I do enjoy writing (being a regular contributor to our parish periodical, on the subject of Enlightened Rambling in Semi-Rural Areas), yet ironically, it was this talent that was one of a number of factors that widened the chasm, that terrible emotional gulf between myself and my brother, Ken.
I recall the day, all those years ago, when our school reports had been given out. I had presented mine to Father (a man, who I was later to learn, admired and emulated the many pompous authority figures of Dickensian literature). Tall, with an egg shaped head and making that peculiar whistling sound with his favourite pipe, he read it whilst stood in front of the fire-place. I basked in his rare praise and, at the same time, was mesmerised by his large and highly mobile eyebrows, as they danced with delight about his forehead, at the results of my scholastic endeavours.
At the same time, I was aware of the troubled presence of Ken. He was standing in the doorway, with his school report gripped in his hand; his face hot with anger and resentment; and eyeing me with jealous reproach. Ken had neglected his education in favour of that primitive musical form skiffle and was about to face the consequences. And now, "Kenneth", boomed Father, "Let me see your report!". "Get lost, Daddio !", was Ken’s blurted reply (ill-considered beatnik vernacular had, by this time, infiltrated my brothers vocabulary) and he ran upstairs to his room. Stunned by such defiance, Fathers eyebrows furrowed into a sudden static state, forming the familiar V-shape of extreme parental disapproval. He set off in pursuit. "Kenneth Worthington, produce your school report now !", shouted Father, as he pounded on my brothers door. From inside I heard Ken’s quavery yet courageous voice call out. After all these years, I can recall his every word - "Pater, I may be an academic disaster area, finding algebra brain-boggling, Latin verbs impossible and in chemistry, it takes me all my time to operate a Bunsen- burner. I feel my future lies on a different path, far from the groves of Academe. I’m talking about a career in the realm of popular music. A new age is dawning, when youth will free itself from the shackles of all things boring, thus becoming a lucrative market to tap. In the spirit of Cliff Richard and rock ‘n’ roll rebels everywher, I shall now burn my school report. Let this match become a beacon of hope to beleaguered youth everywhere. Oh yeah, and if your listening William, I’m gonna get you tomorrow, yer flippin’ swot !". On seeing wisps of smoke curling out from underneath Ken’s door, Father exclaimed, "Boy, desist with this pyro-villiany, you are imperilling the very fabric of the house !". Disorientated by this challenge to his authority, Father baulked, reeled,and staggered, then promptly plunged headlong down our stairs. The scene is forever seared upon my memory. I, with mother at the base of the stairs, staring in disbelief at the crumpled bulk of Father, his legs and arms akimbo. Ken, at the top of the stairs, the smouldering report still in his hand; horror registered in his eyes at the consequences of his misplaced bravado. "Cliff Richard", he cried, "Oh Cliff Richard, where are you now in my moment of need ?"
Father recovered, but was in and out of a spinal-brace for the rest of his life. He also suffered severe rupturing of the eyebrows and so had to face life with their mobility severely curtailed. Yes, Rich, they were dark days. Dark days of recrimination and reproach and the revenge burning of Ken's tea-chest bass by Father. Ken’s reports didn’t get any better. He was eventually thrown out of his chemistry class for buckling a Bunsen.
It was then, with a sucession of shudders,that I switched on Mr Shuttleworth’s broadcast "Caravan Capers" sometime ago, and heard that Ken’s defiant streak had not abated. John had forbidden Ken to mount the ladder of Doreen Melody’s camper-van. We listeners thought he had complied. It was only, when, 10 miles into their journey to a second honeymoon destination, that the perceived gonk, bouncing around in the back-window of the van, was really Ken’s near comatose head, signaling distress by wild pendulum swings. Ken had disobeyed John, and had been on the roof from the start of the journey, facing 60 mile an hour winds and perilous conditions dressed only in luxury night-wear. In a hypothermic state and babbling incoherently, Ken was helped from the roof. Sympathy for my brothers plight soon turned to anger as he quickly recovered and greedily consumed the contents of John’s tea-flask. I remembered him guzzling my Vimto supply. He then feigned a swoon to inveigle his way into getting a free holiday with the Shuttleworths. The subsequent bottle-opener attack by Joyce (loves gardening and is very, very lonely) on Ken, though deserved, did little to dampen his talents at assimilating the Shuttleworths resources, as he nonchalantly slurped back their wine. Sometimes, Ken Worthington reminds me of "Star Treks" - The Borg.
I’m sorry Ken, if you are reading this and dislike the revelations about your early educational and behavioral problems. There are people out there who are interested in you and want to know the truth. They’d like the full picture, as to why John Shuttleworth’s career has never got past first base and why you wear a threadbare Brotherhood of Man tour-jacket, with jaunty aplomb. Maybe Father and his oppressively kinetic eyebrows are to blame, who knows, who knows? Any suggestions from the Shuttleworths fans?
A minor upset has occurred in my life, Rich. This has lead to me putting back the Carnforth Sands walk for a week. You see, I’ve been surprised by the complexity of emotions, that I have felt since my first E-mail was printed on the Web. Many thoughts and feelings have been stirred up and I am have having constant flash-backs (on the hour, every hour) of my early life with Kenneth . It was in one of these 'moments of memory', whilst lost in melancholic abstraction, that I mistook my jar of dubbing (waterproofing for walking boots) for a jar of Marmite. I spread it on my toast and consumed the lot. ‘Accident & Emergency’ was not a pleasant place that Saturday night as I had my stomach pumped. I’m now a light greenish colour in the facial area and I have been informed that the water absorption capabilities of my stomach has been reduced by 17%. Yet, one has to accept the vicissitudes of fate. As Mr Shuttleworth so wisely said in his song "Man on the M62" - ‘Some things you cannot undo.'