This year began on a sombre note as my neighbour and friend passed away just after 7 am this morning. It was a relief, he hadn’t been at all well for a long while, and at 96 years old life is difficult at the best of times.
When I was at primary school I gave a speech about my friend Jim, in fact that was what it was called, and it touched on the naval service he performed in WWII. Not a man to overplay his role in events, he was nonetheless present on board a Royal Navy battleship off the coast of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He was involved with jamming the enemies radar, and even accepting that he played as small a part as any in Operation Overlord — jamming Nazi radar as part of the knock out blow to a terrible fascist tyranny is a better days work than I can ever claim to have done.
It was a poignant moment to deliver freshly baked scones to Jim and his wife Fay on June 6, 2014, the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day. It has been a privilege to be his neighbour for most of the last sixteen years, and to enjoy our peculiar camaraderie that connected a Navy veteran in his nineties with a scrawny kid who was born in the nineties. I, with my physical limitations would be given advice by Jim, who hated the advancement of years, but wore them so well.
His last advice to me was to cherish my freedom. He recently moved into a residential care and felt the keen loss of liberty he had managed to resist for so long. It was not in Jim’s character to retreat, and even through to the middle of last year he was hoping to visit England one last time. Fay’s sudden passing finally closed those possibilities, but I like to think it has brought his last lesson in to sharp focus. Cherish your freedom, and do things while you can.
Jim Pollok, 1918-2015, the finest friend you could ever hope to have.