An Accident of Birth – short story about Sid the Boxer

I always carry a sketchbook and watercolours with me so that I can make quick sketches of the fascinating people I come across.

This short story is about one of those meetings.    The day I met Sid The Boxer.

Sid the Boxer.    watercolour  20190304_141151I first visited Barnes, SW London in August of 2005.

I was preparing to leave Wales where I had been living and working for thirteen years  to move to London, primarily for work, and to be closer to my failing elderly Mother.     It had  been suggested that I rent rooms in a house in Barnes in SW London.

This particular visit was to take a look at the area before making the move in October 2005.

On what was a lovely summer’s morning, I packed my watercolours and something to eat and went off to explore.

I found a promising place in a little park next to the river Thames between Barnes and Mortlake and set myself up on a bench.     During the next hour or so I enjoyed the sense of peace and tranquility that comes when I am painting and communing with nature.

Across the little park from where I was sitting were a group of people on another bench.    Other than this group and myself, there seemed to be no-one else around.       Eventually the group got up and began to walk towards the river and then towards me.     My first thought was that I hoped they wouldn’t want to chat with me and disturb my solitude.

As the group steered towards the river (thank goodness) one of its members broke away and came directly towards me.       He was a big man with dark glasses, drinking a large can of beer and generally looking rather disheveled.      He said ‘Hey love – you wanna paint my portrait’?     I looked at him and said ‘Actually yes – I would love to on the condition that I paint one for you and one for me‘.      I motioned for him to sit at  the end of the bench.

Clearly very surprised at my response….he actually became quite nervous.     ‘Did I mind if he drank his beer‘?   ‘Should he take his dark glasses off’?     I told him to make himself comfortable and then as I painted him he began to tell me about his life.

His name was Sid the Boxer – be was born into a gypsy travelling family and had spent most of his life in reform schools and prison.     That he had only recently been released from Wandsworth Prison for attempted murder.   Banned from every pub in Barnes and surrounding areas, he basically spent most of his time wandering around with his friends during the day time, until they could return to their hostel.

As dangerous as this might sound, I knew instinctively, intuitively that there was nothing to be afraid of.       I learned that Sid had a daughter who he hadn’t seen for over thirty-five years.   Sid had been a very good boxer and he went on to tell me this talent had kept him alive and given him respect when in prison.   It had been his protection.

As we came to the end of our time together, he asked if I had gone to a special school to learn to be an artist.    I told him that I had gone to the Medway College of Arts in Rochester Kent, and he exclaimed with great delight.   ‘That’s where I went to Borstal’ – (a boys reform school for the uninitiated)”!

We shook hands and Sid the Boxer left with his sketch and I kept mine.     As I thought about our meeting, I recognised what an accident of birth our start in life is.   In the random nature of things, Sid had been dealt a tricky hand, however he used his best attribute, that of being a boxer to survive.

Wherever Sid the Boxer and his sketch is, I send him this magical hummingbird, and hope that he is able to drink from some of the sweet nectar of life – if not in this life, maybe the next……..

20190117_095823The moral to this story, is to never leave home without a sketchbook…..You never know what interesting person you might meet……

A Bientôt.







50 thoughts on “An Accident of Birth – short story about Sid the Boxer

  1. Evelyn

    I love your portrait of Sid The Boxer – it’s wonderful and what a colourful life he’s had. Sound advice too to never leave home without a sketchbook…

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you Evelyn. We need to carry sketchbooks with us at all times because we simply never know who we might meet . Hope you enjoy a lovely Monday and week ahead. Janet 🙂

  2. Writing to Freedom

    What a wonderful story Janet. I’m touched by your kind compassionate actions. And yes, our circumstances do impact greatly. Some of us rise to the challenge and some fold. I’ve done both. 🙂

  3. Pingback: An Accident of Birth – Short Story about Sid the Boxer – Timeless Wisdoms

  4. memadtwo

    We never know which of our skills will keep us going…best to polish them all.
    I often think “there but for fortune…” I wish all the Sids of the world a chance to begin again, with fortune smiling this time. (K)

  5. Yellow Bird

    Not for nothing is it called an accident of birth. Anyone who has spent any time with people who have ended up in institutions, penal or otherwise, speedily realises that overwhelmingly they come from problematic backgrounds. This is not an excuse but it does clearly play a part in how their life unfolds and, sadly, how the system treats them. Of course, there are those who point to people who have achieved great success in spite of an inauspicious start but they are the exception rather than the rule and usually some catalyst was at work. Bless you for “seeing” Sid with your artist’s eye and affording him the dignity that the more fortunate take as their right. Everyone has a story…….

