rock-o-the-northIt is still a little known fact among parents-to-be, even in these times of economic gloom and deepening recession, that there is what amounts to an unwritten rule concerning unforeseen births on shop floors.

Should you or your partner happen to pop out your offspring slap bang in the middle of Boots, somewhere between the frozen fish and French Fancies in Marks & Sparks or in the John Lewis home furnishings department, then you could be in luck.

For these stores and many more have a tradition of lavishing gifts upon parents who divert from their chosen birth plan to set out their stall, so to speak, in a shop – and as a first-time father some four years ago I was only too aware of the bonuses on offer.

But not for me the lure of a year’s supply of free nappies, a basket full of cod or a nice pair of curtains. No, once I knew my original little rocker was on the way the potential birthing pool was strictly limited.

Limited to my favourite record shops, the odd clothing specialist and a prime spot just a couple of rows back, centre stage, at Newcastle’s City Hall. Should he or she fail to make it to the maternity ward there were only a select number of destinations suitable for a new born identity.

I remember the sideways glances and raised eyebrows as I measured the floorspace between the racks of vinyl in one of the less classy, but nonetheless critically acclaimed, record lovers’ hang-outs on Tyneside.

Should my wife position herself perfectly, I imagined, moments prior to birth, then junior could be born within an area covered by Rock & Metal A-F – therefore qualifying me for a lifetime’s supply of AC/DC, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Cream, Def Leppard, Extreme and Faith No More. In retrospect we really should have spent more time hanging around that place in the weeks leading up to April 7, 2005.

But I had a plan should we be stranded on the other side of town. Always in need of a Malmsteen patch, a studded belt, a Maiden sweatband and a pair of Slayer pumps, I was equally prepared for an all-out birthing assault on my favourite purveyor of rock and metal apparel.

It seemed reasonable enough that should Mrs ROTN make her child-bearing debut in a certain location within that store I could reasonably expect the offer of several faux diamond-encrusted belt buckles, a pair of embroidered black cowboy boots, a couple of pre-faded rock tees and enough pewter pendants to anchor HMS Newcastle.

Of course if the birth had taken place during a gig at the City Hall it would have been akin to heaven on earth. Imagine the potential for generosity there – named seats, lifetime entry, pictures over the Guinness tap in the basement bar…

It never happened and my best laid plans never came to fruition. So far both little rockers have been born in the safety of the local hospital and the best freebie I’ve managed so far is a fantastic plate of minced beef and dumplings courtesy of the NHS.

It might have been more comfortable for all concerned but you just couldn’t beat that little spot between Rock & Metal A-F – up against the Backyard Babies and within touching distance of Blackfoot’s Born To Rock And Roll. Perfect. Just perfect.