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StoryLines by Peter Viney

See the Light




1. What do you think Cathy is?

2. What is Mrs Spencer's house like?

3. Is the statement that the bulb was ordinary TRUE or FALSE?

4. How does the phrase Mrs Spencer put some milk ... instead of Mrs Spencer was putting some milk ... change the context?

5. Are old, ancient, and antique different in meaning? What are the differences? Why do we give negative reactions to old, neutral to ancient, and positive to antique?

6. How is the sound [d] in Would you like actually pronounced?

'Would you like a cup of tea, dear?'
'Er, yes. Yes, thank you, Mrs Spencer.' Cathy sat down in one of the old brown armchairs. She watched the old lady as she walked slowly into the small kitchen. Then she looked round the room. Everything was old, but the room looked comfortable. Mrs Spencer was putting some milk into two cups.
'It's out here, dear. Do you want to see it?'
Cathy stood up and went into the kitchen. The cooker was ancient, almost an antique. The cups and saucers were old, too.
'Is that it?' Cathy asked.
'That's the one,' said the old lady. 'Of course, it all started when I wrote to your newspaper. That's why I telephoned you.'
'It looks like an ordinary light bulb,' said Cathy. She looked up at the bulb above her.
'I know,' said the old lady.
'But it's true, you know. Look, I've got the letter that I wrote here.' She gave Cathy a newspaper cutting. It was from the Evening Echo. The date was three weeks earlier. Cathy read the piece carefully.


1. Why do you think Mrs Spencer wrote to the newspaper?

2. What makes Cathy find the bulb unusual now?

3. Is the statement that the bulb was expensive when it was new TRUE or FALSE?

4. How does the context change if the phrase 'Your reporter said she was always changing the light bulbs ....' is substituted for 'Your reporter said she always changed the light bulbs ... .' ?

5 Why does the author use the phrase 'I have never changed the bulb ...' but not 'never changed the bulb ...'?

6. How is the sound [d] in I read your letter actually pronounced?



1. Does Cathy believe that Mrs Spencer wrote the letter? Why?

2. What does Mrs Spencer want to see Cathy for?

3. Is the statement that Cathy was in a hurry TRUE or FALSE?

4. How is the sound [d] in And you wrote this letter actually pronounced?

5. Why does the author use the phrase 'The clock over the fireplace wasn't working.' but not 'The clock over the fireplace didn't work.'?


And you wrote this letter?' said Cathy.
'I did,' said the old lady proudly. 'It's the first time that I've ever written to a newspaper. Look, that's my name, there, at the bottom.'
'Yes,' said Cathy, 'but I don't understand. Why did you want to see me?'
'I told you,' said the old lady. 'Because it all started with that letter. Come on, let's go into the sitting room. I've got your tea.'
Cathy sat down again.
'Biscuit, dear?'
Cathy smiled. 'No, thanks.' She waited.
'They wrote to me a week later,' said Mrs Spencer.
'Who wrote to you?' asked Cathy. She drank some tea.
This was going to be a long interview. And she didn't think that there was a story for the paper, either. But Mrs Spencer was a nice old lady.
'The company. I've got the letter here somewhere.' Mrs Spencer started looking in a small box on the table. Cathy yawned. She wanted to look at her watch, but she couldn't. The clock over the fireplace wasn't working. At last Mrs Spencer found the letter, and gave it to Cathy.


1. What do the Sunlight Lighting Company do?

2. How fast do the Sunlight Lighting Company people react to Mrs Spencer's letter? Why?

3. What do they want to do on April 3?

4. What and how do you think Mrs Spencer feels about the letter?

5. Can the long sentence 'We are very pleased that you have had a Sunlight bulb for sixty years, and that it is still working.' be shortened? How?



