The Bluebottle Boys — Chapter 17, Part 4, Edgbaston, late March 1962: The Rise of the Bluebottle Boys [section 1 of 3]

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“It’s Friday,” I said happily.”It’s five minutes to five.”

“It’s Crackerjack!” Stan rejoined, invoking one of our favorite television shows.

“Crack-er-Jack!” we all ritually refrained.

“No it isn’t,” Ian continued, “but it is time for all three of us to get out and away from this stupid school for two whole days.”

He tossed back his head and bellowed, “Yabba Dabba Doo!”

“The Flintstones” had only recently begun showing on TV, and a few bemused heads, as yet not familiar with Fred Flintstone’s famous interjection, turned our way when Ian bellowed it out. We didn’t care. The Tippins’ Bentley and driver were already waiting for us, and we all ran to it and piled into the back seat, arriving at Ian’s house in less than 15 minutes.  Neither of Ian’s parents was home and, unlike Cressida, respecting Stan and me, the Tippins’ housekeeper basically ignored him.

It was too good to be true: For the first time since January 1961, when Stan and I’d been under the supervision of Auntie Gene – who might as well have been a big kid herself – we were in a house where there would be no adult to crack down – and Ian was in there with us, to boot.

And what a house!

We bolted past the opulent lounge and down the hall, then up the grand stairway. Ian’s bedroom was the first door on the right. It was half again as large as Stan’s bedroom and mine combined, laid out in an almost movie set kind of way. In a well-lit section immediately by the door, with clocks reflecting the time in Washington, DC, and Moscow, as well as GMT, on silver and coxcomb red walls, stood an island-like counter, about a meter by a meter-and-a-half. It could, and from the charts and implements on the shelves and walls, no doubt did, double as a small chemistry and biology lab. On the far wall of the same section stood a full-sized, fully equipped drafter’s table, with what looked like it could have been sketches for the engine of a large car – Supercar, perhaps – scattered atop it.

           As we moved towards the center of the room, the color scheme morphed from silver and red to gold and midnight blue. A large crystal ball flanked by a small cauldron at one end, and a rack carrying several wands of gnarled, twisted wood, with elaborately decorated crystals on the end, at the other, stood on the mantelpiece.




A wizard’s hat and robe stood on a small cloak rack next to the fireplace.

Ian confessed that he loved to play at being a wizard, whereupon Stan and I christened him Ganturapel Bombasticus, Mystical Lord High Wizard of Zort, granting him exclusive license to be sole wizard in all “adventures” henceforth, and dubbing his bedroom the “Wizard’s Lair.”




At the far end from the lab, where his bed was, the walls – now dark sea green – were plastered with prints of artists’ conceptions of the landscapes on other planets; photos of rockets, American and Soviet, launching or in flight; and posters of Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, Gherman Titov, Gus Grissom, and Alan Shepard. A telescope stood by the bed.

But when Ian turned out the lights, Stan and I learned the best part of all. He’d a projector. At his option, it displayed either the night sky on the ceiling as they did in planetariums (constellations connected by blue-green dashes), or the sun, with six of the nine planets in orbit around it (there were limits to the ceiling space, even in Ian’s room). It was incredible; we all must have stared for nearly an hour.


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