a nuclear bomb blast. Laurie decided to put the theory to the test. He got a huge rock and tied it to an overhanging tree branch. He rigged it up so that when it was released, it would swing down and smash into the wall. He then told me to pull the rope when he called my name. He then ran up and told Dad to come down the garden. As we approached, he shouted my name, I released the rock and the wall was smashed into a thousand pieces. I got a good hiding and Laurie got a good laugh. 

5 Vomit. Perhaps my brother Lauries greatest ever wind-up on Frank was initially accidental. The ensuing years of sniggering hasn't been. When my brothers were teenagers, they shared a room with bunk beds in. Laurie took the top bunk as he is the elder twin by ten minutes. One evening he went out for a few beers with friends. The evening developed into a little bit of a session. Laurie eventually made it home to find Frank tucked up in the lower bunk. Laurie quietly climbed the ladder and lay down for some much needed rest. As soon as his head hit the pillow, the whole world started to spin. Laurie was overcome by an overwhelming sudden sense of nausea. Unable to control it, he thought he'd better alert his sleeping brother to the imminent danger. He yelled "look out Frank". At which Frank awoke and did just that, to receive a multi coloured shower. My Dad was awoken to the sound of the two fighting. He came in to intervene. Frank immediately explained the appalling behaviour of his brother, but sadly my Dad just found it hilarious and the incident entered into family legend.

6. Wet Knickers. Perhaps one of the more alarming traits of our family was the way we'd take a few blows if it resulted in our siblings getting a greater humiliation. We all attended St Vincents Roman Catholic Primary School. At the time it was run by merciless nuns and an even more merciless teacher called Miss O'Donovan. Anyone who attended St Vincents would attest to the fact that Miss O'Donovan was the scariest person ever to live. If I ever get the time I will write a film script called "Nightmare on the Ridgeway". I suspect that it will be the most terrifying horror film ever. Miss O'Donovan used the a mixture of every type of torture ever devised by mankind, to keep 30 odd 4-5 year olds in line. Violence, paranoia and fear were used, along with personal discomfort. One of the worst things you could do in Miss O'Donovans class was ask to go to the toilet. You were expected to go before the start of the lesson or at the end, no matter how discomforting that was. Should you crack, you would suffer a terror and humiliation beyond the imagination of anyone who didn't experience it. Lessons usually ended with a mad dash to the loo. Sadly for my sister Val, one day she got caught out and wet herself. She was in what was called the "Baby class" (Now called reception) under Miss O'Donovan and her reign of terror. She could no longer hold on, but was too terrified to ask to be excused. Needless to say, she had a small accident. She was subject to a complete humiliation, but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. What happened next would be unimaginable in todays educational system. Her big sister Catherine was summoned to clean up the mess. Catherine was not only humiliated in front of the baby class but also in front of her own classmates. In the strange logic of St Vincents at the time, it was all her fault. The lesson wasn't wasted on Val. She now had a surefire way of winding Cath up, that was well worth the personal hit.

7. Petrol. Having a brother 16 years older, who is a serial wind up merchant is a bit of a problem. Anyone who has met my brother Laurie, will attest to his intelligence and wit. He left home when he was 24 for good, so I only was on the receiving end for a while, but it proved to be a challenge. Getting one over on Laurie has never been easy, especially when I was young. Whenever it happened, it was always met with a foul retribution, often months in the planning. So the secret was to find a wind up that he wouldn't suspect the perpetrator of. One day when I was about six, Laurie announced that he'd spent all day running around in his van for his mates, because a garage was opening at 6am the next day and they were giving the first ten customers a free tank of petrol. He wanted as empty a tank as possible, to get the full value. Laurie had a cunning plan to get up at 5am and be first in the queue. He had an even more cunning plan to go to the pub with his mates, the preceding evening. Realising that he may forget to set the alarm clock on his return, he carefully set it before he left, explaining the whole cunning plan. Of course, this presented a once in a lifetime opportunity. I switched the alarm off. Laurie got back at midnight and had a very pleasant nights slumber, helped by the seven pints of Guinness consumed. I got up for school in the morning to see him still snoring away. I spent the whole day sniggering. When I got home, he was skulking around. "How much petrol did you get?" I innocently asked. Laurie sullenly replied "I must have switched the alarm clock off".

8. Smelly feet. Of course that was a rare victory. If you ask Laurie his favourite wind up, he'd probably mention the one perpetrated on Frank for his smelly feet. Frank has always been most festidious over his personal hygiene. Fresh socks and undies every day. The only time he ever had a fight with my Dad was triggered by him staying in the bath too long! Laurie on the other hand, was not quite so bothered. Frank would regularly berate Laurie for his smelly feet and bad hygene. In the end, Laurie decided to sort Frank out. He wore the same socks for a week, then put them inside Franks pillow case. Laurie made a big point of having a bath, using all of the hot water, so Frank couldn't. As they settled down to go to sleep, Laurie said "Frank, your feet smell". Frank immediately agreed and went and washed them. On his return, Laurie repeated the accusation. This went on for some time. After that Laurie would regularly remind Frank of his foot odour problem.

9. Bindweed. Now you may think the wind ups would stop when we all grew up. Not a bit of it. Happily the violence has gone from the wind ups. One of the best of recent years was when Laurie gave Frank a plant for his birthday. It was in a nice pot and a bag from the Garden centre. Laurie explained that this was an exceptionally rare and unusual variety, which needed tender TLC. After several months of such love, Frank realised he was probably the only person in the UK to nurture a bindweed plant!

10. Lancia Drivers. As I said, getting one over on Laurie as a kid was difficult. It isn't that easy as an adult, but occasionally such an opportunity presents itself. Laurie runs a very fine car welding business and is a master craftsman. If you have anything you want welding, call 020 8959 8046 and he can fix it. Pots, pans, alloy wheels, subframes. He also gives a lifetime guarantee. When I was in my early twenties, one of his customers brought a Lancia in to be fixed. On the passengers seat was a magazine from the Lancia Owners club. I was reading this as Laurie came in for tea break. He said "Are you interested in Lancia's?" I said "Yeah, they are great cars". Laurie sneered "They are complete rustbuckets. Every time I mend one, it ends up costing me money. There is always five times more work than you realise and they are horrible to work on. Not only that but the people who drive them are all W4NKERS !!!! They are the most horrible bunch of car owners of all. They are always trouble". I was shocked by this vehemence. However I realised that it offorded a one off opportunity for some fun. As he was saying this, my eyes affixed on the classified ads page in the Lancia Owners magazine. It said "want to advertise in the Lancia owners magazine. Call us for special rates." So first thing monday I rang. "How much for an advert in your magazine?" There was a bit of haggling and they agreed that I could put an advert in for £20. So in the next issue, purely to help my brother, as one does, the magazine had the following advert "Bunns Lane Welding Lancia Welding Specialist. Call 01 959 8046 for free advice". In the bad old, pre computer days, such adverts came out about three months later. I'd almost forgotten about the advert when I noticed that Laurie had three Lancia's in for repairs. I commented "You seem to have a lot of Lancia's in at the moment?" Laurie replied "For some reason they seem to think I like working on them and they keep sending their mates down". I replied "You should stick an ad in the Lancia Owners mag saying you are a specialist." This was meant with a stream of expletives and disparaging comments about Lancia Owners. To the best of my knowledge, Laurie never twigged the cause of the upsurge. Best £20 I ever spent. Doubtless Laurie will read this and at some point in the next 18 months will enact a suitably subtle revenge. I will keep you posted.

Of course, we all love each other dearly, despite the decades of wind ups. 

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