There wasn’t a lot of spare seats in ‘The Fishermen’s Rest’, everybody taking shelter from the howling wind outside that had snow flurries dancing against the windows.
A huge fire in the grate crackled and spat out hot cinders onto the carpet that had seen better days, but oh so welcome, nobody was complaining and the landlord was doing a roaring trade, everyone was content to just be inside.
Every time the door opened to let in another bedraggled traveller, all turned to see who else was crazy enough to venture out into the night. You would be forgiven for believing this was the heart of winter instead of April! The turmoil of the sea ten yards away was a caldron of froth as the tide started to turn. One time a wave was just collapsing onto the promenade with such fury, as the door opened the salt water followed him in only to be stopped by the stone step up into the tiny porch way of the tavern. All chatter stopped for a brief moment as everybody eyed up the newcomer, satisfied he wasn’t a threat, the hub-hub carried on as before as the door slammed shut.
An old fashioned pub, the low beams contorted through age were genuine and had supported the low ceiling above the clientele for generations, back to the time when soldiers gathered on the quay to fight Napoleon; you could buy a pie with your ale or perhaps a packet of crisps if you were hungry, but the majority were there to ‘savour a pint’ and have a chat with mates and pass a pleasant evening in company, reminding many of an age that didn’t want pop music drowning out their conversation. The place was heaving with folk that had travelled miles just to have a pint of the locally brewed ale.
Sitting across the table was a gent of considerable age that everyone seemed to know, an empty glass and the remains of a pie by his side. A character who just wanted to be amongst companions, all care of appearance long past, so long as he was warm and safe from a day on his boat out in the Solent that had started before sun-up that morning. A routine that had lasted each day, every day, since he was a boy. His tired old eyes closed for a moment, remembering the time perhaps when his catch filled ‘Sally Ann 1’ in days long past. The only interruption had been the war years, being torpedoed twice as a merchant seaman he’d crossed the Atlantic so many times in those terrible times losing so many friends; he’d lost count.
His weathered face smiled, his white bleached whiskers accentuated his blue eyes as he nodded a thank you at me across the space between us; I placed another drink by his side and took out my pad and pencil and tried to capture what must have been at least ninety years of living. I thought what stories he could tell; if only I had brought my little tape recorder that I had now started to carry with me on my journeys. By this time his eyes had closed properly, he was sleeping the sleep of contentment giving me the opportunity to try to capture that moment, a time to savour, a time to cherish, hopefully, for years to come.
To say to my dear lifetime companion, perhaps a decade or so later, do you remember old Sam that night in ‘The Fishermen’s Rest’ down on the quay when it snowed in April? That huge fire in the grate that kept us warm as we reminisced on times past, such a memorable evening as the scent from your hair drifted up from your head resting on my shoulder as I tried to sketch him sitting there opposite us. Such simple pleasures we had found in this wonderful life we have had together.
Thanks for stopping by, please call again.