A crudely posed question, granted, but a few years ago I asked an elderly relative, then in his 90s and now no longer with us, “How does it feel to be so old?”

His answer surprised me: “Its grand once you come to terms with having become what you wished you would never become.

“You dream of things you used to take for granted but can no longer do, even simple pleasures live walking or cooking, but the worst thing, by far - all of my friends are dead.”

I thought about this and had never realised that, even at that age and surrounded by family, to not have that one person you can have a chat too or a beer with ever again must rip at the soul.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Brett Ellis remembers Bobby CharltonBrett Ellis remembers Bobby Charlton

Pictorially, this was summed up to me with the recent passing of Sir Bobby Charlton. It now leaves only Geoff Hurst, the hat trick hero, as the only remaining survivor of that glorious night in 1966 which we have tried and failed to emulate ever since.

It was a sad picture with 'Hursty' still in colour while all the other integral pieces of the jigsaw are greyed out. Charlton’s passing, with the usual platitudes afforded to ex-footballers were heartfelt, and deserved, as his story read akin to a Roy of the Rovers strip.

Born into a tough working-class family he survived the Munich air disaster and became European champion, world cup winner and for decades remained as England’s record goal scorer long before penalties became so common place.

I never saw Charlton play, but I did meet him once at one of his soccer schools as a kid.

I remember that there was a buzz around him, an aura, as he walked in the room. Although many attest to his stand-offishness he was never embroiled in scandal and he lived a good life until his recent demise.

As Sir Bobby takes his final tunnel walk its worth remembering the hardships that folk of his ilk and times endured. Post-war rationing, poor pay, lack of medical provision, dirt and grime and battling against the odds to put food on the table and a log on the fire.

Much of Sir Bobby’s footage is black and white which is apt as it signals a different time when things were ‘real’ and we didn’t use ‘preferred pronouns’ as those that are left - the last men standing, look around in fear and confusion as to what the world has become and as they wait their turn for the inevitable.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher.