Strike Up The Band – Episode 23

That afternoon Bethany called round to see her grandfather to ask if she could practise at his house. As usual, Len was full of enthusiasm and ideas. Bethany began to play one of the solos, but though she tried hard, she could not concentrate, betrayed by the fact that she kept missing notes.

“Come on now, our Bethy, that’s not like you. What’s up?” Len asked, using her old childhood nickname.

Bethany sighed.

“I don’t know, Grandad. It’s just that I know we’ve qualified for the final, but I’m worried that I’ll let the band down. I don’t know whether I’ll be playing solo or not. I’ve got to practise both parts as it is. If I could just know for definite it would be easier.”

“Why wouldn’t you do well when you’ve had proper time to practise, pet?” he asked sensibly. “You did really well on the spur of the moment, so to speak. I wish I’d been there to see it. The lads I’ve spoken to say you were inspired. One said it was your performance that clinched the victory.”

Bethany thought back to that moment when her love for Ellis had filled her with a joy that flowed into her music. That was yet another problem. How did Ellis feel about her?

“I know I’m not pulling my weight at home with all this practising. Dad got on his high horse again this morning,” she added with a sigh.

Len looked thoughtful.

“It’s a pity Ken can’t decide you should do the solo outright. But then I suppose the butcher’s lad what’s his name?”

“Jason,” Bethany said with a grimace.

“I suppose he should have his chance to redeem himself, too. He’s not a bad player when he puts his mind to it. Though not as good as Ellis, of course.” He noticed his granddaughter’s smile and eyes shining with pride at the sound of Ellis’s name. So the suspicions he’d formed when the band played at the precinct were true. Bethany did have a soft spot for him. Now he just had to work out what was keeping them apart.

“Would you like me to have a word with Ken?” he suggested.

“I don’t know,” Bethany said doubtfully, unwilling to tell her grandfather of Ken’s complaint against him.

Len caught her hesitation.

“Is there something I should know?” he asked.

Bethany took a deep breath.

“Did you tell Ellis to join Kemington Silver, Grandad?” she asked.

“Well, love, it’s like this. Ellis came to me and told me that Kemington had approached him to join their band. One of their players had spotted him playing,” Len replied, surprised by the question. “He was unsure what to do, of course. I mean, his grandfather had played with Addersley, and some of his uncles, too. Unfortunately his dad is tone deaf and it skipped a generation to Ellis. Ellis was well aware of the rivalry between the two bands and was struggling with a decision.”

Bethany knew all about Ellis’s struggle and had sympathised with him.

“I told Ellis to do what he felt was right and that I’d back him all the way whatever he decided. Of course, he comes to me for tips now and again. I’ve taught him, after all. If Ken doesn’t like it, it’s hard luck. If there’s anyone to blame for Ellis leaving, it’s Ken. He should have given the lad his chance. Loyalty is all very well, but you can’t rely on it if you’ve continually overlooked someone with that talent for someone inferior.”

“I know,” Bethany agreed with a sigh. “But please don’t talk to Ken about my solos. You could offer to help with the collection at the match, though. Perhaps that would help. He trusted you to collect for us at the precinct.”

Len nodded.

“Good idea, love. It’ll show my loyalty is still with the band. I’d like to see it thriving. Anyway, I’m thirsty with all this talking. Let’s have a cup of tea and start again. I’ve got custard creams,” he suggested with a grin.

She smiled at her dear grandad. He always managed to make her feel better.

After the tea break, she began again with more confidence. She forgot about Jason and the competition, and she forgot about her growing longing to speak to Ellis. Bethany gave herself to the music.

“That’s not at all bad,” her grandfather complimented her with a satisfied smile. “If you carry on at this rate you’ll be awarded musician of the year, just like your old grandad.” He patted his golden cornet, carefully polished as ever and beautiful with its engraved wreath of lilies in honour of his wife, Lilian. “It’s about time this treasure had a new owner.”


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