A grave matter

So, Norman is now dead.

That night, back at Luke’s house, Luke had something to get off his chest. If you remember, after Norman had slapped her, Sandra had gone to Luke to ask him to let her stay at his house for a few days. She had been afraid to return home. Now that Norman had passed, Luke needed to know whether she’d feel that she didn’t need him or his shelter anymore. She put his mind to rest as only lovers can.

The following morning, Sandra visited her children, Barbara and Paul, fearing that they would blame her for bringing about their father’s death by seeking to divorce him. They reassured her that the pressure of his work and his putting on more weight had been all that had been needed to kill him. In fact, they said, they needed her, as their mother, more than ever. Plans of action were agreed – particularly a visit to the undertaker.

Sandra visited Norman’s former partner, Mark, who was helpful and reassuring. She visited Norman’s solicitor, who showed her the will and its provisions and he also showed her the deeds to their house. She also arranged for the divorce proceedings to be halted. Together with her children, she met the Vicar who’d be leading the funeral service.

The funeral was a quiet, dignified affair, Sandra and her children supporting each other in grief. Sandra had been divorcing him, but she’d never wished him dead.

All that remained was the aftermath of bureaucracy. Norman had been very considerate by dying at such an opportune moment. The partnership could now be dissolved by claiming on a provision of the Partnership Agreement. The divorce could be halted. Norman hadn’t had the time – or foresight – to cut her out of his will. Finally, Sandra was free to remarry – if she were to receive a proposal by someone. At a meeting with her children, Sandra, now a wealthy widow, agreed how the future of the house at Uppermill could be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Good man, Norman.

It seems fairly clear to me now that, almost at the end of the basic story, this will be a novella rather than a novel. At 36,000 words, it will fall probably 5,000 or so short of the 40,000 minimum for a novel. What I have so far is a draft which will require considerable editing and, in parts, rewriting, but I have no intention of padding it out with extra words for the sake of an arbitrary target. The story is what it is. The joy has been in creating it for its own sake. It wasn’t written in the expectation of volume sales – or any for that matter.

By tomorrow the story will be complete and I will say more about some of the ways in which I already know that I shall be re-shaping it.

The featured photograph today is of St Thomas’s church and graveyard at Stockton Heath, Warrington, Cheshire, UK. I captured the image in January 2017, using my old Pentax K-50 16 mm cropped sensor camera and an18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens at 18 mm and f/8. The ISO was 200 and the shutter speed 1/60 seconds. The shot was handheld.

The heart of the matter

The New Year of 2002 has started well – for some. Sandra and Luke are as much in love as ever. She’s had a friendly but firm telephone conversation with ex-husband designate, Norman. Luke’s son, Peter has invited him and Sandra to tea. Peter’s girlfriend, Jill and Mum, Marjorie – ie Luke’s ex-wife – are also invited. Cue for a catfight – no – they all get on swimmingly. Norman has had a delightful Good Friday meal with his son, his daughter and her boyfriend. Barbara and David announced their engagement.

The good news is not unalloyed. Norman’s had the letter advising him that Sandra is divorcing him. He’s had a chat with his business partner, Mark. Mark ain’t happy. There are disagreements because no one saw the divorce coming – except Mark, who’d warned Norman to act his age regarding Sophie the office cutie.

While he’d been gardening, before the weekend meal, Norman had felt a bit ‘off’, but put it down to over-exertion. On Easter Monday, on the golf course with some friends and clients, one of the clients tells Norman that he’s heard rumours about how the dissolution of the partnership is affecting the quality of the service it provides. His company will be taking its business away. The client walks away to tee-off while Norman has a heart attack and keels over.

An ambulance arrives and whisks him off to the hospital where, shortly after arrival, he dies to the horror of his family, who see it happen through the corridor window.

Sandra, who was there, is told that it will be up to her – she’s still Norman’s wife – to do the honours with registering the death and so forth. Paul, Norman’s son, suggests that she should also notify her solicitor and Mark.

The death changes everything – it’s at the heart of the matter.

I took today’s featured photo this afternoon at St Helens hospital, handheld. I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped-sensor camera with a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 39 mm and f/11. The ISO was 100 and the shutter speed 1/40 seconds.

Join me tomorrow for more.