1. Why didn't Mrs Spencer like the Sunlight people?

2. What does a public relations woman/man do? What did the public relations woman do?

3. Why didn't Mrs Spencer accept the fifty bulbs?

4. Why does the author use the phrase 'She was beginning to get interested.' but not 'She began to get interested.'?

'It's a nice letter,' said Cathy. 'Well, did they come to see you?'
'Oh, yes,' said Mrs Spencer. 'Three of them. This Mr Burrows - I didn't like him at all - an engineer, and a woman from public relations. I think that's what she called it. I didn't like her, either. She didn't want a cup of tea, you know. She thought this house was dirty. I could see her face. I knew what she was thinking. Well, my things are old, but everything's clean, very clean.'
'And what happened?' said Cathy. She took out her notebook. She was beginning to get interested. There might be a story here after all.
Mrs Spencer sat forward in her chair. 'They all came in here,' she said, 'and Mr Burrows asked me about the light. Then he went into the kitchen with the engineer and they shut the door. That public relations woman was in here with me. I didn't like it, and I got up and went into the kitchen. The engineer was taking the bulb out. "You put that bulb back!" I told him. Anyway, Mr Burrows had a box of new bulbs, about fifty of them. "We'll give you fifty new bulbs for it," he said. Well, I said no, and they all went away.'


1. Is the statement that the light bulb more important to Mrs Spencer than a thousand pounds TRUE or FALSE?

2. Why was the cooker in her kitchen less important to Mrs Spencer so she could sell it but not the light bulb?

3. What makes one single out certain things or people and value them very much?

4. Why does the author use the phrase 'Bert doesn't sleep very well, and he was awake.' but not 'Bert wasn't sleeping very well, and he was awake.'?

'Is that the end of the story?' asked Cathy.
'Oh, no,' said Mrs Spencer. 'The next day Burrows came back. He had a cheque for one thousand pounds in his hand.
He wanted to buy the bulb. But I didn't sell it. You see, that bulb has been here as long as we have. It's like my wedding ring almost. Bert feels the same as I do.'
'Bert?' said Cathy.
'My husband,' said Mrs Spencer. 'He's upstairs. He's an invalid now. He hasn't been able to walk for ten years.'
Cathy looked at the old lady again. She was in her eighties. She was poor, Cathy could see that, and she had to look after her invalid husband. But somehow the light bulb was important to her, more important than a thousand pounds.
The old lady looked worried. 'I had to phone you,' she said. 'You see, last night someone tried to break into the house. We've got nothing here, nothing for a burglar. Bert doesn't sleep very well, and he was awake. He heard the noise, and he shouted. I woke up, and I phoned the police. But they didn't catch anyone.'


1. Why did Mr Burrows tell Mrs Spencer the truth about the light bulb?

2. Why were the everlasting light bulbs bad for business and destroyed?

3. Why should the Sunlight Lighting Company destroy the bulbs that last forever? How else do you think they could have used the invention? Can the bulbs be that bad for business?

4. Do you think Mrs Spencer believed the company's desire to start making the everlasting bulbs again?

5. Why does the author use the phrase 'Cathy was interested now.' but not 'Cathy was getting interested now.'?

Cathy was interested now. 'And you think the burglar wanted your light bulb, don't you?'
'I don't think, dear. I know. Burrows called again this morning. This time he had a cheque for ten thousand pounds.'
'But why ...?' Cathy started to speak.
'Oh, I asked him. It's a strange story, dear. You see, sixty years ago someone invented a new kind of light bulb. It was wonderful. It was a light bulb that was good for one hundred years, maybe forever. Anyway, Sunlight Lighting heard about the bulb, and they paid the inventor thousands of pounds. They made a few of the bulbs, not many, just a few. Then they thought about it... a bulb that lasts forever! Of course, if you buy a bulb that lasts forever, you'll never need another one.'
'Bad for business!' said Cathy.
'Exactly, dear. Well, it seems that our bulb is one of them. One of the 'everlasting' ones. It left the factory by mistake. Maybe someone put it in the wrong box - I don't know. But Sunlight want it very much. They destroyed all the other bulbs sixty years ago, and they destroyed the plans too.'
'This is an amazing story ...' Cathy began.
'Yes, dear. Well, Mr Burrows wants the bulb. He says that they want to make them again. He says that the world needs them, because they use less energy. He says that they won't destroy the bulb this time.'
'Do you believe him?' said Cathy.
'I don't know,' said the old lady. 'That's why I called you.'
She sat back and smiled. 'When everybody reads your story, they'll have to start making them again, won't they?'