I’m going to be honest and this might come as a bit of a shock. I wasn’t always the thoughtful, kind, selfless person person I am (occasionally) now. When I was a young nipper back in the late 70’s I used to be a bit selfish, thoughtless and was only concerned about getting money to buy more Panini football stickers to complete my latest football album. Thankfully Jade and Katie haven’t taken after me at all and over the last few weeks have made me so proud I really needed to talk about it.
So, back to the aforementioned bad young Mr Banana Head. At aged 9 I was desperate for money having lost the £1.35 I’d saved up after smashing my brother’s recorder on the bunk bed whilst trying to hit him with it. It was his fault as he kept teasing me by singing, “Ivor The Engine, choo choo.” Bizarrely (as I’m not Welsh or born in the 1950’s), my other middle name (not Banana) is Ivor which I hated with a passion. Unfortunately there just happened to be a kid’s programme in the 70’s called Ivor The Engine which led to the merciless and traumatising name calling that nearly destroyed my childhood.
I had a brainwave one day which was to put on a show for my brother’s friends and charge them to watch it. The theatrical masterpiece consisted of throwing a soldier on a parachute really high and letting him fall to earth gracefully. This was followed by the grand finale: Firing a gun loaded with bits of potato and knocking over small soldiers I had lined up. I know what you’re thinking, it’s sounds completely pants. You’re right, it was but still worth the 10p entrance fee I thought. I took their money, put on the show and went straight to buy the Panini stickers. The friends went home, told their parents who them rang my mum furious that I’d conned their sons. The result was no pocket money for a month and no more shows, ever.
To this day I don’t see anything wrong with what I did. I think I showed great initiative and enterprise. The sad and unforgettable events of Ibiza ’85 however are inexcusable. We were on holiday and being 15 I was confined to the hotel and the 4th rate entertainment they offered. Bingo night was at least a chance to win something so I managed to raise a smile rather than the permanent scowl I had through most of my teens. To this day over thirty years later I still can’t explain what happened. Basically there were five games of bingo and I won four of them. My prizes were a giant teddy bear, a bottle of champagne, a designer handbag and the pesetas equivalent of £20. With a two year old sister, a mum who loves handbags and parents who loved champagne I did the only thing a loving son would do, I sold the lot to other holiday makers.
To be fair, my rational thinking surrounding the teddy bear was pretty sound: it was twenty five times bigger than my sister and would probably either have traumatised or crushed her in a freak accident involving a sudden change of wind direction and a small peacock. On top of that there was no way we could have taken it home with us, the excess baggage charges would probably have been more than the cost of the holiday. I’m hanging my head in shame about the rest of it though, like I said, totally indefensible. My parents still bang on about it now, why do some people (I’m not going to say older as they’ll kill me) hold grudges for so long?
A few years later I managed to surpass Ibiza Gate. My hero Michael Jackson was playing at Wembley Stadium and I was determined to see him for the first time. This was the days of no internet so hardcore queuing for tickets was required. Picture the scene; mid January, thick snow and biting cold temperatures. I queued from 6-11am at Wembley Stadium to make sure I was near the front of the queue to guarantee tickets. He was only doing two days so I wasn’t taking any chances. I got my two (for me and my younger brother) and returned home triumphantly, a hero with two precious tickets to paradise. Well, to the 1988 Bad Tour so pretty close. The look on my brother’s face when I showed him his ticket was one I’ll never forget. It was pure, unadulterated joy mixed with disbelief and pride at knowing his life’s ambition was coming true. He was only 16 so don’t judge him on his low standards. As a loving brother, seeing his face made me happy, emotional and proud. I was a good brother.
This act of pure benevolence was sadly erased two weeks later when someone offered me an extra £50 on top of what I paid for his ticket so I sold it. That’s what the happiness of my impressionable 16 year old little brother was worth to me. You may be thinking that I’m a complete scumbag for doing something so unscrupulous but please let me explain. When I was offered the chance to make £35 profit all I could think of was how many Panini football stickers I could buy for Euro ’88. It would be just like the bath scene in American Beauty but instead of Mena Suvari and rose petals you had Paul ‘Ivor The Engine’ Albert and the faces of Mark Lawrenson, Chris Waddle and Ruud Gullit. Again, pretty indefensible but after watching him cry for three straight days fate stepped in to help. Due to unprecedented demand for tickets another five dates were added. I bought two tickets for another date and planned on selling my original ticket. Unfortunately with so many dates added demand soon dropped and I ended up selling it at a loss. Definitely a case of Karma there for me. The concert was amazing and the highlight for my brother was watching a bra being thrown around the crowd landing square on my face.