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.
A spark from the kindling
An open fire often begins by applying a flame to paper beneath kindling which has been arranged in a pyramid, or in pieces laid across each other. As the lighted paper heats the kindling, sparks often fly before the coals above ignite.
An argument at bedtime
Looking at the house from the outside, nothing revealed the approaching turmoil inside. It was a typical sixties semi: block-paved driveway leading to the house and garage; a triangular pediment over the diamond-leaded bay windows; glazed porch extension revealing the front door with stained glass half sidelight. All of this in a popular residential district of the town of Ashton-in-Makerfield. The house sat on a quiet side road, along the length of which many cars were double-parked . It was approaching sunset – eight p.m. GMT that April evening – and the first street lights illuminated the area. There were two cars on the block-paved driveway of the house – his and hers.
Frank had gone up to the bedroom as Charlotte was clearing away, knowing that her anger would not end there. He hated confrontation, but he knew that tonight there were things that needed to be said that it would not be possible to unsay later. He moved some of his clothing and other items and took them , a few at a time, into the second bedroom. He then returned to the master bedroom and lay fully dressed on their comfortable double divan bed, pillows stacked behind him, his hands clasped behind his neck. He looked around at what he’d be leaving – at the tasteful, leafy-patterned, champagne and silver wallpaper and tone-matched curtains, at the modern fitted wardrobes, the dressing table with some of her items reflected in the mirror above it. For a while he just lay looking up at the pattern of the white embossed ceiling paper. His quick mind was remembering all the hurts of the past eighteen months to two years: the put-downs, the insults, the ‘requests’ issued as commands and the ceaseless drip of nagging complaints. He remembered and rehearsed responses that would need to be ready for when Charlotte came upstairs.
“Well! I hope that you’re proud of yourself,” her first words as she flounced through the door. “And look at you skulking here. What kind of man are you at all?”
He waited as she stood, arms folded, one heel tapping impatiently.
“I hope that you realise that you ruined our family’s visit with your usual stupid clumsiness,” she pointed at him. “You’re useless, Frank. I don’t know why I put up with you.”
That was the line he’d waited for.
He rose from the bed and stood facing her on her side – the door side – of the bed. He was determined to keep control of proceedings by using his height advantage. Had he stayed prone on the bed he’d have been three-quarters of the way to losing.
“Let’s start this discussion with the family visit, shall we? It wasn’t me who ruined it – it was you with your temper and nasty mouth.”
“Oh! So, I should have sat there, saying nothing, red wine dripping onto my clothes and all over the tablecloth. That’s what you think is it?”
“Well, it wasn’t the spilled glass of wine that caused the problem. Tablecloths can be laundered, the glass itself wasn’t broken, no one was hurt and no one died. If you could have been less of a total bitch than usual, then between the two of us we could have sorted out the accident in a civilised way – even made a joke of it.”
She smacked his face. He made no attempt to stop her. She’d already lost by that one blow.
“Accident? You’re a walking accident Frank. The clumsiest man I’ve ever met. And I’m a total bitch am I? Nice to know what you think of me.”
Yesterday, I showed an image looking towards Fidlers Ferry former power station from Clock Face country park. The photographs of that power station and the previous similar view taken from near the Dream sculpture were both taken on the sites of former coal mines. I took today’s image from the opposite bank of the small lake that was featured yesterday.
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 1/250 secs @ f/4.5 and focal length 45 mm. The ISO was 800. I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic with additional editing in Topaz Denoise AI.