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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