Dear John

Annoyed this Sunday morning to see the Sunday Times still being delivered and lying on the doormat, to remind me of your absence.

I called them to cancel it weeks ago, then called again when it was still turning up.  Been told the earliest they could cancel it was a date some 4 or 5 weeks away.  Ridiculous.  I hope this is the last one.

I know how you liked to read it Sunday mornings in the front room before I got up, with a cup of tea.  Usually in the front room you sat in the single armchair facing the window, but when you were reading the paper and wanted to use the coffee table, you would sit on the three seater sofa.

For a long time you used to get dressed and walk out on Sunday mornings to a newsagents to buy a paper.  We had often asked at various newsagents nearby whether they would deliver, but perversely, in this over populated City suburb, you can’t seem to get newspapers delivered.  I suppose delivery boys on bicycles is a thing of the past, or a thing of the countryside.  They just don’t do it.  They don’t even seem to keep papers back for people.  I used to work in a newsagents in Birmingham years ago and people would buy a block of little slips of coloured paper, which meant a certain paper or magazine would get put by for you by collection.

I had given up trying to get newspaper delivery around here, I guess everyone expects people to come into the shop.  Anyway, eventually, maybe a couple of years ago, we saw the Sunday Times advertising deliveries and finally managed to organise it – direct, rather than through a newsagent.  It was a battle at first to get them not to leave it on the doorstep outside, not much good in an area around this where loads of people walk by and can steal it.  I kept writing notes on the door and staying up to try to catch the delivery driver to say, please please push it through the door, in pieces if necessary.  In the early days the actual label said on it, to please push through the letter box in sections if it won’t fit, but this was always ignored.  Too much trouble for someone to bother, they don’t care.  The point is, if it’s sticking out through the letter box for half the night (it tends to get delivered in the early hours of Sunday, ie late Saturday night), not only can someone pull it out, but if you’re away it will stay there all day telling people there’s no-one in.  This sort of security issue is clearly something the delivery companies have no awareness of and don’t care about.

We ended up having to put up with it being stuck in the letter box about half the time, and the other half having come through the door and being on the doormat.

Poor John, it was your lifetime habit I think to read a quality Sunday paper particularly, to read all the commentary and learned discussions and opinions about things which had been happening in the news during the week.  Sometimes you discussed with me what you had read, but mostly not, so it must have been your private life, your private thoughts, to peruse the paper at your leisure and see what was being said about the world.  It made you the informed person you were, I suppose.  It meant you knew in more detail than I do about what was going on in the world.

I know you used to read all the arts commentary, about what exhibitions were currently on or being planned, about what events were going on in London.  You would read book reviews, keeping them so you had a list of books you might want to read in future.  You would read and sometimes keep restaurant reviews.  Sometimes you would quote to me from particularly bad ones, where you had enjoyed the humorous and cutting comments some critic had written about the atmosphere of a new restaurant, or the bad food.  Or sometimes a bad opera review, where some singer, or the modern production was panned.  You enjoyed colourful, cynical language.

I think once or twice we tried a restaurant you had read a review about, but mainly it was a wish list that one didn’t get around to.

You had recently been telling me to cancel the Times delivery, because you could apparently get it on the iPad you had bought yourself.  Because the accumulation of newspapers was a bit of an issue between us – you poor thing, you always wanted to put things aside to keep or read some other time – you were aware that it was bringing more paper into the house.

I was annoyed with you that you couldn’t clear out on a weekly basis what came in, particularly throw straight out the bits you didn’t really read, like about driving or business or appointments.  But then maybe you did look at everything.  Anyway, I had been reluctant to cancel the Times when you said, simply because there had been so many years when you’d gone out for it and it had been so difficult to arrange the delivery, I didn’t want to go back on that until you had convinced me you had got the iPad sorted and were genuinely able to look at it online instead.  I didn’t want to end up with you going back out to the shop for it every week.

Anyway, this is just one of the many little shocks that I have to readjust to.  You have unexpectedly gone for ever and will not be reading the Times again.  I don’t particularly want it – though I have been buying some trashy newspapers, just to distract my mind and keep it busy – so it has now been cancelled.

I hope I’ve seen the last one now.

Too sad to see the front room empty, and to think of you sitting by the table, turning the pages and having your private little moment, looking at the news.

Now everything in the world that happens, you won’t know about.  We – I – just have to accept that there comes a time when it’s over, a day that you’re not on the planet any more, to read about the news.  But it’s difficult to be philosophical when you might have been here, you should be here still.  You were only 59, people are telling me about people dying at age 95.  You might have had 30 years or more of reading the paper still.  That’s the difficult bit to handle.

Shall I come and read it to you by the graveside?  I would have read it to you if you were recovering in hospital, I would have enjoyed that.  To read it by the grave is a bit much.  But whenever I read something or hear something on the news, I will think of you, think what you would have thought about it, what you would have said.

I knew you better than anyone, so I would have a fair idea of your opinions.  I guess you’ll just never surprise me with an unexpected one again.

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