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Bumpy - The Why? Boy

Posted 17-09-2008 at 21:05 by West Ender
Updated 17-09-2008 at 21:10 by West Ender

The Chinese have a saying, "The much-loved child has many names". Our dad surely loved us, then, as we all 3 had dozens of names from him. We answered to them all, too.

Brother 2 (7 years my senior) was, by all accounts, a very inquisitive small child. Our dad could do a passable impression of his younger male offspring who as a toddler, apparently, met every statement and action with the flat demand, "Why?", accompanied by a determined expression. You didn't get away with ignoring him. It didn't take long before our dad referred to him, often, as The Why? Boy.

He was a tactile man, our dad. He wasn't given to openly embracing his children, particularly his sons, once we'd got past pre-school age but he would, while watching telly or reading the paper, stroke an arm or a back, put an arm round a shoulder, run an affectionate hand over a head. Wait a minute! Hand on head - younger son - The Why? Boy - "This lad's got a strong bump at the back of his head"; hence another nick-name, Bumpy!

We nearly lost Bumpy/Bro 2 when I was just a year old. We used to get real snow in those days and, one Winter's day when the snow was about a foot deep, my 2 big brothers went out with a sledge to play with their friends. They were sledging down Cow Hill, at the top of West End, when Bro 2 fell off the sledge which ran over his leg. He limped home, crying, much to the disgust of Biggest Brother and his friends. That night Bro 2 had a raging fever and his leg left thigh was swollen and painful. The doctor was called and he was taken into hospital.

I could say "osteomyelitis" before my first birthday (I suffered from verbal diarrhoea even in those days). My mother would, when chatting to neighbours, ask me, "What is it T*** has got?" and I would, patiently, tell her. OK, I was precocious in speech - I didn't walk until I was 2.

It was touch-and-go for a while, when he first had the illness, but there was this new medicine, which had been used to treat soldiers in the war, and they gave it to him. It was called penicillin and it saved Bro 2's life. He had the condition, recurring, until he was 15 years old. I remember him, perhaps every 6 months, looking poorly and uncomfortable and our mum saying, "Show me that back", at which he had to show her the abscesses that formed on his lower back and indicated a flare-up. It meant another long stay in hospital and, probably, more operations to drain the pus from his infected thigh bone so, naturally, he used to try to hide the symptoms. Nothing got past our mum. He spent a lot of his young life in Accrington Victoria Hospital.

We both went to St Mary's school and had many adventures on the way home together. There was the infamous incident when we stopped at "The Swanee" to mess about one afternoon. I don't know how it came about but Bro 2 fell in and was covered in smelly mud up to his middle. For some reason he was very reluctant to tell our mum so I was told to go in through the front door, as usual, while he would nip round the back and disrobe in the outside loo. I was to get a pair of his pants and a shirt from his wardrobe and bring them to him. I, duly, went in the kitchen trailing Bro 2's muddy pullover. Mum was ironing and, seeing me there, had the whole thing out of me within 3 minutes. Bro 2 was brought in and sent up for a bath, his stinking clothes plunged into the washing machine.

Bro 2 left school when he was 15. He didn't pass the 11+, he had hardly been at school due to the illness, so he had no qualifications. Dad, who was an optician by that time, took him into the business because it was considered he wouldn't be able to cope with a job anywhere else. Bro 2 became receptionist/dogsbody for our dad. Within 2 years the puny child with the badly scarred leg grew to be 6'1" tall and broad shouldered and as fit as a flea; handsome too. He had always been interested in all things technical and he started to sell cameras etc. in our dad's shop.

He bought himself a good camera and I became the most photographed little sister in Lancashire. Unable to play sports, as he had been (though he could swim well), and never having been fit enough to be "one of the lads", we spent a lot of time together. He set up a dark-room under the stairs at our house and he and I, with red cellophane wrapped round the bare light-bulb, would develop our reels of film. Despite the 7 year age gap we were good mates. Over 50 years on - we still are.

I was about 11 when Bro 2 first took me to the theatre in Manchester. We went to a pantomime at the Palace Theatre. It should have been George Formby (we loved him - I still do) but he was too ill so Brian Reece (Radio's PC 49) starred instead. Over the next few years he took me to see shows and plays and introduced me to eating out in China Town and the first restaurants on the Curry Mile. He stayed, one night, at the exclusive Midland Hotel - alone - because he wanted to prove that he could. He was just 21! After that, I was growing up and he was courting many a young lady so the outings, gradually, stopped.

In his late 20s Bro 2 decided to rectify his lack of education. He gained O Levels at Night School then got a place at Bradford University to study, part time, to become a Dispensing Optician. He qualified when he was 33 and became a partner in dad's business.

We're still quite close, Bumpy and me. He's been with his wife, also an optician, for over 30 years (though they only got married 2 years ago!) but we've always been "best mates" as well as brother and sister. He's godfather to my elder daughter, and my grandson (her son) has his name as his middle name. He still asks "Why?". If there's any new technology he will aquire it and use it - though he tests my daughter-in-law's patience when he buggers-up his computer and she has to sort it out. She said to me, once, "Please don't have any more brothers".
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  1. Old Comment
    BERNADETTE's Avatar
    Hardly likely that you will have any more brothers but what two great ones you have
    Posted 17-09-2008 at 23:27 by BERNADETTE BERNADETTE is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Margaret Pilkington's Avatar
    Brothers....don't they test your patience.......I know......I have five of them!
    Posted 18-09-2008 at 12:10 by Margaret Pilkington Margaret Pilkington is offline
  3. Old Comment
    shillelagh's Avatar
    Im dreading the day my brother - who bought a laptop 3 months ago and still hasnt got it up and running ... decides to turn it on and cocks it all up!!
    Posted 18-09-2008 at 21:12 by shillelagh shillelagh is offline

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