[Short Story]547 Westerfield Road

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Samuel drives a courier van. Every day he goes to the courier depot and picks up all the boxes to be delivered to houses in the area. He checks all the addresses and plans his route.

Most of the boxes are deliveries for online shopping. People buy many different things online – clothes, books, furniture, toys, wine and food.

Samuel likes his job. He likes driving his van and he thinks it is interesting to go to so many different houses. He often goes to the same houses, so he becomes friendly with the people who live there.

The week before Christmas is always very busy. Samuel starts work and 7:00am and sometimes doesn’t finish until 7:30pm. The 21st of December is a normal day. Samuel goes to the depot. The boxes for his area are waiting for him. There are different instructions for different boxes. Samuel must get someone at the house to sign for most boxes but there are a few small ones where the instructions say ‘leave in letter box’. Finally there are some that say ‘leave on the porch’, ‘leave outside the front door’, or ‘leave behind the house’. Samuel knows that usually these are boxes for people who work. They are not home to sign for their delivery.

There are five boxes for the same house. They have a label, ‘Leave on the front porch’. The address is a new one. Samuel has never delivered to this house before.

 Mmm, thinks Samuel. Violet Danford, 547 Westerfield Road. I often go to Westerfield Road. It is a long street. But where is house number 547? He has trouble finding the house. It is at the end of the road. The driveway is very narrow and there are many trees. He drives his van down the driveway and sees a little old house. He jumps out his van and opens the back door. He takes the boxes and walks towards the house. He leaves the boxes on the front porch, gets back into his van and drives away.

The next day is December 22nd. There are more boxes to deliver to 547 Westerfield Road. Someone has been doing a lot of shopping, thinks Samuel. The boxes have the same label, ‘Leave on the front porch’. When Samuel carries his deliveries up to the front of the little old house he is very surprised. Yesterday’s boxes are still there. That’s very strange, he thinks. But it is a very busy day and he has many deliveries to make. He jumps back in his van and drives away.

All day, Samuel thinks about 547 Westerfield Road. He thinks maybe something is wrong. When he had finished his work, he is very tired and hungry. He wants to go home. There is a big football match on the TV tonight, but he can’t. I don’t know why, but I am sure something is wrong. I have to go back to that house.

When Samuel gets to the house he goes up to the porch. All the boxes from today and yesterday are still there. He knocks on the door and waits. No one comes to the door. I’m crazy. The people who live here are probably away. Why do I feel worried?

He knocks again. There is no answer. He puts his head against the door and listens. He can hear a TV playing. It is very loud! He can hear a cat meowing. Then he hears a very soft voice, “Help. Help me!”

What shall I do? I can call the police but maybe they will take a long time to come here.

He tries the door handle. The door is not locked. He opens the door and shouts, “Hello! Are you OK?”

Again he hears the voice. “I’m in the bathroom. Help me!”

Samuel runs through the house looking for the bathroom. He finds it. The door is open. An old lady is lying on the floor. She looks very ill.

“Thank you!” she says. “I came to have a bath and I fell over. I have been here for two days. I can’t get up.”

Samuel pulls out his smart phone. He calls the ambulance. “Come to 547 Westerfield Road,” he says. “There is a very old lady here. She had a fall. She has been on the floor for two days. She is very ill.”

Samuel thinks it takes a long time for the ambulance to come. He goes to the kitchen and brings back some water. He tries to give it to the old lady. It is very difficult. She is very weak and Samuel is too frightened to lift her. Finally she drinks a little. She closes her eyes. Samuel is very worried.

Then Samuel hears the siren. The ambulance is coming!

Samuel goes into the living room and turns the TV off.

The paramedics come in. They are professionals. They know what to do. Very soon, they put the old lady on a stretcher and carry her out. Samuel stands and watches.

“My cat!” she says suddenly. “Who will look after my cat?”

“I will look after your cat,” says Samuel.

“Oh, thank you. My son will come from Australia on the 24th. He can look after the cat then.”

The ambulance men go away. Samuel takes the boxes from the porch and puts them in the living room. He finds some cat food and gives it to the cat. The cat is very hungry. He leaves more food and some water for the cat. He finds some keys and goes out. He locks the door and drives home. It is 9:00 pm and he is very, very tired.

For the next two days, Samuel goes to 547 Westerfield Road before he starts work and when he finishes work. On the morning of the 24th he feeds the cat, locks the house and leaves the house keys in the letterbox.

