The day was ordinarily dull and grey, but into the grim world there came a new shining light…
Yes it was my bald head. It was 2.36 in the morning on Tuesday the 11th of December 1962 when, kicking and screaming, I first appeared in this world, almost blinding the midwife with the gleam from my shiny hairless bonce. The doctor was heard mumbling: “This is a tricky one. It’s coming out sideways”, and from that somewhat unconventional start I was set to continue in a similar fashion throughout my whole life, ploughing my own furrow, walking my own plank and beavering away as best I could, by just plodding on regardless.
When I arrived, the world was once again on the brink of war and both America and Russia through China were all having a profound effect on all our lives via Fidel Castro and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
At the same time, little did the Cuban hordes even know, that another little dictator was being born in what was then, Lancashire – 26 William Street, Harpurhey, Manchester, United Kingdom to be exact. That hairless bonce, the little round belly, that were just over half a century later, set to make their own impact on the Australian nation in the shape of Local Lad Andy Robinson, the formidable, frightening and former often foolhardy beast of Home Improvements throughout the UK.
But for now we had best begin at the beginning with the birth of Andrew Raymond Robinson. On the same day I got launched, one of Britain’s great actors, Peter O’Toole was taking the lead in the movie; Lawrence of Arabia in cinemas around the globe and the Cubans were finally on the run (coincidence? I think not).
I lay in my bed; the third drawer down in a five drawer chest with the runs of my own. And in those days, lest we forget, there were no disposable nappies (such luxury). My rear was wrapped in terry toweling and all the washing was to be done by hand.
Obviously I was a beautiful baby. The second son in a family of four, two boys, two girls, the offspring of proud Geoffrey and his darling bride Irene – Mum and Dad, as they later became affectionately known to me. But back then it wasn’t just me who was short; my father was short, food was short and even my mother was going short.
Now November 28th is my father’s birthday and I won’t say how old he is since we have been parted in excess of over five years now. And I suppose on reflection, that my father’s birthday is really nothing more than a tiny point in the vast continuum of time-space, hardly any different from a myriad of other tiny points, but, however insignificant, it has started me thinking.
Although I am a Local lad during the day, in its spare time my soul becomes that of a writer (of sorts) and artist (of piss). And so, in this very special essay, and in deep reverie, my thoughts turn to my father once again and to the external thoughts that his existence has raised for me:
Fatherhood; The gift of life; Nature and nurture; The eternal cycle; The immortality of our reproductive cells; The mysteries of futurity; Other authors writing about their fathers; Thousands of books and plays written by blokes exploiting the memories of their old men.
Damn it all, everyone’s had a go except me – there was John Mortimer (with his ‘A voyage around my father’), Turgenev, Arnold Wesker, Philip Roth, Mordecai Richler, Mozart, even Jesus. Most of them seem to make it look so easy… They just take a quick look at their daddies, have a brief ponder and then dash off down to the printers with a few thousand words, an opera or a play and the like. So why shouldn’t I do the same? After all, my dad was much nicer than Mr Mortimer Senior was, he spoke better English than Turgenev’s pop and was far funnier than Wesker’s, although he was not quite as omnipresent as Jesus’ old man.
So – speak to me memory… Bring me back my father.
This next bit is not simply a piece about my dad; it is LITERATURE. You may notice the difference. On the other hand, you may not. It’s really up to you, but I did want to warn you.
So, what is the first remembrance culled from those golden days of my childhood? As a boy I recall seeing my father as predominantly a man of many contrasts and curious contradictions. (See? Literature). He was a strong man, obstinate on occasions, firm and unyielding over what he regarded as fundamental issues, and yet, for all his apparent rigidity and unvarying consistency, a man bespeckled with the sharpest of humour, with inconsistency and a baffling array of idiosyncrasies… And most of them physical.
I think that what made the deepest first impression was the way my dad looked after his body. I would often look on as he indulged in an enthusiastic form of healthy cleanliness that grown men usually only reserve for their cars and Sunday mornings. In fact if he could have had his body washed, waxed and under-sealed, I’m sure he would have done it in effort to further streamline his time in the bathroom. Without preening himself or behaving narcisstically in any manner at all, he just managed to keep himself well groomed, polished and presentable. This meant that he was under a constant threat from a grimy and hostile environment, and the greatest threat of all to his shining-mind-in-a-shining-body came from his other baby – the Chorlton Snooker Centre; His own successful foray into self-employment.
