Excerpt from Willie the Imp: When a Welsh Child Goes Bad, available from all good retailers, and Amazon:
I was born on the factory floor at the Volvo plant in West Cardiff. My father, the factory manager, sadly lamented the mechanisation of mass car production. He lamented it so much, he kept on all the workers as cleaners, helpers and life organisers. That’s why, when my mother went into labour, my father said: “Never mind the hospital. Let’s give the workers a chance to shine.” My poor long-suffering mother wasn’t in a position to argue—she screamed, so I am told—but the decision was made. I was delivered by former employee C27, known then as Michael Hansworth.
My mother, although affectionate, found it handy to leave me in the workers’ hands most days to dodge the business of changing nappies. She would visit me in the mornings and before bed (I slept on the conveyor belt, which soothed me to sleep for ten whole years), and kiss me on the forehead. My surrogate mothers were Irene, Claire, Nancy and Erika and my fathers were Ray, Bill, Tom, Nigel, Rick and Michael. I spent very little time with my real parents but got to know my surrogates very well. When I turned ten the factory went bankrupt. I had to move in with my real parents.
They worked hard to recreate my living conditions: setting up a conveyor belt in my room and dressing up as the old gang. They were more affectionate towards me than before, but I disliked such exaggerated clinginess. It didn’t work. I walked out the house on my eleventh birthday and never looked back. I moved into an orphanage where I made friends with a green-eyed skater and a shy bookworm. Together we formed a debt collecting trio. I was the hard nut whose task was to break the debtor’s kneecaps. Tim, the skater, had the loudest voice so did the talking. Al, the bookworm, did the books.
We loaned money to our fellow orphans at a staggering rate of APR. In a few weeks, we cornered the debtors one by one in the showers. I broke James Wilson’s kneecaps while Tim shouted: “We want our money by five o’clock or next time, we do your face. Rat on us and you’re dead.” Unfortunately, James was rushed to hospital and we never got our £100. He made a full recovery and gave our names to no one. We tried a new tack.
We dropped a £10 note outside the bookie’s. We’d follow whoever picked it up to their house. A week later, when the interest rose, we’d pay them a visit. The technique worked well. We used balaclavas to disguise ourselves and netted £500 in total. Our business folded one afternoon when we followed a man to my parents’ old house: my father! Tim violently insisted we press on and Al nodded. So, I broke my father’s kneecaps and robbed his wallet. My conscience took a hammering at that point. I decided to quit. The other two failed as a duo: neither could bring themselves to break the kneecaps.
TO READ MORE: Willie the Imp: When a Welsh Child Goes Bad, £19.99 Hardback, out Oct 32