A morning in the sun can take its toll on some...

Peter Unsworth

Peter Unsworth

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

THE brilliant sunshine of Tuesday morning encouraged everything but work. A seat beside the bend on the river just below the old gasworks bridge was more inviting.

It offered the chance to see both male and female runners of all ages toiling along the towpath training for something or other, some having enough strength – or breath – to say ‘Good Morning’.

The exercise was proving difficult for red-headed Eva, a mother of four and grandmother of six. With her brunette friend Pat (family tree not disclosed), they flopped on the seat beside me.

“We’re going on the Run for Life – if we live that long,” panted Eva. “What would I give for a gin and tonic.”

Booze of any kind was unavailable but I gave each of them a couple of fruity sweets hoping they might find enough strength to chew them. They resumed their training run, not, I fear, with much enthusiasm.

GUILT eventually took over and I headed into the city, calling first at the recently refurbished Post Office in St Aldates from where I wanted to buy one first-class stamp for a friend’s birthday card.

There was no-one waiting at the counter so I marched across. The man behind it looked up. It was not a warm greeting.

“Have you got a ticket?” he asked.

“What ticket?” I replied.

“You need to get one near the door. These people are waiting,” he explained, motioning to half a dozen sitting nearby. Presumably they had the necessary paper.

I crossed over to where a staff member was helping customers to tackle the mind-blowing stages of the self-service points. He was most helpful, but it still took several false starts.

Once upon a time most of us lived in fear at our local post office of the thin, ferocious, specs-on-end-of-nose woman of uncertain age who made us feel only inches high as she glared over her counter. On Tuesday morning I longed for her return.

THE card and its stamp were posted and I headed for Carfax where four Italian girls were each tucking into enormous pizzas.

“They look delicious,” I said, referring to the pizzas.

The next second one of them offered me a slice of what I imagined was her breakfast. A half-hearted refusal was not accepted and I was soon munching through the tasty food while, in return for their kindness, was helping them with the factsheet questions set by their language school. This was EU co-operation of the more enjoyable variety.

NOTICE in a Cowley Road shop window: ‘Cycle machine hardly used – £50.’ The word ‘hardly’ had been crossed out and substituted with ‘never’. A correction or a confession?

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