Regarding Melissa #40

…..Previously

‘Other than what I’ve said,’ he told her, ‘the magazine will also want some human interest, so they’ll probably want to know something about you – your history as a photographer – we hope you’ll showcase your experience in the shop We’ll provide you with a tee-shirt advertising us. Would you mind?’ 

‘Of course not,’ she said, I’m proud of working here. I wouldn’t have had the chance without you. I can’t wait.’ 

For the remainder of the day in the shop, she found it difficult to think of anything else. She couldn’t wait to tell her mum and dad.

Continued…..

CHAPTER NINE 

Early July, 2015 

Mel hadn’t been in the shop long when Tony phoned down asking if she were free to go up to see him. She told him that she’d be up straightaway, and signalled, with her upward pointing finger, to Jamie, who was stood looking towards her, where she was going. 

Tony asked her to have a seat for a moment while he asked a favour. He was leaning back in the chair behind the table, his hands behind his head. He smiled at her. 

‘Now then, Mel,’ he said, ‘Do you remember the evening presentation that you went to in May – the one that Jamie presented about settings?’ 

She said that she did. 

‘Would you be able to put one together in time for this coming Thursday?’ he asked, ‘I’ll let you have some time off to prepare any slides and so on.’ 

He looked at her to check her reaction. 

She thought for a moment. She felt that she could remember what he’d taught her about the use both of PowerPoint and of the equipment. 

‘It would be easier for me to do it on the shop’s laptop here,’ she said, ‘rather than do it at home and try to transfer a presentation script.. Would that be okay with you? 

‘That makes sense,’ he said, ‘If you’ll set your talk up here, then Jamie and me will sort out posters and invitations today, and have the furniture and equipment ready for the evening.’ 

‘Do you have a topic and a target audience in mind?’ she asked. 

‘Good question,’ he said, ‘Right! I was thinking that we could try to get the people who came last time back again. Jamie told them how to find and change settings on their new cameras, but most of them – if not all – won’t have much idea about what actual settings to use for what types of subject or situation. Am I making sense?’ 

‘Absolutely,’ she replied, ‘So what you want me to do is use my knowledge as a photographer to give them a gentle introduction to the Aperture Triangle and perhaps a bit about composition? Yes?’ 

‘Spot-on!’ he said, ‘You know all about that kind of thing – much better than me and Jamie. Are we on then for Thursday?’ 

‘I’ve still never used PowerPoint in anger,’ she said, ‘but it’s probably straightforward once you get going. It’s another reason for doing it here. That way I can get some practice using the shop’s laptop – and if  I get stuck, I’ll shout for help.’ 

‘I’d rather you used the phone,’ he said laughing. ‘When do you want to make a start?’ 

‘Can I do it tomorrow morning?’ she asked, ‘That will give me time tonight both to think about how much I’ll be able to put across in the time, and to think about what images I’ll want to use. I’ll do a rough draft of the text tonight and put some photos on a memory stick to bring in.’ 

‘That’s great, Mel,’ he said, ‘I’ll brief Jamie and I’ll cover for you in the shop tomorrow while you do your slide preparations. Thanks. I’m looking forward to watching and learning.’ 

‘What!’ she said, ‘Will you be there too?’

‘Of course,’ he said, ‘Why?’

‘Customers are one thing,’ she said, ‘but if you’re there marking my work, I’m going to be a bag of nerves.’

‘Mel, Oh Mel!’ he said, ‘You’re not on trial. I have every confidence in you or I wouldn’t have asked. I’d hoped that by Jamie and me being there you’d feel that you were among friends.’

‘Jamie too?’ she said, ‘God! I’m really nervous now.’

‘Don’t be,’ he said, ‘You’ll be great. I know it. Stop worrying.’

Mel made her way back down to the shop where Jamie was talking to a customer. When he finished, he came across to Mel to ask what was going on. She told him that his dad had phoned down and asked for him to go up as soon as he had time. 

‘What? Now?’ he asked. 

She nodded. In her mind, she was already rehearsing key points for what she’d want to say on Thursday.  

Featured Photo

Staying with the shots that I took in my local park on 28 April. Today’s photo shows a flowering and spreading cherry tree.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 lens. The EXIF data were shutter speed was 1/25 seconds at f/10 and 28 mm. The shot was handheld. I post-processed the shot in Lightroom.

Regarding Melissa #39

…..Previously

Their easy banter was typical of their relationship, of her increasing self-confidence and of his pleasure at her contribution to the business. 

‘Mel, Dad and I were talking over the weekend,’ he said, ‘about your progress since you started. You clearly no longer need to refer customers to me when they ask questions about kit you don’t know well – you know as much as I do now. These days there are even customers who come in specifically to see you rather than me. You’re great with people. Well done!’ 

‘Aw, Jamie,’ she said, blushing, ‘Thank you – and thanks for all the support you’ve given me.’ 

‘Well,’ he said, ‘that’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about.’ 

Continued…..

He paused. 

‘Two things,’ he went on, ‘Firstly, we trust you enough now to be able to say that you can regard your probationary period as over. Sick pay and holiday pay for your annual entitlement are now part of your contract officially. Dad will record that in your personal staff record.’ 

‘Fantastic!’ she said, ‘I’ll take next week off then.’ 

‘Seriously?’ he asked, surprised. 

‘Don’t be daft,’ she said, ‘Just kidding.’ 

