"Oh it is you! Hello, how nice it is to see you again.
"I thought I heard someone at the door, and then when I saw your bright yellow coat, I knew who it was straight away. There's no doubt about it, you're easy to recognise in it, even for my tired old eyes.
"Well now you're here, let me take you through to the back room and then you can tell me all your news. I've been waiting all week to hear it. You probably don't even realise how much I look forward to you coming each week; after all, how could you understand what its like to be a lonely old lady, with hardly a face to see from one week's end to the next. The only person who's called since you last came was the milkman.
"Still, I shouldn't grumble really, I've had a good life and I can still get around the house, even though my pins let me down sometimes and of course my tired old eyes don't get any better do they? But there's plenty of folk worse off than me aren't there! Besides, I still have my family who telephone sometimes and my daughter has promised to visit next month. She wanted to come over at Christmas but something came up and she couldn't make it.
"It would be nice if the family called sometimes, but the young folk are always busy running around doing something or other. They never seem to have any time to stop, what with schools and holidays, work and golf, or whatever the latest thing is.Always In a rush they are. We worked hard when I was young; we had to! But we organised ourselves properly and we made sure we had time to visit the old folk.
"I remember when I was a girl, my mother took us to visit our grandparents every week. A duty call she said it was. I admit I didn't want to go always, but you could see that they loved it. And when my mother was on her own and getting on a bit, I always made sure that I went to see her. It's all different these days, no-one seems to care anymore. Some of them would rather stop at home and watch telly than talk to their own kith and kin.
"I'd better stop this maudlin talk hadn't I. Tell you what, I'll make a nice cup of tea then settle down in the chair and listen to what you've got to say. That'll make a bit of a change from me chattering on all the time won't it?
"I always have a cup of tea at this time of day, always have had; except when I was in hospital of course - they wouldn't let me drink tea. When Joe was alive, he used to make me tea every morning; after he retired of course. Poor old Joe; he suffered a lot you know. It was all from working in that factory. They never admitted it, but I knew; I lived with him, didn't I! He was my husband! They denied it all along, but I knew.
"I still remember how I met Joe. It was down at the river. I was there with my sister. You know, I haven't seen her for years; she went to Australia just after the war. We wrote to start, with of course, but what with one thing and another we lost touch. She moved, we moved, Joe was ill and somehow we got out of the habit of writing. I wonder where she is now?
"Anyway where was I? Oh yes, I saw this man walking his dog along the river bank, and I knew straight away I had to get to know him. Oh, he was a handsome young man was Joe, before his illness got to him. You never met him of course, but he was a real charmer. He could have had his pick of girls, but for some reason he was soft on me, and once he'd seen me he used to go down to the river everyday just in case I might be there. I didn't mind that I can tell you.
"We didn't speak to each other for weeks; you didn't do that sort of thing in those days, talk to strangers I mean. Then one day we saw each other at a dance. "You're the river girl," he says; and that was that!
"We had a good life together, but times weren't always easy what with the depression and the war, and then there was Joe's illness. But he was a good man and hardly ever got angry. If he was going to get a bit cross, he'd tell me. "I'm going to lose my temper Beth," he'd say. Then he'd stamp off down the garden and I'd hear him shouting and banging around in the shed. Then, when he'd cooled off, he would come back to the house where I'd have a nice cup of tea waiting for him, and we'd make it up.
"He 's been gone a long time now, but I still miss him. He was a good man and he would have liked you too.
"Now look at me! Forgetting what I'm doing; here's the kettle boiling its head off, and I haven't even warmed the pot yet. That's the trouble with me; once I get talking, I forget what I'm supposed to be doing and then before you know it, half the day has gone. Joe was forever telling me off about it. Do you know, I was once talking to a friend of mine at the bus stop, and we were so busy nattering that we didn't even know that the bus had arrived, until it started to move off again. We ran after it but couldn't catch up. We had to wait half an hour for the next one. You'd think, that: would have taught me a lesson wouldn't you? But it didn't make any difference really. I suppose that its just that I like talking.
"Maybe I'll have a biscuit with my tea. I shouldn't really, but it's time I gave myself a little treat. You've got to spoil yourself sometimes haven't you?
"You know some folk might say I'm a bit potty talking to you like this. I mean, it's not as if we can have a real conversation is it? And though you have plenty to say, you can't answer back, can you? But even so, you come here every week, whatever the weather. Just like a proper friend, and with all your voices it's just as if a whole crowd of visitors have arrived; and each one of the voices has become familiar, so that I can imagine what everyone looks like.
"So you see, I'm not all that silly, talking to you; because you come here so often - my regular Thursday visitor - that you really have become a friend.
"The Talking Newspaper, they call you. It's a good name, but you're much more than that; at least to me you are. Sometimes I think you are the closest friend I have; you certainly visit more often than anyone else, and you've always got something interesting to tell me; much more than the local radio. You let me know what's happening in my town, sometimes even in my street.
"Sometimes you make me laugh, and I've got to admit, it, occasionally I cry when I hear what you've got to say. Quite often it's really interesting listening to you, and I completely forget whatever else I'm supposed to be doing. It's Just like having real people in the room with me. Though I have to say, some weeks I'm not interested at all when you're telling me about sports and such; but I still listen all the way through, honestly.
"You shouldn't be called the Talking Newspaper. You should be called the "Talking Friend" or the "Welcome Visitor". After all, you bring much more than just news to me and all the other folk who can't see very well, or can't see at all some of them. Tell you what, it would be lovely if I could meet some of the people who put their voices on the tape. I know their names of course, because you tell me every week: Marion, Pat, Linda, Mike and David of course.
"Some days I sit here imagining what everybody looks like. Marion is my favourite. I think of her as not too tall, maybe a little bit round with a jolly smile. Perhaps she's got grey hair, for sometimes she talks about being a girl in the war.
"If Joe were here still, he's be able to describe all of the readers: He was always good at that sort of thing.
"There I go again, chattering away and not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. All I have to do is put you into the tape player and switch it on. Then I can sit back and listen to all your news, just like I do every week.
"You know, I can't remember a single week when you haven't come. Even when the postmen were on strike, you managed to get here somehow, and when we had the floods a few weeks ago, and in the snow last winter. That's what I call being a real friend; always here when you're needed and expected.
"Well, I think I'm about ready now; I'm nice and comfy by the fire and ready for anything. So let's just press the play button and hear what you have to say for yourself, my little Thursday visitor."
If you enjoyed reading this story, you may be interested to know that Jack Windsor has published an anthology of 40 of his stories. It is called 'Secret of the Lake'. Published by Braiswick you can order it from your local bookstore or buy online from Amazon.com
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