Miriam Keaton had spent most of her adult life working in a seaside souvenir shop. She dispensed cunningly fashioned seashells and artful displays of coloured sand alongside postcards, beach paraphernalia and the obligatory rock. Rain or shine, she met every hard-pressed holiday maker with a sunny smile, displaying a saint like patience at the simian antics of their fractious offspring.
Once, Miriam had been a tripper too. The railways were still nationalised when she first lugged her suitcase from station to boarding house. Then, overwhelmed by the ozone and the pebbles she tripped down to the sea in unsuitable sandals and a frock that threatened to blow up around her ears with every awkward onshore gust. Although, from experience, she knew few men would be interested in a glimpse of her lingerie.
Within five minutes she had turned her ankle picking her way through the rank and drying seaweed and skidding on a concealed slick of what appeared to be tar. Blinded by tears and pain she leant against a breakwater and smeared lichen down the side of her frock. She stood still, stranded and unsighted, her holiday release at an end.
When he appeared at her side, he seemed too slight and a little too old to be of any help. But he knelt and bound her ankle tightly with his paisley muffler, and then courteously ignoring her protestations that she really was far too heavy, he lifted her in his arms and carried her back up to the promenade, to sit her in the bus shelter.
He then tipped his trilby and disappeared.
Miriam holidayed there every year after that and eventually took the job in a souvenir shop. She made many acquaintances but never reacquainted herself with the slight, older man, whose paisley muffler she yearned to return.