Tommy’s Last Stand
12 April 2015
I am writing a song about a well dressed old soldier Tommy, who we Monks came upon last autumn in Quarteria Portugal.
A very unusual freak storm came upon the Quateria promenade that evening Tommy confronted us, quavering and staggering on the spot, fighting the wind, supported only by a single cane, and about to be blown off his feet onto the stony ground of the promenade.
Then the rain came. Yes, the rain in the sunny Portugal.
We attempted to escort Tommy to where he was going, or to where he ought to be. In his hand he had a fist of postcards and we guessed that he was on his way to the Quateria Post Office.
Mrs Monk said, "I will post them for you Tommy. The post office is just around the corner"
Tommy was very much obliged and Mrs Monk left me with the task of finding the nearest comfortable place for Tommy to sit out the storm.
I found a sheltered spot with a wet dwarf wall to sit upon. As the wind and rain swirled about us I began to realise that Tommy was half blind. I also discovered that Tommy was eager to tell me stories about his life as a soldier, about his improbable secret mission to save Ronald Reagon, about how he told his men to take no prisoners, about his long life of fearless endeavours.
A wet Mrs Monk reappeared from the post office excursion and whispered to me that all the postcards were completely illegible.
She then set about interrogating Tommy to find out who was responsible for him. We were somewhat relieved that he was staying at our hotel, so I left Mrs Monk with Tommy in order to secure the means by which to get Tommy out of the rain; the hotel was surely bound to have a wheelchair for this purpose.
I cannot say the hotel was excited about dealing with Tommy and a certain amount of eyeballing from me was required to get them to co-operate.
In that 30 minutes in the rain Mrs Monk got a different hyperbolic story out of Tommy. Tommy told her that he had broken out of the Angel Care Home in Colchester, Essex, UK, and sadly he had no kind words to say about the care he received there.
He told her that to secure his escape he used his military Special Service skills to force the locks and to make his way to Stansted Airport and then on to Quateria.
Tommy was absent without leave.
He was also diabetic and this much was more convincing because he raised his trousers and showed Mrs Monk his leg, which was as red raw as butchered beef.
Tommy wept when he told us about the Tory cuts to his pension at a time when he was fighting this last battle.
Whatever we might think about Tory austerity or how Tommy felt about military pension cuts and his care home, and yes, much of what Tommy had to say was very far fetched, but the tears he shed were true enough.
The ballad of Tommy, an autumn soldier, the lame half blind and unwell old soldier, retired, is thus far, an unfinished song.
We had intended to visit Tommy in Colchester but sadly discovered on our return that there is no Angel Care Home in Colchester.