The wet Monday morning did nothing to raise Tom’s spirits. The postman had delivered only bills, the toaster had stopped working and he seemed to have run out of coffee. A dismal start to the week – a week which held no prospect of joy or excitement for him. How he hated being retired. Compering the morning radio programme had been his life for so many years. After six months of being away from work, he missed his colleagues as much as he missed the regular pay packets. He also missed his father who had died three months ago at the age of 94. For over a year Tom had managed to care for him whilst working at the radio station. It had not been easy, but he had seen it as his duty as the only child.
The drizzle showed no sign of stopping, so he rammed on his battered flat cap, gathered his umbrella from the rack by the front door and ventured out in search of coffee. The village shop was not far away.
‘Morning Tom. Ghastly weather, but the garden needs it.’ Felicity knew she wouldn’t get an answer. To say Tom was an old grump would be an understatement, but she did remember (as did the whole of the small community) that ‘Tom had been good to his dad all those years’ and that ‘he had put Little Baddesley on the map with his breakfast programme on the radio’. Felicity wondered how someone who had talked so much for a living could be so reticent now in real life. She served two customers, passing more comments about the weather, and then put Tom’s five-pound note in the till and gave him the small jar of Nescafe and his change. Tom shoved the coffee into his coat pocket, shook his umbrella and left the shop as silently as he had entered it.
The rain had worsened. He hid behind his umbrella and made for home. There were no footpaths and by now the road was lined with gushing streams of water. Motorists drove perilously close and within two minutes Tom was drenched. At last his cottage was not far off. As he quickened his pace, his foot slipped on a pile of wet leaves, unseen from behind his umbrella. The next minute he was lying in the gutter. He swore out loud. He didn’t seem to be in pain – just wet and undignified. The jar of coffee was intact too. Nevertheless, it was a shock and he did not jump to his feet as he would have done in his younger days. A gust of wind blew his umbrella into the nearby hedge. Before he could get to his feet to retrieve it a woman on a push bike pedalled up beside him.
‘I seem to be unscathed,’ Tom replied, looking at the person who had dismounted, propped her bicycle by the hedge and gathered up his umbrella.
‘Let me help you up.’
‘I can manage.’
Nevertheless, the woman pulled him to his feet and introduced herself.
‘Dee Osgood. I’m on my way to the library. I’m doing research for my book about music in the Sixties. Are you sure you’re OK?’
Tom looked at her. She must be about half his age.
‘Thank you for your concern but I assure you I’m fine. I’m nearly home. That’s my cottage down on the left.’
‘I’ll walk with you. Don’t want you falling over again.’
‘There’s no need…’ But she was persistent. Together they covered the last 100 yards to his gate.
‘You’re Tom Bradley, aren’t you?’
Tom nodded, wondering when she would ride off to the library, and hoping the conversation would soon be at an end.
‘I used to listen to your programme every morning. That’s what got me interested in Sixties music. You played all the groups. Did you meet the Beatles? I bet you did.’
Before he could stop himself, Tom found himself reminiscing.
‘Stop, I need to write this down. It’s awesome.’
‘You’d better come in then. It’s too wet to stand out here writing.’ Tom felt the first glimmer of companionship and it pleased him. He handed her the jar of coffee.
‘Kitchen’s through there. Milk’s in the fridge. I’ll go and get out of these wet things.’ He started to walk away but then turned and called back, ‘Yes, I did meet the Beatles. Tell you more in a minute.’
Are you a writer? Prose or poetry? Beginner or published? Wymondham Writing Circle would welcome you at their monthly meetings held in the upstairs room at The Feathers pub in Wymondham. For more information contact Anne on 01953 571425. Come and join us.