The Bluebottle Boys: The Bombsite Spinet

The Bluebottle Boys: Chapter 3, Part 2 Edgbaston & Birmingham, Spring 1961: The Bombsite Spinet

BombsiteExcept now, at least in our favorite bombsite by the Bull Ring, our exploits weren’t always pre-scripted. Maybe it was because, with all the work going on at or near the Bull Ring bleeding into greater Ladywood, we couldn’t be certain how long this building would continue to stand. Or it was unlike nearly all the other bombed-out residences, a small array of furnishings and effects still remained inside. Perhaps it was simply an offshoot of Stan’s earlier idea of our playing at being archaeologists. Whatever motivated us, we spent progressively more time in a range of rooms. Playing no role but that of ourselves, dodging rats and cobwebs, speculating, on what we found, about the lives of the long-lost lodgers.

In one room, on the top floor, we actually found an old spinet.

It was still playable, and even relatively close to being in tune, given its roughing up during the Blitz, followed by two decades of neglect. We were at a loss to know why no one had claimed or salvaged it.

There was sheet music inside the piano bench, much of it readable despite damage from silverfish. At least if we blew away enough dust. Nearly all of it was old music hall tunes. It might not have been our first choice of music, but we’d sit on the bench, side by side, with both of us singing and me sight-reading as I played – or tried to play. It wouldn’t take long before my inhaling of so much dust would trigger an asthmatic reaction. We’d have to stop at a point where I could still revive needing nothing more than my inhaler.

Soon we brought our choral music, rehearsing descants until “Asthmatica interrupticus,” as Stan dubbed it, would release us from any further practicing. Since it related to school, we considered such preparation as a perfect excuse not to be home studying.

Then one day, in the midst of our warbling, a chunk of plaster fell from what was left of the ceiling, crashing hard atop the soundboard lid.

We jumped from the bench, hearing boards beneath us snapping loudly as we did so. Seeing an opening in the floor two inches wide that ran the length of the bench appear beneath it, watching as the bench swiveled in time with the last wobbling, squeaking piece of the floorboard. We grabbed our music, peeling out down two floors of a now wobbly staircase. Bolting from a building we were convinced would collapse at any second.

It didn’t, but from then on, we carefully avoided both the room and its spinet.

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

It’s coming! Coming soon! Volume One of “The Bluebottle Boys” — stay tuned for details. The Third Edition of “Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall” (the version that you saw serialised last year), is now available in paperback from Amazon. Visit my website at

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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.