‘Thank God for that,’ he said, ‘but if you let us know in advance, Lucy will be able to sort out a way to provide cover. Okay, moving on. You’ve seen a couple of the posters we’re planning to send to our regular customer Group about Sunday and weekend outings, haven’t you?’ 

She nodded. ‘Yes, they look interesting. I wish that I could go on something like that sometime.’ 

‘Well, that’s the thing,’ he said, ‘Would you like to come on the one at Malhamdale, four weeks on Sunday? To get a feel for what goes on?  You already know most of the customers we’re inviting, but it will also allow you to get to know the brand manager of one of our key suppliers. You’ll be paid, of course.’ 

‘God, Jamie! That would be amazing,’ she said, ‘I love Malham anyway, and the chance to see what the weekends involve – that would be a real bonus. Oh, thank you so much.’  

‘Don’t get too excited,’ he said, ‘It might be pissing down with rain. We’ll be hiring a small coach to get us there but we can’t control the weather. Are you a fair-weather only photographer?’ 

‘That would be a contradiction in terms. Some of the most dramatic shots are taken on windy, snowy or rainy days. Fast moving clouds, huge waves, reflections in  pavement puddles – you don’t find those if you hide indoors.’ 

So a possible pessimistic forecast did nothing to dampen Mel’s enthusiasm which was boosted still further when Jamie told her that both he and his dad were hoping that, once she got the hang of it, she’d be able to deputise for him and to work solo if needed.  

She had one question remaining. She asked if it might be possible to borrow one of the shop’s demo cameras to take some photos of her own. She explained that she was still saving up for one particular combination of camera and lens. 

‘Listen, Mel,’ he said, ‘you’ll be representing the shop. We’ll be lending you a top of the range camera, lenses, tripod, filters etc., and a backpack. What would it look like if we sent you out to promote business if all you had with you was your little smartphone?’ 

Mel couldn’t believe it. 

‘One more thing,’ Jamie said, ‘We’re hoping that you’ll be bringing back some amazing shots to showcase in our gallery. You’ll keep the copyright, and what else you do with them is up to you. However….’ He paused again, ‘It’s possible, if some of your shots are up to it, that we could get a joint article with the supplier published in one of the key monthly photography magazines. You might need to work with one of their journalists and with the supplier’s PR people on the copy. We’d be wanting you to get full credit but we’d like a mention. The supplier will obviously want to get maximum publicity.’ 

‘They wouldn’t want photos of me though, would they?’ she asked, looking at him anxiously. 

‘You must be joking, Mel,’ he said, ‘photos of a photographer who looks as good as you will almost guarantee acceptance by any magazine. Please say that you’ll agree.’ 

Mel looked doubtful. 

‘I won’t have to flash any flesh will I?’ she asked. 

Jamie roared with laughter. 

‘What, while, scrambling on Malham Cove or Gorsdale Scar in the rain?’ he asked, ‘No, Mel. First principle is that you’re not public property – no photos without your consent. Secondly, the article will be about landscape photography. There are usually context shots, where front and centre will be the ‘product’ – camera, lens, tripod filter holder and so forth.’ 

He walked across the shop, picked out a magazine from the rack and brought it across. He opened it, found the article he wanted and showed it to her as an example. 

‘The subject, as you can see, will be the scenery, but what will make it, will be the person taking the shot – you in this case. The focus will be on the images the magazine people choose from those that you took. They’ll want amazing tack sharp shots that convey excellence and they’ll want to provide details of the kit you used and your settings. They’ll want their readers to see if they can take shots like that.’ 

‘Oh! That doesn’t sound so bad,’ she said, ‘In fact it sounds quite exciting.’  

‘Other than what I’ve said,’ he told her, ‘the magazine will also want some human interest, so they’ll probably want to know something about you – your history as a photographer – we hope you’ll showcase your experience in the shop We’ll provide you with a tee-shirt advertising us. Would you mind?’ 

‘Of course not,’ she said, I’m proud of working here. I wouldn’t have had the chance without you. I can’t wait.’ 

For the remainder of the day in the shop, she found it difficult to think of anything else. She couldn’t wait to tell her mum and dad.

Featured Photo

Staying in my local park on 28 April. Today’s photo shows a squirrel deciding whether to hide or not.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 lens. The EXIF data were shutter speed was 1/25 seconds at f/6.3 and 105 mm. The shot was handheld. I post-processed the shot in Lightroom.

Regarding Melissa #38

…..Previously

She got out of the car and tossed the key across the road into a hedge. 

She slammed the door shut and, walking to the pavement, phone in hand, keyed in her dad’s number.

Geoff got out of the car, his face red with fury. 

‘You stupid bitch,’ he said, ‘Where did you throw the key?’ 

She stopped speaking to her dad and pointed to the hedge. 

‘Your car’s causing an obstruction,’ she said, ‘I expect the police will be here soon to get you to move it. I’ll explain if I’m still here.’ 

He walked quickly across to the hedge as a lorry driver sounded his horn. 

Continued…..

A report to Stacy 

That evening, Mel described in detail the events of the lesson.  

‘Okay, Mel,’ Stacy said, ‘It’s up to you now. You’ve confirmed the rumours that I’d heard about him. You did the right thing telling me about it. The question is, “What next?” What happened could be described as a technical sexual assault and my advice would be to report it at the station – we could go there now and I’ll go with you. Are you okay with that?’ 

Mel nodded. 

‘Fine,’ Stacy said, ‘We’ll do that. I’ll tell you now what they’ll almost certainly say. If it’s a first offence, he’ll be told to report to the station and he’ll probably be cautioned for “inappropriate touching”. They’ll not want to pursue it because the Prosecutor’s office won’t think it justifies a formal court indictment.’ 

