The Phoenix Time #22

Previously……….

When he got back to Gloria’s, he put away the groceries he’d bought and made himself some lunch and a drink. He brought his laptop down and started doing some calculations about how much he’d need to pay for a holding deposit, advance rent and a tenancy deposit. Okay, some of it was refundable but it was still quite a lot of money. He’d also need to pay some recurring charges for things like Council Tax insurance and utilities bills. He was beginning to think that he shouldn’t commit himself initially to a rental of more than six months – he could use that as a learning period. That would raise another problem though for getting a broadband deal – he wouldn’t have to bother with a landline.

Continued………

For the rest of the day, with nothing else planned, he sat down to think about this idea of a photographic tour. On Sunday night, unable to sleep, he’d imagined a trip along the North Sea coast. In his mind, he’d be starting the tour with a day and overnight stay at Knaresborough then on to York. From there he’d head on to Scarborough, Whitby, Durham, Newcastle, Alnwick, Bamborough and Holy Island. He’d find cheap hotels along the way. At least that had been the plan.

He did internet searches on the various locations, including searches for best photography locations at each place. He did map searches in order to save details of routes and mileages between destinations. Using the information he’d gleaned, he selected those towns or cities where he’d need to book an overnight stop or two before moving on. This information enabled him to estimate the fuel and accommodation costs to plan for. The result was sobering.

He realised now that his budget would be severely strained if he were to attempt the journey as that kind of extended tour. The grim reality was that he now faced substantial extra housing-related costs that he’d incur by moving out from his former home – deposits, rent, Council Tax, insurance, fuel, water, telephone and wi-fi – and that lot didn’t include any furniture, furnishings and fittings. Those were all accommodation extras, but he’d need to buy his own food and drink as well. The total of these had to come out of the fraction of his budget remaining after monthly allowance transfers to Charlotte.

Being single wasn’t going to be cheap. The overnight stops would be the big problem – especially trying to finance them in one bundle out of a single month’s pension. The only way of visiting all of those destinations, was to do, say, one outing each month. In most cases there wouldn’t be any need to stay overnight. He could also cut down his costs by travelling on the train. He could buy a Senior Railcard and reduce the ticket cost of each trip by 30%. “Well, that was a good use of a morning,” he thought.

He took his remaining sandwich and a top-up of his drink, and sat in Gloria’s conservatory. His plans were still going through his mind. “Maybe it’s as well doing things in stages,” he thought, “Given the vagaries of English summer weather, hoping for a solid ten or eleven days of dry weather would be very optimistic.” Doing it a day or two at a time he’d be able to check, with more confidence, the weather forecast for dry spells just before leaving. He also realised that leaving his rented house for an entire week or more was increasing risks such as burglary. Being insured was not the same as peace of mind. On top of all that, he didn’t really want to have on his conscience that Charlotte would be completely alone for such a long time. Not living with her didn’t mean that he didn’t love her or care about her.

He decided to ring her a bit later when she’d be back from the Library.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (12/02/2021) at Sherdley Park, St Helens, Merseyside. It was one of several shots that I took of the bare-branched trees. The branches of most of them already bear buds, and soon these lovely structures will be hidden by summer foliage.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2 full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 1600. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #21

Previously……….

Charlotte was walking back to her table with her drink and biscuits when Penny approached her.

‘Frank gone anywhere special?’ she asked, ‘Only I noticed that his car wasn’t on your drive.’

“Oh God!” Charlotte thought, “Who needs Neighbourhood Watch with neighbours like Penny?”

‘Nowhere special,’ she replied. ‘how’s your Susan doing these days?’

Susan, Penny’s daughter, had left home after her parents had refused to let her bring her teenage boyfriend into the house. The lad was a drug addict. Penny mumbled an answer and Charlotte congratulated herself on her quick thinking. When Brian Hitchmough came across to her though, to ask how Frank was, she had no easy way out. She just limited her reply to telling him that they’d agreed to give each other space for a while. It shut him up.

