Strike Up The Band – Episode 15

The rousing tones of the brass band swelled around the shopping precinct. Len Douglas shook his bucket as he moved among the milling spectators collecting for band funds. Ken had reluctantly accepted his offer of help.

“Are you up to it?” he’d queried.

“I’m fine,” Len told him firmly. “I’ll give up if it’s too much. I’m not daft.”

He was doing well and he greeted many familiar faces.

“Hello, Ellis, lad,” he said, spotting Ellis MacElroy standing behind the crowd, listening to the band. “Spare a copper? I need some beer money,” he joked as he offered Ellis the bucket. Then he murmured, “You needn’t bother, lad. Just look as if you’re putting something in the pot so long as you don’t take anything out!”

But Ellis smiled and donated some money to help his old band.

“They’re playing well,” he told Len.

Their performance certainly had been much better than their disastrous efforts in the Saddleworth Band contests.

“Aye. Jason’s been warned that Bethany could take his place if he doesn’t pull his socks up. The lad’s got talent, if only he’d apply it. Not as good as yours, mind.”

“You’ll make me big-headed,” Ellis protested, smiling.

“No, it’s only the truth. Anyway, you had a good coach.” Len chuckled, as he himself had taught Ellis almost everything he knew.

He liked Ellis. A few days before they’d met in the park while Ellis was walking his dog, Mitch. Len had been taking his “constitutional”, as he called it, on orders from the hospital.

They’d sat on a bench for a while, chatting.

“I’m home now,” Len had told him. “It was kind of Diane to let me stay with them when I came out of hospital, but I’m glad to get back to the peace and quiet of my own place.”

He did not elaborate on why he was so keen to return to his own home after his heart scare. His daughter-in-law had been more than kind, and his granddaughters, Bethany and Mizzy, were eager to help, although he’d heard Mizzy moaning about having to share a bedroom and Bethany complaining about her sister’s untidiness when they thought he wasn’t listening. Brian, too, had tried to make him feel at home.

Len knew it wasn’t easy for him. There had been hard words said between them in the past that were ignored for the sake of family peace, but some things could not be unsaid or altogether forgotten. The silver-framed picture of baby John was prominent in the display cabinet and Len was sure that Brian still thought him responsible for his son’s death.

He’d shaken his son’s hand and thanked Brian warmly for letting him stay as Bethany carried his case to the car.

“Any time, Dad, you know that,” Brian said generously. “We’re only at the end of the telephone line. But take care of yourself and don’t go doing anything silly.”

It wasn’t spelled out, but there was the implied criticism that Len had been foolhardy, chasing about after the band when he hadn’t felt well.

Len tried to put those thoughts behind him. He felt so much better with his stents in place. The past was the past and could not be changed. Anyway, Bethany wasn’t able to practise her cornet at home as Brian still objected. Now she could come back to Len’s and play all she liked. Len loved coaching her and she was progressing nicely.


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