Eddy Budd is a substantial man in every sense. There is nothing ghostly about him; he doesn’t even believe in ghosts, or rather, he didn’t.
He is an accomplished artist; he studied art in London and has regularly submitted paintings to our local ‘Celebration of Art’ competition. One of the criteria of that competition calls for a local theme and Eddy hit on the idea of depicting our small town’s War Memorial. Nothing relates to its locality as poignantly as a war memorial: familiar family names – the names of sons, brothers and husbands – are chiselled into the stone.
Rather than feature the cenotaph in a naturalistic landscape, he painted the entire picture in shades of orange. The sandstone memorial is seen rising through orange mist beneath heavy orange clouds. It was an original and bold concept but, facing the typical artist’s quandary of satisfaction and self-doubt, he asked the opinion of a friend who was visiting the area. The friend studied the painting for a moment and then said he liked the idea of the faces barely visible through the orange smoke of battle. Eddy blinked. He hadn’t painted any faces. The friend took out his pen to carefully indicate the features of a face – the eyes, the nose, the mouth. Not on one face but five.
Eddy was aware of the Rorschach Test in which an ink blot spreading across a page can be interpreted as different things depending on the viewer. We see what we want to see. With this in mind, he showed his painting to a local member of the RSL, a veteran of the Second World War. Could he see five faces through the smoke?
Not-so-young eyes take longer to focus; spectacles have to be polished but, yes the faces were there alright – and the tailplane of a World War Two bomber, dropping through the orange clouds. Eddy blinked again. He hadn’t painted a tailplane of any aircraft – ever.
A resident of the Nirvana Hostel was the last person to pass judgement. She was in her eighties, frail now and confined to a wheelchair but she didn’t hesitate to commend the artist. “It’s such a good likeness, this one here, it’s William my younger brother. He was in Echo Bravo, a Lancaster bomber. They were shot down over Germany in 1944, all five crewmen were lost.”
Eddy put the painting away, stored it somewhere at the back of his studio and to this day it hasn’t been shown in public.