I hope the old lady is OK, he thinks. I hope her son comes today.

Samuel only has three days vacation for Christmas. When he goes back to work, the boss comes out of his office.

“You have a visitor,” he says. “Come into my office.” Samuel follows his boss into the office. There is a man waiting there. The man jumps up. “I am Oscar Danford,” he says. “Thank you for saving my mother’s life!”

Samuel says. “Oh. I didn’t do anything. I just called the ambulance.”

Oscar shakes his head. “No. You did more than that! If you hadn’t gone into the house, my mother would have died. But I have a question. Why did you go into the house?”

Samuel explains about the boxes. “I thought it was strange. I don’t know why I was worried, but I was. That’s why I went back after work. I listened at the door and I heard your mother crying out. But I have a question too.”

“What is your question?” asks Oscar.

“People often ask me to leave their boxes somewhere. But that is because they are out at work when I come. I guess your mother is usually at home. Why does she ask for her online shopping to be left on the porch? “

Oscar laughs. My mother loves TV. That is why she shops online. She likes watching TV more than shopping! She has the sound up very loud. Often she doesn’t hear when people knock. And even when she does hear someone knocking, she doesn’t want to miss any of her favourite programmes!”

Samuel laughs too. “Now I understand.”

“And thank you for looking after the cat.” Oscar puts his hand in his pocket. He gives Samuel and envelope. “Please take this. It is a small thank you from my mother and me.”

“On, no!” says Samuel. His face is red. “I don’t want anything!”

“Please take it,” says Oscar. Samuel doesn’t know what to do. He looks at his boss.

“I think you should take it,” says the boss. “You are my best courier driver, and you are a man who cares about people. It’s Christmas and Oscar is giving you an extra present.”

Oscar looks at his watch. “I must go back to the hospital. My mother is getting better and now she wants me to arrange a television in her hospital room!”

He hurries out. The boss is smiling at Samuel.

“You did a good thing,” he says. “Do you know who that was?”

“Uh. Oscar Danford,” says Samuel.

“Yes! And he has a big mail order company in Australia. He thinks our courier service must be good, so he is going to use us for all the companies deliveries! I want to do something for you too. I am going to buy you a bigger van, so you can make more deliveries!”

Oh, no! thinks Samuel. But he is not very unhappy. He has opened the envelope. Inside is a cheque for $3,000!

I can buy a big flatscreen TV to watch football on!

[Easy English Blog]Studying Chinese

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I have decided to take the HSK Level 3 Chinese test this year. Level 3 is intermediate level. I have been studying Chinese for a few years, but I haven’t studied hard. I think this is because I didn’t have a goal.

Now that I have a goal – the test, I am studying every day. I use a textbook my Chinese teacher gave me, a vocabulary book, and the official textbook for the test. I am using Japanese textbooks. So I am studying Chinese through Japanese. I also listen to a Chinese CD in my car. I don’t understand it all, but I can pick out words. The more I study, the more words I can recognise. I also watch videos on YouTube. There are a lot of language learning videos on that site.

I want to take the test in September. I will study every day until then so that I am ready. I want to pass, but if I don’t, I’ll just study harder and take it again. If I pass, I will study for level 4 next year. My goal is to get the highest level – level 6.

While I am studying, I would like to go to China to practice my Chinese. I have been once before, but that was a long time ago. I couldn’t speak any Chinese then. I hope I can go sometime in the next few years.

Heather @ I Talk You Talk Press

[Short Story] Nine Times

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Kevin is a very nice young boy, but he hates to study. His mother is often very angry. “You must study,” she says.

Kevin’s father has a PlayStation. Sometimes he lets Kevin use it. But Kevin doesn’t like his father’s games. He wants his own games. He wants a Lego game. It is Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2.

He asks his mother, “Can I have Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 for the PlayStation?”

His mother is not happy. “If you have games for the PlayStation, you will not study.”

“I will, I will,” says Kevin. He wants the Lego game very much.

He asks his mother many times, but she always says, “No.”

Finally, Kevin’s mother has an idea. “You have a math test at school soon. You must know all the multiplication tables from 1 to 12. If you can get 80% in your math test, I will buy you the Lego Game.”

Kevin is not happy but he wants the Lego Game so he tries to study. He works very hard. Soon he knows many of the answers but the nine times table is very difficult. Kevin cannot remember the answers.

