There’s Always Tomorrow – Episode 12

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

“I’ve known plenty of squaddies like that.”

“Were you always in the Army?” she asked.

He shrugged.

“More or less. It was a career. I was brought up on a farm where my dad was a farmhand. There’s so much mechanisation now, farm jobs are like hen’s teeth.

“I didn’t fancy going out to work on the rigs. The Army offered training and a chance to see the world.

“I liked the excitement and the camaraderie.”

Tanya came back to walk beside them, while the two smaller dogs still celebrated their freedom.

“These wooden stumps in the sand, going out into the sea,” Helen began. “What are they?”

“The remains of salmon nets,” Larry replied. “This used to be a great coast for salmon fishing.

“There were more than a dozen lines of nets going out into the sea on this beach.

“What happened?” she asked. “Everybody wants salmon these days. The market for them must have grown, surely?”

Larry sighed.

“Salmon stocks have declined due to over-fishing and pollution. Netting salmon on the beaches had gone on for a century or more and was sustainable.

“But fishing boats started netting them at sea all the way north from Northumberland,” he went on, “paying off their boat mortgages when their white fish catch was controlled.

“The fish stocks couldn’t take the double harvest. The final nets were scrapped a few years ago.”

They walked on, enjoying the day and its sunshine.

After about 20 minutes, Larry stopped.

“I’ve got a picnic in your van. Maybe we should turn around.” He smiled at her. “That would leave time to drop into your junkyard.”

She winced.

“You noticed?”

“I’m a sergeant. I’m trained to keep an eye on my troops.”

Helen was reluctant to bring the walk to an end, but the prospect of a picnic was enticing.

For the first time in months, Helen had been happy in her few days here, enjoying both this countryside and the company of this quiet man limping slightly beside her.

“I’ve had a lovely day,” she told him with a smile. “I can’t thank you enough.”

“I’ve had a great day, too,” he said quietly. “The best in months.”

Walking in the sand was tiring and she was glad to get back to her van.

She unlocked it and watched him lifting the same backpack out that she had seen yesterday.

“That seat behind the hut,” he began. “It should be sheltered from the wind. Let’s sit there and eat what I’ve brought with me.”

Helen watched him pull out sandwiches wrapped in foil, then some tomatoes, a couple of apples and the old metal flask.

“That bag of yours.” She smiled. “It’s like Mary Poppins’s bag.”

He smiled back.

“Not quite.” He laughed. “There’s no coat rack or mirror.”

When their picnic was finished, he gathered the rubbish and took it to a bin at the edge of the car park, then returned, smiling.

“Enjoy that?” he asked.

“I’ve enjoyed every single part of the day.” Helen smiled. “You’re spoiling me.”

“Maybe. I’m showing you that tomorrow can be better than you expected. Something to look forward to,” Larry remarked.

He looked at her.

“Well, do we go back and become Trappist monks?”

“No,” Helen said quietly. “Lesson learned.”

“So we start on lesson two the day after tomorrow?” he asked.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Another secret. For the moment, we’ll let tomorrow look after itself.”

To be continued…

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