The Bluebottle Boys: Edgbaston, Winter 1961: Auntie Gene

The Bluebottle Boys — Chapter 2, Part 1 — Edgbaston, Winter 1961: Auntie Gene

The driving downpours and snow in the many weeks prior to Christmas 1960 worsened as the winter progressed into early 1961. Dad had turned 45 on 22 January. He and Mum had used the occasion, and a lull in the storms, as an excuse to take a much-needed weeklong mental health break on an island in the Aegean. It was off-season, but still a welcome relief for them from England’s relentless rains.

To my surprise, Grammer had chosen to housesit alone at Auntie Gene’s flat in Hammersmith, while Mum and Dad surrendered their study to Auntie Gene, whom they put in charge of our house, Stan and me.

With no one left to crack down but Cressida, our housekeeper, Auntie Gene had surprised us all. She chucked her usual fragility and maybe inherently, in doing so, any kind of adult-like sense of responsibility. It was as if she had returned to a version of her 14-year-old self while still inside the body of a 26-year-old woman. We ended up having a wonderfully madcap week, as she, Stan and I became three adolescents left on our own, including throwing a sloppily, delightfully anarchic belated birthday party for Stan.

Auntie GeneThe closest that we came to dignity all week was when we watched John F. Kennedy’s televised presidential inauguration. Incredibly young for a national leader, he was nearly two years Dad’s junior, ten Dr. Gupta’s. He was also highly visionary, from the sound of his inaugural address.

From the expression on her face, I knew that Auntie Gene was about to adopt the United States’ next First Lady as her new exemplar. Sure enough, by Easter she’d transformed into a Jackie replica. Though Mum had to take her aside, gently telling her that her new Brummie-tinted “Miss Porter’s accent” wasn’t fooling anyone and a dialect coach probably wouldn’t help).

She’d returned to Hammersmith shortly after Mum and Dad’s return. Soon thereafter, Grammer had moved in and replaced her, to stay with us until the weather cleared. Longer if her house proved to have sustained too much damage.

© 2014, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

“The Bluebottle Boys, Volume One,” will be available soon. Stay tuned for details. “Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall” (third edition) is available now. Check out my new 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.