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Saturday, 15 September 2012

My Dear Brov’

(A short extract from my chronicles I have written for my grandchildren)


Just a normal day on the beach in the early fifty’s. (Or was it?)

Multitudes of holidaymakers, noise levels that no doubt could be heard across the water in France. A hot sun beating down across a massive beach, where a vacant square yard could not be found. Delicious smells to youngsters of our age from hot dogs to vanilla ice cream so varied and mixed from all the different stalls on the front drifted across to the waters edge. We sat trying not to let the precious cream run that I had carried all the way from the promenade by the Punch and Judy show as it dripped off the end of our cones and ran down our hands. I watched my young brother attempting to dig his way under the pier wall. Each time he reached a certain depth the soft sand falling back into his hole. He increased his speed with a determination to outrun the inevitable tide as it collapsed behind him. A mass of curly hair, wet, from his last fleeting dip in the sea, was collecting more of the sand that caught the slight breeze as he threw it over the edge of his hole. It didn’t seem to bother him, a happier little chappy you couldn’t never wish to meet.  Nothing bothered him. How he looked was not a priority to him which was a good thing really because he seemed to be always dishevelled and accident prone, if it was going to happen, it would happen to Brov’. His NH glasses were always held together with a plaster on the bridge until mum would march him down to the opticians to get another pair, futile really, because it would only take him a couple of days and back out the plasters would come again on the new ones. There was no such thing as supper glue in those days, and anyway if there had been I doubt it would have made a difference. His shoes, when he wore them, (usually in the summer he didn’t), always had loose soles that let in the water when it rained and however much my parents tried to correct his appearance as soon as he disappeared out the door at home another catastrophe would befall him. But it never seemed to faze him; he would always have a smile on his face. I can see Pop trying to tell him off for something or other, being very stern at first, but the innocent look my little brother would give him invariably softened his resolve to chastise him and he would end up on his knee watching him mend his shoes. Brov’ would be holding the ceggs or the hammer, thinking he was helping as he sat in front of the range before he went to bed.


I had bought him a drink in a bottle with a straw, knowing it was absolutely stupid to buy him an ice cream; it would without doubt end up in the sand and I hadn’t the money to buy another so I gave him what I stupidly thought, a lick of my ice cream and I watched as at least half of it disappeared. I put the bottle in the sand by my side burying it a good couple of inches so it would stay upright. He was satisfied with that, obviously thinking he had got the best of the deal, he had I suppose, but he was happy and I let him think he had got one over on me, he walked away chuckling to himself, first licking his lips and then wiping his face with the back of his hand that was covered in sand, back to his excavations.

Janet loved him to bits, and when it was time to tuck into the sandwiches, she smoothed the old army blanket out that we were sitting on and beckoned him to sit next to her, which he eagerly did. He was sitting next to his big brothers girlfriend; proud that he was getting all the attention that he must have thought should have been mine. Janet hadn’t any brothers or sisters and didn’t mind in the least him tagging along. She would dry him off every time he went into the water, realising what she would do when he did, the little monkey would constantly go and dip himself in the sea just so he could be rubbed down with the big towel she would throw round him when he came out.

Janet went off at one time that afternoon, I presume to find the ladies, Brov’ looked up from his digging and noticed she wasn’t there. The look of disappointment, and concern nearly brought him to tears as he searched for her. I couldn’t help myself from telling him “She won’t be long, don’t worry she’s coming back in a minute.” He climbed out of his hole and came and sat next to me all agitated until he saw her making her way through all the deckchairs. “She smells ever so nice, like grandma’s flowers.” I put my finger to my lips signalling for him to be quiet, “I know, but it is rude to mention it, so shssssss.” He happily went back to his digging after that. 

The little three inch spade was having no effect what so ever on the depth of his hole and by the middle of the afternoon he seemed to be giving up, doing less and less digging and more and more dipping and being towelled down.

It was time to move on, he was getting restless. Some how or other I knew I had to avoid the Punch and Judy show so I kept to the pier wall on our way off the beach, if he had seen it that would have been that. We sat on the slope at the back of the Pavilion and put our shoes back on, at least that was something else I wouldn’t have to carry. Normally there would have been tantrums with this operation but Janet took charge changing him into his street clothes, brushing the sand off his feet, gently putting his shoes and socks on, not a murmur. He just sat there letting her dress him, not even Mum could do that without some sort of fuss. She tried to comb his hair that was a mass of curls; I didn’t try to stop her but knew that was a step too far. Absolutely impossible to make any sense of the maze of tight curls, in the end she just ruffled it up again with her hand, “You’ll do.” She took his hand and off they went up the slope leaving me to collect the bags and towel, his bucket and spade and all the paraphernalia that goes with a day out at the seaside.

