Ten a Day

Ten A Day by Shirley Rodgers …

A man from a roofing firm knocked on the door of my friend’s house. She’s 80 and lives alone. He said her house would benefit from some sort of sealer. She invited him, gave him tea and biscuits. He stayed for two hours, chatting. She almost signed up for £9000 worth of work but had the foresight to call her son, who immediately vetoed it.

“Don’t sign anything, mam,” he said. “You don’t need it. It’s probably a scam.”

I asked why on earth she’d invited the caller in.

“He seemed so nice,” she said. “He told me all about his family and asked about mine. And I was lonely – I hadn’t spoken to anyone for two days.”

It was there and then I made myself a little pact: I would speak to 10 people every day, 5 on a Sunday. Face to face or on the phone – it counts as long as words are exchanged with voices. Incoming and outgoing calls count, even to call centres. Emails don’t – it has to be person to person. I’ve been doing this for more than a year now. Some are mundane little chats. Others, usually with people I know well, are more interesting and profound. They all matter. It’s the human contact that counts.

Sometimes I’ll make a comment on the weather to a complete stranger. Something like, “Rain, rain, rain – not much fun is it?” All I’ll get is a grumpy, monosyllabic response. I live in the North East so “Aye,” is the most common reply from old men. It makes me wonder if I should tell them about the 10 a day. Perhaps they’d benefit from it.

I saw a chap I know slightly (he used to be our postman) coming out of the betting shop.

“Doing any good?” I asked.

Over the course of many long minutes, he very carefully detailed how he’d placed a 10p Lucky 15 on four horses – £1.50 in total, he said. Three out of the four had won. He got £40 but if the last one had come in he’d have won nearer £400. I’m going to try one of those next time the racing is on Channel 4. Picking up gambling tips is not what the 10 a day is for, of course. I did give up a good chunk of time listening to him ramble on though so I suppose I might as well benefit from the investment.

Just this week I passed an elderly lady in town. She was wearing a bright coral coat – really vibrant.

“Nice coat – lovely colour,” I said.

She stopped to talk to me, said she’d got it in Debenhams sale for seventy pounds. “Half price!”

She seemed delighted that I’d commented on it; I think it made her day. My thought was that it’s great to see older ladies in something other than beige or grey. Why wouldn’t I mention it?

The volunteer in the charity shop was non too pleased when I asked the size of the black shoes in the window. Well, I didn’t expect her to get them out.

“Size 6,” she said, thrusting them at me.

“Oops,” I replied. “A bit too big for me.” (I take a 3 and a half). They had 6-inch heels and platforms. I’d never have bought them anyway – I have trouble with my back if I wear any sort of heel these days. I really shouldn’t have asked but I was short of my target for the day. I’d love to have seen her face if I’d tried them on.

I’ll continue with my 10 a day. It’s interesting, educational, sometimes funny and always worth it. Be kind, if you will, to old ladies who tell you their hands are freezing even when they’re wearing their gloves. They’re hoping for a response. You never know, you might be number 9.

Shirley Rodgers was born in 1935. Until retirement, she ran the Royal British Legion Club in Redcar with her late husband, Frank. She volunteers in her local cancer research charity shop and, as you may have gathered, she talks a lot. In a good way.(And let’s hope she starts to blog a lot too; Ed.)


  1. This is a wonderful post – I wish my comment could count as one of your ten today.

    Loneliness is a big problem in older (and other) people. It would be wonderful if more people took up your challenge.

  2. What a great post Shirley. I’m always a big fan of anyone making an effort in any walk of life and your definitely playing to your strengths! Love Tone x

  3. This is so great Shirley! I think you should tell everyone about 10 a day. I am a stay at home mom and I think I might try it!

  4. What a lovely idea, I’m always getting told off by my boys for talking to people I don’t know, but I guess that’s because I told them not to speak to strangers! I shall continue to chat or pass the time of day with folk, especially now that u have highlighted how beneficial it can be.

  5. I too have always been the sort of person that says hello/smiles to people in the street etc. My son asked “who’s that mum, do you know them, when I replied no he’d laugh and say “you could go in a room full of people, not know a soul and come out with a dozen new friends lol. Keep up the good work Shirley.

    Liz x

  6. Really great idea and target! I think that it will make a difference to people and has inspired me to talk more.

  7. So pleased to have stumbled on this wonderful lady with her big idea of Ten a Day. Imagine if we all joined in?

  8. Great idea. I’m 66 and take my Grand daughter to a ‘Mums and tots’ group on a Monday, meet a friend with her grandson and the four of us go to Ikea for breakfast one day and see my family as often as possible. I do have some days though when I realise I haven’t spoken to anyone all day although thankfully never so lonely that I feel the need to invite strangers into my home. I tend to make conversation with the check out ladies at the supermarket or similar people and most of them chat back but actually making an effort to speak to 10 people a day might be a challenge and something to aim for.

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