The Sixty-First Year of Service

I met met Jim Summons the other day. A nice old man with a gentle smile, a casual observer would say. Over the last eleven years I’d seen him faithfully and fastidiously operate the paper stall in Haverfordwest Station’s ticket hall but I’d never thought much about him.

This meeting was different. For the first time in nearly two years, I was about to make a train trip and pitched up to buy tickets in advance. It was hot, and Jim sat by his stall laden with an extraordinarily wide range of daily newspapers, periodicals and magazines. The ticket hall (a grand word for a space big enough for three socially-distanced people in these times of plague) was empty except for Jim. He sat in silence on a small stool leaning back against the wall next the entry doors. His white shirt matched the colour of his hair, and a well-worn leather cash bag which reminded me of the bag our co-op milkman used to carry on his rounds in the fifties hung on a strap diagonally across his body. In those days, it contained not only cash but a delivery note book full of pages, held open at the appropriate page by a rubber band, with details of the milk supplied and detachable sections which he left with his customers to confirm their weekly purchases. The bill was always hand-written in those pre-computer days.

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Spin

What is it about spin that is so fascinating? Why do we love to spin things and what is spin? Evolution designed our hands with an opposing thumb to make spinning an easy action. Flicking the thumb against the middle finger can summon immediate attention. It can also twirl a dart, which travels more accurately towards its intended target. A gyroscope is stable until it stops turning.

It was a crucial moment in the England vs Ukraine football match. Kyle Walker had the football in his hands, pondering where to place the throw-in. He whirled the ball in his hands. He spun it again as if to settle his mind with the distraction of the ball’s rotation. And again, he spun the ball in the air. He had made up his mind. He threw it in and the game resumed.

Spinning.

In other sports, we see Roger Federer spin his racquet as he prepares to make or receive a serve. It must help him concentrate and he is not alone. So many tennis players of all abilities do it.

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