Updated: 3 days ago
I had the great fortune when I was growing up to have two very special next-door neighbors. They were elderly, and I was an age when elderly can seem really old, but we got on like a house on fire. They had lost their only son many years before, a very young fighter pilot in the Second World War, and as the newly-arrived teenager next door, I was made quite a fuss of.
The schoolboy in the picture is that neighbour, Mr Eric Caddie, photographed sometime in the 1890s.
Why am I showing it to you? Because it struck me that the boy in the Eton suit and collar in the photo, might easily be a stand-in for Raymond Chandler.
Chandler was an English schoolboy himself in those same fin-de-siècle years, taken into his mother’s comfortably middle-class family in London, English-accented and likewise being educated in the classics.
The photograph on the left wasn’t taken in the schoolroom. Mr Caddie’s grandfather was first Chief Librarian when Hanley library (in the English midlands) opened in 1878.
Mr Caddie’s own father succeed him ten years later, and then became Chief Librarian and Curator for the newly formed City of Stoke-on-Trent.
And the absolutely lovely Mrs Caddie?
You can meet that young pilot’s mother in Shamus Dust of all places, in the guise of Mrs Jeanne Mayhew, charming the socks off the shamus just as the real Helen Caddie always charmed the socks off me.
"In time, a white-haired old lady pulled aside a curtain in the store’s back wall and peered out. She was spare and a little stooped, handsome in a loose-fitting two-piece and a string of garnet beads, smiling faintly out of faded blue eyes behind her half-glasses. Once she spotted me the novelty of a new customer seemed to surprise her, but she took it in stride, closed the drape and moved unhurried to stand behind the cashier’s desk. She stroked the high chairback with knotted hands, ran her eyes over the side of my jaw and cleared her throat to help her concentrate."
[Shamus Dust | Chapter 35]
You’ll even come across their son there too …
"In the photograph behind her a young flyer with a diffident smile looked surprised at finding himself in uniform. He was barely twenty, recently passed out of air school, still wearing the innocence he lost the first day he found out what the training was for. There is no way back to it, and every time she walked in the door it was the way she wanted to remember him." [Shamus Dust | Chapter 2]