She looked at Mel to judge her reaction, but Mel told her to continue. 

‘You may feel disappointed,’ Stacy continued, ‘but the caution will remain on record for years. Any further reported instances and he will be up in court and may well lose his licence to instruct. Are you still okay about going to the station?’ 

Mel agreed, nodding. 

‘Let’s do it then.’ Stacy said and they finished their drinks and left. 

At the station, Mel was advised very much along the lines that her friend had told her. When asked did she still wish to make a formal complaint, she told the desk officer that she did.  

She later heard that the instructor had been cautioned. Mel booked her next lesson with a firm that employed only female instructors and passed her driving test on her second attempt. 

A new opportunity 

One Monday morning in mid-June, during a lull in footfall, Jamie walked across to the counter to talk to Mel.  

‘I’ve got something to ask you,’ he said. 

Mel stretched out her left hand to him, ‘Don’t tell me you’ve bought the ring,’ she teased. 

‘Don’t tell me you’d say “Yes”,’ he said, his hands on his hips in mock astonishment. 

‘One of these days,’ she said, ‘You never know.’  

‘Mel, Dad and I were talking over the weekend,’ he said, ‘about your progress since you started. You clearly no longer feel the need to refer customers to me when they ask questions about kit you don’t know well – you know as much as I do now. These days there are even customers who come in specifically to see you rather than me. You’re great with people. Well done!’

Their easy banter was typical of their relationship, of her increasing self-confidence and of his pleasure at her contribution to the business. 

‘Aw, Jamie,’ she said, blushing, ‘Thank you – and thanks for all the support you’ve given me.’ 

‘Well,’ he said, ‘that’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about.’ 

Featured Photo

A change of scene today. While we’re still in bluebells season, I thought that I’d include a few shots that I took in my local park on 28 April. Today’s photo shows some more trees – now coming into their Spring greenery.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 lens. The EXIF data were shutter speed was 1/200 seconds at f/5 and 28 mm. The shot was handheld. I post-processed the shot in Lightroom.

Regarding Melissa #37

…..Previously

‘I know that it’s a kind of ‘herd’ thing – group dynamics,’ Stacy said, ‘the weakest are afraid to be seen as wimps, so they cheer-on the ones who are doing things like calling women names as they pass. The ones who should know better don’t like being the odd one out – so they say nothing.’ 

‘But they’re as bad then, aren’t they?’ Mel asked. 

‘That kind of social conditioning doesn’t get educated out of the system overnight, Mel love,’ Stacy said, ‘We just have to keep making a fuss, keep it in the headlines. It’s just like systemic racism – and just as evil.’ 

‘Change of subject,’ Stacy said, ‘What do you think of those two over there – the bloke with the polo shirt? He’s got a nice arse, hasn’t he? I don’t fancy yours much though.’ 

They laughed conspiratorially. 

Continued…..

PART TWO 

MOVING UP 

CHAPTER EIGHT 

June, 2015 

Progress with the driving lessons – or not 

After a few weeks of  twice-weekly, two-hour lessons, Tracy was gaining confidence. There had been a couple of occasions when she’d noticed her instructor, Geoff, eyeing her up and down – but in her life that was pretty much the norm. She didn’t want to dress like a scarecrow or deliberately make herself look unattractive. That was a type of surrender. Someone had suggested that she should buy a cheap wedding ring to put men off. She’d heard from someone else that some men simply saw that as a challenge. 

On her fourth lesson she noticed what Stacy had been talking about. He’d directed her onto a long quiet stretch of wide road on an industrial estate and instructed her to choose somewhere convenient, safe and legal, to pull into the roadside. He’d commented on jerkiness he’d noticed in the way she moved away from the kerbside. He’d said that it was down to her clutch control and he wanted her to engage first gear, keeping the clutch pedal down without pressing the accelerator and then to remove the handbrake. She was then do her mirror checks and to gently raise her foot on the clutch until the car began to move forward without the aid of the accelerator. 

At her first attempt the car stalled. At her next try, the car crept forward and he told her to continue slowly to remove clutch pressure until the car was moving forward without any assistance from either the accelerator or clutch pedal. She did as she was told and moved her left hand onto the gear lever knob to prepare to change into second gear. It was then that he placed his hand over hers and said that he wanted her to simply let the car continue to build up speed without the accelerator for the time being. His hand remained over hers. 

He got her to speed up and slow down using the footbrake and clutch pedal alone until she could use the clutch comfortably. At that point, he removed his hand and told her that, starting to use the accelerator, she should change up into second gear.  

Mel felt that she’d made a major leap in her driving skill, but she wasn’t happy about how he’d kept his hand over hers. 

He told her to continue along the estate ring road for a while and then said that she should pull into the roadside again and park-up for a moment. He explained that he now wanted her to develop her steering and reversing skills by completing a turn in the road to test standards. He talked her through the idea of using the steering quite quickly while moving slowly and explained what use she’d need to make of her mirrors, and what checks she’d need to make without them by turning her head and shoulders.  

She began the manoeuvre as instructed, steering towards the opposite kerb. It was while she was turning and reversing, as he turned to check behind,  that he placed his hand on her leg above her knee – she could feel through her trousers his fingers lying across the inside of her thighs . 

She braked, changed gear into neutral and applied the handbrake before yanking the key from the ignition and opening her door.  

‘What are you doing?’ he asked. ‘We’re in the middle of the road.’ 