The day before the math test, Kevin is coming home from school on the bus. There is no school bus in Kevin’s town, so he takes the regular city bus to school and home again.

Kevin is tired. He has tried to study. Today at school they had a practice test. Kevin could remember most of the answers but the nine times table was too difficult.

I tried hard but I won’t get 80%, he thinks. If I don’t get 80% my mother will be angry and she will not buy me Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2.

He kicks the seat. The man sitting next to him on the bus looks at him. “Are you OK?” he asks. “Are you having trouble at school?”

Kevin’s mother always says “Do not talk to strangers!” But Kevin thinks this man has a kind face.

He tells the man about Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. He tells the man his mother will buy it for him, but first, he must get more than 80% on the maths test.

“Well, that’s no problem,” says the man. “You can do it!”

“No, I can’t!” says Kevin. “I can remember 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12 times table answers. But I can’t remember 9 times!”

The man looks surprised. “But the nine times table is an easy one!,” he says.

“No, it’s not!”

The man smiles. “What is nine times one?”

“Nine! Everyone knows that!”

“And what is nine times two?”

“Eighteen!”

“Good! And eighteen is one and eight, yes?”

Is this guy crazy? thought Kevin.

“Yes, so?” he answered.

“What is one plus eight?” asked the man.

“Nine,” said Kevin slowly.

“Good!” said the man. “And nine times three is twenty-seven, and two plus seven is nine!

“Nine times four is thirty-six, and three plus six is nine.”

Kevin got the idea. He sat quietly and thought about it.

“But nine times eleven is ninety-nine! Nine plus nine is eighteen! It doesn’t work!”

The man smiled at Kevin. “Nothing in life is perfect,” he said. “But can you remember the eleven times table?”

“Yes I can,” said Kevin proudly.

“So,” said the man. “Nine times eleven is the same as eleven times nine! And the maybe you can’t remember, but nine times twelve is one hundred and eight. One plus zero plus eight is nine! You know it all!”

The bus stopped. The man stood up. “Good luck,” he said.

The nest day Kevin went to school and took the math test. He took his results home to his mother.

“Hi, Kevin,” she said. “How was your math test?”

“It was OK,” he said.

What’s OK?” asked his mother. “Did you get 80%?”

“No,” said Kevin.

His mother looked angry. “OK,” she said. “You did not study well. I will not buy Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 for you. What was your score?”

Kevin could not stop smiling. “100%!” he said.

[Easy English Blog] Yomegashima

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Yomegashima is a small island in Lake Shinji in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. Lake Shinji is the seventh largest lake in Japan. In the mornings, there are many fishing boats on the lake. The owners of the boats go into the water and collect shijimi clams. In the evening, the sun sets over Lake Shinji. It sets behind Yomegashima island. Many people gather to watch the sunset and take photographs.

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Yomegashima is a sacred island. It has a torii shrine gate, and many pine trees. Normally, people cannot visit the island, but once a year, there is a walking event. People walk through the water to the island. A few years ago, there was a tea ceremony event on the island. Boats took visitors to the island for a tea ceremony. I went with my friend. The scenery was beautiful.

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The name “Yomegashima” means “bride’s island”. It has a sad story. According to a local legend, a young bride was homesick. She wanted to leave her husband’s house and go to her own family. So, she walked across the lake when it was frozen. Unfortunatley, she fell through the ice into the water and drowned.

The gods made an island in the spot where the young bride drowned.

If you visit Matsue, make sure you visit Lake Shinji and see Yomegashima. I recommend you go at sunset time. It is really beautiful.

[Short Story] The life of a tree

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Simone’s house is very old. Her grandfather built the house when he was a young man. When the house was finished, Simone’s grandfather asked a girl from his village to marry him.

Simone’s father grew up in this house. Many years later, Simone came to live in this little old house.

Simone has a wonderful tree in her garden. It is a camellia. Her grandfather planted it. So it is more than 60 years old. Every year, at the end of winter, it is covered in beautiful pink flowers.

But one year, the weather is very bad. The wind is very strong. The old tree falls down. It is lying on the ground. Simone is very sad. She feels empty.

The camellia was a memory of my family, and now it is gone.

Simone is in the garden. She is looking at the dead tree. She is crying.

“Excuse me”.

