The Bluebottle Boys: Birmingham, Winter 1961-1962

The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 6, Part 4 – Birmingham, Winter 1961-1962: February (section 2 of 3)

bluebottle boysI’d had my suspicions as far back as Christmas, when Auntie Gene’s “Jackie” doo had been longer. Hanging between the base of her neck and the top of her shoulder blades, so fouffed out it had almost resembled Drusilla’s bouffant. She’d worn a scarf round her head in January. But, though she’d prettily arranged the hair that extended beyond the scarf, it was clear her hairdo was now somewhat irregular. Now, some five weeks later, it was clear her hair had grown out, extending past the base of her shoulder blades, but almost straight, not the wavy hair I’d remembered.

Although she was more “properly” dressed, Auntie Gene’s looks weren’t too dissimilar to the sole other woman I saw in the place, a blonde in black leotards under a Fair Isle jumper and abbreviated, black, pleated a-line skirt, the latter hanging loose and tilted at a rather jaunty angle, as if to indicate she considered it more of an accessory than an actual article of clothing. Her face looked familiar, but I couldn’t place where I’d seen it before. The two women had the same hairstyle, same build, same style of makeup and the same demeanor.

They seemed to know each other fairly well; the blonde ran over to Auntie Gene as we entered and the women kissed on both cheeks in a rather affected version of the European greeting.

“Genie girl,” the blonde said, using a name for Auntie Gene I’d never heard anyone but Uncle Roddy use. “Thought we’m goen t’meet y’special fella t’noit.”

“Nah,” Auntie Gene replied. “This is Reggie, m’special chappie. Reggie, this is Lulu.”

“Crikey!” Lulu gasped. “Tell me ’ee ain’ y’kid, Genie. ’Ee looks jus’ loike yer.”

That wasn’t quite true. I’d Mum’s face, there or thereabouts, still with traces of chipmunk cheeks at nine, going on ten, still a tiny bit childishly round, but indisputably destined to take on its oval shape within two years time, along with Mum’s pleasant and prepossessing, if rather stereotypical, P-Celt features (Grammer’s side being mainly of Cornish and Welsh descent). I did have Dad’s blue eyes and pale skin, but both accentuated by Mum’s wavy, coffee-colored hair (which I’d also inherited).

So yes, a case could be made that I looked like the women on my mother’s side. It was likely a factor in Rufus the Doofus’ calling me, “pretty boy.”

But Auntie Gene, in addition to her svelte frame (a product of Gramfer’s side), was also rather dark and exotic looking. The ancient Phoenicians had maintained a colony in Cornwall, trading with the locals for copper and tin. Inevitably, some had intermarried with locals, and variations of their looks cropped up now and then among their descendants. We’d no proof, of course, but it did look as though some Phoenician traits still swam in the gene pool, and they’d surfaced in Auntie Gene. Next to her, I felt big, pale, clumsy and very ordinary.

“C’mon, Lulu,” Auntie Gene said, laughing.

“Do I look ald ‘nuff as t’yav a lickle genelman Reggie’s age fera kid? He’s m’big sister’s kid – more as m’fun, cute, special lickle brother than s’a nephew.”

Lulu laughed too, seating us at what passed for a small, intimate table, a padded alizarin crimson high back chair for her, and an odd metallic green thing, that looked as if it might have been a prop in some cheesy science fiction flick, for me.

Django Reinhart, Stéphane Grappelli, Fletcher Henderson, Miles Davis and Edith Piaf, filled the air, all familiar to me. But, so did Ravi Shankar, Jacques Brel, Howlin’ Wolf and Sun Ra. I’d no idea, back in those days, who any of them were. I found out when I’d hear the music again, years later.

At the time, I found it all, like the décor, fascinating, but rather strange.

© 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,”. This is the 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.