Love on the rocks

Oh, my! Norman really did it, didn’t he? Slapping his wife! No wonder she walked straight to her daughter’s room to tell her what a beast Norman was. He was wise to escape early next day to the office. Sandra arranged for herself and Barbara to have a meal together that evening to discuss what had happened. Barbara was worried that her Mum was almost as bad as her Dad. Okay, he had been parading a floozy as a trophy, but she’d been out for a meal with her ex-boyfriend. They then had a joint meeting with Paul.

Paul identified the key issue: the slap. He asked her what she proposed to do and then, budding law student as he is, advised her as to some of the problems ahead.

Sandra arranged to meet Luke at his house, basically to ask for refuge. She made it clear that she was not offering her body as an inducement – she was asking him as a friend. He practically did cartwheels. Afterwards he told his son, who thought that he had lost his marbles.

Before you know it, Sandra had briefed a solicitor, and been for a meal with Luke and his son – who now thought that his dad was right. Sandra’s children got to meet Luke’s son, and they all got along fine. Norman received the solicitor’s letter and felt forced to inform his business partner, who wasn’t even surprised. He’d warned Norman. Anyway, Mark, the partner, gave Norman notice that he wanted to dissolve the partnership to protect his own interests. Cue for Norman to see a solicitor too.

Love was really on the rocks now.

Christmas Day wasn’t too much fun for Norman – a very token celebration. Things were much more upbeat at Luke’s, on Boxing Day. Everyone gathered there – except Norman of course – and had a great time topped only on New Year’s Eve, when Sandra’s daughter announced her engagement.

Everything is set now for an interesting New Year. Hold on tight.

The featured photograph today is one that I took with a compact camera in 2014 – a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40. The Exif data are as follows: Focal length 4.3 mm, Aperture f/3.3, ISO 160, shutter speed 1/1250 seconds.

The scene is the summit of Glyder Fach, one of the Welsh 3000s in Snowdonia – a veritable moonscape, but I thought that it fitted today’s Blog title.

Fireworks night

Today, fireworks announce the bonfire of a marriage. I told you yesterday about Luke meeting Sandra by chance (fate?) at the Library; how they met the following day at the College for a meal; about Sandra learning what had really happened the night she’d dumped him; and how she revealed to him that her marriage wasn’t working anymore. I promised to tell you how the day had ended. Here we go:

Before events moved on to the evening, the meal at the College with Luke finished with him telling her that he’d never stopped loving her. She told him that she wanted to give Norman one last chance.

At home, later, there was a pleasant family meal – husband, wife and both children. Sandra and Norman then retired to their Living Room, where Sandra asked him to turn off the TV – because there was a need for them to talk. He asked her what there was left to talk about. She said that she agreed with his feeling, and that she too felt that their marriage was now continuing in name only. She told him that she was fed- up with his excuses for never being at home, and how foolish he looked playing Sugar Daddy with the girl from the office.

Norman told her that what happened at the office was none of her business. She promised to make it her business, and that she’d speak to his partner. She warned him that he had one last chance to get his act together. She let him know that she’d had lunch with her former boyfriend, who wanted her to come back to him. Things got heated and he slapped her. Oops! There went that last chance. She left the room and showed Barbara where he’d hit her.

Only three more chapters to write once I’ve finished this one. 26,000 words or so up to now. Probably a novella rather than a novel, but I’ve really enjoyed writing it up to now.

The photograph today is of the Liverpool River of Light celebrations in November 2018. It’s one of a series of images I took that night and was my first attempt at photographing fireworks. I used my Pentax K3-ii 24 MP cropped sensor camera plus a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 21 mm and f/11. The ISO setting was 100 and the shutter speed 5 seconds. I used a tripod and made some exposure and noise adjustments in Lightroom.

Hop on the bus, Gus

There must be fifty ways to leave your husband – as Paul Simon never quite said. The story has moved on to the year 2001. Quite a lot has happened. Luke has called into Croxton library to request a new edition of a textbook that isn’t in stock at the college library. Sandra recognises him, informs him that a copy will be arriving the following day. She agrees to have lunch with him at the College restaurant the following day and promises to bring the book with her. As they arrive home that evening, there are soliloquies at their respective houses.

When they meet for their meal, she asks him how he came to be a lecturer at the College – and he tells her, including about his divorce. When he asks her about what she has been doing, he tells her that the last time he’d seen her – except briefly at a funeral – was as he’d watched her being carried off by a man in a sports car. This had been shortly after she’d dumped him more than thirty years before. She tells him it had served him right. He challenges her version of events and she realises how she’d wronged him – condemning them both to lasting misery. She confesses that her marriage is on its last legs.

