Words by Ed King / Pic supplied by Andy and Bridget Harper
Local author Andy Harper has released his tell all autobiography of 50s and 60s school life in Birmingham – Knitted Swimming Trunks is out from 17 November, published by Brewin Books.
A searingly honest portrayal of life in and around the classrooms of the 50s and 60s, told through the eyes of a self-confessed “massive target for bullies”, the 252 page paperback begins as the Erdington based author is born and takes the reader up to the day he received his City and Guild certificate after leaving secondary school.
Having lived across the city – from early beginnings in Weoley Castle, to the ‘adventure playground’ of the back to in Birmingham City Centre, to starting his married life in Erdington – Andy Harper is a brummie born and raised.
However, his entry into the world was not an easy one. Delivered at home with nuchal cord asphyxiation, where the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck preventing air supply to the new lungs, Andy suffered with “every illness going” when he was a young child – keeping him out of education until attending Colmers Farm School in Rubery several years later in life.
“It wasn’t until the back to backs were being knocked down, and we ended up moving to Rubery, that I was enrolled for any length of time into a school,” explains Andy, “and when I started at Colmers Farm I was very weak, very frail – emotionally and educationally I was well, well down.”
He continues: “I was put on the ‘thick table’, which didn’t help. But I met some wonderful characters, and a lot of the book is about a very dysfunctional bunch of friends at school – getting into all sorts of scrapes.”
Pulling no punches, the title of the book describes a life changing humiliation at Weston Super Mare, when the titular knitted swimming trunks – made from love because “back in the 50’s mothers used to knit you everything” – prompted a long walk of shame back from the sea to his parents on the beach.
The book goes on to challenge the cruelty of school life, from both teachers and fellow students, and stand as a stark warning not to disregard the quieter children as “those are the ones who need the teacher’s attention.”
But as the author himself describes, Knitted Swimming Trunks “is not a woe is me book”, but more a clarion call for young people struggling to navigate the challenges of youth.
“I really hope that when people read the book they can reflect on that (the difficulties some children face at school) because it may be happening to them now. And this is what I say – put your hand up, do something, tell someone about the bullying, tell someone what’s going on.”
He continues: “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or what people say you are, you’ve every right to become the person you want to be. You don’t need to be an academic, you just need passion and desire.
“This book is about making sure you’re not defined by these people and doing the best you can. It’s about making the most of yourself and not allowing it to be a bad experience. It’ll make you cry on one page, then laugh out loud on the next.”
Knitted Swimming Trunks by Andy Harper is available through Brewin Books – out from 17 November. For more information and links to online sales visit: www.brewinbooks.com/knitted_swimming_trunks
To contact Andy Harper directly please email: firstname.lastname@example.org