The Bluebottle Boys — Chapter 6, Part 3 — Birmingham & Edgbaston, Winter 1961-1962: February (section 1 of 3)
On 11 February, “Ring-a-Ding Girl” won the audition to be the UK’s entry to 1962’s Eurovision Song Contest. The song got stuck in my head the way difficult food particles get stuck between the teeth, impervious to anything meant to extract them. It would be three years until I’d “dislodge” it: when my first band in the US recorded a beat version with me singing lead vocals on the B-side of our first single – one more people used as a dartboard than listened to.
My tenth birthday, 26 February, fell on a Monday that year.
Thus, for convenience of all concerned, it was celebrated on the preceding Saturday. Aside from being rather drier and less rushed, it started out being largely duplicative of my ninth. Another free admission to the Minors Club. Another humiliating trip to the stage as over 1000 strident voices, each in its very own key, sang “Happy Birthday, dear Reggie,” and another birthday lunch.
But Auntie Gene was there that year, to take me out on a Saturday instead of a Friday, and the evening turned out quite differently. It was a double feature at an art house of de Sica’s “Miracle in Milan” and Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal.” Instead of the usual snack bar fare, I’d had home baked pastries and biscuits. I also had my first double-shot of espresso, all of it washed down with oolong tea. I liked both films, finding them fascinating, even enchanting, in a certain perverse sort of way. But, I was waiting for the knight to somehow cheat Death – temporarily, at least – in The Seventh Seal. I was disappointed that it didn’t happen. While I thought that Miracle in Milan had a tacked-on “happy ending,” inconsistent with what had gone on before in the story.
Afterwards, we went for cakes.
They were washed down with Earl Grey tea (for me) and red wine (for her) in this strange little place. It was neither coffee bar nor tea room – a bit of both, perhaps, with a touch of Mad Tea Party. Its walls were covered with dark wood paneling and matching drapes. It was furnished with an absurd hodgepodge of tables and chairs. Not only mismatched in terms of size, shape and style, but in a garishly cartoonish amalgamation of colors. This included fuscia, hot pink, bright turquoise, royal blue, alizarin crimson and metallic green tossed around the room in no particular order. It was lit only by candles in empty wine bottles or kitschy fake brass candlesticks.
There was no jukebox or any local buskers. Music far more exotic hung in the air from a loosely rigged sound system. A reel-to-reel no doubt somewhere behind the counter.
I recognized the Brecht & Weil song, playing as we entered, from Mum and Dad’s record collection and, for all the weirdness of the place, I found it very warm and homey.
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
Yes, I’ll continue to serialise the novel. After all, we’re still in the “getting-up-to-speed” with chapters necessary to the tale. The “main story” is just on the horizon. Not only will I serialise all the “promised” chapters, I’ll be expanding the serial to include at least a few more chapters. Maybe more than a few (how many more to be determined). Just for letting Reggie and his friends into your life.
They thank you, and so do I.
G. H. McCallum
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