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Leading Question
by Ian Curtress

It’s a nice bungalow, middle one of five. Built about fifteen years ago in the grounds of an old Manor House empty and crumbling it appears.
I moved in about three months ago having downsized from a largish four bedroomed house no longer needed now I’m on my own.
I am delighted with the reduction in chores in both the bungalow and garden from those to which I was committed in my previous home.

After fifteen years, all the gardens and surroundings have matured and this pleasant situation is quite picturesque.
All are occupied by the original owners and mine was the first to change hands, the reason being the sole occupant had passed away.
Being only five properties all neighbours were more or less friends and the loss of Harry, the owner of my bungalow, was almost like losing a family member.
He was a real favourite.
It appears he was a great leg puller with a very happy personality.
One of those individuals who had the knack of bringing a smile to your face whenever you met him.

One of my immediate neighbours was very close to him and ran a few errands when he became less mobile.
She told me stories about his escapades which continued even when his health was failing.
Used to say “I’ll never leave my bungalow, after all, who will make you all laugh if I’m not here”
She was the kind neighbour who helped me settle in and find my way around in the first few weeks.

Now I had more time on my hands being retired I decided to take up my painting again.
They said I had some talent when at college and over the years had from time to time done some very acceptable canvases.
My easel had not seen the light of day for a long time due to family commitments and subsequent life changing events and now I found it both comforting and relaxing.
Having spare rooms I made one into a studio. It was bright and ideal and I was eager to put brush to canvas, so to speak.
I had enjoyed painting portraits, many of the family of course but particularly the challenge of any rugged character filled face. It sounds foolish but as I progressed on such paintings I felt I really knew the person.
My first effort here was such, an imagined face as no “sitter” was on hand.
I found myself smiling with each brushstroke and well pleased with the end result.

One morning Joan, the neighbour I mentioned called to ask if I wanted anything from the shops and was surprised to see me in a paint stained apron.
I invited her in to explain my attire and she was naturally inquisitive as to what sort of painting I did.
I said my favourite subject was portraiture and had just completed my first for a very long time.
She asked if I would let her see it so I opened the studio door and on my easel was the portrait.

I can’t really explain her reaction. It was a little disconcerting, a sort of intake of breath and she put her hand on my forearm as if for support as she haltingly said.
So you knew Harry!