The Bluebottle Boys: Edgbaston & Solihull: Sweet Sunday

Sweet Sunday: The Bluebottle Boys: Chapter 5, Part 6 – Edgbaston & Solihull, Autumn 1961

SundayNote: A fairly typical English Sunday (except for lack of a Sunday tea) in the early 1960s. Rosenbaum’s Deli would still have been a bit exotic back then, but places like it were available enough, at least within Edgbaston, with its substantial Jewish communities. Stan’s castle would have been rather pricey, but for a middle-class kid to have had such a thing would not have been unheard of. We haven’t seen the last of either in these books.

I’ve no idea quite when it happened, but somewhere along the line, the chicken soup, in addition to the bagels with lox, onions and cream cheese, from Rosenbaum’s Deli in Edgbaston, became a Sunday morning tradition for Mum and Dad. By autumn of 1960, when I was once again staying with Mum and Dad on Sundays, I, too, had become addicted. Soon after she came to stay with us that winter, so had Grammer.

Recently, the Rosenbaum family had exiled a nephew to Solihull recently – an exemplary cook and baker, with good management skills, but who’d somehow managed to upset or offend leading members of Edgbaston’s Orthodox community. There, in Solihull, he was expected to operate a second, smaller, satellite shop. It was wonderful news for Grammer, who now sent me there on Sunday mornings to pick up a similar repast for our breakfast. I’d take off right after Sunday Papers would begin on the radio, usually back at the start of the Nine O’Clock News.

Grammer would have supplemented our repast with one fried egg each, and laid out the jar of orange marmalade for the last few bagel morsels. Once the news finished, Grammer would shut the radio off for half an hour as we ate and talked our way through breakfast.

At the end of the half hour, the radio went back on for the Sunday church service, as Grammer and I turned simultaneously into Mary and Martha.

I was Grammer’s sous chef and dogsbody, reaching into the oven with bits of flaming punk to light it, taking out rubbish, and chopping carrots, onions and potatoes as she worked her magic on a chunk of beef for Sunday lunch. Once roast and vegetables were in the oven, we’d both sit at the table, trying to calm our minds for the remainder of the service. At its close, Grammer cooked her favorite vegetable, canned peas, with a dollop of honey and a spice mix of which I’m still not sure (though I can guess).

Then I’d shut off the oven, and we’d have 90 minutes or so for talk and recreation before I’d have to relight the oven in time to finish cooking the roast and vegetables, and chop tomatoes before Mum and Dad arrived to pick me up after attending services in Edgbaston. We’d all have lunch and, an hour or so after dessert, Mum, Dad and I’d decamp for home.

Once I finished piano practice, I’d spend the rest of Sunday with Stan.

Perhaps in overcompensation for being unable to give Stan Diwali presents their first year here, or to reward him for taking it as well as he had, or maybe just because the weather had turned beastly and playing outside had become such a limited option, Dr. Gupta had gone overboard this past Diwali. He’d given Stan an amazing model castle: its walls were 40 centimeters high, its figurines seven.

This baby had everything: moat, outer wall, inner wall and a bailey (with miniature village) leading to a two-part castle on a hill joined by a cathedral. It had a king and queen, wall guards, knights in armour, archers, catapults and bearers of boiling oil. But there was an invading force as well, with its own king and queen, foot soldiers, knights in armour, and archers.

It came complete with siege towers, battering rams and tents.

We scoured toy and hobby shops, and eventually found a wizard and dragon for each side, as well as miniature models of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Phantom of the Opera and the Abominable Snowman, in a shop in downtown Birmingham. We added them all, except the one wizard and dragon, to the invading force. Then we decided a fair fight required the defenders’ side to have two wizards and dragons. This had meant another trip to the shop.

Eventually, we commenced a siege and defense we considered “far more epic” than mere games of chess. For each fight, we’d have a character on one side to attack, and another on the other to counter. Using sets of tables that we’d spent days painstakingly working out for each character before even the very first battle, we rolled dice to determine respective strength and accuracy of each hit and evasion or parry. Next, we’d reverse which side had an attacker and which the defender for the next round of battle.

And so it would go, until it grew late and I’d be summoned home in time for me to get sufficient sleep for school the next day.

© 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.