‘Get your hand off my leg,’ she told him firmly. ‘The lesson is over. I’m phoning my dad to collect me and take me home. If you want your fee for this lesson, sue me. The court will be interested to hear why I refused to pay you.’ 

‘Jesus,’ he said, ‘I didn’t mean any harm. I hadn’t even realised what I’d done.’ 

‘I don’t believe you and nor will my friend Detective Sergeant Jackson,’ she said 

She got out of the car and tossed the key across the road into a hedge. 

 She slammed the door shut and walking to the pavement, phone in hand, keyed in her dad’s number. 

Geoff got out of the car, his face red with fury. 

‘You stupid bitch,’ he said, ‘Where did you throw the key?’ 

She stopped speaking to her dad and pointed to the hedge. 

‘Your car’s causing an obstruction,’ she said, ‘I expect the police will be here soon to get you to move it. I’ll explain if I’m still here.’ 

He walked quickly across to the hedge as a lorry driver sounded his horn. 

Featured Photo

A change of scene today. While we’re still in bluebells season, I thought that I’d include a few shots that I took in my local park on 28 April. Today’s photo shows some flowering cherry trees.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 lens. The EXIF data were shutter speed was 1/200 seconds at f/5 and 28 mm. The shot was handheld. I post-processed the shot in Lightroom.

Regarding Melissa #36


…..Previously

Was that really how he’d been or had she just been too smitten to notice any undertones? If he’d come across initially as he had been at the end, how come she hadn’t noticed? She couldn’t believe that she’d been that stupid, that blind. 

The other possibility was the one she decided to believe now – the one that Stacy had spoken of – that Craig’s nature had always been controlling. He’d just made sure that he’d hidden it – kept it under control initially. Bit by bit his true character had revealed itself in so many ways – always correcting her; always demanding her full attention; always wanting the last word; never admitting he was wrong. She now remembered how irritated she’d been at how he’d tried to undermine her self-belief and his attempts to gaslight her. She was so glad that she’d got out of the relationship while she still had some self- confidence, some dignity. She owed Stacy a drink – or several.  

In the meantime, she was looking forward to her first driving lesson that evening. She was worried that she was beginning the lessons much later in life  than many of her friends had done. She hoped that she wouldn’t make a fool of herself. 

Continued…..

A driving lesson 

The instructor arrived a couple of minutes early. The car that she’d be learning in was a red Ford Fiesta bearing the previous year’s registration plates. Mel was disappointed to see that the weather had changed and it was raining. She was worried about how much more difficult the rain would make it to learn. 

Her instructor – he introduced himself as Geoff Burrell – was, by her estimate, in his early forties, five-foot five or six, rotund and quite bald. His hair was plastered down at the sides and longest over his ears. He wore a blazer with a badge, white open-necked shirt, mid-grey trousers and black shoes. He was quite tidy in his appearance though and created the sort of image that she’d expected. 

She asked Geoff about driving in the rain and he told her not to worry – a lot of her first lesson would be familiarising herself with the vehicle and its controls. He checked Mel’s details with those she’d provided when she booked and checked her provisional licence.  

Once the preliminaries were over, he began by showing her how to get herself into a comfortable driving position.  He talked her through the mirrors, basic controls and dials before talking her through how to move off safely into traffic – although there was none about in that road at that moment.  Soon, she was getting the hang of the pedals, brakes, clutch and gears as they drove at a leisurely pace around the town. Before she left the car at the end of the lesson, he asked if she’d bought herself a copy of the Highway Code and suggested that she should also buy a copy of the theory test questions. She felt that she’d made a good start and looked forward to her next lesson. 

Stacy again 

The two friends met as usual in the Farmers’ Arms pub. After the usual greetings, Mel launched into her account of her first experience of driving. Stacy asked who her instructor was, and curled her lips when she was told. Mel asked why Stacy was pulling a face,  

‘What did you think about him, Mel?’ Stacy asked, ‘How did he come across to you as a person?’ 

‘He seemed okay to me. Why?’ 

‘Perhaps nothing,’ Stacy said, ‘It’s just that he has a bit of a reputation – too touchy-feely from what I’ve heard. But you say that he was okay with you?’ 

Mell assured her that she’d noticed nothing amiss. 

Stacy then asked how Mel was coping without Craig. Mel told her about the conversation with Craig’s mum, and how it had evoked lots of self-recriminations about how she’d failed to notice or accept his behaviour for what it was. 

Stacy assured her that she had nothing to blame herself for. 

‘It happens so often,’ she said, ‘and most women victims – it’s usually women victims – fail to see the warning signs. It’s almost as if blokes attend classes in how to manipulate women. There are still some good men out there – but most of them don’t call out other men, even when it’s happening in front of them.’ 

Mel agreed. 

‘I know that it’s a kind of ‘herd’ thing – group dynamics,’ Stacy said, ‘the weakest are afraid to be seen as wimps, so they cheer-on the ones who are doing things like calling women names as they pass. The ones who should know better don’t like being the odd one out – so they say nothing.’ 

‘But they’re as bad then, aren’t they?’ Mel asked. 

‘That kind of social conditioning doesn’t get educated out of the system overnight, Mel love,’ Stacy said, ‘We just have to keep making a fuss, keep it in the headlines. It’s just like systemic racism – and just as evil.’ 

‘Change of subject,’ Stacy said, ‘What do you think of those two over there – the bloke with the polo shirt? He’s got a nice arse, hasn’t he? I don’t fancy yours much though.’ 