Continued………

Tuesday April 23 Week One – At Gloria’s – Frank

Frank didn’t get much sleep either on his first night away from home. Unlike Charlotte, he wasn’t sleeping in his own bed or in his own house. It wasn’t that the bed was uncomfortable, but the mattress was different, the bedding was different and it smelled different – not unpleasant, just different. The noises, both of the house and from outside were equally unfamiliar. The road that Gloria lived in was busier than at home, and the room he was in now faced onto it. He did, eventually, get to sleep but it was of a fitful kind: he seemed to be waking up almost every hour to look at the clock on his phone.

After breakfast with the family – and a promise to Gloria that he wouldn’t go looking for loose landladies – Frank had a second cup of tea, waiting for them all to leave before he set about washing and drying the breakfast dishes. It was the least he could do. He’d have a word with Gloria in private later to agree a reasonable contribution to household expenses.

He decided that the first thing he ought to do was to phone the bank. He’d agreed with Charlotte before he left that, if he could arrange a Saturday interview, he’d book it. It took a while to bypass the automated answering system, but once he was put through to a human being, it was straightforward to fix-up a joint appointment for the following Saturday morning.

Gloria had told him to make himself at home and help himself from the fridge. He wondered how long it would take to find somewhere to rent, so he decided to catch a bus into town and to have a walk around the various estate agents who did lettings work.

After making enquiries at a couple of them he went into a café for a cup of tea while he read through some of the information he’d been given. It appeared that, on the surface, there was no shortage of places to rent but there seemed to be a hell of a lot of paperwork, checks and upfront costs involved. He’d already suspected much of what he was told, having searched online the previous day. He had no references as a previous tenant to offer, so the agents would need to make additional checks. He looked at the documentation he’d need to present and then at the photos and details of some of the houses available at the moment. From what he’d heard, although there were lots of houses on the agents’ books, the turnover rate was quite high – current houses being snapped up but new ones replacing them almost all the time. He’d need to get the information compiled as soon as possible.

After his drink, he visited a few more agencies then did a bit of shopping to buy something to add to Gloria’s fridge for meals. It looked as if he’d be staying longer than he’d expected.

When he got back to Gloria’s, he put away the groceries he’d bought and made himself some lunch and a drink. He brought his laptop down and started doing some calculations about how much he’d need to pay for a holding deposit, advance rent and a tenancy deposit. Okay, some of it was refundable but it was still quite a lot of money. He’d also need to pay some recurring charges for things like Council Tax insurance and utilities bills. He was beginning to think that he shouldn’t commit himself initially to a rental of more than six months – he could use that as a learning period. That would raise another problem though for getting a broadband deal – he wouldn’t have to bother with a landline.

Featured Photo

I took this photo earlier this week (12/02/2021) at Sherdley Park, St Helens, Merseyside. It was one of several shots that I took of the bare-branched trees. The branches of most of them already bear buds, and soon these lovely structures will be hidden by summer foliage.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2 full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 1000. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #20

Previously……….

There hadn’t been much more to add on either side so the call ended not long afterwards and Frank left to spend the remainder of the evening at his temporary home with Gloria, Peter and Davina.

Charlotte, now alone, felt lost. She and Frank had never spent a night apart since they’d got married more than forty years before. It had been a few years since they’d had sex, and it was her fault, her moodiness she admitted to herself. Frank had been keen enough to love her until he’d given up. She’d just turned her back on him – literally as well as figuratively.

Continued………

Tuesday April 23 Week One – At Home – Charlotte

She didn’t sleep well again that night – her second night alone in their king-sized bed.

“Frank,” she thought, “where are you? You should be here.”

She cried bitter tears, using a box of tissues by the bedside to wipe them away.

Twice during the night, she went downstairs to make a hot drink and to read for a while, hoping that doing so might help her to sleep. It seemed to her that she’d only just dropped off when she was awakened by a shaft of sunlight warming her face, and by the noise of the bins and recycling being emptied. She realised that, with all that had happened since yesterday afternoon, Frank wouldn’t have put the bins out for collection. Too late now.

At breakfast time she remembered that it was her local history group morning. They usually met at ten in the Library. She wondered what to tell them – if anything. Then again, Penny from across the road, further down might have seen something – Frank loading up his car yesterday morning, or perhaps leaving last night and his car not being here this morning. She was almost bound to have noticed his car not being here. Charlie looked around her breakfast room. She could see that there were dishes from last night on the draining board. That would have been Frank’s job – drying the washed dishes and putting them away. She wondered how many other little jobs she’d got used to Frank doing unbidden, so much so that it was as if there were an odd-jobs fairy going around and doing things unnoticed. Well, they’d be her jobs now.

