The Phoenix Time #26

Previously……….

‘What has he had to say about your dance class?’ David asked.

‘He seemed a bit taken aback when I told him how several widowers all wanted me as their partner,’ she answered.

‘Is that right, then?’ he asked.

‘Well, yes – up to a point,’ she said.

Continued………

‘How do you mean,’ Gloria asked.

‘It’s true that I had no shortage of widowers and divorced men wanting to dance with me, but what I didn’t tell him is that I didn’t enjoy dancing with them, and that after a while I chose only to dance with other women.’

‘You crafty so-and-so,’ Gloria said. ‘What was wrong with these men then?’

‘I tell you, even with those under eighty who didn’t have two left feet, bad breath, or a charm gene deficit, it wasn’t nice being pawed like that – being held tight by someone with sweaty hands trying to squash my boobs into his chest. And that’s when they weren’t trying to squash other parts of their anatomy into me. God, it was awful. I’d rather turn lesbian.’

By the time she’d finished describing her experience, her  guests were in stitches, laughing.

‘You’re rotten, leading him on like that,’ Gloria said, but she was laughing too. He’ll miss you, you know,’ she said..

‘I know, and I’ll miss him,’ Charlotte replied, ‘I just couldn’t resist leading him on, but it’s driving me mad being in this house on my own.’

‘I’ve watched him at our house,’ Gloria said. ‘He’s not the same. I’m sure that he’s missing you.’

‘Well, he knows where I live,’ her Mum retorted.

‘You also know that it isn’t as easy as that Mum,’ Gloria said.

‘Do you think that you’ll ever get back together again?’ asked David.

‘God alone knows,’ Charlotte said, ‘I hope so, I do. This house is too big for one person. I know that I’m always complaining that the kitchen’s too small for two people, but I even miss him getting in my way. Making meals is all wrong now. I’m used to preparing portion sizes for two. Everywhere’s too quiet with him not being here.’

‘Would you have him back then Mum?’ Gloria asked.

‘Like a shot – but I won’t let him know that. I’m not going to beg.’ Charlotte said. ‘I don’t know how it could happen, but I hope that it will – and soon.’

The youngsters, usually determined to join in any discussions were very quiet, listening intently.

Before they all left, Gloria and David insisted that they’d help to wash-up and clear everything away, aware that their mum would be very busy the following morning preparing for the long drive South.

Charlotte asked David, if he had a chance, would  he cut the grass for her. She’d tried to use Frank’s petrol mower, but she didn’t have the strength to pull the cord properly. He promised that it would be done well before her return.

Her children told her that they expected her to keep in touch so that they’d know that she was all right.

Preparing for sleep that night, Charlotte reflected that the evening hadn’t gone too badly – and that now this first meal without Frank was over, the next time would be much better.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (16/02/2021) during a walk with Ted in the Brickfields woodland near where I live. It is land that has been reclaimed from its industrial past by Forestry England and other organisations.

I used my Samsung Galaxy A51 smartphone. The EXIF data are: shutter speed 1/160 secs @f/2 and aperture 4.6 mm ISO 32. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #25

Previously……….

He shouted after her, ‘You can send me the bikini ones as well.’

She turned, ‘I was going to save those for the widowers at the dance group.’

She stuck her tongue out at him, turned and continued walking.

As he started walking back to the car park, it struck him that, because Gloria, Peter and Davina would be having their Sunday tea at Charlotte’s, he’d need to do some food shopping himself. It wouldn’t do for him to be spending all his pension in restaurants and cafes. He braved the rain as he headed to the Supermarket to browse for something tasty but easy to cook. He might even see Charlotte there for some advice.

Continued………

Sunday again – the first day of Week Two.

Dinner for seven

Charlotte stood in the kitchen, looking out at the garden. Birds were still flocking to the feeders. The grass had grown a couple of inches since the last time Frank had mowed  it. Everywhere there was colour now, tulips, fuchsias, the gorgeous blue lithospermum, berberis, the azaleas. She was looking at the spectacle, but not really noticing it. It had not been much later than this the previous Sunday, when she had lost her temper with Frank – and look what that had led to. She could have done with him here now to do some of the fetching and carrying that she’d sent him to do last time. At least there would be enough chairs out: he hadn’t put the extra ones back in the loft.

“Oh! This all feels so wrong,” she said out loud to herself.

The first to arrive was David, with Jake and Grace.  She noticed immediately that they seemed uneasy. What had happened last week was an ‘elephant in the room’. None of them were making proper eye contact with her. There was none of the usual verbal sparring between the children. It was as if she’d grown an extra head.