They laughed conspiratorially. 

Featured Photo

A change of scene today. While we’re still in bluebells season, I thought that I’d include a few shots that I took in my local park on 28 April. Today’s photo shows some more bluebells.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 lens. The EXIF data were shutter speed was 1/15 seconds at f/7.1 and 68 mm. The shot was handheld. I post-processed the shot in Lightroom.

Regarding Melissa #35


…..Previously

‘So what has our star salesperson sold you?’ Tony asked.

Brian explained why he’d needed a replacement lens and what Mel had recommended. Tony said that agreed completely with Mel’s suggestion and the two men wandered off talking about equipment.

Jamie looked on, bemused.

‘Your dad’s great,’ he said.

‘That’s probably why I’m so wonderful, ‘ she said, laughing.

Continued…..

Late May – Memories 

It was on Thursday afternoon that week when memories of Craig were forced back to the surface. On Thursdays, Mel had a half day off each week. She’d promised to do a supermarket shop for her mum, and was pushing her trolley past the Deli counter when she realised that someone was speaking to her. 

She turned and saw that it was Frances Whittaker, Craig’s mum, similarly pushing a part-loaded trolley.  

‘Now, Mel,’ she said, ‘It’s been quite a while hasn’t it?’ 

Mel agreed, unsure of how or what to respond. 

‘Craig told us that you wouldn’t be seeing each other but he didn’t say why.’ 

Mel guessed that this was a fishing expedition. 

‘No,’ she said, ‘Things were just not working out between us.’ 

‘Anyway,’ Frances said, ‘Now that he spends so much of his time abroad, it’s probably as well.’ 

Mel said nothing – not wanting to indicate any interest. 

‘You did know that he passed that course for teaching English to foreign students, didn’t you?’ 

‘He did say that he’d be doing a postgraduate degree in teaching – to get a job teaching languages,’ she said, ‘but I don’t think that a TEFL course counts as the same thing. Perhaps I’m wrong.’ 

‘Oh!’ Frances said, ‘he never said anything about a postgraduate degree to us. I wonder why?’ 

Mel could guess. He’d clearly been lying through his teeth to impress her parents. 

‘Well, whatever,’ Frances said, ‘He’s living in Spain at the moment. Do you ever hear from him?’ 

‘Never,’ she said, ‘but, then again, I don’t expect to. We didn’t part on the best of terms.’ 

‘I believe that you got a job as a shop assistant,’ Frances half asked, half stated. 

‘That’s right,’ Mel agreed. 

‘Such a shame that people with degrees can’t get proper jobs, isn’t it?’ 

‘High unemployment is tough for so many people,’ Mel said, ‘but I love my job now and I feel very lucky.’ 

It didn’t seem to be the answer Frances was expecting. She made her apologies because she “ had to dash”. 

“Hmm!’ Mel thought, “there’s a turn-up for the books.” 

She saved the conversation in her mind to relay to her mum and to Stacy. At least she’d nothing to fear from him if he were living in Spain. 

On the bus home, memories of Craig that she’d successfully learned to block returned. “How did it get as bad as it had?” she wondered, searching in her mind for clues. “Had he been like that from the start but I just didn’t see it?”  She cast her mind back to their first meeting. 

Claire, a friend from the time they were in the same class at the comprehensive, had invited Mel to her engagement party. The two had kept in touch throughout their university days – even though they studied different things at different uni’s. Stacy had also been there and they’d had fun catching up with news about their lives. Claire’s fiancé had spent a lot of time at the bar with his friends. Towards the end of the evening, he’d re-joined Claire and had brought one of his friends with him. It had been the first time that she’d met Craig. 

Mel re-imagined her recollections of the scene over and over for clues but all she could remember was how much fun he’d seemed. He’d come across as intelligent, charming, good-looking – and he’d been most definitely interested in her. Was that really how he’d been or had she just been too smitten to notice any undertones? If he’d come across initially as he had been at the end, how come she hadn’t noticed? She couldn’t believe that she’d been that stupid, that blind. 

The other possibility was the one she decided to believe now – the one that Stacy had spoken of – that Craig’s nature had always been controlling. He’d just made sure that he’d hidden it – kept it under control initially. Bit by bit his true character had revealed itself in so many ways – always correcting her; always demanding her full attention; always wanting the last word; never admitting he was wrong. She now remembered how irritated she’d been at how he’d tried to undermine her self-belief and his attempts to gaslight her. She was so glad that she’d got out of the relationship while she still had some self- confidence, some dignity. She owed Stacy a drink – or several.  

In the meantime, she was looking forward to her first driving lesson that evening. She was worried that she was beginning the lessons much later in life  than many of her friends had done. She hoped that she wouldn’t make a fool of herself. 

Featured Photo

A change of scene today. While we’re still in bluebells season, I thought that I’d include a few shots that I took in my local park on 28 April. Today’s photo shows a squirrel jumping down into some bluebells.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 lens. The EXIF data were shutter speed was 1/15 seconds at f/7.1 and 105 mm. The shot was handheld. I post-processed the shot in Lightroom.

Regarding Melissa #34


…..Previously

That night, after Mel had gone to bed, Jean and Brian picked up on their earlier discussion. Jean planned to have a word with Jack anyway – perhaps for him to follow Mel to the bus stop from work without her knowing and seeing if he noticed anything of concern.

She also suggested that, given their personal savings, they could afford to do a bit more than give Mel advice. She’d obviously been worried and had probably understated her fears.

