The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 1: Celebration & Reflection
Notes: Hello, and a belated Happy New Year! Welcome to the start of 2017, and to the start of Volume One of The Bluebottle Boys. This is the sequel to Walking Backwards for Christmas. That is indeed the book cover you see as the featured picture. The prologue would likely not make much since to you without knowing the ending to “Walking Backwards for Christmas” (and is hence being omitted in these posts). Chapters 1 through 8 will be posted over the following weeks. This will bring you up to speed with what took place between the end the 1960 portion of “Walking Backwards for Christmas” and the start of the story in The Bluebottle Boys.
It will also carry you in to the story’s beginning. Chapter 1, taking place in March 1962, less than 10 days before the actual story begins, sets the stage for the chapters that follow. At a get-together between the Stone and Gupta families, Reggie looks back on the events of he preceding 14 months.
The snow piled up during the first three days of March 1962.
The rest of the month, the coldest March in living memory (in nearly two centuries, some said), was rarely much above freezing. It was so bitter that for weeks the fallen snow of those three days didn’t go away. Forbiddingly, it amassed itself in the furthest places from human contact it could find.
It finally stopped on that Sunday, the fourth day. We took its cessation as an auspicious sign. It was the first anniversary of my family and the Guptas having become neighbors, housemates or whatever we all were within our mutual semi-detached house in Edgbaston. We commemorated the occasion that Sunday with a quiet get-together (the celebration on their side, the food prep on ours).
On New Year’s Day 1961, just after Stan’s and my Christmas escapade, while my maternal side had celebrated a belated Christmas at our house, Stan and Dr. Gupta had met Mrs. Gupta at the airport on her return from India. She’d brought with her two of Stan’s distant cousins. Stan called them his “didis” – literally, his older sisters. The term, however, is more fluid than one might think. While it can literally refer to an elder female sibling, it often actually refers simply to older female relatives or family friends. The term’s far more indicative of affection and respect than of any actual consanguinity. They called Stan “babu” (a pet name for little boys), which he hated.
In no time, the Guptas discovered that having two new “daughters,” one an adolescent, one a teenager, left their Harborne digs critically cramped. Stan relieved the overcrowding shortly thereafter, when he “temporarily” moved in with us. It was terrific from his and my points of view. But, even we knew it could be nothing more than a stopgap measure.
Fortunately, the other half of our semi-detached became available soon thereafter.
Its owners, a recently retired couple with grown children, fell in love with a house they’d found while visiting friends in Penzance in early September 1960. They had been disappointed to learn that it had been sold – albeit provisionally – to someone else, Then, the sale had fallen through shortly after the onset of the storms; just after the first of the year, the house had finally gone back on the market. Our neighbors became anxious to make a quick sale of their place to enable them to purchase the Penzance property and move before someone else snapped it up.
I’d not realized that the Guptas were renting their place in Harborne.
They were seeking to purchase a house of their own. They had set aside sizeable funds from which to make a purchase. Mum and Dad had volunteered to act as unpaid catalysts (in place of a realtor). They brought our neighbors and the Guptas together and effected a quick sale/purchase.
The Guptas had been obliged to clean and paint their portion of the semi-detached themselves (with hired help and help from friends). They had decided to modernize the kitchen while they were at it (as Mum and Dad had done on our side, five years earlier). It had delayed their physically moving in, but they had legally become our new neighbors – virtually our new housemates – the year before, on 4 March 1961.
Inevitably, the celebration brought on a fair few reminiscences as we looked back on the time that had passed. Collective ones certainly, many others unique to each of us and, in Stan’s and my case, several that we shared, to the exclusion of everyone else.
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
The Bluebottle Boys will be available shortly. Stay tuned for details. “Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall” is available in paperback from Amazon.
G. H. McCallum
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