The trouble with Harry he was Fred.
And the trouble with Fred he was Harry – Harry Bellows.
So we’ll never know if it was Harry or Fred who scarpered to the Irish Republic from Bournemouth while the rest of the decent world lost limbs and loved-ones in that terrible war.
Much later Fred – he was definitely now Fred - got a job ‘phone hacking’ for the sort of paper his mother would never have in her house.
After it was over, she told her friend, Min: “I had great hopes for our Harry. But his trouble – always my trouble –was that he never, ever made his mind up about anything.
“He was good at sidling off; he was a great ditherer. That does not make good soldiering.”
Or good working. Other hacks on the former Winton Daily World felt the same.
“Fred couldn’t decide whether he was one of us – or too good for us,” said the ex-news editor.
Then when the paper folded, so did Fred. His mother found him three days later, lying lifeless on his sofa wearing a lopsided grin.
“So the stroke decided for him at last”, said Min.
“That’s right,” said Fred’s Mum, who still called him Harry in her heart.
“Now I’ll never know what he got up to, skulking about in Ireland all those years. His Dad faded away from the shame of it.”
Then Harry’s mum, always a very steady woman, said: “This will be the second funeral I’ve had to arrange alone. This time though, I don’t know what to put on the stone.”
(Copyright: Natalie Irene Wood, February 23 2012).