Later, she was just about to leave when she heard the letterbox flap close. She walked through and saw that there were a couple of items of mail on the mat. She picked them up, thinking that she’d open them later, but as she laid them on the hall table, she noticed the address: ‘Mr and Mrs F Barstow’. She sat on the bottom step and wept. When she’d seen the address, she’d felt like a widow must feel – seeing, for the first time, the redundant ‘Mr and’.

She’d recovered by the time she arrived at the Library, but felt a sensed of unease, as if people at the meeting would somehow see past her clothing and makeup to the deserted wife she now saw herself to be.

The brightly lit Community Room was large, rectangular in shape with high windows and wall bars revealing one of its other purposes as a community gymnasium. Plates attached high on the walls at either end held out hoops for netball. The highly polished, dark oak sprung flooring, marked out with white lines for use by indoor football and other groups, was also suited to dancing or to its present use – for meetings. Today, the caretaker had arranged long foldable tables in a horseshoe or ‘U’ shape, facing a smaller table where the Chairperson and Secretary sat. He’d also set out a smaller table near the kitchen for interval refreshments.

Entering the room, she paid her entry fee for the day and greeted other members as she passed them on her way to her usual table and companions. There was nothing in their welcome or expressions to alarm her and she fell into their conversation as easily as normal. Renee, the Chairperson called the meeting to order and Hazel, the Secretary, read the minutes of the last meeting. There were enough copies of the day’s agenda for everyone. The meeting would be following its usual pattern.

At eleven, Renee announced the interval. Members made their way, singly or in twos and threes to the kitchen end of the room. There, before the meeting, two of the members had set out, on the shelf of the hatch between the kitchen and the Community Room, canisters of powdered coffee and a supply of tea bags together with cups, saucers and side plates, milk and sugar. They’d ensured that the urn had been filled with water and switched on. A separate table provided plates of biscuits, for people to serve themselves. Charlotte was walking back to her table with her drink and biscuits when Penny approached her.

‘Frank gone anywhere special?’ she asked, ‘Only I noticed that his car wasn’t on your drive.’

“Oh God!” Charlotte thought, “Who needs Neighbourhood Watch with neighbours like Penny?”

‘Nowhere special,’ she replied. ‘how’s your Susan doing these days?’

Susan, Penny’s daughter, had left home after her parents had refused to let her bring her teenage boyfriend into the house. The lad was a drug addict. Penny mumbled an answer and Charlotte congratulated herself on her quick thinking. When Brian Hitchmough came across to her though, to ask how Frank was, she had no easy way out. She just limited her reply to telling him that they’d agreed to give each other space for a while. It shut him up.

Featured Photo

I took this photo earlier this week (11/02/2021) at Sutton Mill Dam, St Helens, Merseyside. It was one of five shots that I took because of the frozen surface of the lake.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2 full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 400. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #19

Previously……….

They sat for a while talking after the meal. She suggested that they could phone David from the pub and go round together. Frank wasn’t sure and, after they’d talked through the pros and cons, they agreed that he should return home with her to phone from there. It would also allow him an opportunity to collect some of the paper evidence that he’d need to provide the letting agents.

Sharp as always where money was concerned, she asked whether he was expecting to take the money for deposits out of the joint account before they divided it. He assured her that he recognised that it would be unfair of him to expect her to fund half of the deposit costs.

He’d paid the restaurant bill at the time they’d ordered so, when they were ready, they returned home.

Continued………

Once they were in the house, he asked her whether she wanted him to give her his key. She only needed a second to tell him to hang on to it – just in case….

She didn’t elaborate and he didn’t ask.

She made cups of tea for them both – neither of them were regular coffee drinkers. While Charlotte was doing that, Frank went upstairs to the cupboard in the spare room where he kept things like passports, bank statements and utility invoices. He retrieved what he needed and returned downstairs to the lounge.

‘Shall I phone David now?’ she asked, ‘Do you think it’s too early?’

He said to go ahead. If he wasn’t in they could try again in another thirty minutes perhaps. She got through first time.