Reaching the top of the slope they turned onto the pier hand in hand. I seemed to have been forgotten. There was a boat on the slipway and young Brov’ was fascinated he could see the underside of this massive boat. The big propeller was slowly turning, the bottom of the blade swishing in the water on each revolution, it was all drawing a crowd as everyone tried to get a better look at this spectacle. I will admit, it was quite unusual to see the boatyard testing the boilers, normally it was done at night when all the holiday makers had gone home. All of a sudden the safety valves opened making everyone jump backwards. I can see the pair of them now in my minds eye laughing their heads off. The noise from the boilers of that boat deafening everyone as steam mixed with the smoke from the funnel that drifted up in the hot summer air making clouds that made their way up Harbour Street into the town.

Both of them soon got bored with it all and took off along the pier. I knew then where they were heading. He wanted to see the boys and men fishing, even at that early age it was his passion. A line and rod would keep him occupied for hours on end. It didn’t matter if nothing was caught the dream he had of the big one would keep him in the same spot for hours on end praying I suppose for one little nibble at his worm. This nibble was the one that always seemed to get away; stories of its size would occupy him until the next time. Even at seven or eight years old you would find him on the end of the pier dangling his feet over the edge, singing to himself with perhaps a rough sea fifteen feet below, staying there all day if Mum would let him.

He had obviously persuaded Janet where he wanted to go as the pair of them skipped along the pier in front of me. I tried to keep up laden with all their gear, I had obviously been elected donkey for the day unbeknown to me. ‘Ah well, they were happy.’ Funnily enough to see my Janet and brother holding hands in front of me, obviously both of them enjoying the afternoon sun as they studied the varied catches of the chaps fishing along the pier that afternoon gave me a sense of well-being. Like always, she was immaculately turned out in her cotton summer dress. Her white shoes and socks hadn’t a mark on them, and topping those blond locks a little straw hat to keep the sun off. You couldn’t help but see that the pair of them were enjoying themselves, which put a smile on my face.

Nearly at the end of the pier they had found a bunch of guys that had been lucky that day. All of them seemed to have caught one or two good-sized fish. This as far as Brov’ was concerned was what it was all about; they had to be studied in detail. For the first time since leaving the beach he let go of Janet’s hand and squatted down in front of the buckets holding the fish to get a closer look. This was a greater priority for him; all thought of his brother’s girlfriend completely vacated his mind. One of the men noticed his interest. Brov sat on the ground, legs crossed and watched him bait up his line. When he had finished he then proceeded to demonstrate his casting and how to hold the line letting Brov’ hold it, with this chap standing behind him, showing him the proper way to cast eventually letting it go over the wall into the sea below.

Janet and I sat on one of the benches lining the pier wall and started chatting about something or other, not actually forgetting him but leaving him to his thrill of being with these chaps fishing. Next thing we saw him jumping down the steps to the wooden landing that the ferries came into with a small line and bake bean tin which I presume had worms in. I shot up knowing the depth of the water only to see him settling down on his knees baiting the hooks ten feet below me. I watched him for a few minutes and the chap who had I presume lent it to him came over to us, “He’ll be alright, keen little devil isn’t he?” I remember thanking him, and then informing him that we would never get him home now he had his rod. He just nodded with a smile on his face;

“A better pastime no man could have, let him alone.”  He said as he walked back to his own fishing.


I suppose we had been sitting down on that landing for a good hour watching him. He never uttered a word. The concentration on his little face was a joy to watch. He all of a sudden scrambled to his feet grabbing the rod with a dexterity that defied his age, not attempting to pull at it just holding it. He was shaking, moving round from one side to the other letting the line out as he did so. There was no doubt he had something on the end of the line and it seemed to be swimming out into the middle of the harbour. I got up to go across to him “Can I help?” the answer was so emphatic, so emotional for one so young “NO” he shouted. We both of us watched as he played that fish for a good ten minutes, finally reeling it in, a large flat a good ten to twelve inches long dwarfed his line that it was attached to. If there is someone that has seen greater pride or joy in a face so young I would like to meet them. He just stood there looking down at that fish flapping on the landing for an age. He finally looked up at his big brother with the biggest grin that ever crossed a human face. “Got it!”

He had to go and show his new friend so I climbed the steps with him, worried he might slip, leaving Janet to look after all the gear. When we reached the pier there was no one in sight, they had all gone, had he forgotten his rod and line or was it a gift from a complete stranger, I’ll never know. But that afternoon my brother I know caught his first big’en. So proud as we walked back along the pier, (this time only hanging onto the fish not Janet’s hand) to where Dad worked, he couldn’t wait to show him as we waited at the gates on the slipway.     




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