Simone is surprised. There is an old man in her garden. She didn’t see him come into the garden.

“What! Who are you?”

“I was a friend of your father. I remember this house. I came here to play when I was a young boy. Why are you sad?”

Simone shows the old man the tree. “My grandfather planted this tree. And now it is dead.”

The old man laughs. “Dead? Why do you think this tree is dead?”

Simone thinks the old man is crazy. “It fell down! There will be no more flowers. It is only a memory.”

The old man smiles. “I am in this village to visit my grandson. I am tired. Can we sit down? Can you give me a cup of tea?”

“Oh, sorry. Of course. Please come into the house.”

“No. I like to be outside. Can you bring me a cup of tea here?”

Simone points to a table and chairs in the garden.

“Please sit there,” says Simone.

The old man sits down. Simone goes into the house and makes tea. She carries the tea out to the garden.

She gives the old man a cup of tea. Simone has a cup of tea too. They sit in the garden, but Simone is not happy. They can see the dead tree. She is very sad.

The old man drinks his tea. Then he asks, “What will you do with this tree?”

“I don’t know,” says Simone. “Maybe I will pay some men to take the dead tree away.”

“Oh,” says the old man. “What will the men do with the tree?”

“I don’t know,” says Simone.

The old man smiles.

“I think you should pay some men to come and cut the tree up into firewood.”

“But I don’t have a fireplace.”

“That’s OK. I’m sure you can find some people who need firewood. Maybe some people who have no money and are cold this winter. You should cut all the leaves and small branches up very small and put them on your garden. They will stop weeds from growing. In time they will break down and feed the earth. The earth gave you that tree, so you should give something back. And finally.” The old man stops talking.

“Finally?” asks Simone. “What is the last thing I should do?”

“The old man laughs. “Plant another tree of course!”

He stands up. “I must go now,” he says. “But remember. Nature is a circle. Trees grow and die. New trees grow. This is normal. You should be happy because your tree was beautiful, you have good memories.  And now this old dead tree will help you do some good in the world.”

[Easy English Blog] Living near the sea

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I live near the sea. It is about a 20-minute drive from my house to the sea. I feel that I am lucky to live so close to it. Many people visit the beach and the sea in summer, but I don’t. I like to visit the sea in spring or autumn. Sometimes, I go in winter. The wind is fresh, and there are no other people around.

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When I was a child, I went to the beach every summer. My family and I went on holiday to the seaside for two weeks every August. The beach was always packed (packed = crowded) with other families. I used to make sand castles and go paddling (walking in the shallow water) in the sea.

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Now, I drive to the sea, park my car, and enjoy listening to the sound of the sea and breathing the fresh sea air. Sometimes I write poetry. I think that being near the sea makes me more creative. Maybe it is the rhythm of the waves, or maybe it is the beautiful views, but when I go to the sea, I feel like I want to write.

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Last November, I went for a drive by the sea. The photographs on this page are from then.

When is your favourite time to go to the sea?

Heather @ I Talk You Talk Press

[Easy English Blog]Talking to friends and family

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I have been living in Japan for over 18 years. When I first came to Japan, I didn’t have a computer, and email was not so popular. I used to exchange letters with my family and friends. Now, of course, the world is different. We have social media and platforms like Skype. It is much easier to stay in touch (stay in touch = maintain contact) with family and friends.

I speak to my family in the UK every week, and my friends in other countries a few times a month. It seems like the world is a smaller place now.

A year or so ago, I found all the letters from my family and friends from 18 years ago. I had kept them in a box. I enjoyed re-reading them. They brought back memories. My friends and family wanted to hear about life in Japan. They didn’t have the Internet in their houses at the time, so they didn’t have much information about Japan. I wanted to hear news about my hometown and my friends’ lives. Now, I just have to look on Facebook to find out about my friends’ lives. And of course, there is a lot of information about Japan on the Internet now.

When I go back to the UK to visit friends and family, or when friends come to visit me, it is nice to see people, but it is different from before. Now, I can see everyone’s face on my computer screen every week or every month, so when I see them in person, it is not as special as it used to be.

When I first came to Japan, I was often lonely. I missed my family and friends. I was always excited to receive letters from them. Now, I don’t feel so lonely anymore. I just go on Facebook or Skype, and my family and friends are there.

How do you keep in touch with your friends and family?

Heather @ I Talk You Talk Press