I WISHED he was dead. I told him that. And that I wished he had never been born, which in the context it was said amounted to pretty much the same thing.
In response he smashed my head against the radiator gas tap and my dad continued to read the paper, ignoring what was fast becoming a daily occurrence. I thought as unofficial referee he should have at least stepped in and stopped the fight.
Years later though my brother hit me with something different when I was relating tales of some spectacular kickings. “You used to beat me up with words though kid,” he said.
I was a bit taken aback. He had verbally knocked me to the canvas. To me, as a child, bullies were simply physically tougher, they didn’t attack you with some clever wordplay, tricky mathematics or historical fact — “Battle of Hastings 1066, now **** off before I move on to the French revolution you little ****.”
Once on holiday in my early teens my brother performed his own “beating me up with words” routine by reciting lines from the at the time unfeasibly popular song “Too Shy” by appallingly crap band Kajagoogoo.
This was obviously a well aimed missile as I’m still hurting after 40 years.
These days he has given up — at least I hope he has — the physically combative side of our formerly difficult relationship, which was resolved through a mutual interest in football and drinking, and we tend to spar with words.
He has obviously spent the ensuing decades working on his tactics (he’s done other things as well) as he is at least my equal in this respect and slightly quicker off the mark, getting a dig in while I internally craft what I believe to be a perfect riposte to his original quip.
We do occasionally refer back to those childhood arguments, mostly with light-hearted references to past musical tastes — he was a huge fan of the likes of Showaddywaddy while I was into new wave and Liverpool and Manchester indie bands by the age of 12 (he might dispute the last part of that sentence but he isn’t writing this, and if he wants to disagree he knows where the letters pages are).
We very rarely, though, plunge into debate about past nastiness, generally because we were much younger and generally accept we were both in the wrong.
I have genuinely not met other brothers who got on as badly as we did — and there are stories that cannot be repeated here — but now find the whole shebang amusing.
I wouldn’t say we had gone from brothers using arms to brothers in arms, but at some point everything before ceased to matter apart from serving as a potential means of pursuing a jibe. This is especially the case after a few beers.
I’m sure David wouldn’t mind me abusing my position here by saying I reckon I was always in the right.
In case he reads this (which means my mum has shown it to him) though, that’s only a joke.
I don’t want my head bashing on those radiator taps again.