When I was a kid growing up in the Sixties and Seventies our house was ideal for war. Not real war but play war of grandiose proportions, where hospital was but a Johnny Seven away!
These wars were between those timeless enemies, the opponents eternal , the foes royale; I am of course talking about Brothers. From their very first raspberries blown from the pram to the grievous bodily harm inflicted in the name of irritation, Brothers are sworn to kill each other at home and protect each other in public. Thus will it be forever.
In my case I had two older Brothers, which raised the stakes considerably, as the level of animosity increased to almost nuclear strike levels. I was so outnumbered that I often had to draft in reserves from the street with promises of sherbet and curly wurlys!
Fighting in those days was either called scrapping, bovver or my personal favourite, aggro, short for aggravation, a term made cool by Elton's reference to it in Saturday Night's Alright for Fightin'. The indoor aggro with my brothers was epic to say the least.
The battle would often commence downstairs with a well-timed shove or trip by me on on of my cocky sibs. To the cry of "You little get, I'll kill ya" I would race into the hall and do one of two things depending on my chances of survival that day:
- hide behind all the trench-coats and parkas on the huge coat rack, where I would disappear like a cloaking Klingon or I would stay and fight and seek out my weapons of choice - a sock mace and a laundry basket lid shield.
A sock mace was a sock stuffed with, well, socks. The stuffing formed a ball at the toe and the whole looked like a tadpole. But this was no frog baby, in the right hands it was a swirling, whirling cyclone of pain!
OK, the socks were never fresh and always made up of used ones from the washing pile but this only added to the grittiness of the skirmish. There was nothing quite like unleashing a sweaty pummeling on your older Brother's blow-dried mullet!
Alas, the sock mace was not a secret. Kid ninjas everywhere had discovered them, the dark knowledge passed down from nappy to nappy so that the soft acne of innocence was not left unprotected. Older brothers had the sock mace too and would occasionally stuff other objects in.
Sock Fight rules were clear about this though: extra stuffing must not lead to significant blood loss and on no account death. So apples, bricks and snooker balls were out, although Ray Winstone obviously hadn't read the rules in the film Scum. He was the Daddy though and as such not a Kid at all.
And so the battles lines were drawn. Both Brothers, one younger and one older, standing tall with sock maces spinning in the hall, faced each other like two Britains Knights who'd stepped off their base-plates.
Time stood still.
The first blow would usually be struck by my Bro, as the sadism of adolescence surged through his pimpled mind, hell bent on trouncing the curs-ed filth that was his kid brother, the defiler of his dirty mags, the bane of his bumfluffed life.
Up went the trusty wicker basket lid as it easily took this initial salvo and allowed me to take aim. My plan early on was to disable the enemy with such crushing agony that a quick win would be guaranteed.
Only one target could achieve such knee-dropping results, his bikini atolls! Yes, his nuts would be crushed with such devastating sock power that he would fall and beg for his life, give me his new Ben Sherman and let me read his girlie mags for a month!
Alas, the tides of war are strange and random, rising and falling like Valerie Singleton's skirt on a steamy episode of Blue Peter. This one true blow, this one sting to bruise them all never happened. It never occurred to me to wonder why my dear Brother didn't have a shield, to realise that he had gone to Def-Con 1 before me. He had a second sock mace in his other hand!
This second sock was wielded with such dastardly finesse that I never saw it coming. Overly focused on his crown jewels, I left my myself wide open to this most vicious of sling shots as it hit me full pelt on the temple.
Nothing can describe the impact of a sock mace until you have experienced it first hand - or should that be first foot - first there is the faint whiff of sweat, a vinegary waft that lasts but a split second.
Whilst you are pondering exactly whose socks they were, the second stage begins, that of sound. The travelling sock makes a sound like a muffled mosquito, as if masked before thieving your plasma, an hypnotic whoosh as beautiful and deadly as a clown's fart.
The final stage is connection. The soft ball of wool and rayon has somehow hardened in flight, like a compacted snowball and the effect was lethal. It hits, compresses and somehow carries on like a boxing glove, buts its a sock, with identity issues - and knocks you for six.
The only thing you remember is the sound of defeat, like a steak pudding being thrown at the wall or a lump of play-dough being smacked with a cucumber. Imagine your favourite Teddy punching you senseless and you get the idea!
I was down. The first blow had been fatal. Really it was the second blow but I won't split socks. My brother was on top of me, his big gormless face leering, drool dripping from his mouth as he contemplated the glorious tortures to come! My other Brother would suddenly appear on all fours like a hyena and both of them would begin their vile feasting!
But exactly what they did is another story!