One of the joys of this project is finding the unexpected.

Leaving a supermarket car park yesterday I spotted a man seated alone outside a nearby pub. Although the rain was heavy, he was sheltered by a small portico and looked perfect. Although I’d just set off I quickly re-parked and went to introduce myself.

Tommy was coming to terms with a personal tragedy and would have been well within his rights to chase me, but instead he engaged me with tales of his exploits in the military, in particular during the first Gulf War, and how he and a couple of others had been charged with bringing 300 evacuees back to Europe in a Hercules transport plane with 3 functioning engines and no creature comforts… (until they landed in Akrotiri for repairs and vodka!)

Now in his 70’s he still looked fit and I guessed he was Irish from the walking stick he bore. Gnarled blackthorn, painted a shiny black but for the highly polished knob that served as a handle. This was a true shillelagh.

I only scratched the surface in the short time we sat together, but I could tell he had a wealth of other stories to share. How many can you read for yourself in that great face?


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