‘Dad’s not back yet then?’ David asked.

‘No love, he’s not,’ she replied.

‘Well,’ she said, ‘Come on, out of the kitchen kids. David, love, you couldn’t lend me a hand could you?’

She asked him to carry some things through to the dining room. As he was doing this, Gloria arrived with Peter and Davina. Gloria went to help her mum in the kitchen while Peter and Davina joined Grace and Jake.

Conversation during the meal was polite but somewhat forced, as if everyone, including Charlotte was remembering the last meal they’d all shared. Frank’s empty chair might as well have been a gravestone.

After the meal, Charlotte ordered everyone into the lounge. She insisted that she’d have plenty of time after they’d gone to clear up.

It was still light outside through the leaded bay windows: sunset wouldn’t be for more than an hour yet. David was the one to break the ice.

‘Gloria tells me that you’re having a few days away mum,’ he said.

She confirmed that she would be leaving the following morning and would be returning on the Monday of the following week. She described her planned route and told them that the hotel she’d booked was in Lyme Regis. She told them also of the places that she hoped to visit, weather permitting.

‘What does Gramps say about your trip?’ asked Davina.

‘Not a lot,’ she replied, ‘I was teasing him about it yesterday.’

She described their exchange.

‘What has he had to say about your dance class?’ David asked.

‘He seemed a bit taken aback when I told him how several widowers all wanted me as their partner,’ she answered.

‘Is that right, then?’ he asked.

‘Well, yes – up to a point,’ she said.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (12/02/2021) at Sherdley Park, St Helens, Merseyside. It’s another 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 640 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #24

Previously……….

Gloria was pleased that he’d phoned her mum. She was fascinated by his account of his conversation about her mum and how she was considering dance classes. She was even more interested by the Dorset plan and impressed by Charlotte’s show of independence. She was amused again by her dad’s reaction to her mum’s decision. The questions that he seemed to have been asking, in Gloria’s mind, indicated that her dad might be having second thoughts.

Continued………

Saturday  April 27 Week One – A visit to the Bank

Frank had phoned Charlotte again on the Friday evening. He’d wanted to check that she still intended to attend the appointment at the bank. If he were honest, it hadn’t been his only reason for the call. He’d made sure to ask – as if it were an afterthought – how she’d enjoyed her first dancing lesson.

He seemed to remember that there was a Spanish proverb, something along the lines of, ‘He who spies through a keyhole will see what annoys him.’

Charlotte had clearly had a good time. She’d sat with the woman from the Local History group, but by her account, she hadn’t sat down much. It seemed that there were several widowers there who’d asked her to be their partner for various of the dances they were being taught.

That hadn’t been what he’d wanted to hear.

They met just inside the bank’s doorway on the Saturday morning, as they’d arranged the previous evening. It was as well that they’d fixed that as their meeting place, because it was teeming with rain outside – late April showers. His jacket, trousers and shoes were soaked – Charlotte had brought her Golf Umbrella. She didn’t play golf but she’d bought it a couple of years previously for days like this.

Perhaps it was his imagination but she seemed to be positively glowing – and she was dressed to impress. She looked lovely and he had the grace to tell her so.

They had to wait about ten minutes inside the bank building before they were called in by the appointed official. They waited in a seating area where they watched the Saturday morning customers at the cashiers’ row of counters, and others queuing at the Reception desk. Some were sat talking to advisers whose area was sectioned off for mortgages. Through the wide glass windows, steamed up on the inside and rain streaked outside, they could make out blurred details of pedestrian shoppers, passing in both directions – singly, in couples, some with prams. The ten minutes or so passed quickly.

It was obvious that the young woman was very familiar with their type of situation. There was quite a lot of paperwork for such a small request, but apparently it was all to do with reducing money-laundering. They each left with a new personal account into which the appropriate amounts had been transferred from the now defunct joint account. The person they spoke to arranged for direct debits to be switched and explained that they’d each be receiving new debit cards for their new accounts. Frank had explained that some large transfers would be made from his new account to whatever letting agent he contracted with. All went well and they left her office, each carrying a folder of information about their accounts.

Before they ventured outside and into the rain, Frank asked Charlotte if she’d like to join him for a coffee or perhaps lunch, but she said that she had quite a bit of shopping to do. Gloria and David would be coming to have their tea with her the following day and she also wanted to get some things she’d need for her Dorset trip. He wished her a safe journey and asked her to bring back some photos – particularly if she went anywhere near Durdle Door – a coastal rock formation popular with photographers.

