Looking Back

My next-door neighbour was a very interesting man, and also a member of a dying breed. He had a domed head which towered above a horseshoe of wispy white hair, a time-worn wrinkled face, ill-fitting clothes and big army boots. Handicapped by a hideous curvature of the spine and a pronounced limp, he had a grotesque appearance, yet he was a kindly, tolerant man who would help anybody out, and he always wore a smile. He was nearing retirement age, but still worked at the university, 50 miles away, where even his colleagues knew him as ‘the mad professor’.
The professor had a keen sense of duty, and never missed a day at college, always climbing the hill to the railway station at 6.30 a.m., in good time for his train which departed twenty minutes later. His limp was the product of an old war wound coupled with latter day arthritis, and as the pain gradually worsened, his daily climb became a grim struggle.
One winter morning he found the hill covered in snow and ice. He was weak and very unsteady on his feet, so he dropped to his hands and knees and crawled to the top of the hill, where an astonished stranger showed pity and helped him to the station. The professor was lathered in sweat, and deeply distressed. For the first time in thirty years, he was going to be late.
It was 6.55a.m. when he finally limped onto platform 3.
Yet, the train was still there.
The guards had delayed its departure, for the man who was more reliable than a clock. The man who was a proper standard.

He’s dead now, of course.

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