Strike Up The Band – Episode 05

Like her grandfather, the sound of brass was in Bethany’s blood. She could remember the first time she’d listened to Grandad’s records and the hairs had risen on the back of her neck. Brian, Diane and the two girls had moved away from Addersley with Brian’s work, but they came home to visit some weekends. Lilian had tactfully never mentioned the band when the young family came to stay, even though there were mementoes all around the house.

Then Bethany and toddler Melanie had stayed for a couple of weeks on their own during the school holidays when Diane went back to nursing. Len had given Bethany his second-best cornet and, young though she was, she’d managed to get a few notes out of it. By the end of the week she was playing simple tunes.

Bethany was eager to show her parents her new skills when they came to collect her, but her father’s face was like thunder. She proudly played her little tune to her parents, then her father took the cornet from her.

“Very nice,” he said abruptly, handing it back to Len. “Now we’ll give that back to Grandad to take care of, shall we?”

“But ” Len began.

“We’re not having any of that nonsense in our house,” Brian said firmly. “It took over my life once, but it’s not going to happen again. Bethany can please herself when she grows up. That’s an end of it.”

The adults had all lived with the divisive arguments long enough. There was no argument after that. Lilian had been worried that in this mood her son wouldn’t let the girls stay again, and had said nothing. But the love of brass had been a small seed growing in Bethany’s heart.

“Why doesn’t Daddy like brass bands?” she’d tentatively asked her mother.

“It’s a long story, pet,” Diane had replied, stroking her hair. “It has a lot to do with when your daddy was growing up. I might tell you about it when you’re older. Don’t ask your daddy it makes him sad.”

So Bethany had never asked her father, though she often wondered. She looked at the photo of her baby brother who’d died at two days old and that made her sad, too. That was why there were so many years between her and Mizzy. There was a gap in their family that had never been filled.

When Lilian had become ill, Brian had brought the family back home to Addersley. Len had to give up the band to care for her.

It was an awkward time for Bethany. Much as she loved her grandparents, a new school and new friends and teachers were a daunting prospect. Her father was tetchy, too, having to start in a new branch of his firm.

As she helped arrange the living-room in their new house with her mother, her eyes had been drawn to the silver frame and the photograph of her baby brother. For many years Mum had said nothing.

Bethany picked up the photo and her mother stared down at it. She began to speak slowly, thoughtfully.

“Even after all these years, I don’t think your dad has come to terms with John’s death,” she said. “He half blames himself and half blames your grandad.”

“Why, what happened?” Bethany had always wondered but it had never seemed the right time to ask.

“Your dad had to go to a conference that weekend. Before he left, he asked his mum and dad to keep an eye on me while he was away,” her mother explained, taking the photo and staring at the tiny child. “John wasn’t due for another couple of months, so we didn’t expect anything to happen, but I went into labour unexpectedly. Lilian and Len were away at a band event, and I had to phone for an ambulance. They all arrived at the hospital after John was born. But he was too small; he had too many problems to survive. It was nobody’s fault.”

She pressed the frame to her heart.

“Your dad went mad, though. Your gran eventually calmed him down but he was heartbroken. He’d always wanted a son, and little John only lived for two days. He was so tiny.”

Bethany squeezed her mother’s hand and they stood in silence, tears in their eyes, staring at the tiny form in the photo, wrapped in white.

Poor Dad. It was yet another thing for which to blame the band.


Used to make posts more anonymous, eg a criminal case where you don’t want to expose the actual journalist.