Strike Up The Band – Episode 18

Ken sat at his dining table trying to count piles of coins. His daughter Lacey was in her bedroom playing loud pop music. How he missed Sylvia, his late wife. She’d have made short work of all this.

“Oh, Syl.” He sighed, glancing at the photograph of a smiling blonde woman on the wall. “What am I going to do?”

How could he keep the band financially viable? And, even more of a problem, what was he going to do about Lacey? Now she was an awkward teenager she didn’t always want to come to band practice, preferring to hang about with her friends. To be honest, she wasn’t a very good player, especially as she didn’t practise much. But what else could he do but take her with him when he was so busy with the band and had so much to do? She was too old for a babysitter and too young to be left alone.

He turned back to the money. At least that cheque from Mr Cale would tide them over for a while. Now they could pay for the coach to Blackpool for the qualifying contest the following weekend, though the players would still have to contribute something. But it was worth having that garish butcher’s sign beside them when they played if it helped them pay their bills.

The Addersley public had been surprisingly generous that afternoon. And it had been good of old Len Douglas to lend a hand. All Ken had to do now was get all those coins into some sort of order.

He was just about to start again when the doorbell rang.

“Hi, Ken. How did we do?” It was Janine Grace, who had the distinction of having been the first woman to join the band.

“Hello, Janine. Come on in. I’m just trying to tot it up now. It’s been a fiddly job with all these little coins.”

“You should have said, Ken. I’ll always help. You don’t have to struggle on alone,” she said warmly.

“Thanks, Janine, but I can manage.”

But even as he spoke, he stopped and thought for a second. Why should he always struggle alone? It was daft to think that he had to do it all by himself.

“On second thoughts, come on in,” he decided. “Two heads are better than one.”

She stepped over the threshold, brandishing a small money bag.

“The reason I’ve called is I’ve got some more money for the kitty. I went into the baker’s after we played and met one of my neighbours who gave me two pounds. Then the baker gave me twenty pounds for the funds. He said he’d done a roaring trade in pies and pasties because loads of people bought them to eat in the precinct while they listened to the band. He wondered when we’d be playing again.”

“Ask him if he’d like to sponsor a sandwich board like Cale’s,” Ken joked. “But something more tasteful to blend with our uniforms.”

Janine laughed.

“It’s not a bad idea. Or we could put on orange high-vis jackets to match Cale’s board,” she said, chuckling.

“Perish the thought,” Ken said with a grin. “Would you like a cup of tea before we start?”

When Ken arrived back from the kitchen carrying two mugs of tea and a plate of biscuits, he found Janine had made a start on the coins and had them in neat stacks.

“Have you any coin bags?” she asked.

“I forgot to get some.”

“Sandwich bags will do,” she suggested.

She soon had the coins packed into bags and was about to tot up the amount but he urged her to drink her tea.

“You’ve done a grand job there, Janine,” he said. “I was going cross-eyed.”

“I do the accounts at the solicitors,” she said with a smile.

“I don’t suppose they’d fancy sponsoring us?” Ken asked hopefully.

“I’ve never thought to ask,” Janine confessed. “Are we having money problems? That’s twice you’ve mentioned sponsorship.”

Ken nodded miserably and she looked sympathetic.

“You’ve never mentioned it. Couldn’t you put up the subs?”

“Some of the band have been made redundant and many of the others are struggling with rising prices. I don’t feel I can ask,” Ken admitted. “I don’t know how Len kept us afloat, to be honest.”

Janine looked thoughtfully at the bandmaster.

“Why don’t you ask him?”

Ken wasn’t sure what to say.

“It isn’t that easy. I mean . . . well . . . a lot of the band wish he was back in charge. I feel undermined.”

“Len’s not up to running things nowadays,” Janine assured him, patting his arm. “Not only that, but he’s one hundred percent behind the band. He knows lots of people and people like him. Look at all the money he’s collected. We never get this much when other people man the buckets.”

“I suppose not,” Ken agreed reluctantly. “But you say he’s behind the band, yet look at the underhand way he advised Ellis to join Kemington Silver.”

“Are you sure he did?” Janine queried. “As far as I know, Kemington approached Ellis of their own accord.”

“But Len’s coaching him teaching him how to beat us. What’s loyal about that?”

“Ellis was bound to move on, you know, Ken. Players are changing bands all the time and when you started giving Jason all the solo parts . . .”

Ken looked ashamed. He knew he’d promoted Jason above Ellis.

“We need his dad’s sponsorship,” Ken told her. “If we don’t get that, we could fold. Honestly, Janine, we’re living hand to mouth.”

“What are the biggest bills?” she asked him.

“Coaches and hiring the room at the Golden Hind.”

“Can we do without coaches? What if we had a convoy of cars? That would save money. Don’t you remember Len had a sheet with names of people prepared to give lifts and those that wanted them? We only need a coach for special occasions, surely?”

“I haven’t got time to organise all that,” Ken replied, shaking his head. “I’ve got a full-time job as well as running the band and looking after Lacey.”

“I’ll do it,” Janine said firmly. “Leave it to me. Now, what about sponsorship? Asking the baker is a good idea. In fact, we could go round the precinct and ask all the local shops. How about the Golden Hind? We could do a concert there once a month in exchange for use of the room.”

“You’re right. Janine, you’re a genius. I could kiss you,” Ken said, filled with growing hope.

“I don’t advise it,” she said with a wry smile. “People might talk.” She turned to the door and smiled. “Hi, Lacey. Doing your homework?”

“Sort of,” Lacey said, coming into the room. “I was thinking about it.”

“We’re talking about getting sponsorship for the band,” Ken told his daughter, suddenly flustered.

“I could ask Len to come round the shops with me to ask,” Janine suggested, looking Ken straight in the eye. “Like I said, he knows everyone and they all like him. What do you think?”

“That’s a great idea!” Lacey exclaimed. “I like Uncle Len! He’s funny.”

Ken was suddenly taken right back to Len’s garden at a barbecue for the band. He’d been just a young player himself then, who Len had taken under his wing. Sylvia had been alive, helping Len’s wife, Lilian, with the food, and the children had all been enjoying themselves. They’d been one big happy family. “Uncle Len” how could he have forgotten?


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