She learns that Luke usually travels to the College by bus from Codmanton to Croxton and has a frequent traveller bus pass. She asks him what time he catches the bus and arranges to travel with him, joining him part way along the route.

Jumping forward, their discussion continues as they travel. Approx., 2,500 words today.

The day hasn’t finished yet – at least I haven’t finished writing about it.

The featured photograph today, strangely enough, is of some buses. I now wonder about the conversations that will take place on them. I photographed his scene yesterday morning. You see the planning that goes into writing this blog. I took the shot with my Pentax K-1 camera, mounted on a tripod, using my 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens at 70 mm and f/11. The ISO was 400 – it was a dismal morning – and the shutter speed was 1/200 seconds. I cropped the image slightly and boosted the exposure and contrast.

An education

Today I’ve moved the plot into the final years of the sixty, in the provisional book title, ‘Sixty Years’, starting at the year 2000. We learn that the Year 2000 computer bug was no big deal; Luke gives a lesson at the Further Education college; Mark lectures his partner, Norman, about interviewing applicants; Sandra teaches Norman a lesson about fidelity, and lectures Paul about time management. In the circumstances I felt justified about featuring a photograph of a further education college.

The image is of the St Helens Further Education college’s front entrance. I took this shot about a week ago, in readiness for use today. I used my Pentax K-1 with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens at 27 mm and f/11. The ISO was 100 and the shutter speed 1/25 seconds. No filters were used but I did use a tripod.

The big deals of the lessons I mention above, are when Norman and his partner fail to consult each other before interviewing someone for a job; when Norman chooses someone for their sexiness instead of their job competence – and then compounds the problem by taking his appointee out to lunches in very public places. Sandra learns about it and delivers a lecture about acting one’s age.

What will he have to say when he learns that she’s thinking of leaving him once their son has graduated – or that she’s started meeting Luke again.

Another 1500 words or so.

Homeward bound

I’ve been working today – though I haven’t quite completed – the sixth of my seven chapters that follow three principal characters over sixty years. I started, being me, with the seventh, but I’ve been working my way back to it ever since.

Once I’ve finished the sixth I shall jump, firstly, five years forward, then one year at a time until I’m home. This brings me to my featured photo today. It’s a photo of a section of my garden at home- the place where I always return, homeward bound – to my garden and my wife, who doesn’t like me taking her photo.

I took the photo with my Pentax KP cropped sensor camera using a 16-85 mm, f/3.5-5.6 lens at 70 mm and f/8. The ISO was 400 and the shutter speed 1/25 seconds.

I say that I’ve been working – that’s only partly true. I started work as usual this morning, but had to stop after twenty minutes or so. My brain was fogging up again – so, I had a break before restarting this afternoon. I’ve managed about 1800 words.

Once I’ve finished this chapter, it will be easier to work in smaller segments. I’ll be covering shorter periods of time, not having to account for changes over the previous nine years. One year should run fairly seamlessly into the next – I hope.

I will, though, need to think carefully about how things fit together. For it to end before I reach my final chapter – if that sounds Irish, my surname is Murphy – everything needs to have been resolved for Sandra and Luke to be able walk off, hand-in-hand into their future together, having been so needlessly separated forty years earlier.

Some of tomorrow will need to be planning time with less writing.

Brain Fog

This Blog is the only writing that I’ve done today. It seems that I’ve been spending too long staring at this screen lately – up to eight or even nine hours per day. I’d realised that my head had sometimes felt strange for the past week or so, but I had put it down to postural hypotension – an older persons’ problem of dizziness after standing too quickly after being sat down for a while.

When I arose this morning, I felt as though my brain was loose in my head in a sludgy pond; I couldn’t express the words I wanted to say; I couldn’t work out in what order to perform the simplest tasks. It also felt as though my loose brain was weighing down and putting pressure on my eyes. Added to all that was the feeling of tiredness. In short, my brain had fogged over.

Maybe some people always feel like that first thing , but I’m usually a morning person; aches and stiffness -yes, but I’m normally as bright as a button, fully ready to start my day.

I googled the symptoms. Straightaway different sources informed me that brain fog is an actual medical condition. Who knew? It seems that, as often as not, it’s the result of too much mental exertion – the remedy being to pace oneself better; to have a rest for a few hours or days.

