Put a lined sheet of paper and a pen down in front of me and I can't resist it! I tingle with excitement. I don't know what it is, I've never been able to put my finger on it! I just love to write. I've never been a clever person, I flunked quite badly at school. Numerics were to me what letters are to a dyslexic person -- I often think that I'm dyslexic with numbers!
I could hold my own in English language. I was never brilliant but I sure could write a story, even if it made no sense at all, pages and pages of the stuff and I tingled with excitement even then, as far back as I can remember.
I left school in 1976 with very few qualifications. I started work on the Monday in a factory full of sarcastic women and egotistic males. I spent 15 indifferent years there until I left in 1991 to have a family. My interest in writing fell by the wayside. I had a baby girl and no time for anything else. She was my entire world and I was so wrapped up with love for her that everything else was just immaterial. I never remembered that I had a little secret, a pen friend in America! which began in 1981.
I was 21 years of age, unattached and not looking, but generally enjoying a very full, and lets say eventful life! I still had this passion for writing short stories alone in my bedroom, but I screwed many of the sheets up and threw them in the bin because I thought they were rubbish -- most were!
"I need a pen friend" I thought! so from that very moment I set about finiding one. There had been an advert in the local press which caught my eye it simply said. "Pen pals worldwide, send for a brochure" I'd never done anything like this before and I never told anyone in case they thought I was geeky or weird! I posted my request and sure enough I recieved a reply!
It was asking for a fee, a very small amount and I was prepared to pay to feed my hunger for writing. I never quite got round to posting my payment that week but strangely enough I recieved a reply from an American guy -- Bill Jordan. He began by explaining that he was studying in England and wanted a pen pal to keep him sane throughout his stay. I wrote back and never did pay any fee! To this day I wonder how they gave him my name!
We wrote to each other every week. I eagerly awaited the postman for the familliar envelope. We became great friends, it was like we'd known each other for our entire lives!
It was fast approaching the Spring break. Bill was spending the school holidays in his dormitory in Cambridge. He asked me to come down to Cambridge to see him, but I had a much better idea!
I asked him to come to Lancashire instead and spend the holidays with us. I didn't think for one moment that he'd agree but I was wrong and he was so excited about the opportunity to meet and stay with an English family. That was that! it was decided that we'd meet at the train station in Manchester and then take the next train home.
I stood nervously on the platform that day. I watched every person step off the train. We'd never met, never exchanged photos and the suspence was just awesome. Would he run a mile when he realised it was me? What would he expect, a beautiful blonde, a luscious brunette? I was neither! This figure walked towards me, rucksack on shoulder and sporting a bright blue jacket suitable for the himalayas. Was this Bill? He walked past and then stopped, gazed around the station like a little boy lost. "Bill" I uttered and this shy young man answered "Yep ma'm" I smiled broadly as he picked up his bag and came towrds me.
"Barbara, it's me Bill" His accent unmistakably American. "How are you?"
"Fine, did you have a good trip?" I was lost for words and couldn't find the right ones to say. I'd said so much in my letters, it was like I'd exhausted all my efforts in one fell swoop and was struck dumb!
"We need to catch the next train" I said, not wanting to sound too pushy and I pointed towards the ticket desk. Bill nodded and we bought two tickets home.
The journey home was quite reserved. I didn't want to say the wrong thing, didn't want to spoil the moment because up until then it was the bravest thing I'd ever done. I felt a strange sense of contentment mixed with a degree of uncertainty, it was a very strange feeling indeed! A blind date with someone I knew -- how strange is that?
We arrived home. My parents welcomed him into our home and in the evening we watched some TV and then spoke a little and then finally decided to go to the local pub. I introduced him to some of my friends and to English beer, I don't think he remembered much more of that first evening after that. He kept muttering "I'm known as one beer Bill back home" Well, here he was known as several beers Bill! because he sure took a liking to our amber nectar.
Another day and another episode! Bad head and feeling like he'd been hit by a truck! That was Bill's second day!