The Rapid Red Machine

(For Emily, Callum and Holpol)

Having recently written Ice Cream Lies it opened up all sorts of memories. The trouble is, writing just enough of that story, without losing myself reminiscing and heading off into 5 others…

The whole of my growing childhood and family life was, I found, quite wonderful. My mum and dad just seemed to be full of boundless fun and energy. I loved hearing tales from my dad. Of where he had worked over the years, and of the trials and often hilarious situations he found himself in. Or his own childhood which seemed so much more exciting.

I find it a sad fact that as society volume has increased over the years, traffic, population etc,  it’s  been reflected in the reduced freedom of kids growing up from younger ages.

I know I was even more careful with my own kids when they were small and restricted their movement even more. Traffic volume alone  was a deciding factor  for me to make that impact on their lives.

I was lucky enough to spend most of my early adult life, first serving my time as an apprentice joiner under, then working along side my dad. It wasn’t always sweetness and light of course, but on the whole  we laughed an awful lot.

When he died in ’99 it was a terrible and sudden shock that someone so vital in my life, could disappear so immediately and permanently.

I have to say, I still miss him terribly, still have those choking moments, and I still think about him every day.

What I grew to find though was, he’s still there in many ways.

(Although, he’s currently in France these days since Kerry shipped his urn over, which I’m sure he won’t mind)

He left behind so many memories, so many tales for my brother, sister, mum and probably all the people he impacted upon to recall him by.

But what always sticks in my mind when I think about him is a mischievous aura about him. A twinkle in the eye and that smile he had. He had a way of folding his arms. Tucking his hands under his armpits. Like he was too excited, and was desperately trying to hold in the enthusiasm for whatever tale or wind up he was in the process of sharing, without giving away the punch line. And while he was doing this he would be rocking backwards and forwards on his feet.

dad bransby

It makes me literally grin, to think about it even now.

So, What I don’t want you to think is, this is some sad morbid tale. Its not. It an explanation towards the laugh out loud moments I’ve had as a child with my parents. And how its made me approach my own children growing up.

I take enormous amounts of pleasure in making my children laugh. Again telling a tale on the spur of the moment, or recounting something that made me laugh as a child. It’s the scrappy, dirty bits in life that children love to hear about. Or the romantic possibilities that life may hold for them.

I’m a firm believer in keeping children, well, children. Shielding them as far as possible from the sometimes terrible nature of life. I don’t want them going to bed, worrying about global warming. Because everything is so literal with kids growing up. They have no concept of time. They think if they hear something will happen in 3 million years, it probably means a week on Wednesday at 9.30am.

I wanted them to dress up, and Play. Have an imagination, listen to them laugh, un-encumbered by stresses and pressures that adults place upon themselves.

A child can’t hide disappointment or upset and it’s broadcast loud and clear in their eyes. But so is excitement and laughter, and my children may not know it, but its always been an important part of my life to see those emotions shining in they’re eyes.

So, I would tell fibs and make up stories all the time. Anything to keep that naivety and simple pleasure alive for them in a tale.

My son Callum, played football from a young age (He’s 17 now and still at it) and en route to training I would tell him about Brown Bear, who lived locally.(We live in Manchester UK…)

Brown Bear loved curry. It entailed farting. Callum loved it.

Till Brown Bear farted his head cleeeean off.

But then his brother, Black Bear came on the scene. He also liked curry in copious amounts.

You can see where this is going.

This kept him entertained to and from training. These days he has his headphones on while I talk at him.

In retrospect this was his story. His sisters are going to be furious.

(Whichever one of you reads this first, your my fave.)

Which leads me to keeping them entertained. I love my children. More than they could ever imagine. I have loved all the wind ups I have played out over the years with them.

I used to have a car. An old Volkswagen Pole (estate). It was my dad’s previously and I bought it off him when he bought a new car. Tiny little thing. Like a lawn mower with a boot. Or “Trunk” if your’e an American struggling along with the mother language. When the kids were growing up my wife, a nurse, worked nights, so she could be with them during the day while I was at work. Or be free to pick them up from school. She would drop them at my parents and then head off to work. I would collect them on my way home from work and take them home. Two car family.

I would collect them in my Polo which, became more car seat than car, by the time I strapped them all in. One would be in the front and the other two would be back seat. The car took on a life of its own and instead of being a crappy little hair dryer, became,

The Rapid Red Machine.

It be came “Rapid” because any speed over 12 mph sounded like it was doing 300. And as you accelerated it just sounded faster, till we were actually driving along and warp speed 54. We left Captain Kirk on the Enterprise eating our dust. Spocks eyebrows would have been at Emperor Ming height. (See –Dust Mote’s)

Emily would be sat front seat legs swinging like she was going to kick the dashboard to death.

As we drove to and thro each evening the car just got better. It developed “abilities”.

It had a flying button and a height dial.

(This was the de-mister for the rear window, which lit up when you pressed it, and the air blower 1-4 whose blowing noise increased in power and volume as you turned it up)

So we would be driving along and I’d look at Emily, Callum or Holly, whoever was in the front seat and say,

“Should we fly?”

“Oh yeahhhhhhhhhh!!!” (Emily/Callum)

“Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (breath) Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!” (Holly)

So I’d press the button to start the hover mode.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah!!” (Emily/Callum)

“Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (breath) Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! (Holly)

“I’m turning it to one!”


“We’re off the ground!!!!!”

Emily and Callum looked like epilectics in their bids lean over and try to press noses against the windows. Desperate to see exactly how high we were. But strapped into their car seats, they weren’t going far.

Holpol had pulled her bib over her face by this point, which only muffled the wail of dismay slightly.

I’m going up to 2!!

The exertions of Emily and Callum increased to match the blower volume. Obviously, we were higher already.

“Mmmmmnnnnnnnnnooooooooooarrrrrrrrmmmmmm!!!” (Holly)

‘I’m going straight to 4!!!!! We’re going right up to the stars now!!!”

Thank god Callum and Holly were still in nappy’s.

I think Emily just managed to control her excitement, although the legs were banging away like hydraulic drills, and her head was actually turning round like something from the Exorcist.

“We’re at 4!!!! We’re realllly high now! Wooooooooooooooo!”

“Hahahahahahahahahahhahaahhahahaa! WOOOOOOOOO!!! (Emily/Callum)

“OMFG!!!! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (Breath) Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! (Holly)

Then passes out from lack of oxygen.

When she finally comes round, we had to tell her we had landed and were driving home normally now. The hyperventilating breaths finally calmed down as she slowly relaxed against the disappointment radiating from Emily and Callum.

Then, I asked,

“Should we go a Secret Way home???”

This entailed turning up a street before our own, going round the block and coming in from a different direction.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!” (Emily/Callum)

“I fuckin Hate you!!!! I’m never going to see my mum againnnnnnnnnnn!!! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr – (Pass out again)

( She was only 3 and a half. Bless. She must have been knackered.)

So, finally, I just wanted to end this on.

Thank you Dad. For everything. I love you forever and I never forget.


I miss you always.

Finally, finally…Just to remember what you achieved..

3 thoughts on “The Rapid Red Machine”

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