Frank, reaching to pass with both hands to Charlotte a salver of the cooked rice, knocked his wineglass over with his elbow. The glass itself remained intact, but its contents spread across the white tablecloth between them and splashed her blouse and trousers.
“Frank, you clumsy bloody oaf. Why don’t you look what you’re doing? Just look at my blouse and the cloth.”
Frank, by his time had risen from his chair, pushing it back to allow him to move and get a cloth from the kitchen.
“Oh, sit down Frank. You’ll only make things worse as usual. I’ll sort it. You really are becoming absolutely hopeless.”
Gloria, Peter and David were also standing and moving to help but their mother waved them back down again, and told everyone to carry on eating. It wouldn’t take her a moment. She left the room carrying the empty wine glass, her plate and cutlery.
Davina and Grace looked at each other with wide-open eyes – as did their parents. Frank sat with his head in his hands for a moment then sat up and held his hands open, palm upwards.
“I’m so sorry everyone,” he said, “Like your mum says. I don’t seem able to do anything right these days.”
Jake, who was sat next to Frank, touched his grandad’s hand.
“Don’t worry Gramps. It could happen to anyone. It was just an accident.”
Gloria asked Frank if he was all right because he looked as if he was ready to burst into tears.
Frank apologised again and stood to leave the room as his wife returned, carrying a damp cloth and some dry tea towels.
“Where do you think you’re going?” she demanded.
He told her he was getting out of the way before he did any more damage. He headed for the summer house.
“It’ll be as well,” she called after him, “You’re a total waste of space.”
That comment effectively marked the end of the meal. No one felt hungry anymore – just embarrassed by what had passed.
She moved Frank’s plate and cutlery, folded back the stained area and wiped the wine that had soaked through from the surface of the table that was revealed. She used one towel to dry where she had wiped, then placed the other dry towels over that area and replaced the tablecloth. She repeated her wish that they continue with their meal while she got changed into clean clothes.
They were to take no notice of Frank – she said that he was just sulking. Gloria and David would have helped to tidy away the dishes, but their mum said that it would be as well if they left her to do it. She knew what to do with everything. She’d do it after they’d gone.
While Charlotte was upstairs, Gloria, David and the children, in hushed tones, talked about what had happened. Gloria explained to the children that she’d noticed that her mum and dad seemed to have had a row earlier in the afternoon from the way they spoke to each other and their body language. They were united by their horror at how Charlotte had spoken to Frank.
As soon as was decently possible, David, Gloria, Peter and the grandchildren thanked Charlotte for the meal, made their apologies, went to say goodnight to Frank and left.
Once they’d gone, Frank went up to the bedroom and Charlotte cleared everything away. She worked in autopilot mode, methodically binning food waste, foil wrapping salvageable leftovers, loading the dishwasher and handwashing items that couldn’t be cleaned that way. Everything else, other than the extra chairs, was tidied into its dedicated storage area and position.
She then sat in the living room and wept in disappointment that Gloria’s birthday had been ruined and in frustration at the ineptness of her bloody feckless husband.
Earlier this week. I showed an image looking towards Fidlers Ferry former power station from near the Dream statue in St Helens, Merseyside. Today’s image is taken from a different country park a few miles away.
I used my Pentax KP cropped sensor camera to take the photo using a 28-105 mm f/3.5-5.6 full-frame lens. The shutter speed was 1/100 secs @ f/8 and focal length 45 mm. The ISO was 800. I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic including a slight crop together with additional editing in Topaz Denoise AI.