Strike Up The Band – Episode 04

Len opened the fridge and wondered what to eat. Not bothering to cook, he threw some cold meat and a handful of salad on to a plate and wandered into the dining-room.

He glanced up at the photograph of a smiling woman in pride of place on the wall above the sideboard. Beside her was a faded sepia photo of straight-backed bandsmen clutching their instruments, all proud Edwardians with their bushy moustaches.

On the back row stood Ezra Douglas, Len’s grandfather, and the fresh-faced young boy behind the drum was his father, named Leonard, too. On the other side of his wife was a photo of Len, holding his trophy as musician of the year. He had never felt so wonderful. He’d never managed to regain the trophy there was a small replica on the sideboard but now there was a chance that that same trophy might hold yet another Douglas name. If only Bethany got her chance.

“Well, old girl,” he said, nodding to the photo of his wife, “our Bethany made me right proud today. I reckon she’s got the Douglas genes in her blood. She’ll be a champion like her old grandad one day.”

He gently touched the gold-plated cornet on the sideboard and traced the name Lilian he’d had specially engraved on the side. His wife had bought it for him when he’d won his trophy and it was his special treasure.

Len often talked to his late wife. He missed her so much. Now she’d gone he felt cut adrift. His son’s family lived nearby but it wasn’t the same. Diane, his daughter-in-law, often invited him to come for a meal, but he knew she was usually busy these days. Being fiercely independent, he didn’t like to impose. He went to their house at Christmas, but Brian was for ever cool towards him. It was Lilian who had kept the peace and now she was gone.

Len glanced up at his wife once again.

“Perhaps I was a bit hard on the lad when he was young. I could have been more flexible. I was just so wrapped up in my music. He seemed to be keen when he was younger. I know he wasn’t a great musician but he helped to set out the music stands and went round with you with the collecting tin. Was I too selfish?”

It seemed that every weekend and holiday Len had been involved in the band, and Lilian had been as keen as he was. At Christmas they’d played in the shopping centre. On summer weekends and bank holidays they’d played in parks, and even their holidays had been taken where the band was playing by the seaside. There were always contests and competitions.

Then, when Brian had grown older, he’d begun to resent all the time spent away from his friends.

“I won’t have any friends left soon!” he’d shouted during yet another argument.

“We could leave him at home,” Lilian had suggested.

“And let him get into trouble?” Len protested. “Teenagers can’t be trusted. He can make friends in the band.”

So Brian became ever more truculent and unfriendly. Every week the arguments were the same, and it had never really been resolved.

“Where did I go wrong?” Len asked himself. “But the past is the past. What’s done is done.”

Even though his son was married with two girls of his own, he had never quite forgiven his father. He hated brass bands with a vengeance.


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