‘Trust you,’ she said, ‘always thinking of your landscapes. If you thought anything about me you’d be asking me to bring back shots of me in my bikini.’

She laughed at his shocked expression, turned and walked away.

Frank assumed that she was having him on, but chuckled, thinking that his wife was probably adjusting to the separation better than he was. It was a load off his mind really.

He shouted after her, ‘You can send me the bikini ones as well.’

She turned, ‘I was going to save those for the widowers at the dance group.’

She stuck her tongue out at him, turned and continued walking.

As he started walking back to the car park, it struck him that, because Gloria, Peter and Davina would be having their Sunday tea at Charlotte’s, he’d need to do some food shopping himself. It wouldn’t do for him to be spending all his pension in restaurants and cafes. He braved the rain as he headed to the Supermarket to browse for something tasty but easy to cook. He might even see Charlotte there for some advice.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (12/02/2021) at Sherdley Park, St Helens, Merseyside. It’s another 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 640 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #23

Previously……….

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.

Continued………

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

 It was just after three that Frank rang his wife from Gloria’s house. He was sat in her living room.

‘Hello love, it’s only me,’ he said when she answered.

‘Hello,’ she replied, ‘I thought that you were supposed to have left me.’

‘I can ring off if you’re going to be stroppy,’ he said.

‘Oh, don’t be so touchy,’ she said, ‘I’m pleased you’ve rung. How are you? What have you been doing with yourself?’

‘I just wanted to check in, hear your voice and make sure that you’re okay,’ he said, ‘Did you go to your Local History meeting?’

They spent forty minutes or so telling each other what they were up to. Frank hadn’t said anything about his original plan of spending more than a week away in a solid block and was a bit surprised when Charlotte dropped her surprise on him.

‘The long-term forecast for the South West looks as if it’s going to be nice,’ she said, ‘I’ve booked a holiday in Dorset next week. Do you mind?’

‘How could I object – as if I would anyway? Are you going on your own?’

‘Why, Frank?’ she answered, ‘Are you worried that I’ve found myself a fancy man already?’

‘Have you?’ he asked, and he wasn’t sure if she were serious.

‘Don’t be daft,’ she said, ‘It was bad enough having to try to housetrain you. I’m in no hurry to take on the trouble of another useless man.’

‘Well, that’s put me in my place,’ he said.

‘Isn’t that why you left?’ she said.

Frank felt that he’d managed to put himself on the defensive.

‘I just wondered if you might be going with one of the women from the Library group,’ he said.

‘No,’ she said, ‘I’m planning to go on my own, but before I left, one of the women there asked if I’d considered taking up ballroom dancing. She was telling me that a new session of lessons was about to start in the Community Room.’

‘What did you tell her?’ he asked.

‘That I’d think about it and let her know before Thursday evening when it starts.’

‘Are you serious?’ he asked.

‘As I said, I’ll think about it,’ she said, ‘I might turn up for the first night and see how it goes. I won’t be going next week though when I’m away.’

‘When are you leaving?’ he asked.
   ‘ Next Monday,’ she said, ‘for eight days – seven nights. I’ll go down on the Monday and come back the following Monday – May Bank Holiday – it’s later this year.’

‘As soon as that’? he asked.

‘I managed to get one of those last-minute deals,’ she said.

Frank didn’t want to admit it but he was worried. He didn’t know why – after all, it was only that morning that he’d been planning to be away for almost two weeks. He didn’t want her to think that he was jealous – he supposed that by leaving he’d forfeited any right to be jealous – but he hoped that he had nothing to be jealous about. He trusted that she’d be all right on her own. He thought that it was quite adventurous of her and, on reflection, felt sure that it would do her a world of good.

‘Will you be driving down to Dorset?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘ that’s what I’m planning.’

‘It’s a long drive,’ he said, ‘You will be careful won’t you?’

‘Oh!’ she said, ‘You almost sounded as if you cared.’

‘Now, now,’ he said, ‘just remember, it wasn’t because I didn’t care that we ended up separated.’

Almost as soon as he put the phone down, Gloria phoned to ask how he was. He told her about his conversation with Charlotte.

Gloria was pleased that he’d phoned her mum. She was fascinated by his account of his conversation about her mum and how she was considering dance classes. She was even more interested by the Dorset plan and impressed by Charlotte’s show of independence. She was amused again by her dad’s reaction to her mum’s decision. The questions that he seemed to have been asking, in Gloria’s mind, indicated that her dad might be having second thoughts.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (12/02/2021) at Sherdley Park, St Helens, Merseyside. It’s another 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 1250 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

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.