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FRESH FROM THE INKWELL

BUGSY, SLUG, THE BEATLES AND ME

My blue, three-speed Raleigh bumped over the railway crossing as I pedaled home from school in England, bursting with the news. I found my sister Linda in the side yard feeding her rabbit.

“Guess what!” I blurted out. “Bugsy invited us to hear the new Beatles album.”

“Let’s go!” she screamed.

Peeling off her hated school uniform, my sister grabbed her jeans and striped jersey. Barbershop haircuts and a passion for soccer had earned Linda the nickname Slug. But she was feminine enough to have a giant crush on George Harrison. I preferred Paul, while our bunny-toothed friend Bugsy (a.k.a. Margaret) swooned over John. Poor Ringo Starr, granted the occasional solo, drummed away in the background.

That afternoon, the three of us performed our own “Twist and Shout” session on Bugsy’s living room rug, to the magical Mersey Sound from a stereo deck her father had built. After playing both sides of the shiny black disc, twice at 33 rpm and once at 78 for a laugh, she said, “I fancy some chips.”

We traipsed down to the fish ’n’ chip shop and ordered “six-penny-worth” each, like the Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night.” We sprinkled our fries with salt and vinegar, and wrapped them in newspaper. Then we found a bench on Sandown seafront, where we consumed our greasy feast. Watching the waves roll in, we chatted about the lads from Liverpool.

Slug sighed. “Do you think they’ll ever come to the Isle of Wight?”

“Doubt it. We’re too far south,” I said in my sensible-older-sister voice.

“But they’ve been to the Channel Islands!” Slug protested.

“They’ve even been to America,” said Bugsy, tossing burnt offerings to the black-headed gulls. “It’s not fair.”

“I’m going to buy more Beatles cards with my pocket money,” Slug announced.

“Haven’t you got enough cards?” I griped, jealous because I’d lost all of mine to her in a bet.

“I Wanna Hold Your Hand” echoed in my brain as we walked on toward the pier. Paul McCartney seemed more distant than ever, and I longed for a real boyfriend to hold my hand.

A chilly wind swept the bay and mussed up my Beatles-style bangs. Arms folded across my budding chest, I felt the warmth of my yellow turtleneck sweater. Bugsy wore one just like it, except hers was red. We had knitted them from a pattern we found in Princess magazine, named for my favorite royal person, Princess Anne.

Twilight descended. Slug broke the silence. “Race you to the war memorial!”

She stretched out her arms, plane-like, and took off across the firm, cool sand.

Bugsy and I followed imitating the Beatles in the snow scene from their movie, "Help!"

Finally, we collapsed in a giggling heap on the steps of the stone cross, a familiar landmark where our church's Girls’ Brigade company and various civic groups would lay wreaths every Remembrance Sunday.

Parades in which the three of us took part throughout the year with the bugle band afforded opportunities to mingle with the opposite sex. We felt sorry for the Sea Scouts, dressed in little shorts even in November, but enjoyed eyeballing those trembling, knobbly kneecaps.

Before Slug was old enough to date or to want anyone but George, Bugsy and I fell in love with two of the Boys’ Brigade boys. Mine bought me a 45 single every Saturday, making me the envy of my class. Friends begged to borrow records, usually those by the Beatles.

Our “Long and Winding Road” to adulthood ran alongside the musical career of the Fab Four. When “Hey Jude” came out, I had my “Ticket to Ride” the boat and train to Bognor Regis College of Education. By the time I said goodbye to my friends there, the Beatles had created or captured the spirit of the age, done drugs, tuned out on Transcendental Meditation, and disbanded.

Paul met his “L-L-Lovely Linda,” but my sister pretended he wrote the song for her. Ringo sang about renting a cottage on the Isle of Wight, as one by one we moved to the mainland. George’s guitar gently wept, “All Things Must Pass Away.” John passed away when I was expecting my first child. A couple of years before Linda McCartney’s death, lucky Slug played her sousaphone in a charity parade led by Paul’s family.

Now George has gone to meet his sweet Lord. Bugsy and her Boys’ Brigade drummer have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. And I, married to a Texan, am enjoying a bit of success as a “Paperback Writer.”

As I drive past the lake on the way to Weight Watchers, Beatles music blares from the speakers of my cyber green VW Beetle, nicknamed Bugsy. By means of this time machine, I can stroll down “Penny Lane,” wander through “Strawberry Fields,” or fly with “Lucy in the Sky” back to Sandown Bay, back to the days when everything was fab. Read More 
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