The Bluebottle Boys – Solihull, 1962: Bethany, Part 1 (Section 1 of 4)
[The featured picture is of the bridge over Ravenshaw Ford]
I was no longer grounded; neither was Ian.
Our parents lifted the sentence Friday evening. On Saturday morning, after I’d stashed my guitar in the boot of the Tippins’ Bentley, the driver drove the two of us to the ABC Minors Club. It should’ve felt good to be back; we’d expected it to. But it didn’t – not without Stan. We tried to have a good time, even made a special effort to reach out to kids around us, but we didn’t quite pull it off.
I left Ian with his driver after the club adjourned, removed my guitar from the boot, and departed by myself on a bus to Solihull.
I spent an hour or so with Grammer after we’d had lunch together, even sang and played a few Elizabethan airs, although she’d heard them before. But at length, I asked her if it would be all right if I took off for a bit to Ravenshaw Ford – alone. She nodded, but asked that I bundle up and be home before dark. I said I would, grabbed the guitar and took off.
A young adult couple was on the bridge when I arrived.
They looked romantic together, and I faded into the trees, respectfully awaiting my turn at the bridge, shivering as snow fell on my shoulders from the branches. I did my best to avert my gaze, but hoped that they’d move on soon, keeping them just within the utmost limits of my peripheral vision, trying to contain my impatience as I waited for the coast to be clear.
They finally crossed and continued their way through the woods. I emerged from the trees, stood in the center of the bridge by the rails for a second, then crossed, too, left the path, and sat down on a fallen tree on the other side of the river, half a ring of snow in front of it.
Then, I opened the case – a new one, a Christmas present from Auntie Gene, to replace the original case, which had nearly fallen apart – took out the guitar, tuned it a moment, and, hoping that my music might summon Bethany where mere persistence had failed, began to play.
I opened with William Byrd’s “The Earl of Salisbury’s Pavane,” just finishing as the couple returned and stopped in the middle of the bridge to hear me play.
“That’s beautiful,” she sighed. “But you’ll catch your death out here.”
“Playing for the ghost?” he asked, smiling.
“Yeh,” I replied, hemming, hawing and hesitating a few moments before I did.
“Then I’d best leave you to it,” he said. “But don’t stay out here too long, or you both may end up haunting the place.” His smile was undimmed, but his eyes left no doubt that he was serious – and concerned. “And it’s cold enough to play hob with that guitar,” he continued, “so if you’re not worried about yourself, think about your instrument.”
I sighed quietly as they departed, hoping they’d not driven Bethany away. I continued with Thomas Morley’s “April is in My Mistress’ Face,” my breath emerging in streaming clouds as I sang:
April is in my Mistress’ face,
And July in her eyes hath place.
Within her bosom is September,
But in her heart, a cold December.
For an instant, I thought I heard a suppressed giggle, and smelled a hint of honeysuckle-orange blossom scent. I hastily looked around but saw nothing and heard only rushing of the river.
Wishful thinking. “A cold December” was indeed the reality. I’d been abandoned.
I guess my feelings showed in my voice as I turned to John Dowland’s “Flow My Tears:”
Flow, my tears,
fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn
Down vain lights,
shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their lost fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.
Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days,
Of all joys have deprived.
From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.
Hark! You shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world’s despite.
She didn’t care, and I was wasting my time.
I decided to go out with class. A rare benefit of my guitar instruction had been some adaptations for voice and guitar. He’d done such an adaptation of Dowland’s ayre, “Weepe You No More, Sad Fountaines.” I’d finish with that in benediction, pack my guitar and be on my way:
Weepe you no more, sad fountaines,
What need you flowe so fast,
Looke how the snowie mountaines,
Heav’ns sunne doth gently waste.
But my sunnes heav’nly eyes
View not your weeping.
That now lie sleeping, that now lie sleeping,
That now softly lies sleeping.
Sleepe is a reconciling,
A rest that peace begets:
Doth not the sunne rise smiling,
When faire at ev’n he sets,
Rest you then, rest, sad eyes,
For a fraction of a second, there was a flash of light.
I stopped playing and singing.
I couldn’t see.
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
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G. H. McCallum
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