To give some background, Eric's mother Pamela, to us always known as Pam, was my mother's niece. Her mother died when Pam was a small child and her father (Jo) was unable to look after her and her older sister (Jean) on a regular basis, so they spent much of their childhood living first with another aunt, Molly, and then with our family.
Although Pam remained close to my parents (to her, and later to Eric, Aunty Bridey and Uncle Syd) they didn't always approve of some of the company she kept, and Pam was very independent-minded, probably partly because she had lost her own mother at such a young age and she and another cousin, Pat, had been evacuated for several years during World War II to a rural area in northern England (though most of the McEvoy side of the family were unorthodox in one way or another). Later she started courting someone who looked suspiciously like a Teddy boy in my parents eyes. George lived a few streets away with his parents in Milton Grove, and when they married and Eric was on the way they lived in a flat in his parents' house.
Pam, with Eric in tow, was a frequent visitor, not least after my mother had a severe stroke and Pam acted for a while as daily help. My sister Maureen also loved taking Eric out and our trips to Clissold Park and round and about in Stoke Newington almost invariably included Eric in his pushchair. Nowadays the idea of an eleven or twelve-year-old girl taking babies and toddlers out would be frowned upon, but in those days it seemed perfectly normal.
Later on my parents were horrified that George seemed to take the adolescent Eric to the pub so often to play darts. 'He'll never make anything of himself that way' was their view, for education was important to them. As it turned out Eric was to receive a different kind of education, one that would lead to a life of more fulfilment and success than sixth form and university almost certainly ever would. Perhaps the lesson is that there is more than one way of nurturing talent, and maybe in his own way George saw that. Though of course, this only works when the talent being nurtured is very rare indeed.
We moved to Suffolk when Eric was eleven so we saw less of him and his parents, though Pam always kept us informed of his increasing success. When we met him occasionally as a teenager I was struck by his kindness, cheerfulness and confidence, in fact the confidence was something I envied. Later Eric moved to Stoke-on-Trent and Pam eventually moved to Macclesfield to be near him and his family. Pam and Eric had always been very close.
The last time I met Eric was about thirteen years ago when Pam was in hospital in Manchester, having been diagnosed with cancer. Maureen (a nun, 'Sister Petronia', since she was sixteen) and I went to see her. Eric, who had been in Las Vegas at a darts tournament, arrived while we were there, having only just found out that Pam's condition was terminal. The photo at the top was taken then. It's only just occurred to me that this was probably the last photo of Pam and Eric together, for she died a couple of weeks later. Eric was protective of his family, so intimate photos are rare, but perhaps that taboo can now partially be lifted. The photo on the right is one Eric gave me earlier in his darts career.