Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Writers Collection

A few of the world’s most talented writers were challenged to submit short stories each week on a set theme. Please visit to see some amazing stories by other great writers. The second topic was “Beaches”. Please enjoy my story.


The Peninsular War

©Philip Catshill

On the school trip to Tenby, at the southern tip of Wales, the teachers stayed together while the children explored the dunes. These other kids from Hereford arrived in a coach that belonged to their school. All posh they were in uniforms and held their noses in the air. A girl called Gillian in a blazer and skirt left her friends and coyly joined our group. Robert knew everything because his dad, so he said, had been a teacher in America, or it might have been Japan. As she listened to his numerous tales, Gillian held his hand. Robert’s dad, so Robert said, had fought on these beaches in the war. Gillian agreed quite readily. She explained that the sand dune had sea on three sides. That meant it was a peninsular, and they, her school that is in Hereford, had done the Peninsular War. I realised a few years later that it was just a bank of sand that jutted into the bay, but I was seven and believed everything, as seven year olds tend to do. 

By the end of the morning on that school trip to the sea, we had a conflict of our own.

Robert said the beaches were private and belonged to the Queen, and if we happened to be caught there, we would be locked up in the tower.

“Where’s the tower then,” Margaret demanded. She was the tallest in our form and was quite frightening in a way. Brave as he was, even Robert cowered under her threatening stare. He agreed to take her, but he explained that it was a secret, so no one else could follow. Gillian screamed as he pulled his hand free and Margaret gloated as she took her place. Gillian screamed again and again and became quite red in the face. Some of those kids from the other coach started to walk our way. They looked like a menacing army in blazers purple and grey. Robert turned and shouted at them, “You’ll be in trouble if you tread on the sand.” They stuck to the dunes and jumped between clumps of marram grass as they followed us along. As we ambled along quite aimlessly, we grabbed long strands of seaweed which marked the highest line of the tide, and slung them all around. One boy from the other school claimed he had seen the Queen watching us from the cliffs. All I could see was a woman in a headscarf but Robert swore he’d seen the crown.

We found a little rock pool and forgot our rivalry as we settled all around it with our new found friends. It was pleasant at first while we chatted and watched crabs as they scurried for cover.  Margaret still had possession of the hand and refused to let it go. Then this kid from the other school demanded, “How come you can walk on the sand, if it is private and belongs to the Queen?”

Robert whispered that his dad worked for MI5 and the CIA, but at weekends, he was the Queen’s historic beach protector. I was quite impressed by this because Robert’s dad delivered our milk, but some snooty kid from Hereford said Robert was a liar. “No call for that,” Margaret said and pushed him into the pool.  We laughed as he climbed back out with tears in his eye and blazer pockets full of water,

Gillian stood with her arms tightly folded, but her foot swung back and forth as she kicked the Queens sand into our faces. Dragging Robert with her, Margaret charged to attack. Robert couldn’t decide whose side he was on, but couldn’t free his hand. The other group got stuck in while Gillian screamed some more. We fought them on the beaches, in the dunes and the rock pools, as children tend to do. There were a lot of shouts, a few angry screams and occasionally a tear. The Peninsular War had started on the beach at Tenby, but it was over by half past two. Teachers they were who pulled us apart. Ours told us that our behaviour was disgusting, but theirs was just a disgrace to the good name of their school. When we got on our coach ready for home, Gillian put out her tongue. We pelted her with our porkpies and laughed as she screamed some more. And that was the end of the Peninsular War. Victory for us, I think.

Robert lives in Wales now with Margaret as his wife. I ran into them, quite by accident a decade or two ago. There they were on the beach at Tenby, Margaret still clinging to that hand.

©Philip Catshill

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