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment. Over the years I have sketched and worked with many different types and groups of people. I find that the spontaneous nature of sketching them in watercolour, drops all the barriers and opens up discourse and much more.
      I first recognised the potential for this when I had an exhibition in France 25 years ago of more formal portraits from the States, UK, France, etc….After the opening I sketched many of the people, young and old, who visited the exhibition… was moment of magic and insight. Janet 🙂

  6. Jet Eliot

    I so enjoyed this lovely short story, Janet. You painted Sid so clearly, in your words and your watercolor. I smiled at your intuition and heard myself chuckle at the moral of the story. Mostly I liked how the scene unfolded: he being presumptuous, you not being intimidated, he getting a little flustered, you calming the situation, and you both walk away feeling good with a portrait of Sid the Boxer. Truly enchanting story, thank you.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Jet, Thank you so much for visiting….and your lovely comment. Through my sketch book I have met some incredible people over the years….somehow the very nature of sketching someone and allowing them to chat in a relaxed atmosphere opens them and me up….It’s magic. Janet 🙂

  7. Content Catnip

    Just beautiful Janet, I really love this story and your painting. it’s great when you meet amazing people in unexpected places. It is an accident of birth isn’t it, a stroke of luck where we end up on the revolving globe, I hope Sid the Boxer is doing OK

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you very much. I always say in life that there is only one definite and that is change. With that in mind, although we could never control our birthright….we can make what we have work for us….as Sid the Boxer clearly did. I hope you enjoy your day. Janet 🙂

  8. Ka Malana -

    These encounters in life enchant me. I can relate to your sitting peacefully, and not wanting to be disturbed, only to have been disturbed by a stranger and somehow to have gained from the interaction. I bet that portrait was so very special to him, and I don’t doubt he had it in his view for a long time as a reminder of the best in people, and a unique mirror into himself. Your life and wisdom and trade always inspires me. I must be more self-persuasive about bringing and using my sketch book. 📚 Glad I read this.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you very much Ka. It has often been my experience that when I haven’t wanted to go somewhere….or in this case be interrupted the best things happen. I have to learn and re-learn over and over again that ‘keeping out of the driver’s seat’ is always my best bet 🙂 I really appreciate your reading and hope that our day is a very creative one. Janet 🙂

  9. davidjrogersftw

    Dear Janet, thank you for the story of Sid the boxer. Isn’t it something how little incidents in our lives cling to our minds and mean somethingfar more important to us than we might imagine they could? When I graduated from high school at seventeen I began riding freight trains around the western part of America and for half a year lived the life of a hobo–living in hobo camps, meeting a thousand forgotten men, always moving. One day I was standing by a highway wating to hitch a ride and I turned and saw 200 yards away a frieght train passing. In the doorway of a box- car-silhouted by a brilliant sun– as the train passed was a man as dirty as me who was alone as I was. Slowly he lifted his open hand and raised it as a sign of “hello” to me and I did the same to him. There we were, two travelers who had never met before and never would again who had made contact. I felt, I think, a kind of love for him, and perhaps he for me..

    Your story of Sid reminded me. I think what you and I felt for those starngers are quite similar. They mean something–we haven’t forgotten.
    Best wishes, David

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning David.

      I have just commented on your last post and so once again we are on the same wavelength.

      Your story about riding the freight trains around the western part of America (so romantic by the way) made me realise that one of the elements I felt about Sid was that he and I have much more in common than one might initially think.

      Both living alternative lifestyles, as it were….and both choosing to live by that which we love and understand….in Sid’s case boxing…in my case painting and writing.

      As I look back to many chance meetings and incidents – it is so often the case that they stick clearly in my mind in the way that the more major happenings of life tend to blend in with the whole. Whereas with these chance incidents they are like little gems showing us what life is really all about.

      Thank you so much dear David….
      May your day be filled with creative bliss.

      Janet 🙂

  10. davidjrogersftw

    Janet, yes my freight train days were romantic, but I’m a romantic kinds guy–chivalry, adventure, quests, saving women in peril sort of stuff. You are romantic too. That comes out clearly in your birds and your portraits of old friends and new friends: your blacks, greys, and whites and your grand, memorable colors.

    Your meeting with Sid reminds me that a great experience for me is meeting someone for the first time and finding immediate attachment to them because of their background, experiences, personality–whatever. A writer I know who is better than anyone I can think of at describing such chance meetings is the American writer Thomas Wolfe.

    Thanks again for the generous reblog.

  11. inesephoto

    Lovely story, Janet. Many people get in trouble just because it happens. My granddad used to say that it takes only one step to get into poverty or prison. I hope Sid didn’t get in trouble any more, and your portrait of him opened a chain of good events in his life.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Your granddad was right. I think a lot of people go through life thinking that such things will never happen to them….. I also hope that Sid is well and happy Thank you so much and so lovely to see you here. janet x

  12. Pingback: An Accident of Birth – short story about Sid the Boxer | My Life as an Artist (2) | Campbells World

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