The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 4, Part 1 – Edgbaston, Summer 1961: School Is Out
[Note: The featured pic is a triptic of places Reggie and Stan visit over the summer. Left to right (1) Perrot’s Folly and the Edgbaston Waterworks Tower (inspirations for Tolkien’s “Two Towers”); (2) Sarehole Mill (inspiration for Tolkien’s The Shire ); (3) Moseley Bog (inspiration for a number of forest and other Middle Earth settings in Tolkien’s stories).] With Gary US Bonds’ School Is Out seeming to permeate the very air (except on the BBC), school let out a few weeks prior to the onset of summer. Mum drove us home for the last time that term. Paravati and Rashmi, Stan’s new didis, with Mum in front, blissfully unaware of what we were doing. Stan and I’d jubilantly sat in the back seat. We’d toss pencils out the window and make paper airplanes from theme book pages.
But, end of term had also put an end to all our investigating and navel-gazing.
Mum’s birthday had coincided with Spring Bank Holiday, but Dad hadn’t been able to take time off to celebrate properly. So, as soon as Dad and I were free, the three of us left for Brighton to have a belated blast for Mum. When we returned, I became a free man by day, and Stan and I resumed many of our jolly adventures.
But now, this had meant doing more “scripted” exploits in “our” cinema, avoiding derelict bombsites altogether, and reenacting ITV’s version of Sir Francis Drake atop Beacon Hill, its castle-like toposcope acting as our version of the Golden Hind.
We also began to do a bit of “exploration” by bicycle of the area surrounding our home.
Mum didn’t allow me to bicycle to the ABC Edgbaston. We did take trips later in the day up to Edgbaston reservoir. Usually we took a detour to Oliver Road, where Tolkien was said to have lived when he was around our age. His house was nowhere to be found. The street, near the crest of a hill, had grand views of the Edgbaston Waterworks tower and “Perrot’s Folly,” inspirations for the “Two Towers.”
We’d leave Oliver Road, charging down Harold Road at top speed past Reservoir Road to Waterworks Road, at full charge against the forces of Sauron and Saruman. We’d do “victory laps” round the Edgbaston Waterworks parking lot (usually taking a breather to look up at the Tower). After that, peeling out east down Waterworks Road, giving out a war cry as we passed Perrot’s Folly. Finally turning left on Monument Road making another left back on Reservoir Road, and going on to the Reservoir.
As we grew more adventurous, we made the longer trek into Moseley. Thence to Sarehole Mill, the inspiration for “The Shire.”
In late afternoon close to sunset, we’d slip over to Moseley Grammar School, stowing our bikes in the bushes. We transcended the obstacles in our way to get to the back of the athletic field. We’d go into the nearby brush, enter and explore the mysterious Moseley Bog, inspiration for so many mystical places within the realm of Middle Earth.
But, nights were spent with Grammer, who’d moved in with us again on our return from Brighty. We’d stay until repairs and renovations to upgrade and weatherproof her home were completed. Sometimes she’d tell me folktales, or bits of family lore. Her old sunshine slowly began to return, as if rays of sunlight had pierced their way through layers of clouds; in the same way as those rays, it glowed even more for the effort. Once or twice, she’d even joined Stan and me on our trips up Beacon Hill. Though the excursions invariably took even more out of her than they did out of me, she did seem to enjoy them, still quiet and subdued, but in a calm, contented sort of way.
She seemed suitably impressed – even a bit nostalgic – when we handed her the binoculars at the toposcope and had her peer into Wales.
Telstar’s transmissions had began about then. I often wondered if it beamed something special just for her. At times, she’d stare into the sky as if her mind’s eye had pierced the heavens. She took in dimensions beyond anything that the senses could have perceived, or metes and bounds of a temporal world could have measured.
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
It’s coming! Coming soon! Volume One of “The Bluebottle Boys.” Stay tuned for details. The Third Edition of “Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall” (the version serialised last year), is now available from Amazon.
G. H. McCallum
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