Establishing a new blog can be a very strange thing. Obviously I’m tickled by the fact you’re reading what I’m writing, and in particularly giddy moments I imagine two, three or more readers, nodding and shaking in all the right places.
So, dear reader, as you have been kind enough to drop by, I feel I should at least go to the trouble of introducing myself with ten things that you (probably) don’t know about me. I’ll begin almost an entire century ago…
1. I met my wife in 1913
Really! I worked as a tram conductor while my wife Rebecca split her time as a nursery maid, dentist and general girl about town. Somehow she still found time to squeeze me in and here we are, in 2011, happily married. It’s a miracle.
Well, almost. The slight technicality is that we met whilst working at the wonderful Beamish Museum which is set in…1913.
Nevertheless in eighteen months we will mark our 100th Anniversary and I’ll certainly be expecting a telegram (or at least a Tweet) from the Queen.
2. I saved a man’s life with an igloo
Snowmen are for wimps, and in the whiter winters of my childhood I liked nothing more than to occuy myself building igloos. Sometimes i’d pile up the snow, other times i’d mould together individual bricks…it all depends on the type of snow, you see.
Anyway, One winter I built a lean-to igloo, against the porch of my childhood home. You may laugh, but our window-cleaner was glad of it when he fell from his ladder (a foot of snow never kept a window cleaner from his ladder where I come from) and landed directly on the igloo. An ambulance was called and he was carried away on a stretcher with back injuries, the igloo having broken his fall and possibly (according to the nice paramedic man who lavished me with praise) saved his life.
I felt like the bess-knees…until the reality of my ruined igloo hit home.
3. I created a school magazine
In fact, I created two school magazines. The first was a personal project when I was eleven and I used my typewriter (one hundred percent my pride and joy back then) to layout the pages and hand-drew the graphics. The magazine was called The Burnside Gazette, had a circulation of one and was limited to a single edition.
I was hooked nevertheless and, when beginning secondary school the following autumn, I convinced a trendy young teacher to allow a group of pupils to begin an actual school magazine. We gathered a team of six and set about creating and selling Thru The Pupil’s Eyes which ran for a good number of issues and had a decent regular readership. My job was the layout (for which I got to spend extra time on the school’s Acorn computers – ace) as well as the logo and comic strip (called The Adventures of Dave & Friends).
That I don’t own a single copy of either magazine is a tragedy.
4. I was involved in an aeroplane accident
A real one, too. My first flight was in 1987 to Alicante from Newcastle. It was a great holiday, memorable for so many good things and one quite spectacularly bad thing – the return flight home. I have vivid memories of the flight (well, you would, wouldn’t you) and somewhere my parents still have the newspaper clipping from the following day.
Alarm bells should have rang when the plane was repeatedly delayed on take-off in Alicante while repairs were made. It was my first flight, how was I to that the guy with the toolbox was anything but routine? We managed to get airborne and, according to plan, less than three hours later we saw the familiar landmarks of home from the windows as we neared touch-down. Then we saw them again. And again. Repeatedly. The entire crew were Spanish (on the now defunct Hispania Airlines) so nobody had any idea what was going on when finally we descended abruptly toward the runway and the somewhat alarming sight (I’m not going to lie) of multiple fire engines and ambulances.
The touch-down was hardly comfortable, but we had no idea of the drama which had been unfolding in the cockpit until leaving the plane and finding out (variously from airport staff, the following day’s press and the evidence before our own eyes) that the cockpit wheels had failed to emerge for landing. The pilot sustained injuries performing a heroic landing and I had a great story to recount for years ahead.
5. I have produced, written and directed pantomimes
Five pantomimes, to be precise, and a summer Revue. Variously each show was written, produced or directed by yours truly, and in some cases all three, raising in excess of £15,000 for charities in the process. They began small and ended up being quite significant; I’m talking hired rigging, pyrotechnics and multiple performances, people!
To begin with they were great fun, by the end they were torture, but almost always there was a huge sense of achievement in bringing a show from concept to performance for audiences in the hundreds. They’re huge projects with a million things to go wrong and barely anyone notices the bits that go to plan, but many things did and it’s something I’m (mostly) delighted to have done.
6. I once changed my name to Andrew Yellow
I have fundraised for many charities in my time, both voluntarily and professionally. When working as Fundraiser for the awesome Butterwick Hospice I needed something to make a splash in the local press as we tried to convince the local population to do something “yellow” to raise funds during Hospice Awareness Week (the official colour of which is…yellow).
