A very, very cold night in Weatherfield it was, late in 1963. The Rovers was deserted because they were all over at the Mission Hall for the wrestling again. This time Stan Ogden was taking on the Masked Marvel. 'Two great lummoxes rolling about on a mat in short little pants like two big babies,' Ena Sharples was heard to say, sniffily. 'It's not something decent folk would want to look at.' She stayed in the pub all Saturday night with the landlady, Annie, who she never usually saw eye to eye with. But these nights that the wrestling went on they'd become boon companions, sharing a glass or three of Cherry Brandy and sometimes even singing.
Talk often went back to the war years, which was twenty years ago by then. But it was fresh in the minds of the two women. Fresh as the chill wind that came in through the front door with the stranger in the battered leather coat.
Ena and Annie looked at him warily, for he looked a rough type in his work boots and his crew cut. He stood wavering at the bar and Annie was like a ship’s figurehead at the pumps, fixing him with her most formidable welcoming smile.
'A pint, is it, sir?'
He grinned at her broadly. 'Yes! A pint! Please!' His accent sounded local to her ears.
'Newton and Ridley's Finest, sir?'
'No, no! Ginger pop!'
Ena fixed the stranger with one of her looks and spoke to him bluntly, as was her wont. 'Mrs Walker and myself were just discussing the war years. You look like you've been a military man in your time. Where did you see action, if you don't mind me asking?'
The so-far nameless man stared at her as if he couldn't follow what she was saying. The smile had frozen on his face. Then he said, 'Yes, yes. I did. I saw action. I was in the war. But it's finished. The war's over now.'
Annie and Ena shared a glance as the noise from the Mission Hall across the road reached deafening levels. They seemed to say to each other, we've got a right one here. Seems to think the hostilities have only just ceased...!
He took his ginger pop gratefully and the pub started filling up again. Ena asked him a few more questions about his war, and was surprised by the answers she got.
The poor thing, she thought. The things he's seen must have sent him doo-lally.
Then others were calling on her to play them a tune on the piano and by the time she returned to the Snug, the stranger had gone.