‘David, love, it’s your mum,’ she said, ‘Your dad’s with me and we’re on speakerphone.’

‘What’s going on Mum?’ he asked, ‘Gloria phoned me and said something about dad moving out and staying with her for a few days. So how come you’re both on the call?’

‘Ah! We didn’t count on Gloria contacting you,’ she said, ‘Basically, she’s right. Your dad has moved out and left some of his stuff at Gloria’s this morning. It’s only until he can find a place to rent. He’s with me now though, so he can tell you all about that another time. We just thought that we’d let you know what’s going on and that it would be better if we did that together.’

‘So, this is all about yesterday then?’ he asked.

‘Well, it’s been brewing for quite a bit longer than that – and we’re both okay about it. Your dad will confirm that if you want. I’m sure that you don’t want all the ins and outs but that’s the situation. We’ve just been out for a meal together earlier tonight without stabbing each other to death and we’ll still keep in touch with you – separately or together. Are you  okay with that?’

Frank joined in the conversation to say that he’d call round to see his son and the youngsters as soon as he’d made a bit of progress with house hunting.

‘Well, it’s still a bit of a shock,’ David said, ‘but it’s good to know that you’re both on speaking terms after yesterday.’

They asked him how he and the children had spent the bank holiday. He and Grace had been to the Chester Oaks outlet centre to buy some summer clothes for Grace. Jake had stayed at home reading.

There hadn’t been much more to add on either side so the call ended not long afterwards and Frank left to spend the remainder of the evening at his temporary home with Gloria, Peter and Davina.

Charlotte, now alone, felt lost. She and Frank had never spent a night apart since they’d got married more than forty years before. It had been a few years since they’d had sex, and it was her fault, her moodiness she admitted to herself. Frank had been keen enough to love her until he’d given up. She’d just turned her back on him – literally as well as figuratively.

Featured Photo

I took this photo earlier this week (11/02/2021) at Sutton Mill Dam, St Helens, Merseyside. It was one of five shots that I took because of the frozen surface of the lake.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 400. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #18

Previously……….

‘What are you doing at Gloria’s?’ she asked. He’d phoned her using Gloria’s landline and she’d recognised the caller ID. He explained the situation briefly, but she bombarded him with questions – many of which related to his sanity and common-sense. When she got round to asking why he’d phoned, he told her that he was planning to rent a house, for six months maximum in the first instance, and wanted to know if she had any contacts as landlords or agents who could short circuit the bureaucracy.  She asked him to leave it with her. He told her that he’d be having a meal with Charlotte that evening before putting David in the picture. She told him that he should get down on his knees if necessary and beg her to let him return. He went for a wash, got changed and, with all best wishes from Gloria and her family. he drove to the restaurant.

Continued………

Ashes of a marriage – Week One – An evening together

They arrived at the restaurant within minutes of each other and managed to get a table together without a problem. At that time there weren’t many other diners and it was large modern gastropubs with a mock Tudor façade and dark ceiling beams that would have been no older than the pub. A young woman in a white blouse, with an apron over her short skirt, ,helped them to choose a table. They noted the table number and ordered the carvery and drinks at the bar, taking their drinks with them back to their table.

He complimented his wife on her appearance. She was wearing a burgundy jacket over a dark pencil skirt, black tights and black, patent-leather heeled shoes.

‘Will you trust me not to knock my glass over you?’ he asked.

Charlotte, who was sipping her wine, looked at him to judge whether he was serious or merely trying to lighten the situation. She decided that it was the latter from his smile.

‘Don’t you dare,’ she said.

He told her about his phone call to Betty. She roared with laughter.

‘Well come on then,’ she said, ‘ down on your knees.

‘I didn’t say that I agreed to do it,’ he said, ‘ but she said that she was going to get back to me.’

They walked across to the carvery, chose which meat to have and then ladled steaming vegetables onto their plates before returning together to their table. The other tables had started filling up with early evening diners and the noise level had increased – chatter and the sounds of crockery and cutlery. Someone had switched on the huge television to a sports channel that broadcast silently.

‘What did you tell Gloria and Peter?’ she asked.

