The Bluebottle Boys -Chapter 3, Part 1 — Edgbaston & Birmingham, Spring 1961: Winter Into Spring
[Note: You alumnae of the Walking Backwards for Christmas posts will recognise the featured picture. For you newcomers, this is the castle-like toposcope (or at least the current version of it) standing at the top of Beacon Hill, south of Edgbaston. At the turn of the last century, when J.R.R. Tolkien was an adolescent and a teenager, he spent time up here, and it later became the inspiration for the hilltop signal beacons in Lord of the Rings. It was an actual historical beacon site at various times between the 16th century and the second world war. The castle-like structure was first built in 1923 and would have been the one standing in Reggie and Stan’s time. It was rebuilt in the 1980s.]
As spring approached, Stan and I took sporadic turns as dogsbodies with respect to the cleaning next door.
Our sole attempt at house painting turned out to be an unmitigated, never-to-be-repeated, disaster. Aside from these blips on the radar, Stan and I’d mainly swotted hard through the whole sodden, drawn out winter, taking time out only for a few TV shows, or to go to the Minors Club.
On the Friday before Holy Week we performed our Easter concert.
We were little more than ornaments, with the scholars doing the “heavy liftens”. Everyone thought that we were all a resounding success.
With respect to our studies, we’d hoped to have all assignments and exam preparation well-in-hand if weather ever turned favorable. As winter wore on, turning to spring, snow, then rain, finally began to disappear. Though it was nearly Easter before the damp and wet were truly in the rear-view mirror, with the glow of the sun briefly surrounding Auntie Gene like a halo as she showed off her new Jackie Kennedy look.
Even then, it wasn’t until St. George’s Day that spring finally stopped dawdling and condescended to make a grand entrance. By that point, the Guptas had finished their side’s maintenance. This included updating the kitchen and installation of brand new wall-to-wall carpeting, and moved in.
Stan ended his residence with us.
“T’leus I wuz over eya lung ’nooff that me didis learned t’call me ‘Bhai Sanjit,’ instead uff ‘Babu,’” he said, rolling his eyes. Yes, my Wolverhampton accent had infected Stan’s during his residence with us, as his Anglo-Indian accent — to a considerably lesser degree — had mine. And, both of us, with Neville Tanner no longer around, had picked up quite a bit of basic Brummie, as well.
Mum and Dad finally got their study back when Grammer did too.
Stan and I gladly, if belatedly, changed into our warm-weather uniforms. Unlike most schools at the time, ours, since 1956, had taken a common sense approach to uniforms, based on the weather, not the age of the student – at least when it came to boys. But though it began taking baby steps toward being a coeducational institution in the late 1920s, becoming fully so by 1935, it had yet to wrap its mind around the idea that girls, as well as boys, needed a modicum of protection from the elements. It still expected them to drag around all year in the same pleated waltz-length skirts, allowing them only the option of wearing scarves, overcoats, mittens and/or Bermuda socks during cold weather.
As the weather changed, our swotting paid off at last.
We discussed the Freedom Riders with our dads, as part of the important issues chats. But, aside from these, we’d become free to take four, even five, excursions each week: to the bombsites, woods, abandoned cinemas or, as time allowed, to the castle-like toposcope atop Beacon Hill, acting out self-scripted exploits, always emerging as the valiant, triumphant heroes.
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
The Bluebottle Boys, Volume One, will be available shortly, stay tuned for details. The preceding book in the series, Walking Backwards for Christmas, is available in paperback now from Amazon.
Check out my website at http://g-h-mccallum.com
G. H. McCallum
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