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Memory is a strange thing. It takes the actual events of the past and manipulates them; it adds significance in retrospect and tends only to recall the extremes of emotion. Objectivity becomes impossible. The pain of the past still seems real to me and the memories of people who mistreated me have stayed in the forefront of my mind.

Yet to imagine that the Tuebrook area was filled with small-minded, selfish people is to do a disservice to many of the neighbours. Even people with very little themselves would try to help.

Old Mrs Stone lived in the last house before the alley in Pringle Street. She had turned ninety and had lived in the same house all her life. Sometimes she would invite me in for a warm or a cup of tea. One day as I was passing she said: “Do you want to come in for a warm? The coalman’s been today and I’ve found a pair of shoes in the attic for you.”

The house smelled of old age and cat wee. Mrs Stone always dressed in clothes that seemed as old she was, such as a shawl that was held together by a lovely red-stoned brooch. Senility had begun to set in and, despite the war being over, she would wave a long iron poker. “I’ll kill them with this!” she’d say. I’d ask who and she’d reply: “The bloody Jerries. They took my husband. I’ll kill them!”

It seemed to be the First World War she was referring to. I’d sit by her fireplace for hours, drinking milky tea and listening to her ramblings about the Germans.

“Burn them all. Burn every one of the buggers. They’ve taken all the food. They’re not gettin’ my cats!”

The shoes she’d found in her attic turned out to be too big for me. But I took them anyway: Toshy cut the soles from them and placed them inside his holed boots. I didn’t mind because I got the laces.

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