The Bluebottle Boys: Birmingham & Edgbaston, The Seventh Seal

The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 6, Part 5 – Birmingham & Edgbaston, Winter 1961-1962: The Seventh Seal

[Notes: (1) Featured pix are: Antonius (the knight) playing chess with Death (upper left), Jof the Juggler having a heavenly vision with his wife (Mia) and child on the lower left. Both were pix from The Seventh Seal. In addition a cinema poster for “Miracle in Milan” (right) that features hero Toto the Good and the dove/spirit/angel.

Seventh SealThe Seventh Seal (2) The “Eleven Plus exam” was administered between 1944 and 1976 to students at end of primary grades (once only per student ) to determine which kind of secondary school the student would be permitted to attend (grammar school, secondary modern school or technical school, in descending order of academic achievement).]

“So how did y’like th’films, Reggie?” Auntie Gene asked me.

I told her, taking care to emphasize the fairy-tale quality for older children that I thought they had, and how fascinating the story was, taking care to downplay my disappointment in the endings.”

“But did y’see the point they made about angelic intervention?” she asked, clearly rhetorically.

I’d never spoken of my meeting with an angel to anyone except Stan. And, even though we’d been there together when we’d encountered him, it wasn’t a topic we were even comfortable discussing with each other, and we rarely brought it up. I wondered what Grammer had told her about what had happened two Christmas Eves ago, and if Auntie Gene was fishing.

“I get th’part about the dove bein’ a kind of angel,” I said, referring to “Miracle in Milan,” “but where was the angel in ‘The Seventh Seal?’ It seemed the knight was sad because God hides in shadows and won’ talk to us?”

“But did God – or did God’s agents, anyway, no matter what y’call them – actually hide? Look at all th’visions Jof the Juggler yad. He saw, but everyone, even his wife, wrote it all off as hallucinations or flights of fancy – maybe th’start of a nervous breakdown. He was th’only one open enough, trusting enough t’let it in. But even Death: wasn’t he an angel of sorts? Do angels yav t’be gorgeous blondes wid wings an’ flowen ringlets?”

“No they doy!” I blurted out.

Then I panicked, trying to rescue myself from the outburst, “But even if they’m oogly as sin, shouldn’t they mean well, t’leus?”

“Wot makes y’think as they doy? We all play chess with Death, Reggie, every day of our lives. That’s ’is job – t’teach us th’game. How well we play depends on ’ow much we’re willen t’open up – t’live, t’love – an’most important, t’believe.
“Angels aren’t invisible, Reggie, but I think s’more as they look ordinary, most of ’em – people you wouldn’t look twice at in th’street – worken lickle miracles every day ’at we never, ever notice – ’til ’ey ain’ there one day. How better t’be ‘invisible?’”

* * *

By my tenth birthday, I’d not only finished and tested out of all of the prep primary school music theory curriculum, but had caught up to Second Form at our twinned grammar school and was writing little pieces on my own. My teacher had waited until then to speak to the governors’ board about letting me study theory at the grammar school, getting credit at the prep. Though such considerations were unusual for ten- and eleven-year-olds in their final year, they were not unheard of. For one such as me, though, with thirty months to go, nearly two years from an Eleven Plus exam, seeking to join a grammer school Second Form class in anything was unprecedented.

There’d be no telling what the governors would do, but waiting until I turned ten made it all a bit more palatable.

“Gives ’em all something t’hang their hats on,” my teacher said. “This school’s always operated under the proposition that talent – especially exceptional talent – should be fully cultivated and nurtured. I think we’ll prevail in the end.”

I wasn’t quite sure that my music theory teacher qualified as an angel, but I closed my eyes and believed, anyway.

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

It’s here! Here at last! The first edition of Volume 1 of “The Bluebottle Boys,” second novel of the Reggie Stone series, is now available from Amazon.

Yes, I’ll continue to serialise the novel (after all, we’re still in the “getting-up-to-speed” chapters necessary to the tale, but with the “main story” 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.

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G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.