I want to get back to writing; to my characters and the plot – but not at the cost of feeling like I did this morning. I do feel much better tonight as I write this, but I won’t be staying up late writing as I have been doing. I’ll see how I feel in the morning.

To accompany a condition such as brain fog, I’ve chosen an image of a foggy morning in Sutton Park, St Helens, Merseyside. I captured the image last December using my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 35 mm and f/5.6. The ISO was 200 and the shutter speed 1/80 seconds.

I chose a black and white rendition that I felt conveyed the feeling better.

Four funerals, no wedding – and a name change

The story has moved on to 1995 – fifty years since Frank and Sandra were born (I’ll come back to that in a moment – don’t rush me).

1986 – 1995 has been the decade when the pairs’ parents all die – four funerals – see, I told you! Where was I? Ah, yes, Frank and Sandra. Well, you know how one of the subjects of this blog is creative writing…? You didn’t? Well, it is.

Anyway, today I decided to be creative as I wrote. Those of you who joined in with me a few weeks ago will remember – possibly – that my hero started off life as Gareth. That turned out to be a potential problem – someone in a family type relationship turns out to be named Gareth. So, to spare anyone’s blushes, or accusations – about telling someone’s life history but pretending it was fiction – I changed his name to Frank.

He’s been Frank a few weeks now, but every time I write the name I think – ‘boring’. Whoever gives the hero of their book the name Frank? Don’t tell me. Someone famous? Sorry, never heard of them. So, I’ve re-named him Luke. Think Luke Skywalker. Isn’t Microsoft Word wonderful? Find ‘Frank’, Replace ‘Luke’. There we are – done – as quickly as that. Now that’s what I call creative.

Funerals seem to be a great way to bring people into one place so that they can smile at one another, converse, argue with them, or embarrass them. Mmm…embarrass sounds more fun. Perhaps I should go back and try that.

Back to the plot. Norman is still a petulant bore, a rotten husband and a terrible Daddy. Frank is still on his own – now he’s divorced into the bargain. Sandra is still sweet, kind, beautiful and a wonderful Mum – guess who’s my favourite character? I think that she’s getting fed up of husband Norman. I’ve had her meeting Frank again after thirty years – scrub that – Luke – at a funeral. She spoke to him and smiled. That’s a start isn’t it?

Sandra’s kids are brats. I think she should leave them when they’re older . I blame Norman for spoiling them. Fancy buying a seventeen year old girl a sports car. And I’m sure that her younger brother Paul is on the Wacky Baccy.

Tomorrow will be the year 2000 unless I’m told to clear up the garage. Forget robot lawnmowers, why has no one invented a robot to tidy garages?

I’m up to 17,000 words now. Little by little the bird builds its nest as the proverb says,

The photo today is of a parish church – the kind where they do funeral services – so I thought that a photo of it might be suitable. I even converted it to black and white to make it look more funereal. I took the photo using my Pentax KP camera with a Sigma 10-20 mm f/3.5 lens at 20mm and f/11. The ISO was 100 and the shutter speed 3/5 seconds. I used a tripod but no filters.

Changing partners

I haven’t added much to my story today. I spent most of my time researching the pro’s and cons, the types and the formalities of business partnerships. In particular, what happens if a partner dies or retires? What can the remaining partners do to insure against it? How does the estate of the deceased partner get paid-out? What are the trading risks that partnerships face?

I’ve been writing about the year 1975. Two partners have died within a couple of years of each other and the estate of one of them has had to find and finance the costs of a nursing home for the elderly, demented widow. The partnership has thus needed to dissolve twice in ten years with all the attended disruption. This has caused a good deal of stress and disagreement between the partners, and a lot more work for more junior staff.

A further 1500 words, but it was the research that took all my time. I had read before of how the amount of time authors need to invest in preparation for writing. This is only my second book but I understand that need much better now. I must admit though, I am enjoying writing this book more.

My theme, as I’ve said, is partnerships, and my featured photograph today is of the office of a partnership – not an accountancy partnership as in my book, but the nearest thing to it that I could find near home – the offices of a firm of solicitors.

I took the image with my Pentax K-1 coupled with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens at 24 mm and f/10. My shutter speed was 1/15 seconds and the ISO was 100. The shot was handheld.