‘Isn’t Mel’s safety something we should prioritise?’ she asked, ‘We’re not short of money are we?’

And so a rescue plan was launched to discuss with Mel the following day.

Continued…..

Late May – Family business in a family business

Towards the end of May, one morning, Mel was updating the stock records after a customer had left the shop having bought a new backpack. She heard the doormat alarm and looked up to see her dad entering the shop. She raised her eyebrows in surprise. He hadn’t said that he’d be coming. She wondered what he wanted but greeted him with delight.

‘Hiya, Dad,’ she said in greeting, ‘What brings you here?’

She saw Jamie looking at them.

‘I’ve come to buy a lens off you, if you have something suitable,’ he said.

By this time, Jamie had come across to join them.

‘Hello, Mr Harrington, lovely to see you. Did you want to see my dad?’

‘Jamie, you know me well enough by now, surely, to call me Brian,’ he said, ‘and, yes, it would be nice to see Tony again, but I wanted to see my daughter here and to see how she goes about selling me something.’

‘Your daughter?’ Jamie asked, looking at Mel, ‘Good grief. Harrington! You’re both Harringtons. I remember now when Mel first started here, Dad and I wondered if you were related. That’s amazing. Wait till I tell dad. I’ll phone upstairs now.’

He almost ran to the counter.

While Jamie was on the phone, Mel asked him what type of lens he was interested in. He told her that he’d managed to drop one of his tilt-shift lenses during a visit to a building site and needed to replace it. Mel knew that these type of lenses are invaluable to architects and estate agents for adjusting the composition, framing and field of view when photographing tall buildings. With them, the user doesn’t need to tilt the camera upwards – which would cause skewed vertical lines.

Mel asked her dad which lens he’d dropped and whether he wanted an exact replacement.  He told her that he’d dropped his 17 mm lens, and was thinking of replacing it, using an expected insurance claim pay-out. Mel suggested that the latest versions of that brand and focal length had been improved and provided the ability to use both tilt and shift functions in either axis for both landscape and portrait orientation. 

Mel knew that they didn’t have that particular lens in stock, so she led him across to the counter where she could check availability and delivery with their supplier. She was just telling her dad that it would be early the following week when Tony arrived.

They shook hands like old friends – Brian had bought a lot of expensive equipment over the years, and there was clearly genuine pleasure in their relationship.

Brian explained the reason for his visit and explained that Mel had just been ordering a new lens for use in his firm.

‘Jamie tells me that you’re Mel’s dad,’ he said. ‘Well that’s wonderful, but I don’t understand. I remember Mel telling me when we interviewed her that she’d been unemployed for years trying to find a job where she could use her photography degree. Why didn’t you mention her to me?’

‘Come on, Tony,’ he said, ‘You know that kind of thing is awkward. Mel might have thought that she hadn’t got the job on her own merits.’

‘Listen, Brian. If any favour were involved it’s the shop that’s benefited. Mel’s a natural. Customers now come in just to be served by her. She’s great at explaining things.’

‘That’s as maybe, Tony, but you wouldn’t have known that just from my say-so. In any case, she’s learned valuable life lessons by being unemployed and having me nag her. The other thing is that I’d have felt that I owed you a favour in return. I’m glad that you took her on and that you value her work but I’m more glad that it was her looking for a job herself that got her one. Now, we’re still good friends and, this way we can be better friends.’

‘So what has our star salesperson sold you?’ Tony asked.

Brian explained why he’d needed a replacement lens and what Mel had recommended. Tony said that agreed completely with Mel’s suggestion and the two men wandered off talking about equipment.

Jamie looked on, bemused.

‘Your dad’s great,’ he said.

‘That’s probably why I’m so wonderful, ‘ she said, laughing.

Featured Photo

A change of scene today. I return with this photo to the Widnes to Runcorn Silver Jubilee bridge across the River Mersey. I took this shot yesterday (140521) from The Decks, Runcorn, Halton, Merseyside.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 lens. The EXIF data were shutter speed was 15 seconds at f/10 and 26 mm. The shot was tripod mounted and I used a NISI 10 stop neutral density filter. I post-processed the shot in Lightroom.

Regarding Melissa #33

…..Previously

Mel had phoned Stacy as soon as she arrived home the night of Craig’s approach to her. Stacy wouldn’t be going on duty for another two hours or so. Mel asked if she could call round for advice and Mel agreed immediately. She’d picked up on the fear in her friend’s voice.

Mel was still a bit shaken by what had happened and the way that Craig had spoken to her. She told Stacy how it had started in the shop and how Craig had appeared out of nowhere.

Stacy promised that she and a friendly male officer would have a quiet word with Craig – nothing official, just some friendly advice about what could happen if he continued to make a nuisance of himself.

Mel seemed relieved – even if only to have got it off her chest.

Continued…..

Mum and Dad make an offer

That evening, however, she also told her mum and dad about the incident. She told them what Stacy had said, and they said they hoped that would be the end of the matter.

They were sitting in the living room of the family home. Brian remained worried. He’d been watching the sports report towards the end of the evening news, but he’d obviously heard what Mel had told Jean. He turned the TV set off.

‘What were you doing walking past that entry anyway, love?’

‘I was just making my way home from work to the bus stop,’ she said, ‘like I do most nights.’

‘Does it worry you?’ he asked.

‘No,’ she told him ‘but what’s the alternative? I can’t afford taxis on my wages. In any case, even though that’s been the only upset of its sort, it’s only part of the problem.’

