Strike Up The Band – Episode 06

If Bethany had been worried she wouldn’t be able to make new friends, she was mistaken. On the first day in her new school a pleasant-faced, sandy-haired girl from her class had approached her.

“I don’t suppose you know anyone. Would you like to come to the canteen with me?”

Bethany nodded in gratitude.

“I’m Rachel Naylor. Are you any relation to Mr Douglas that played in the band?”

“He’s my grandad,” Bethany answered.

“He taught me to play the euphonium,” Rachel told her, smiling. “I’m sorry he left. He had loads of patience.”

They were soon chatting away like old friends and Rachel introduced her to many others. A few of them were in the band, too, including Ellis MacElroy.

“Why don’t you come along to a practice?” Ellis suggested. “The band is always asking for new recruits. They teach you for free and lend you an instrument. There’s a starter band for people with no experience.”

“Are you in the starter band?” Bethany asked.

Rachel laughed.

“Oh, no Ellis is the star of our junior band. I’m a lowly member of the euphonium section.”

Bethany knew the trouble it might cause at home, but she was tempted. For the moment she had enough to think about with moving home and her new school and exams, not to mention Gran being ill. Mum relied on her to keep an eye on Mizzy while she helped Grandad with Gran. It was a lot to cope with at present. But once the seed was planted in her mind, she could think of nothing else. Finally she knew what she wanted to do.

She didn’t tell her parents. She didn’t even confide in Grandad, because her sixth sense told her he’d be blamed if Dad ever found out.

That first practice was a revelation to Bethany. They caught the bus to the community hall. Tentatively she took up the borrowed cornet. She tried to remember how she’d played at Grandad’s. Then, after a hesitant start, she played one of her little tunes again. Bethany was home.

It wasn’t long before Ken suggested she moved to the junior band with her friends. Then Ellis’s dad gave them a lift home in his van. He was a heating engineer and they squashed in with his tools and spare parts, chatting happily.

“Are you coming to play at the old folks’ home on Saturday?” Ellis asked Bethany.

She hesitated. She’d promised to look after Mizzy and take her to the park.

“I don’t know,” she said. How could she tell them that her parents didn’t know about her involvement in the band? “I think I’m supposed to look after my little sister while Mum goes to help at Gran’s.”

“Bring her along,” Ellis’s father suggested.

But there was no way she could trust Mizzy not to blab her secret. She was becoming an awkward little madam.

The subterfuge went on for weeks.

Then the family woke up one morning to a freezing house.

“I think the boiler’s packed in,” Dad said, pressing buttons and twiddling dials to no avail.

“Your parents might know someone who can help,” Mum replied, slipping into her coat. “Will you sort it out?”

Bethany thought no more about the problem. She just hoped to come home to a warm house. Instead, she came home to an angry house.

“How long have you been playing in the band?” her father demanded.

“J . . . just a few weeks,” Bethany stammered. “How

did ”

“How do you think I felt when I had Mr MacElroy fixing our boiler and telling me what a promising player you are? I don’t care about the stupid band but all this lying is another matter!”

For a moment Bethany hung her head in shame. She loved the band. Loved the music.

“You said I could decide for myself when I was older,” she said to defend herself. “I didn’t want to upset you, what with Gran and all.”

“Upset me?” Her father’s voice rose in anger. “I’ll say I’m upset, with my daughter lying to me week after week! Well, madam, you’re grounded.”

“I’m sorry,” Bethany muttered through her tears.

Her mother arrived in the middle of the trouble. She quickly grasped the situation.

“Oh, Bethany. I trusted you,” she said, shaking her head sadly.

“I’ll give up the band,” Bethany said.

Nothing more was said, though she heard her parents’ muted arguments when she was in bed. She hated causing trouble when they had enough on their plate. But Dad was as stubbornly against the band as his father had been for it.

Back at school, Bethany listened to her friends as they chatted about the band, but she kept her word. She didn’t join again until she’d been to university and returned home to Addersley, though she kept up her practice at university as much as she could.

Then, she reckoned, she was old enough to decide for herself, despite her father’s obvious disapproval. She soon picked up where she had left off.

Grandad was thrilled, of course. He helped her when she went to his house to practise. It had felt so empty since his wife had died. Now it was filled again with the sound of brass.


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