My older brother Steve honing his punching technique
on my arm, Butlins, circa 1965
Tonight's slice of nostalgia will examine the intricacies of Brotherly warfare in our house in the 1960's.
The opposing forces were my two older brothers versus me. I was outnumbered, out -muscled, out-aged [in 1969 I was 9 and they were 16] but, as we shall see, not out-witted!
Think Kevin in Home Alone and you get the basic scenario!
Warfare usually erupted when my brothers saw a clear opportunity to take the advantage, which was usually by force. Most skirmishes, however, were territorial disputes, where either party went behind enemy lines by entering each others' bedrooms or areas deemed off-limits to one side or the other e.g. the lounge, whcih had been claimed by my brethren as theirs.
A typical scenario would be as follows: all opposing forces are carrying out the orders of the Chief of Staff, Mum i.e. wash up and dry up the evening's pots. Its summer and I have shorts on. My brothers, always keen to exploit any weakness, standing behind me with their tea towels in hand, would notice my bare legs. Unaware of the militarised signals passing between them, I would carry on washing the salad forks, pyrex dishes and tupperware containers oblivious to the build up of arms to my rear.
Like NORAD they each agreed the launch codes in a nano-second and struck. The tea-towels would simultaneously reach both of my thighs just below the shorts line. With a loud crack they would connect with my tender flesh and searing, unimaginable pain would race across the back of my legs as if two Sekidans filled with wasps had been fired point-blank at them!
The agony in that moment was indescribable. To this day I cannot fathom how the harmless tea towel, an innocuous moist souvenir adorned with pictures of Welsh castles, could be transformed into a thigh bomb capable of dropping an ox.
The only sensible recourse was evasive action. I legged it out of the kitchen and out into the street! Unfortunately this retreat would simply morph my two brothers into mindless Urukai and catapult the entire situation to Def Con 1. They would follow me in hot pursuit, tea towels outstretched for the next killer lash. Imagine King Cobras sprouting limbs and running after their prey and you have the general idea.
Being older and stronger than me they soon caught up and the toweling would resume. Snap, crackle and pop went those cloths as they met their mark on my reddening behind and I knew my only sanctuary lay 100 yards at the top of the road. With that superhuman strength found in people facing a shark attack, I ran like Kip Keno to the phone box.
Thoughts of phoning our Parents, who were back in the house watching Nationwide, blissfully ignorant of the ensuing slaughter, were quickly dashed when I felt the coinless void in my pockets. My only hope was to get in and hold the door shut long enough for their small brains to get bored and send them lolling after the nearest teenage girl passing by.
Fortune favours the brave and the pummelled and as predicted, when faced with a cast iron windowed red door held tightly closed by the white knuckles of a gibbering juvenile driven half-insane by public flanneling, my two brothers, like non-plussed Neanderthals, turned to trudge home, shoulders stooped and arms hung loose, tea towels dragging over the pavement.
Such acts of aggression could not go unpunished and revenge festered in my young mind like a rash of acne. The only course to take would be hewn from wit and delivered with stealth. I would strike like Oddjob and vanish through the xpelair.
My strategy was simple. Catch them unawares where they thought they were safe: bedrooms, doorways, the post and the toilet. Operations went thus:
Operation Close Shave: my brothers' door handles would be smeared with one of an assortment of slimy materials such as butter, ketchup or shaving foam. The rear of the handle would be smeared to avoid detection.
Operation Goose Feathers: piles of pillows or cushions would be stacked above the part open doors of my brother's bedrooms. Very annoying especially of they had just bryl-cremed their quiff or where carrying a drink!
Operation White Cloud: flour would be poured onto newspaper and the whole thing wrapped in brown paper, bound tightly with brown tape and left in the post box with my brothers' addresses on. After much tugging and jerking, the flour would be all over their Ben Shermans!
Operation Splash Back: the trickiest to execute but the one with the greatest rewards. My brothers' need to pee was predictable, as I would proffer several cups of hot sweet tea in the early evening. Suitably bursting they would run to the loo, where, unbeknownst to them, I had stretched a sheet of cling film across the seat. Like a cloaking Klingon ship, the film was so tight as to render it invisible and the results were, well, spectacular. Think of the old Ideal game Cascade and you get the idea, a right yellow showering all over the walls!
Sadly my guerrilla tactics did not go unnoticed and my Siblings' wrath was both swift and agonising. From years of perfecting schoolyard torture regimes, they metered out their three most severe punishments on my fragile body. Having refused employ with the Spanish Inquisition, my two bros would execute their opera of pain in three gruesome acts:
Hand to hand combat brother style circa 1972
[me on top, my older bro Steve flattened and my mate Robin's legs pinning him down]
1. Cow Bite: whilst being pinned down on my back by one brother sat on me with his knees excruciatingly resting on my biceps, the other brother would administer the first movement, the Cow Bite. By grasping as much of my trousered inner thigh flesh as possible, vice-like pressure was applied to replicate the tightening bovine mouth until inevitably - I would scream.
2. Snake Bite: still pinned down my lower arm would be exposed, which my brother would clasp like an eagle. His grip was then tightened like a Boa Constrictor and his two clenched hands revolved in opposing directions. The resultant stretching of my skin as it went North and South was like dipping it in Dante's Inferno until inevitably - I would scream again!
3. Knuckle Drill: the zenith of their retribution was the most painful, most brutal, most nerve-shredding salvo of vengeance this side of a Kray twins handshake. Oddly enough it was delivered individually, so I got twice the fun. Again, whilst remaining flat on my back the middle of my breastbone would be located by the brother sat on me.
Like a ball on a golf tee, the knuckle of his bent index finger would be placed on said breastbone and whilst in a seated position ideal for maximum torque, the knuckle would be drilled into my bone in a slow, forceful rotating action. The sensation was like being nailed to the floor and inevitably - I would scream and this time beg forgiveness for being a spotty irritating little squirt or anything else I was asked to bellow!
Having applied the Dim Mak of brotherly warfare my two older brothers would triumph and I would retire to my bedroom rubbing my sternum and reaching for the nearest teddy bear. Lying on my itchy crimplene topped bed I realised that if the tide of this ancient fray was to shift my way then I had to up my game. I had, in fact, to get weaponised!