‘How do you mean?’ Jean asked, sitting forward in her chair.

‘It’s probably nothing, but the last few days there’s been a bloke who keeps staring at me at the bus stop. That’s nothing unusual you might think – all women get that sometimes don’t they, Mum? This guy though is freaking me out. It’s something about the way he stares. I think that it could be described as leering. I get goosebumps when I notice him doing it. And a couple of times he seems to have deliberately chosen a seat directly behind me – even when the bus is half empty.’

Jean and Brian looked at each other.

‘I don’t like the sound of that,’ said Jean, ‘Is it both morning and night?’

‘Just at night,’ Mel said.

‘Does he get off at the same stop as you?’ Brian asked.

‘No, but I’ve noticed him watching me when the bus pulls away,’ she replied.

‘How old is he?’ Brian asked.

‘Does that make a difference?’ she asked, ‘I guess mid-thirties, tall, thin, dark, but lots of men look like that.’

‘Is there anything that we can do to help? Perhaps we can make sure that you get a lift. I bet that Jack would help out if we devised a rota.’

‘Thanks, both of you, but it wouldn’t work. I know that I’m supposed to finish at half past four, but I usually stay behind when we’re particularly busy. I don’t mind helping out. They don’t force me to stay, they’re not that kind of employer. I help because I feel almost like part of the family’

Brian looked at Jean again.

‘I don’t know what you think about this idea, love,’ he said, ‘ but Mel has a birthday coming up. Suppose we pay for driving lessons. It is time that she learned, isn’t it?’

Mel pre-empted her mum’s response.

‘Thanks, Dad,’ she said, ‘but even if I pass first time, I can’t afford a car – hire purchase, insurance, fuel and maintenance.’

They talked through the costs and Brian fired up a spreadsheet to create a cash flow forecast based on Mel’s take home pay to model her regular expenditure plus the expected costs of running a small second-hand car.

It would mean deferring her planned investment in a new camera for a while, but, looking at the spreadsheet, it seemed just about possible. Mel and her dad arranged a trip around some car showrooms for that weekend. At least, if Jean and Brian paid for driving lessons, she’d have a better idea of what to look for and how to pay for it.

That night, after Mel had gone to bed, Jean and Brian picked up on their earlier discussion. Jean planned to have a word with Jack anyway – perhaps for him to follow Mel to the bus stop from work without her knowing and seeing if he noticed anything of concern.

She also suggested that, given their personal savings, they could afford to do a bit more than give Mel advice. She’d obviously been worried and had probably understated her fears.

‘Isn’t Mel’s safety something we should prioritise,’ she said, ‘We’re not short of money are we?’

And so a rescue plan was launched to discuss with Mel the following day.

Featured Photo

The photo that I’ve chosen today is the last in this series of nine that I’ve been posting. There hasn’t bern much changed between them – the idea was to capture the change in the light during the period that the Sun was setting.

I shot all but one of the photos in this series on 22 April this year, while I was stood on the pier at Southport, Merseyside waiting for the Sun to set. You wouldn’t believe it from the photos, but it was high tide around the time I was there. Southport beach seem to stretch out forever and seldom seems to come all the way in. The Sun is in the final stage of it’s descent in today’s image and the clouds are still gaining underlit colour.

The EXIF data are as follows: Camera used for all the shots was my 36 MP Pentax K-1 full-frame camera paired with a Pentax 24-70 mm f/2.8 full-frame lens. In every case the ISO was 100. All shots were handheld and used only natural light. I post-processed all the shots in Lightroom.

For this shot the shutter speed was 1/25 secs @ f/16 and 35 mm.

Regarding Melissa #32

…..Previously

Afterwards, when the last customer had left the shop, Tony asked her for her reactions. She told him that she’d learned a lot, and that if she were to present any of those evenings herself, she’d need to do a lot of  preparation to ensure that she was up-to-speed on things like settings. She asked Tony if he could show her how to prepare the PowerPoint screens that Jamie had used and how to use the laptop to control the presentation. Tony said that he’d be pleased to do that himself, since he couldn’t spare both her and Jamie off the shopfloor at the same time.

He arranged a time with her for the Tuesday of the following week.

Continued…..

One step forward and one step back

Within a just a few weeks after she’d started her employment at the shop, Mel was settling in nicely. She had quickly become a trusted and valued part of the business. She had now completely filled Lucy’s former role in the shop and had become as indispensable as any employee could ever be expected to be.

May had arrived in Codmanton accompanied by sunshine. In her dad’s garden at home, the wisteria and clematis were in full bloom and in the Town Square and along the High Street hanging baskets of dazzling colour announced that the town was open to tourists.

Mel had seen Craig only once since the incident in the shop. He’d waited for her near the bus stop and had pulled her by her arm into a ginnel – a narrow alleyway between shops. He’d demanded that she apologise for humiliating him in the shop. By now though, Mel was prepared. She remained outwardly cool as she told him to let go of her arm. She informed him that her friend in the police was aware of his increasingly coercive control and had told Mel to keep a diary of  any other attempts to physically coerce her. She let him know that she’d be telling her brother Jack about his behaviour and asked Craig if he really wanted Jack as an enemy.

Craig released her and told her that she’d be sorry. She said that she’d add that threat to her report to Stacy.

He’d turned away at that and told her to, ‘Fuck off and die’.

She’d heard nothing from him since. For a couple of weeks afterwards she’d been concerned on her way home in case he might waylay her and make good – or, rather, bad – his threat.

