Twenty Towns

| November 19, 2016

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Owen had a set routine. He worked in the factory 4 days a week and Saturday mornings. He was a valued member of the workforce with a specialised trade but after his wife died after a long illness, he was given the latitude of every Friday off. He needed the freedom to think and explore and the company needed him to be balanced as they had a lot of time for him. He had been a loyal servant for forty years.

In his mid-50s he had never learned to drive and in any case preferred to see the world go by as he travelled. With that in mind he usually went somewhere by rail on his Fridays off. It was always a day return from his home city of Leeds in West Yorkshire. He would do a bit of research and then plot out his activities for when he got to his destination. On the train back he would write up his findings in a journal, and after crossing that day’s town off his list, take out his map and look for the next likely town to add to his list of twenty. There were always twenty of them in his ongoing list: and he thought that there always would be however far his travels took him. There were enough towns to be going on with after all, even if he had to stay overnight, or take a coach sometimes.

It was a good routine, even if others he encountered thought it might be a bit of a sad and lonely one. He had no one else to go with even if he had thought of it. That was until he met Elizabeth at Lincoln Cathedral. A heavy shower and her broken umbrella led them to a short sojourn in a café. It transpired that she engaged in similar outings, and on Fridays, but in her case from her home in Peterborough.

On a whim she falsifies her domestic circumstances as she doesn’t expect to see him again. But they embark on mutually agreed meetings at new towns on their days out, and a very deep friendship develops. Both have been starved of affection for a long time.

He wants to make plans but she says they can do nothing till her ailing mother is out of the way, and that could take forever. He goes along with it but worries that the number of reachable towns between them is dwindling. Neither want to visit the same place twice for fear of things becoming stale, nor can she do overnight stays.

This leads to a strain whereby she is forced to attend to her domestic matters so she can pave the way to be with him. She dreams of a happier life together.

He wants the same but is unaware of her plans. Still, there’ll always be twenty towns. Won’t there?

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