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‘I want to teach my kids what my brother taught me’

Sam Delaney is at home, and this week reflecting on the role model who taught him about hard graft.

Between the ages of four and 14 I shared a bedroom with my brother Cas, who is seven years older than me.

There was an informal border down the middle of the room. On my side, there were torn out pictures from Shoot magazine stuck to the wall, jumbled toys spilling from shelves and West Ham ephemera draped everywhere (he was a QPR fan but just had to put up with it).

His side was completely sparse like the rarely used pied-à-terre of a travelling salesman. He had nothing on the walls and, seemingly, no personal possessions beyond a few items of clothing he would keep crumpled on the floor.

I thought he was a bit of a bully because, sometimes, he would lock me in the airing cupboard. But who could blame him? He was trying to blossom into a fully functioning adult while encumbered by a snot-nosed pipsqueak who was always playing with Star Wars figures on the carpet.

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Whenever Cas was diligently working his way towards third base with his latest squeeze, I would charge into the room clutching my plastic Millennium Falcon and making ‘beow beow’ laser noises. On reflection, I would probably have locked me in the airing cupboard too.

Yes, we fought and argued. But he was my big brother and, while I’d never tell him this to his face (not then, not now, not ever) I thought he was amazing.

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A charismatic hedonist who always had loads of girlfriends and rarely bothered going to school – what wasn’t there to admire? To me, he was like Robin Hood. We were part of a single-parent family living in a small council house (my other two brothers shared the room next door), my mum worked hard to make ends meet as a secretary, but I think it was Cas who gave me whatever semblance of a work ethic I have today.

He always had a job on the go: first a milk round, then selling hot dogs at QPR home games, then working as an usher at Hammersmith Odeon.

He saw a different band every night for free and came home with cash in his pocket. He left school at 16 but by the time he was 17 he already had a glamorous job making adverts at a place in the West End. He never seemed to stop grafting. But that allowed him to live this kind of swaggering, fuck-you lifestyle. At least that’s the way I saw it.

I got the impression that if I wanted to live life by my own rules – like he did – I would have to learn to hustle and put a proper shift in.

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I’m worried that my own kids don’t have the same sort of role model in their lives. I mean, I do work pretty hard, I suppose, but it’s just not very visible. I write and I broadcast. The problem is you can do all that from home these days. As far as my kids can see, I just sit about the house all day playing on my laptop. And yet, somehow, there is a roof over their heads and food on the table. Plus, they each have their own bedroom.

I don’t want them to fetishise the idea of hard work. Graft can only get you so far – my brother and I have both had our share of luck along the way too. Some people work their balls off their whole life, but the odds remain stubbornly stacked against them. In the final analysis, work sucks, rest is awesome and capitalism is a rigged game.

All I want to teach my kids is what Cas taught me: that there might be a way of playing it with a swagger in your step.

Read more from Sam at samdelaney.substack.com

@DelaneyMan

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