Stacy – again

Mel had phoned Stacy as soon as she arrived home the night of Craig’s approach to her. Stacy wouldn’t be going on duty for another two hours or so. Mel asked if she could call round for advice and Mel agreed immediately. She’d picked up on the fear in her friend’s voice.

Mel was still a bit shaken by what had happened and the way that Craig had spoken to her. She told Stacy how it had started in the shop and how Craig had appeared out of nowhere.

Stacy promised that she and a friendly male officer would have a quiet word with Craig – nothing official, just some friendly advice about what could happen if he continued to make a nuisance of himself.

Mel seemed relieved – even if only to have got it off her chest.

Featured Photo

The photo that I’ve chosen today is the penultimate one of this series of nine that I’ll be posting in the next few days. There won’t be much changed between them – the idea was to capture the change in the light during the period that the Sun was setting.

I shot all but one of the photos in this series on 22 April this year, while I was stood on the pier at Southport, Merseyside waiting for the Sun to set. You wouldn’t believe it from the photos, but it was high tide around the time I was there. Southport beach seem to stretch out forever and seldom seems to come all the way in. Today’s image is one of the last that I took and I was standing on the pier again when I took it. The Sun is in the final stages of it’s descent and the clouds are still gaining underlit colour. A few people in the distance are still making their way to the end of the pier to see the Sun set.

The EXIF data are as follows: Camera used for all the shots was my 36 MP Pentax K-1 full-frame camera paired with a Pentax 24-70 mm f/2.8 full-frame lens. In every case the ISO was 100. All shots were handheld and used only natural light. I post-processed all the shots in Lightroom.

For this shot the shutter speed was 1/25 secs @ f/16 and 35 mm.

Regarding Melissa #31

…..Previously

Lucy came across.

‘You’re trembling, love,’ she said, ‘Go in the back room. Sit down for a few minutes until you feel better. I’ll make you a cup of tea. We’re not busy.’

Mel told her that she’d be fine in a minute and thanked her and Jamie for their thoughtfulness. As she’d promised, Mel was soon back to her normal self, but she’d decided to tell Jack what had happened anyway – and Stacy.

Continued…..

CHAPTER SEVEN

May, 2015

An evening presentation

One Monday, not long after Jamie had mentioned the evening presentations to her, he repeated his suggestion to Mel about her coming to an evening presentation to new customers. He told her that the next one would be on the Thursday evening and asked whether she’d be free to attend as an observer. She promised that she would be and that she looked forward to coming.

He showed her a poster about the evening and asked her to put a copy in the window, a copy behind the counter and one on a side wall. He explained that Tony had already sent out invitations to those customers most likely to benefit. She asked whether there was a dress code and he reassured her that she should just come casually dressed – in any case, she was there to observe since it was her first such event.

On the evening, she turned up in a Sarah Lund style Faroese pullover with blue denim bootleg jeans and trainers. Jamie asked her whether she’d mind showing customers upstairs to the gallery. He and Tony had rearranged the furniture and displays and had set out some stackable chairs from the second floor. A projection screen was suspended from the ceiling at the back of the room.

Only nine customers came – Jamie said that was actually a good turnout. Mel showed them to the room and then, when Jamie asked her, she locked the shop door and joined the customers. She chose a seat at the back so that she could both observe what was done and how the audience reacted.

Tony and Jamie had set up two laptops on the table at the front where they sat facing the audience. Tony stood to deliver a short introduction to the evening, thanking those who were there for their attendance. Jamie then took over and asked Mel to turn out the room lights, leaving only the light from the laptop screens and the suspended screen onto which an image of Jamie’s laptop screen was projected. It took Mel a moment or two to work out how this had been done, but, when she looked up, she noticed for the first time that there was a projector fixed to the ceiling above her, facing the screen.

Jamie’s subject was the various settings options on one of the current mirrorless cameras – all the customers present were ones who had bought that model. She realised that there were features that even she had not known about and Jamie explained how to use them by displaying images of the camera, of the menu screens and of the typical effects of using each feature. She was glad that she’d come.

Afterwards, when the last customer had left the shop, Tony asked her for her reactions. She told him that she had learned a lot, and that if she were to present any of those evenings herself, she’d need to do a lot of  preparation to ensure that she was up-to-speed on things like settings. She asked Tony if he could show her how to prepare the PowerPoint screens that Jamie had used and how to use the laptop to control the presentation. Tony said that he’d be pleased to do that himself, since he couldn’t spare both her and Jamie off the shopfloor at the same time.

He arranged a time with her for the Tuesday of the following week.

Featured Photo

The photo that I’ve chosen today is the fourth of this series of nine that I’ll be posting in the next few days. There won’t be much changed between them – the idea was to capture the change in the light during the period that the Sun was setting.

I shot all but one of the photos in this series on 22 April this year, while I was stood on the pier at Southport, Merseyside waiting for the Sun to set. You wouldn’t believe it from the photos, but it was high tide around the time I was there. Southport beach seem to stretch out forever and seldom seems to come all the way in. Today’s image is the final one from the beach, another showing the Sun a little lower in the sky, though it’s sunk behind the building on the pier. The autogyro is back and a couple of people are walking along the pier.

The EXIF data are as follows: Camera used for all the shots was my 36 MP Pentax K-1 full-frame camera paired with a Pentax 24-70 mm f/2.8 full-frame lens. In every case the ISO was 100. All shots were handheld and used only natural light. I post-processed all the shots in Lightroom.

For this shot the shutter speed was 1/500 secs @ f/8 and 48 mm.