tea, white, no sugar
Keith feels the March sun on his face through the train’s window. It is the first time in five months that it has shone strongly enough for its warmth to be perceptible. Or is it that he hasn’t noticed it before? He knows that he has been preoccupied over the winter. Remote even, or so his wife Jane has claimed in one of her frequent perorations on the matter.
‘You should be enjoying your retirement, not moping, darling,’ she had concluded. Keith suspects that the ‘darling’ was an afterthought. He looks through the window at the Hampshire countryside. Green fields - tick. Daffodils - tick. Lambs - tick. All in their proper season and all perfectly agreeable, of course, but just - what? Predictable? Safe? Something like that, anyway —
‘Refreshments, sir?’ He sits up straight at the steward’s question and feels as if he has been caught drifting off in a meeting.
‘Tea, please. White. No sugar,’ Keith says, in an effort to show that he has been paying attention rather than because he wants the tea. Not that it matters; he is alone, for once. That is the problem with retirement: no time on your own.
Keith knows that is not the only problem. He and Jane have established a routine of lunches, walks, visits.
Keith has done the redecorating that seems to be obligatory for newly retired men and says that he is enjoying retirement whenever the question is asked. The truth of the matter is that he is more bored with the predictability of retirement than he was with his work as Vice Principal of a Further Education College. That is why he accepted an offer of consultancy at the college in the Midlands to which he is now travelling.
Keith glances out of the window again. Ships, cranes, lorry parks: Southampton. He’ll have thirty minutes here before his connection to Birmingham. If there is a newsagent on the station he might be able to find a decent book to read.
Keith sits on a bench outside the station and leafs through the novel he has bought, which is more demanding than the thrillers he has grown used to reading in recent years. His enjoyment of the prospect of reading it is interrupted by a shout. Keith looks up, to see a young woman trying to call a group of teenagers to order.
‘Guys,’ she says, ‘guys. Listen up.’ There is a pleading tone to her voice and her face is flushed; Keith suspects that she is not far from tears, although the teenagers’ behaviour seems unexceptional. He sighs and stands up. Perhaps she could do with a hand? But it is not his responsibility to help her, he thinks, he is retired. With that thought Keith feels his heart lift.
Keith settles back onto the bench and feels the warm sunshine on his face. He opens his book and starts to read.
About the author
Sharon retired in 2015 from a career in education and decided to try her hand at writing stories and poems, something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager. She lives in Dorset with her husband, two dogs and two cats.