My ingenious idea therefore was to change my name from Andrew Brown to Andrew Yellow for the duration of the week. I signed some official-seeming papers and donned an all-yellow suit and hat (oh I like to do things properly.) to be photographed for the local papers. I looked worryingly camp). I made the front page of the local rag (headline: “Mr Brown now a Yellow Fellow”) and we had a successful fundraising week.
7. I believed I was adopted
I can laugh about this one now, but for many years I was under a strong suspicion that I was adopted. It all began when I saw my birth certificate for the first time and, to my horror, noticed that scrawled across the bottom in big letters was a code. It said “APDOT”.
My imagination has always been an active one and I immediately raced to the seemingly inevitable conclusion – this was clearly a secret code for those people who had been ADOPTed. Granted it wasn’t a very clever code, and it was one that a seven year old was able to crack with Bletchley Park-like ease. But crack it I had, and I wished I hadn’t.
For a number of years I wondered, at the back of my mind, whether it was really true until finally I mentioned it to my Mam and all was put straight. Oh the relief!
8. I set up & sold tickets to football matches
When I was eight or nine year old my Auntie worked in a factory producing football kits for a number of the top English clubs and the England team itself. As a result (and through entirely proper circumstances, I’m sure) I randomly found myself the owner of six Tottenham Hotspur shirts. I managed with my friends to pull together a five-a-side team (actually that was easy, it was choosing who not to include which caused the problems) and we played on a bitter rivalry with kids from Elephant Park up the road (don’t even ask) who also put together a team. A two-legged tie was arranged and it was the talk of the town (well, it was the talk of Burnside Junior School anyway) which gave me an idea: why not sell tickets?
An entire Sunday was spent drawing posters and tickets individually by hand (this was the age before the Inkjet), cutting them out and scoring the stubs. 20p for adults and 10p for children. I packaged them up in a very nice looking attaché-style folding clipboard and began to sell, keeping the money in a neat little bag in my coat pocket.
Pretty soon however I was rumbled in the school playground by the dinner-nannies, who confiscated the tickets, clipboard and money. Oh yeah, they took the lot. There was no messing about in those days and I still have no idea what happened to the money
The tie went ahead anyway of course. I have no memory of who won but I do remember looking around and noting the countless people who were there to watch despite never having bought a ticket.
9. I Scored a goal with a broken ankle
My wife sees only stupidity in this tale, but I see heroism. I see the spirit of Butcher in Stockholm ’89 and Ince in Turin ’97. For me it was the Louisa Sports & Leisure Centre ’95. It was barely six minutes into our weekly five-a-side match when I fell heavily on the turn under a heavy challenge. The pain – nay, the agony – was insufferable. But like a brave soldier I picked my battle-weary body off the ground.
Thinking only of my team I sacrificed myself for the greater good and continued for the entire remaining 54 minutes. I even got onto the scoresheet, poking in a cross from the left-hand side – with my good foot – on the edge of the area. Oh how the footballing gods smiled on England’s Young Lion that night!
My Mam was less understanding (it’s clearly a woman thing) and seemed to consider me not heroic but a fool beyond compare. Especially when the following morning she accompanied me and my balloon-like foot to A&E where x-rays revealed a broken ankle.
As a footnote (pardon the pun) to all of this, six months later I did the same thing again playing football in the park at College. This time I failed to score, although there was a silver-lining in that I got to be at home for the entire Euro ’96 tournament. Result!
10. Jim never fixed it for me
Although my football career was cruelly cut short by recurring ankle injuries (not to mention not being especially good or particularly fit, but let’s go with the injury version) my true love had always been Snooker. At this I had some reasonable talent when I was very young, and I dared entertain dreams of The Crucible and accepting the Championship Trophy from John Spencer before doing that interview with David Vine.
My hero of course was (is!) Jimmy White and I spent untold hours of my pre-teen years emulating him, his style and his mannerisms around the table. My dream was to meet him so my parents and I wrote a letter to Jim’ll Fix It in the hope that he would arrange for me to play Jimmy in one frame at the Crucible, in fact anywhere would do.
Week after week I tuned in (somehow oblivious to the fact that if I was about to feature on the show, I’d have known about it before the show was actually broadcast, but let’s overlook that) and week after week I was let down by Jimmy (Saville – I don’t hold Jimmy White responsible for this at all). Even years later, when I had given up all youthful promise and hope of Snooker stardom, I imagined that someone would discover my letter tucked away in the lining of Jimmy’s bulging mail bag. It never happened.
Edit: perhaps this was a lucky escape1?
So that’s my ten things. I’d love to read yours so if you’re feeling inspired to do a similar exercise on your own blog, please drop a link in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.