The bottle and spanner
By Tom Brown
I came into this world with a bottle in one hand and a spanner in the other, in my nappies I didn't know what I was in for.
My dad explained the moon landings in my grandfather's hallowed study with an earth globe and model rocket he showed how the rocket stages work and the mission and journey. I was still very small but I remember.
He taught me in principle how a steam engine works, what an external and internal combustion engine is and two and four stroke petrol engines. Later on even the idea of a cycloid and rotary (wankel) engine. As well as the differential drive which I never really understood he said it was ingenious.
Cars were a large part of your life. Even from toddler there were always little model matchbox cars that was when you were very well behaved they had plastic racing tracks too and quite elaborate. Later on were scalectrix races with terrific excitement then to posters magazines and playing cards.
In the workshop or outside in the yard many evenings and late nights we worked underneath a car or under the bonnet I was the apprentice and general assistant. Really it was hard heavy going holding that torch for so long and was exhausted to bed and next day early to school from beginning primary school already.
There I learned fear he was very short tempered he resented badly he had to have make do without the right tools. This was where I first learned to pray and for a screw to take the thread. I had to fetch and pass tools and hold things but the worst was to keep the torchlight shined right and kept still. Your arms ached you were sore you got tired and he got just the more impatient.
As a toddler a baby already I carried tools fetched and brought spanners it amazed me he never made a mistake not once, just looked and knew which number. How I managed I don't know either it was before school I must have known how to read numbers. Well I could get the right ones. The game of flying spanners.
Often and every now and then as he sat drinking beer in the lounge we had to go and tell the time on the kitchen clock the long hand and short hand and that. It puzzles me still I always got it right.
There are many things I can brag of but one is that I could play chess when I was three. My mother taught me while waiting for trains. She commuted for work (a teacher) and us too for nursery school. My relationship with her was completely different she was kind and beautiful and patient but she was firm and strict. She was very clever she knew very many things it seemed just about everything.
On the road once my mother had a flat tire I showed her how it worked the jack and wheel spanner and nuts and she managed to change the wheel and off we were again.
With some labourers, black men working in the stand next door just on my little feet stood there shouting cursing and swearing at them. On my wobbly little knees. This was my first real hiding not even three.
After being warned and threatened for shaking a beer can with froth sprayed all over you won't do that again. Rage. The trick was he didn't stop hitting if you didn't stop crying and screaming you had to control yourself. Self pity was not tolerated, at all. Come to think of it, it was really not very nice of him. And look who's talking, poor drunk sorry for himself nobody understands me. I will not be like that with a child.
Grade One my very first little spelling test I thought was a joke and laughing handed him a 2/10. He didn't think that was funny he half killed me, seriously. The next one I got 8/10 it was acceptable. From then on I always averaged 80% right through primary, secondary school and university it was now established the acceptable and required norm to avoid being slaughtered.
He wasn't like this when he wasn't drinking. There was an accident due to his negligence my hand was very badly injured this event completely changed the course of my life. It is a story for another day but if it wasn't for that I think he would have killed me long ago. He must have had terrific self-control for me to actually tell you this story.