I remember my great ‘Uncle’ Eddie as an elderly gentleman who wore dark-rimmed glasses and, during my summer holidays in the early Seventies, would amble up on our side of the road as he made his way towards the top of the town to stop off at the newsagents situated on the left, just before the traffic lights. And, even during the blazing heat of August, ‘Uncle’ Eddie would always wear a featureless, long dark-grey coat with a slightly patterned, but matching flat cloth cap and, without fail, would have his hands in his pockets and a small, wafer thin hand-rolled cigarette hanging down precariously from the right side of his mouth. ‘Uncle’ Eddie was a short, thick-set man who looked as though he could have handled himself when younger, but now, as an ageing pensioner, was in possession of a pronounced limp that meant his body leaned slightly towards the road each time he took a stride forwards, but then, as he proceeded to take another step, would right itself again.
‘Uncle’ Eddie was a mystery to me at that young age. I never knew how he had earned a living and never once did I see him with anybody else. And when I asked, no-one would ever tell me where he lived, nor, indeed, was I ever encouraged or invited to visit his home. And when he passed by our narrow passageway where we played ‘beat the goalie’, he wouldn’t stop for more than a minute to say ‘hello’ and wish us well, nor did my mother (his niece) ever invite him into our house for a coffee and a chat. In essence, the only thing that I knew about my ‘Uncle’ Eddie was that I was not allowed to mention the war, as my parents had said that if he wanted to talk about it, then he would, but, under no circumstances was I to ask him any questions or prompt him to do so – out of respect.