He summarised what had been said on all sides – including his suggestion that she might use the opportunity of her new freedom to find a new life with a younger, more acceptable man. She curled her lips and he took this to mean ‘as if..’ He also related Gloria’s reaction to his thinking of finding a young landlady who offered extras. Charlotte was almost as shocked as Gloria had been.

During the meal, he told her about his day of internet searching and about the ins and outs of renting a house.

‘Sounds to me as if you’d be better off back with me then,’ she said.

He told her why he disagreed and that he could see why she’d obviously be happier as manager of her own life without him being in the way. After only part of a day without him she didn’t feel so sure, but she didn’t say anything.

‘Early days yet,’ she thought.

He asked her about her day – what had she been up to – and she told him about her phone talks with Jim and Marjorie and about the lady in the park.

They sat for a while talking after the meal. She suggested that they could phone David from the pub and go round together. Frank wasn’t sure and, after they’d talked through the pros and cons, they agreed that he should return home with her to phone from there. It would also allow him an opportunity to collect some of the paper evidence that he’d need to provide the letting agents.

Sharp as always where money was concerned, she asked whether he was expecting to take the money for deposits out of the joint account before they divided it. He assured her that he recognised that it would be unfair of him to expect her to fund half of the deposit costs.

He’d paid the restaurant bill at the time they’d ordered so, when they were ready, they returned home.

Featured Photo

I took this photo yesterday morning (11/02/2021) at Sutton Mill Dam, St Helens, Merseyside. It was one of five shots that I took because of the reflections in the frozen surface of the lake.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 800. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #17

Previously……….

The conversation moved on to what Frank had said about renting a house. He explained that he feared it might take a while. He said that he’d spend the following day seeing if he could find lodgings with a young landlady who’d cook his breakfast and evening meal for him. He teased them that he wouldn’t complain if she offered other benefits.

Continued………

Gloria was shocked – both for the image it conjured up in her own mind and because Davina was listening. Davina though was in stitches laughing.

‘Gramps,’ she said, ‘that’s gross.’

‘I was just pulling your mum’s leg love’ he assured Davina – and her mum.

On that note, they all decided to call it a day, but not before Gloria, horrified at the thought of her dad playing house with a landlady – of any age – had told him that he must continue to live with her and Peter until he could find somewhere suitable.

He excused himself and returned upstairs to do some internet searching.

He was still getting his mind around what he’d learned about the housing market when Charlotte’s text arrived. He read it and immediately felt relieved. They quickly arranged to meet for a meal at five-thirty. She’d chosen a local carvery place. That suited him fine.  He went downstairs to let Gloria know.

Before he did anything else, he phoned Betty, his widowed older sister to ask a favour. Betty worked from her home office as an architect. She refused to consider retiring and would probably prefer to die at her drawing board – though, these days, he assumed she’d use a desktop computer for much of her work. Betty was almost a neighbour of Gloria and had a similar house although she’d had an extension built for use as her office.

Her phone only rang a couple of times before she answered with her business and surname details. When she heard his voice, she asked if she could ring him back in ten minutes because she was with a client.

‘What are you doing at Gloria’s?’ she asked. He’d phoned her using Gloria’s landline and she’d recognised the caller ID. He explained the situation briefly, but she bombarded him with questions – many of which related to his sanity and common-sense. When she got round to asking why he’d phoned, he told her that he was planning to rent a house, for six months maximum in the first instance, and wanted to know if she had any contacts as landlords or agents who could short circuit the bureaucracy.  She asked him to leave it with her. He told her that he’d be having a meal with Charlotte that evening before putting David in the picture. She told him that he should get down on his knees if necessary and beg her to let him return. He went for a wash, got changed and, with all best wishes from Gloria and her family. he drove to the restaurant.

Featured Photo

I took this photo in this morning (11/02/2021) at Sutton Mill Dam, St Helens, Merseyside. I took this shot because of the contrast between a shoot of a palm tree and the frozen lake.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2 prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 640. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #16

Previously……….

Gloria had placed beakers of tea, coffee and biscuits on the table for them all. It seemed to Frank that everyone was speaking at once trying to get him to tell them what had happened. He started by reminding them of the incident at the dining table and went backwards in time from there, through arguments there had been earlier in  the day. He then told of tensions that had been developing all the way back since his retirement. With the background established, he moved his narrative forward to the evening’s aftermath and his declaration of leaving.  He concluded with the more reasoned conversation he’d had with Charlotte at breakfast time and the call he’d made that morning.

