The Phoenix Time #2

PART ONE

Kindling

Sticks or pieces of wood or similar, often placed upon scrunched-up paper beneath coals towards the lighting of a fire.

CHAPTER ONE

Charlotte

“For Christ’s sake Frank will you find somewhere else to do that,” Charlotte Barstow was reaching the end of her tether. Stood, fists balled against her hips, her elbows sticking sharply outward and her feet apart, she glared at her recently retired husband’s back. She was in the middle of preparing for a family dinner, the sleeves her floral pattern blouse rolled up waiting to use the kitchen sink to wash some dishes before reusing them for the next stage. He stood at the sink, facing the window, carrying on as if he hadn’t heard a word.

The polished butchers’ blockboard worktops on both sides were being used by the two of them for food preparation. To his left, there were dishes, and a slicing board bearing green and red peppers, celery, carrots, an apple, an onion, mushrooms – all chopped or about to be – some spice tubs and a tin of tinned, chopped tomatoes. He was using these ingredients to make a vegetarian rice dish to accompany the salad being prepared by his wife. On the cooker, a large pan stood ready to boil the rice, a pan to boil the vegetables and a wok to fry the rice, when it had been boiled, together with the cooked, chopped ingredients and spices.

To his right, his wife’s worktop area was being used to prepare sliced ham, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes and salad onions. Some eggs were being boiled in a small pan on the hotplate.

The smell of the other chopped ingredients, especially the celery, tomatoes and radishes,  competed with that of the tear-inducing chopped onions and salad onions.

All in all, during the next half-hour or so, there were going to be to too few knives between them, not enough room for all their various dishes and a lot taking place on the cooker.           

At five foot two inches tall,  Charlotte was a full eight inches shorter than her husband, but she wore the pants in that household. At sixty-eight, a year younger than him, she was still pretty, slim and always smart in her appearance. She had her hair seen to once every two weeks and kept her wardrobe up to date at a local fashion retailer. She was not someone to be trifled with, as one or two of her neighbours had found to their dismay.

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times, this kitchen is simply too small for two people to be using it at the same time,” she said. It hadn’t been a hundred times but it certainly wasn’t the first. The kitchen wasn’t large, it’s true, thirteen foot by seven – and it had been extended at that. They called their former kitchen the breakfast room – the current kitchen had been created by an extension at the rear of their sixties house fifteen years previously, together with a larger extension to their living room.

The problems today were not only caused by the kitchen though. It was a hot, late April afternoon, the kitchen window was South facing and Charlotte, Charlie to close friends and relatives, was still experiencing post-menopausal flushes. Since their children had flown the nest, twenty years or so previously, she’d developed a routine, a way of life that Frank, since he’d retired, was disrupting most days of the week. She was the first to admit that she’d become set in her ways, but she’d spent years lovingly establishing those ways. She found it frustrating that, at sixty-eight years of age, she now had to tolerate her husband  bulldozing his presence into her domain.

She could not understand how a grown man could create so many dirty dishes making a simple rice dish, how he could never replace pots, pans, plates or cutlery where they should be put. She’d spent years perfecting efficient ways of cooking meals yet, here he was again, thinking that he could just interrupt her flow and imagine that he was helping.

Featured Photo

Today’s photo features Ted, my daughter’s Japanese Spitz pet dog, white fur against white snow on the grass in our rear garden at home.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 60 mm and f/4.5. The shutter speed was 1/640 and the ISO was 800 Exposure compensation was +1.5 EV and I post processed the shot in Lightroom Classic and Topaz AI Denoise.

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