When he was younger, our Ned was a right Fred Fibber.
Our earliest recollection of one of his fabricated tales was when he was five and in the first year at our first school, Brudenell Infants. It was the custom then for the first lesson every morning to be writing practice and what better subject to practice writing on than yourself – we were handed a diary every morning and told to write the day and date across the top of a new page and then write something that happened to us the previous day, why am I explaining this to you all, the diary is not a concept that was limited to Miss Whitemans classroom surely ?
“Yesterday I went on an aeroplane” is what he wrote one day.
It was so unusual that Miss Whiteman read it out to the class and then invited Ned to go to the front of the room and tell everyone about his wonderful trip in an aeroplane – lets just remind you all that this would be 1962 and no-one amongst the ordinary population had ever flown on anything at that point, not unless they’d been bombing Germany at the request of the King a few years earlier, and that wasn’t our Ned.
He stood at the front of the class and entranced them all with a tale of what it was like to sit in the aeroplane seat and then rise in the air when it took off, and come back down when it landed and when the teacher asked where he’d flown to he just said “Leeds” and she gave him a funny look and told him to sit down now.
When our mother went to pick him up that afternoon the teacher smiled nicely and asked how she’d enjoyed the aeroplane trip at the weekend.
“Eh ?” said our mother, who had never flown in her life, not even to bomb Germany or anything.
Turned out that we’d been to a fair at Woodhouse Moor that weekend and he’d sat on a merry-go-round that had an aeroplane on it which went up and down as the merry-go-round went, well, around and around.
It wasn’t exactly lying was it ?
But you could tell our mother anything and she’d believe it, more than that, if it was me or Ned that had told her then it was gospel truth and no-one could persuade her otherwise that it hadn’t happened at all, not even if you yourself went to her and said, “Look mother, I lied to you, it didn’t happen at all that way”, she’d still say “Oh yes it did, you told me it did, I remember”.
He was always telling her how good he was at football when we were at Cookridge County Primary School, she thought he was in the school football team and he told her every week that they’d played in a big schools competition and he’d scored two, or three, or four goals, she was so proud, he once told her that they’d won ten-nil and that he’d scored all the goals and she went and told everyone at work.
Truth is that Cookridge County Primary didn’t even have a school football team as it was run by women and Thirsky, pimple head Thirsky who’s idea of taking the boys to play football was to keep his suit and tie on and wear wellington boots with his trousers tucked inside them while standing in the centre circle waving his arms around in what he assumed was a refereeing style.
And of course there was the time when we discovered that the spinster who lived next door to us was the sister of William Gaunt who at the time was playing a starring role in “The Champions”, a programme that my father referred to as “Shit from China” which was his way of saying that it wasn’t really very good at all.
We even met William Gaunt one day when he turned up at his sisters house and my father shook his hand and told him that we all loved The Champions and I thought it best not to interrupt and remind my father that he really thought it was Shit from China as in the 1960s it was quite permissible for your father to cuff you rather coarsely around the ear-holes.
The following Monday our Ned told everyone in his class that he had met William Gaunt off The Champions and he showed them all an autograph that he had apparently got from William Gaunt, and it was around this point that I started to wonder if this was another one of his tales for neither I nor he had asked for an autograph, we were too busy biting our tongues so as not to point out to our dad that The Champions was really Shit from China.
He sold William Gaunts autograph to one of his classmates for two shillings and when he came home that night he took an old copy of the Yorkshire Evening Post and signed William Gaunts autograph seven or eight times in the margin, then tore them carefully into strips, took them all to school the next day and sold all of them too, he would be eight or nine years old at the time.
Its an idea that I thought about touting to The Dragons Den but the exposure on TV and the inevitable generous funding of the business plan that would surely result would actually be its downfall if people thought that it was really me doing all the autographs.