Continued………

His rapt audience had listened patiently until then before bombarding him, from all sides, with questions. Once again, these enquiries were, in general, ones regarding which he’d been rehearsing answers mentally since the previous night in bed.

‘Oh my God, Dad, that’s a hell of a decision. You’ve never lived on your own since your early twenties, have you?’ this was Gloria. ‘At your age isn’t that dangerous? You’re neither of you as fit as you were. I read an article the other day about divorce being a key factor in heart attack risk.’ She paused, ‘How would you feel if Charlie were to collapse at home, alone, and had to be rushed to hospital? Or worse, if she lay, unable to move until it was too late and she died? The same’s true of you as well.’

‘God, Gloria love’ he said, ‘You’re a Job’s comforter. A couple of things though. You mentioned my risk. I’m almost seventy, love. That was one of the things that helped me to decide. At my age, I know only too well that I might not have many years left to me.’ He addressed them all, ‘Whether it’s six months or sixteen years, I don’t want to spend them being miserable.  I want to enjoy them as fully as I can. As far as Charlie’s concerned, of course I’d be heartbroken to think of her dying alone. Nothing would have pleased me more than for us to have spent our remaining years doing things together as a happy couple, but that was never going to happen, was it? Not the way things were going. Charlie’s never going to change, is she? Also, and I can’t stress this enough, she’s still your mum Gloria. She and I might have decided to go our own ways, but, whatever happens, you must still be there to support her, phone her, visit her – often – so there’s less risk of her lying in the house alone.’

Gloria and Davina were in tears.

‘I don’t want to think of you dying Dad – either of you. I just wish that things were different. I think about David…’

‘Yes, well me and your mum will phone him tonight when we’re together. I’ll go back to be with her for the call.’

‘Anyway Dad, as I was saying, Carol left David and he’s certainly not happy. Jake and Grace were devastated by his divorce, but they’re still so busy trying to help their dad’s depression that they don’t have time to deal with their own feelings.’

‘I know love, but our situation’s different. Your mum and I aren’t enemies. We’re just giving each other some room. I don’t know for how long. Neither of us wants a divorce and, despite what I said earlier, there’s no saying that we couldn’t start again’

Peter had been quiet for much of the discussion. He sat forward on the Chesterfield, looking at Frank.

‘So that’s not definitely the end then? You admit there is a chance that you could someday get back together?’

‘I’ll never say never, Peter. Who knows? Before then though, Charlie could find a gigolo who’ll sweep her off her feet and make her so happy she’ll forget all about housework.’

‘Gramps!’ said Davina, ‘Won’t you be jealous?’

‘Listen love, firstly I’d have only myself to blame. Secondly, as I said a moment ago, we’ve agreed that divorce is out of the question. David’s divorce was a lesson. In answer to your question though,  Yes, I’d be jealous, but I wouldn’t interfere.’

The conversation moved on to what Frank had said about renting a house. He explained that he feared it might take a while. He said that he’d spend the following day seeing if he could find lodgings with a young landlady who’d cook his breakfast and evening meal for him. He teased them that he wouldn’t complain if she offered other benefits.

Featured Photo

I took this photo in May 2020 in Victoria Park Widnes. It was my first outing with my wife since the first lockdown in the UK. I liked the vintage appearance of the bandstand and the social distancing of the two people as a composition.

I used my Galaxy A51 smartphone to take the photo The shutter speed was 1/1600 secs @ f/2 and focal length 32 mm. The ISO was 1600. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #15

Previously……….

She wondered where Frank would be eating. Perhaps they could meet up and have a meal out together – neutral ground: she wouldn’t need to cook and they could go back to the house together afterwards to make the phone call. She took out her smartphone to text him. His reply was almost instantaneous.

‘Any suggestions as to where and what time?’

Continued………

Ashes of a marriage – Week One – Frank

He decided that he ought to drive to Gloria’s house before he did anything else, and transfer his stuff from the car to her spare room. He was nervous as he walked from the car to their front door. He wondered how long it would take him to find somewhere to rent. He didn’t want to impose upon his daughter and her family.

An old saying came to mind. ‘Guests and fish stink after three days’.

