The Bluebottle Boys: Edgbaston – Monkeys on the Knees (Section 4 of 4)

The Bluebottle Boys: Edgbaston – Monkeys on the Knees (Section 4 of 4)

[Note: Since the story in this post ends at Reggie’s house, rather than at Ian’s, and since we’ve never really seen Reggie’s (or Stan’s) home, it seemed better to show that, rather than depict any portion of Ian’s house (we’ll return later). Thus, the featured picture is of the interior of Reggie’s house, perhaps five feet or so past the front door. The place isn’t exactly cramped, but it’s hardly palatial, in the way Ian’s house (or Rufus’, Quentin’s or Drusilla’s, for that matter) is, either.


Unlike a majority of British homes of the period, this one dispenses with a long, narrow front hallway in favour of a central court from which rooms are accessed on the ground floor (a trend, for a while, during the 1920s, when the house was built).

A person entering can directly access the back yard, if he or she chooses, by going out the back door. The lounge, which extends down the driveway beyond, and is longer than the rest of the house, is off to the left, a drape, rather than a door, in the doorway. To the right, beyond visual range, also with drapes in the doorway, are a kitchen (in the rear) and a dining room (in the front). Between them is a half-bath, with a door much the same as the back door, only with a frosted glass window. Upstairs, the study/library/second guest room (with a Murphy bed that folds into a cabinet when not in use) is over the front portion of the lounge.

A guest room (Stan’s when he lived with Reggie, Grammer’s room thereafter when she stays) is adjacent, while Reggie’s room is largely over the kitchen. It’s “L-shaped,” with his bed near a bedroom door (all upstairs rooms have doors), his bedroom window is just on the other side of the bed, but the work/play/study area in the windowless “long portion,” with its common wall to the Gupta’s side. Reggie’s parents’ room is over the dining area. A three-quarter bath is over the downstairs bath.

The Guptas’ portion is a mirror image, in terms of floor plan, but with the portion over the lounge being a combined study/library/master bedroom. Paravati has the equivalent of the guest room, Rashmi the equivalent of Reggie’s room and Stan the portion over the dining area.

There you have it, not too tedious, I hope; it will help you to understand how some of the action unfolds in this and some of the subsequent novels. And now, on with the story.

“Sod ’em,” Stan replied. “They didn’t exactly roll out a welcome mat for me when I first arrived.” he added. “You, Reggie, Jenny… don’t think I’ll ever forget that you were the only ones who didn’t treat me like a leper at the start that first day. But y’ gotta get on with things – f’you go off and hide, then they win. We need a way t’show ’em wot y’can do – ’til we find it, we’ve got your back.”

An idea struck me. “Mrs. Tippins,” I asked, “If Ian returns to school with us tomorrow, would you give him permission to go shopping with us after school?”

Mrs. Tippins regarded me oddly; once more, I could hear gears turn in her head. “I suppose; why and what for?”

“Well, we’d like him to come with us to the ABC Minors Club at the Edgbaston on Saturday,” I told her, “but he can’t be seen there lookin’ all posh-like.”

I told her about “Aston kids,” and how local kids picked up clothes from second-hand shops, dressing down to avoid unwanted attention. She thought, at first, it was a matter best left to the authorities, “but if your classmates do it, too….” She apparently wasn’t too old to remember it was important, at least when it was essentially harmless, to give in to a touch or two of peer pressure. “Oh, very well. I’ll have the car available for you after school tomorrow.”

Stan shook his head.

“With all due respect, Mrs. Timmons, it’d be better f’we took a bus there after school; to have a posh car and driver by a second-hand store might well – erm – y’know – give the game away, so to speak.”

I jumped in. “The driver could pick him up afterwards at our place, if you like. Cressida could get him tea while he’s waiting. If he could drop Ian off at our place, the three of us could move as one against Rufus and his ‘terrible trinity.’”

Mrs. Timmons raised an eyebrow. “You boys do seem to have thought of everything.”

“Rufus and his gang are thick as planks,” Stan said. “And Aston kids aren’t much better – plan ahead a bit and you’re alright.”

“Then I’ll have Ian dropped off at your place tomorrow morning, collect him tomorrow afternoon.”

“Alright with you, Ian?”

He nodded.

“Terrific!” I said, perhaps too enthusiastically, but I was genuinely glad for him. “Let me give you our address.”

* * *

I walked in Friday afternoon, our shopping excursion with Ian having gone off without a hitch, only to find Mum both at home and on the phone.

For a moment, I became apprehensive. I hadn’t told Mum Stan, Ian and I were going into downtown Birmingham. But in a moment, I deduced, contextually, that Mum was talking to Grammer, and it had nothing to do with me.

It turned out that Jeremy Lubbuck, of a newly revived Liberal Party, had just carried Oprington over in Kent, thought to be a safe seat for the Conservative Party, by 7,800 votes.

For Grammer, who’d always insisted that – for all their faults – history had crested in the course of the tenure of Asquith and Lloyd-George, and lately said, “I cannot abide that villain Macmillan and those terrible Tories, but socialism – that really is a bridge too far,” the news was almost that of a Second Coming. At long last, her beloved Liberal Party was resurgent again.

Even Mum and Dad thought it was incredible. They had been young socialists at university, still singing the praises of Clement Atlee (the source of one of my three middle names), even as they’d become Gaitskellites in the 1950s, only to recently change course and sidle up to Harold Wilson. It might not have been a Second Coming to them, but any defeat at all for the hubristic “Supermac” was a comfort, irrespective of who was responsible for it.

Nor was it of any immediate personal utility.

It offered precious little hope of anyone prying Solihull or Edgbaston from Macmillan’s grasp, and even less hope for Dad’s childhood home of Canterbury, like my entire paternal side, save Dad, remained rock-ribbed Tory, but it was at least a dawn chorus for what they hoped would become some British version of the New Frontier.

In the midst of all their hope and joy, everyone not only forgave and forgot my transgressions, but overlooked them as if they’d never occurred at all.

© 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 just now getting into the “main story”). 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.