The Bluebottle Boys – Edgbaston & Birmingham: December

The Bluebottle Boys- Chapter 6, Part 1 — Edgbaston & Birmingham, Winter 1961-1962: December

DecemberIn mid December, Auntie Gene took me to see “The Young Ones,” with Robert Morley and Cliff Richard, the first of our monthly Friday night movie dates, where we went to “hipper” movies that Mum and Dad were willing to let me see, but had no interest in seeing themselves.

They seemed unconcerned, even glad and relieved, when she’d saunter off with “m’special chappie,” as she’d come to call me (she already had a boyfriend in London, whom she called “m’special fella”). We went off to an arcade and for a soda afterward. I’d always adored Auntie Gene – typically from a distance – but after years of tiptoeing around her, I’d now found she wasn’t made of bone china any longer; she’d moved on and grown more resilient. Now, being out with her had become more like being with an especially fun older sister.

Around the same time, the choir sang at another Christmas pageant and another pair of Christmas services: all triumphs for the boys’ choir.. Had he heard us, I’m certain David Willcocks would’ve been proud.

My endless clashes with my guitar teacher came to an end shortly thereafter.

Mum’s side had been planning a reprise of last year’s New Year’s reunion, but during Christmas, where it belonged. Auntie Gene had come to stay with us a few days to assist Mum and Cressida in preparations. Uncle Roddy had briefly come by, en route to Solihull, to put up a string of lights around our front door, before leaving to stay spend the night with Grammer and bring her to our house. He, Auntie Gene and I had been in the lounge, me playing Gramfer’s guitar as we sang “Rock Island Line.” I’d forgotten that it was time for my lesson.

As he entered the room, my instructor nearly went apoplectic. I’d had the temerity – the gall – to play Lonnie Donegan – to do skiffle — on the very guitar where I’d learnt and played Renaissance masters, and where he’d been about to instruct me in some simple Baroque pieces he’d given me a week before.

Talmud violations? Breaches of Sharia law? Out-and-out abrogation of all Ten Commandments?

Piffle – mere playground infractions compared to this offense. Unable to use three sentences if eight paragraphs sufficed, he banged on at considerable length, even for him, on how doltish, insubordinate and uneducable I was. Uncle Roddy began to physically intervene, but Auntie Gene steered him to a mirror, telling him his hair needed straightening again. At last, my instructor arrived at the grand finale, announceing the termination of my instruction forthwith, punctuated by storming out of the house.

No doubt he’d have preferred to theatrically slam the door behind him, but Dad was home and obligingly held it open instead, shutting and locking it three-and-a-half seconds after my ex-tutor had huffed and puffed himself away. It was one more thing that Mum blamed on Uncle Roddy, but Dad visibly warmed to him after that.

I’d completed a full academic year of music theory and tested out by then, leaving the school unsure of what to do with me.

Stan’s sitar tutoring, meanwhile, hadn’t gone according to plan. In three months, he’d learned riffs, scales and phrases, but no piece of music, save for an incongruous version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” he’d worked out on his own. Between Christmas and New Year, I figured out chords and we tortured up a lamentable duet, ruined further when The Screen let out several bleeps that sounded like rather derisive sniggering, followed by a series of indignant blasts and a very rude written comment I won’t repeat here, when I asked it to accompany us. Thereafter, when I insisted it accompany us, it passive-aggressively refused to respond further.

© 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.