Gloria and Peter lived with their teenage daughter Davina, in a large, three-storey, Victorian semi-detached house sitting behind a low wall and fronting onto a main road. It was less than a mile away from what was now his former home. Both Peter and Gloria were waiting when he arrived – Gloria would usually have been at  her post in the Civil Service in Manchester; Peter at the Council’s Treasury Building and Davina at the local sixth form college.

He’d parked his car on their double driveway. The house was quite different from his and Charlotte’s. The ceilings were higher and still had the original ornate cornices, the rooms were bigger in area and the décor they’d chosen used darker colours that suited their comfortable furniture.

 He swore to himself again to try not to outstay his welcome.

It was Peter who answered the doorbell. He saw Frank’s belongings on the drive beside him and helped to carry them into the house. Gloria showed him where he’d be sleeping. It didn’t take him long to put his few belongings where they’d be handy but not untidy.

Davina had been upstairs getting ready, but she emerged as soon as she heard her grandad’s voice and came downstairs with him..

They all sat together in the front living room. Peter turned off Breakfast TV on the large flatscreen television. The device looked odd set against the more traditional furniture in the room. Peter had persuaded Gloria that, not only would the set allow him to watch football better, but she’d be able to watch her nature programmes in glorious ultra-high definition. They were seated on a burgundy-red leather suite – a three-seater chesterfield and two winged-back armchairs around a large oak coffee table.

Gloria and Peter were in their mid-forties, similar in height – both slim, blonde and healthy looking. They were both dressed in warm-looking loungewear, while Davina had a white tee-shirt tucked into black jeans. She was barefoot.

Gloria had placed beakers of tea, coffee and biscuits on the table for them all. It seemed to Frank that everyone was speaking at once trying to get him to tell them what had happened. He started by reminding them of the incident at the dining table and went backwards in time from there, through arguments there had been earlier in  the day. He then told of tensions that had been developing all the way back since his retirement. With the background established, he moved his narrative forward to the evening’s aftermath and his declaration of leaving.  He concluded with the more reasoned conversation he’d had with Charlotte at breakfast time and the call he’d made that morning.

Featured Photo

I took this photo from our house looking into the garden through a window. It shows two goldfinches on one of our feeders eating sunflower hearts. We can get as many as twenty of these little birds at once on the feeders together with blue tits, green finches and sparrows plus some larger birds who want to muscle their way to get seeds – wood pigeons, pigeons, collar doves and starlings. The robins and wrens are ground feeders – the wrens being very shy.

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 1/3200 secs @ f/5.6 and focal length 105 mm. The ISO was 1600. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic with additional editing in Topaz Denoise AI.

The Phoenix Time #14

Previously……….

Later, she decided to go for a walk. She drove to a local beauty spot, found a bench to sit on and looked at the birds by and on the lake – flapping their wings as they took-off, and again when coming in to splash down,  but also when squabbling. ‘Just like people,’ she thought. She watched the condensation trail of a plane flying high overhead. Almost as soon as it passed a point the trail was blown apart by the Jetstream as if forgotten.

“These next, final years aren’t a rehearsal, Charlie.”

‘How soon after I die will I be forgotten – no medal to my name as any soldier might? Perhaps not even a headstone on a grave. Just ashes scattered somewhere like that condensation trail.’

Continued………

She wondered if a cigarette might help. She hadn’t smoked since she was first married. ‘Perhaps a glass of wine when I get home.’

Just then, her reverie was disturbed by a woman of a similar age, asking was there room on the bench for her to sit too.

Her name was Phyllis. She was five-foot-five or so, short, mousy hair and wearing hiking clothes and boots It soon turned out that Phyllis also needed company. She didn’t have any children and her husband was in hospital, seriously ill. She was worried. If anything were to happen to him she didn’t know how she’d cope -financially or in any other way. She just wanted someone to talk to.

Charlotte wasn’t sure that this was the kind of conversation that she needed at that moment, but she took pity on the stranger and let her tell her tale. “There’s always someone worse off than yourself isn’t there?” She wondered as she listened.

