In 1980 my Mum had booked a holiday where we shared the cost of a rented house near Hastings. Dad drove Mum and Auntie Hilda (Mum’s sister) and I followed with Anne, our daughter Rita, my son Terry and Lucky the dog in my car. It was a lovely big old house set in fields and I remember we had very good crockery, furniture and upmarket stuff that you wouldn’t see nowadays in a rented holiday house.
It was only fifteen or twenty minute journey to the seaside. Our two kids hadn’t really been to the seaside so we spent several days on the beach. One particular very hot sunny day, I had bought a blow up “Lillo”. We left Terry with Aunt Hilda and Mum in the shade of a rented wind break. Dad (who was a very strong swimmer) and I started out for the rumbling sea, with the Lillo under my arm. On the way I was lifting seaweed covered rocks as I’d done as a kid with Dad to catch crabs. The sea was on its way out. We spent a long time overturning the rocks to show Rita the crawly creepy bits that nestle under seaweed but eventually we were on a concrete breakwater plinth sticking out into the sea. I chucked the Lillo in and Rita could not wait to jump on it. I knew that she had been swimming with me since she was tiny. I was absolutely astonished and frightened as the Lillo rapidly went out to sea on an undercurrent. I started shouting “hang on Reet” as I began to shed my cloths and Dad was doing the same, but Lucky the dog had immediately jumped in and was swimming fast. He caught hold of a corner of the Lillo and straight away turned it and Rita towards us. It’s hard to describe a dog clearly breathing hard through clenched teeth paddling for all he was worth towards me and Dad and the grunting wheezing sounds he made in his totally committed effort. Eventually, and that could only have been thirty or forty seconds he’d brought the Lillo within reaching distance. Dad held my hand as I slipped into the water and lifted both Reet and my smashing young dog back onto the concrete plinth.
That dog was a cross between a Labrador and Dalmatian. He was very intelligent who had previously shown me how much he loved the water. I had taken him for a walk in Bedfords Park, Romford but wasn’t on the lead as he usually obeyed my commands. But on that particular day he spotted the large fishing lake… much to the annoyance of about thirty fishermen, the dog raced right in and swam from one side to the other. I admit I simply put his lead in my pocket and disowned him. But I did make a fuss of him that day he saved Rita’s life.