You don’t know me yet, nor do I know you, but I’ve been wanting to say hello for a wee while now. I know your blog-reading days are a way off yet, but I always feel a bit daft talking to someone else’s belly, and this is as good a platform as I have for getting a message out into the unborn ether. Maybe your Mum or Dad will read it to you when you’re keeping them awake with your kicking one night, I don’t know. Either way, the bones of what I’ve been wanting to say are this: despite us not yet knowing one another, there’s one thing of which I’m certain – that you and I, little man, are going to be best mates.
If someone could have told me five years ago that my kid brother would have a baby before I did – let alone be the only one of the pair of us to do so – I’d have bet my firstborn on them being wrong. What I’ve learned in the meantime, however, is that life has a funny habit of biting you on the ass in rather spectacular fashion. You don’t need to know about the sequence of events that made it so (it’s boring and, frankly, you’re the first person I almost know who needn’t have to hear it), and nor do you need our first correspondence to be a lecture about the nature of life’s unexpected quirks. That’s something you should, and will, learn in your own time. And when you do, come to me and we’ll laugh it all out over a few beers. It’ll always be my round.
Something else I’ve learned – albeit in the last five days more than the last five years – is that, despite me being three and a half years older than Jamie (you’ll soon realise how important a half can be), he’s not my kid brother any more; he’s your Dad. And, if you only ever take one piece of advice from me, it’s to listen to him.
We went to your Mum’s dancing show this weekend (she and your Grandma run a dance school – but don’t worry, you won’t be expected to wear tap shoes unless you really want to… though it’d certainly help when it comes to embarrassing you on your 18th) and, when we walked into the theatre, I saw your Dad standing on the stairs. He saw me walk in too and gave me a huge grin, as he always does (sometimes with a cheeky bird-flip too). We’d already seen each other that morning, but I started walking towards him for a hug when another woman got there first. ‘Congratulations, Daddy!’ she squealed, throwing her arms around him. Perhaps it was pride; perhaps it responsibility; perhaps it was just because he was standing on the second step… but, in that moment, your Dad looked taller and wiser and happier than I’ve ever seen him. I cried immediately, of course (I have a habit of doing that), because that was the moment when it finally hit me that you’ll soon be here.
His wedding to your Mum in October 2008 was another such moment. (Your Mum, by the way, is the sweetest person you could ever hope to meet. And this coming from your archetypal big sis for whom nobody – well, nobody but your Mum – is good enough for her kid bro. Look after her, please, she’s precious.) In my eyes at least, that was the day on which your Dad became a man. Now, though, he’s not just a man; he’s the man.
At the risk of making your pa sound like he was some kind of delinquent tearaway (when, in fact, he was born with a frighteningly sensible head on his shoulders and has always been the very definition of a Good Bloke), I think I was always the more likely of the two of us to do the sensible-life-pattern thing. As I write this, however, I’m approaching 32, working at home in pyjamas at 2.30 on a Friday afternoon, downloading photos from a gig at which I danced on the front row, and sitting on a patio littered with the cava-cork remnants of last Friday’s impromptu party. That might look like a bit of a tragic picture to a lot of people – and yes, there’s tragedy in there somewhere – but I prefer to think of these things as examples of the happy life I’m fortunate enough to lead. It’s often different to your Dad’s life – and the life I thought I’d have too – but it’s important for you to understand that your Dad and I, though in different cities and perhaps even different mindsets, are no less family-focused than the other.
There’s no escaping what comes next, so I might as well come straight out with it: when it comes to the clan into which you are being born, the concept of family is KING. And what’s more, you jammy shyster, there’s simply no better family for you to be born into. I’m not saying that because it makes a good story; I’m saying that because it’s the truth. So whatever happens in your lucky little life, please remember this fact. That might have sounded like an order when, actually, it’s just a reality. You won’t be able to help but remember it. And by ’eck, it’ll serve you well.
There are a few other things you perhaps ought to know about your family, mind you, and I might as well be the one to fill you in. For starters, you’ll have noticed that you’re currently being called Tito. That’s largely down to this picture, and the impressive calves that you’ve demonstrably inherited from your Dad – calves which have, many a time, been compared to those of ex-Derby-player Tito Villa. You’d better get used to this stuff, actually, for nobody in your family is called by their actual name. There’s your Mum, also known as Fanny, or Spesh or, thanks to you, Fatty. There’s your Dad, also known as Charlie, or Arseface, or Dave. There’s Grandad: Dave 2, Yoda, GOG (grumpy old git) or SFB (shit for brains). There’s Nana: Doofus, Boss, or Little Piranha. There’s Uncle Pete: Dave 3, Whacker, or The Evertonian; and me, your Auntie Shitface. And, as you’ll come to see, there’s plenty more equally daft Derby folk besides.
We stick together (sometimes, dare I say it, to the point of suffocation; albeit suffocation by candy floss), we take an interest in each other’s interests, we send each other cards on even the most unthinkable occasions, and we do a great line in fart-jokes. Your Dad is going to show you how to swing a golf club and always say the right thing. Your Mum is going to show you every Disney film that’s ever been made and how to treat girls with respect. Your Grandma is going to show you how to point your toes and the perfect time to step into sensitive situations. Your Grandad Stewart is going to show you your way around a toolbox and how never to forget a name. Your Nana is going to show you how to be the perfect host and the importance of kindness. Your Grandad Mac is going to show you that fairness comes first and how imperative it is to buy the first round. (Unless you’re with me. Or him.) Your Uncle Pete is going to show you how to talk in funny accents and read any situation with incredible accuracy. And I’m going to show you where to put an apostrophe, how to strike the right sentiment and the value of a smile. But most of all, mate, we’re going to show you how to love.
Since we’re best mates, though, I’m going to show you a whole lot more. I keep being told that it’s my job to teach you the things you’d never hear – or want to hear – off your Mum and Dad, so I expect you’ll be looking to me as your example of how to swear and deal with difficult kids and organise a party. I’m already keeping a list of songs I think you should own and, as soon as you have a name, I’m going to set up your first email address and iTunes account, and fill them both with things I hope you’ll like. I’ll apologise now, though, for the times when I’ll probably bore the arse off you. I’d love to tell you that this’ll be the last time you hear me stress the importance of Macs being better than PCs, or Paul being better than John, but I fear we both know there’s plenty more where this sentence came from.
Lesson one though, mate, is this: ignore all these daft lessons. Because, if you’re anything like me or your Dad, the important stuff will be that which you learn by accident. So do whatever the bloody hell you want, whenever the bloody hell you want to. There’s not a lot of people I’d say that to, but then there’s not a lot of people who – even before they’ve seen the light of day – are lucky enough to have it so good. And so, my best friend, I’ll see you when you’re ready. I can’t wait to tell you in person how brilliant it is to be you.