Almost fully trained in accountancy, my father took a career at Butlins Holiday Camps in Filey, West Yorkshire, where it was his job to collect the various departmental takings midst hundreds of Redcoats and reconcile any discrepancies, which invariably drew him to my somewhat seemingly innumerate mother who was working as a hairdresser for a hairdressing franchise, Molly Rowntree on the same camp. Somehow, Geoffrey quickly turned this sticky situation round to his advantage and in no time at all he was wooing Irene for all he was worth, which wasn’t a lot in those days. So it had to be his quick wit and ruggedly handsome features (which remain a family trait) that, soon had her hooked.
The courtship was going strong for twelve months when Geoffrey finally took the plunge and asked Irene out for a ‘special dinner’. And it was here that he sat her down and explained to her that he had met someone, someone who was really something special and so special that he wanted to ask to marry her… but didn’t know how.
Never being one for mathematics, and thinking he was two timing her, all my mother could think was, ‘What a twat!’ And it was at least another half hour before the penny finally dropped and she happily accepted Geoffrey’s proposal.
Taking the bull by the horns now, Geoffrey eventually asked Irene’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. And at the time it probably seemed like a mistake to Geoffrey, who was told in no uncertain terms that the twenty year old Irene was far too young to wed and was anyway perfectly happy to be at home with her parents thank you very much! But Irene quickly persuaded her father Albert otherwise.
And so, the happy couple finally got hitched, with my grandfather’s threat that he’d swing for Geoffrey if he ever upset Irene still ringing in their ears. Their big day was the 31st of March 1959, which was also on a Tuesday. Apparently, there used to be tax incentives for doing it back then, a reason my father often used to justify the whole affair.
It was two years and five months of squeaky bed-springs after the wedding when I happened along and joined the family; a meagre eighteen months after my older brother David. And it was eleven o’clock at night when the labour pains started for Mother who was uncomfortably housed in the master bedroom of the two up, two down terrace house in Central Manchester.
Fortunately, Geoffrey knew just what to do… He legged it straight out the front door of the house.
Mother obviously hadn’t heard him say anything about going for the doctor and must have thought the daft sod had finally done one. But he returned shortly after with the family doctor and midwife in tow for her.
By now, Mother was in extreme agony but I was oblivious to all the pain. Cocooned safely in the watery womb that had been my home for a full nine months, I must have decided I was better off in than out and decided I was staying put. Eventually though, after a great struggle, what looked like ten rounds of no holds barred, all in wrestling and my mother shouting for the midwife to go away (maybe a lot less politely than I have written), I made my very first bow into the universe, as earlier described.
Despite all the early drama, I weighed in at a respectable 7lbs 6oz. And at the time I was quite a bonny baby. And mother told me that even then, I was sporting a handsome pot belly. And when my hair finally arrived the strands were as fair as fair could be, but they soon darkened to a more naturally boring mousey dark-brown colour. And needless to say. the colouring is now fast reverting to a greying white and I’ve kept getting heavier and heavier. Truth be known, my present day weight is one of the most closely guarded secrets on facebook.
But as the saying goes, there are no fat dead folk – you’re just dead! C’est la vie.
But back at the birth, I was apparently classed as being ‘normal’. Mother looked down at me with nothing but love and admiration (and who can blame her?) However, my proud Father, with his droll Yorkshire wit, was a little less star struck and rumoured to have said: “Put it on top of the wardrobe, love – it’ll come down when it’s ready.”
And that’s where I probably stayed while my two younger sisters Dawn and Caroline were later born.
In those days you didn’t have so called ‘new men’, mother’s brought up the children and the blokes went to work to bring home the bacon (mmmmm bacon). Although in fairness to the old man, he did nothing but his best for us all. We had a comfortable childhood, there wasn’t much that we wanted for and he, along with my mother, are both much loved and yet sorely missed to this very day.
And so that brings us to the present, and here I am, Andy Robinson of Localad Services. Welcome to my all new, all singing, all dancing, totally redrafted Localad Services Handyman Assist website/blog whatsamajig, where you can learn a whole lot more about me, myself, I, my lovely wife Jodie, our business and a whole lot more besides. We welcome you to our world with fully outstretched arms and look forward to you coming aboard. And to us being of some form of assistance to you all, in as many ways as possible.