There was a small café open within a few hundred yards of the bench, and they both went over to chat over a cup of tea. Before too long the stranger looked at her wristwatch and announced that she needed to get to the hospital for afternoon visiting and thanked Charlotte for listening.   Truth be told, Charlotte had hoped that the other woman would pause long enough to allow her to offload her own worries. Still, perhaps this was her good deed for the day.

Walking back to the car, it struck her that she hadn’t given a thought to her normal housework routine all day.

“What the Hell!’ she thought, ‘Who’s going to see the place?”

Then she remembered that Frank had agreed to return after tea for the joint phone chat with David – assuming that David would be in of course. That thought brought her back to her own evening meal. She hadn’t taken anything out ready for it.

She wondered where Frank would be eating. Perhaps they could meet up and have a meal out together – neutral ground: she wouldn’t need to cook and they could go back to the house together afterwards to make the phone call. She took out her smartphone to text him. His reply was almost instantaneous.

“Any suggestions as to where and what time?”

Featured Photo

Here’s another photo that I took while dog walking on an area of reclaimed industrial land near where I live. I w decided to photograph this because of the way the S-curved path is framed by its surroundings and by how the angle of the bridge leads the eye in towards the path’s continuance.

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 1/60 secs @ f/8 and focal length 28 mm. The ISO was 100. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic with additional editing in Topaz Denoise AI.

The Phoenix Time #13 (or 12 A if you’re superstitious)

Previously……….

She needed to talk to someone – almost anyone. Was it  to confess, she wondered, was she looking for some form of absolution? Certainly, she wanted to get it off her chest – preferably to someone who didn’t know her. Wasn’t that what vicars and priests were for?  But she hadn’t been to a church since the grandchildren were baptised. In any case, she didn’t want some God-botherer trying to convert her to fear of eternal damnation.

Continued………

She phoned Jim, her brother, older than her by four years, a retired car mechanic. She could always count on him for some common sense.

“Morning Charlie, I don’t often hear from you so early in a morning,” he said, “What can I do for you?”

In her mind, she could picture him – just from the sound of his voice: tall, broad, easy-going and with a ready smile. Even his slow, northern accent was soothing.

“Oh Jim,” she said, “I just want someone to talk to. Frank’s left me.”

“What do you mean left you?”

“We had a row yesterday. It was my fault I suppose, but it wasn’t just the row really. Things have been going downhill for a while.”

She went on to provide all the gory details of the reasons and repercussions.

“Well, you’ve surprised me now Sis’,” he said, “When you first told me he’d left you, I was ready to go after him and thump him.”

She laughed.

“I don’t think that would have been a helpful way to persuade him to want to be with me,” she said.

“No, of course not. And you are a finicky soul, aren’t you?” he said, “He was probably trying to help in his own way. Marjorie was a bit like you when I packed in work. Always shooing me out of the kitchen and telling me that I was getting under her feet, but we’re past that now. We’ve developed a team approach to things.”

“I wish that I’d been a bit more like Marjorie,” she said, “I don’t have a lot of patience.”

“Aye,” he said, “and the size of your kitchen doesn’t help. I can see how you could get in each other’s way. But that’s not enough reason to leave you.”

“Perhaps,” she said, “but it’s too late now. We had a good chat this morning and I do understand his reasons. Thanks for listening, love. How is Marjorie?”

“She’s standing next to me. Shall I put her on to you?”

Charlotte agreed, grateful to have another woman to speak to.

Later, she decided to go for a walk. She drove to a local beauty spot, found a bench to sit on and looked at the birds by and on the lake – flapping their wings as they took-off, and again when coming in to splash down,  but also when squabbling. ‘Just like people,’ she thought. She watched the condensation trail of a plane flying high overhead. Almost as soon as it passed a point the trail was blown apart by the Jetstream as if forgotten.

“These next, final years aren’t a rehearsal, Charlie.”

‘How soon after I die will I be forgotten – no medal to my name as a soldier might? Maybe not even a headstone on a grave. Just ashes scattered somewhere like that condensation trail.’

Featured Photo

Here’s another photo of Ted, my daughter’s Japanese Spitz dog, that I took while walking him on an area of reclaimed industrial land near where I live. The log pile has been lying there a while, cut down from diseased or broken trees perhaps.

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 1/60 secs @ f/8 and focal length 28 mm. The ISO was 100. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic with additional editing in Topaz Denoise AI.