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In 1970, when I was six, I met a man who had survived the Battle of Jutland (a tactical defeat for the Royal Navy, a strategic defeat for the German fleet).

We looked at the sea together, and he gave me mint imperials while he talked about the battle - looking at the horizon as if he could still see it happening.

My daughter sat with me watching the sea near our home in March 2015, and offered me mint imperials.

Mint Imperials (the Jutland Veteran)

Screen_shot_2017-12-05_at_08.50.24by Patrick Howse16 Mar 2015

The old man offers me
Round hard sweets
From a paper bag:
It crickles, they rattle
Against one another.

He chuckles at
The small boy me,
Extolling mints and pipes and hours
Spent scanning for patterns in
Oceanic depths of time,

Sitting, day after day
looking at the sea,
A knitted red blanket
Around his knees,
Remembering war.

Avalanches of spume
Tumble down the face
Of waves crashing ashore,
Headlong reckless advances,
Achieving only tactical success;

Further out the white
Crests appear randomly,
Suddenly punctuating
The grey green-grey-blue
As it smudges the skyline.

I start, finding myself offered
Round hard sweets
From a paper bag
By a little girl surfing
Oceanic depths of time.