- Vol. 02
- Chapter 11
Image by Vestry House Museum
The letter to the boatman.It was sometime in July 1941. The sand cooked our feet and we found ourselves spending most of the time in the sea, looking out over the horizon, waiting for the boats to come home. When they did, myself and Rita ran to them, screaming and shouting about the shells we had collected during the day. Sometimes they would give us a wave and a smile and sometimes they just forced a nod towards us, their eyes looking elsewhere. What they were doing at sea was Rita and I didn’t know. We spent most of the day discussing it. She said they were fishing. I said that it was impossible because they weren’t old and hairy and didn’t have nets with them. I believed they were searching. ‘Searching for what?’, Rita would ask. ‘Who knows, maybe they don’t even know but it can’t just be water out there’. Rita would just raise her shoulders at me and we would carry on collecting shells and keeping ourselves cool in the water. One day the men returned looking extra sad. We didn’t know any of them that well but mum told me they were going to the same place dad was. I was so jealous of them. I hadn’t seen dad for over a year and missed him very much. Sometimes I ran to the boats hoping to see him on it but I never told Rita this, she would just call me stupid.
That night, when I found out that they were seeing dad, I wrote a letter. It was long and very neat, I made sure every letter was as clear as possible.
‘Dear Dad. It really has been a long time since we last saw you and I miss you very much. I hope these men become good friends with you. Love you lots, George.’
The letter had more in it but it was nothing that special. Just news about my sixth tooth coming out and my bike’s punctured tyre.
The letter to the boatman.The next day, mum and I went to town all dressed up. My shirt was itchy and horrible and in the heat it rubbed against my neck. I told her I didn’t want to wear it but she said we had to and gave me that look which meant I should be quiet.
When we arrived I saw those men again, all dressed in green and stood in straight lines. They then marched down towards the town hall where they stayed for a little while before coming out again and hugged everyone whilst saying goodbye.
I ran up to one of the men and said to him that when he sees my dad, a tall man with a moustache and brown eyes, give him the letter I wrote. The man nodded back and ruffled my hair before leaving again with the other men into a big truck and drove off.