It was an early Autumn morning; we arrived just a couple of metres short of the shoreline and caught a glimpse of a person in a yellow rain jacket slowly navigating back towards the beach. We watched like kids standing outside a sweet shop waiting for our parents to return with chocolate treats. As Peter’s boat reached the dock, a boy, no older than twelve ran towards it to help hold the unstable boat as Peter stepped out of it. The boy was followed shortly by an older gentleman who started to attach ropes to the boat which seemed like preparations to pull it back up onto the beach.
As we stood watching — with the occasional crunching of pebbles behind us in the distance as people strolled along the beach and seagulls squawking overhead, casting fleeting shadows on the ground — we cannot help but smile a little. There was something different in the air; perhaps it was the geographical advantage of being in a village away from the city and next to the sea, but unlike the cold and fast-paced life of the capital, you felt compelled to smile and greet the passing stranger. There was something different in the air, it was simple peace.
We sat down with Peter and began listening to him as he dived into his stories. No matter your upbringing or culture, when you have roamed the planet for more than eighty years, you will have a tale to tell. Peter was no exception. Having grown up in a poor family, Peter managed to save enough money from working in a bakery to buy his first boat; his passion was and had always been, the sea. We had the privilege to tour around the coast in a boat with Peter and the excitement in his tone and eagerness to explain the different cliff formations was contagious. This time, we were like children going into the sweet shop and seeing for ourselves all the different chocolates that were on display. Yet, along with youthful enthusiasm, there was a sense of deep respect for the sea. ‘It has a mind of its own, the sea…’ Peter warned. Anyone who underestimates it is a fool.
Having lived through World War Two, Peter has seen days when the catch was abundant and days when it was scarce. During the seasons when the catch eluded him, he would have to trawl. A huge net, dragged along the sea bed, trapping anything in its path — one can’t help but wonder if anything interesting, of value or simply bizarre, would get picked up from time to time. Fortunately for Peter, a dud that he happened upon got trapped and was subsequently released from the net, and incredibly it did not detonate.
As we headed back to the shore and bid our farewells, we realised that there was so much more to learn, that we had barely scratched the surface of this one man’s life. Much like only reading the synopsis on the back of a book, and then immediately putting it away. Everything you’ve read here today, every sound bite and pixel you’ve listened and watched cannot do justice to the incredible life of Peter. That being said, there are 8 billion others just like him. A story just waiting to be told. Perhaps one day, just one day, we might come to tell the world, the story of you.
Shot on the south coast of England.
The Guernsey and The Submariner Jumpers