Regarding Melissa #71

…..Previously

She paused, and turned to sit astride him, cupping his disappointed face with her hands. She bent and kissed his forehead.

‘Okay, I’ve just said that I’ll want to change you,’ she said, ‘but I won’t let you change me. That sounds unfair, but most men come with almost innate cultural expectations of superiority. You must have heard the expression “glass ceiling”. It’s a fact. Women have fewer chances of succeeding at interviews, getting promoted or being paid equally. Lots of men seem to feel that it’s okay to grope women, to mentally undress them or to leer at other women than the woman they’re supposed to love.’

‘I’m not like that, Mel,’ he insisted.

‘I agree, from what I’ve seen of you so far, ‘she said, ‘but what would you be like once your ring is on my finger?’

Continued…..

Jamie sat up straight, propping himself up on his hands and facing her as she still sat astride him. He pouted, looking offended.

‘Okay, Jamie, what would you expect from marriage? Babies, a housemaid, a sex partner, arm-candy? Suppose we did get married and that I had a baby – I would probably hope for a child sooner rather than later. Who would stay at home to look after it? It wouldn’t be fair to expect your Mum to step-in. She’s not getting any younger and she’s already doing her stint with Elaine for Tracy. Children create demands for care until they’re in their mid-teens.’

Jamie looked stunned both by the question and by the implications of what she was suggesting their future could be like.

‘Oh!’ she said, ‘You think that it would be my job to do all that? I should just give up my career, should I? That you’d carry on as if nothing had happened? Think again, mister.’

Now there was fire in her eyes.

‘Okay. I hear what you’re saying.’ He said, ‘Obviously, you’ve thought harder about this than I have. We don’t need to get married if you don’t want to. I’d just been thinking about what you asked about where we go from here. If snatched weekends with you are all that you’re offering for now, I’d rather have that than having no relationship with you at all.’ He looked at her, his eyes beseeching hers.

‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘I honestly don’t know, but if we are going to have any sort of future together, I still need to know a lot more about you. I couldn’t stay with you if you were to let me down in a key area. If I’d married Craig, for example – God forbid – and I only found out afterwards what a control freak he is, I’d have left him like a shot.’

Neither of them spoke for a minute or two – both were lost in their quite different thoughts. They got off the bed and sat side by side on the sofa.

Mel changed the direction of the conversation, seeking a clue to their conundrum elsewhere.

‘Why are you still single anyway Jamie?’ she asked, ‘After last night I find it hard to believe that you’re gay. You’re twenty-seven aren’t you?’

‘Being single doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s gay, you know. For the record, I’m not gay,’ he insisted, ‘and I know that it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true,’ he said, ‘Until you, I’d simply never met anyone that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.’

‘There you are again,’ she said, ‘the rest of your life! Jamie, will you still love me when I become old, fat, grey, wrinkled and my main assets have moved south?’

‘“In sickness and in health,”’ he said, ‘Mel, you have a beauty that, as they say, is more than skin deep. You’re a lovely person at every level – your honesty and the way you treat everyone the same. You don’t hide your feelings – you tell it like it is – there’s no bullshitting or pretence. I love that about you – even when it hurts to hear you tell me how I wrong I am in my thinking.’

‘I don’t think that you have any idea, even yet, Jamie, what an out-and-out bitch I can be.’

‘Let me ask you then,’ he said, ‘Why are you still single? You’re the most desirable woman that I’ve ever met. I’d walk across broken glass, across coals of fire, if that’s what it took to get you to marry me.’

‘You still don’t get it, Jamie,’ she said, ‘I have a real problem with the whole idea of unbreakable commitment. It frightens me.’

‘Then I don’t see a solution to your “what next?” question.’

‘We’re still young,’ she said, ‘this is our first chance to get to know each other properly. I don’t regret a second of it. I hope that we’ll have lots more times like this when we can explore our options in our changing mutual understanding. When we know each other better – perhaps in a couple of years – if, we’re still together and if we still love each other – I’ll think differently. Perhaps we’ll both think differently. You say that you’d walk across broken glass – I’m not asking you to do that, but can you just give us more time?’

‘Okay, Mel,’ he said, ‘I’ve listened to everything you’ve said, and what you’ve said makes good logical sense. Please don’t hate me, but there’s something that I have to ask.’

‘Oh, God!’ she said, ‘That sounds ominous. Go on.’

He sighed, his head in his hands for a moment while he plucked up the courage to proceed.

‘I’ll just say it straight out – is your unwillingness to marry – your excellent logical objections – they’re nothing to do with how close you and Marcus are getting are they?’

Mel gasped, her mouth and eyes wide open as she stared at him.

‘I don’t know whether I should laugh that off or slap you,’ she said. ‘Are you serious?’

‘I dreaded asking,’ he said, ‘but I see you two so often with your heads together, laughing. You seem to get on with him so well. I admit it – I’m jealous.’

Mel shrugged her shoulders.

‘Jamie, you’ve just proved my point perfectly. You are too easily hurt. You simply don’t understand banter. Me and Marcus are merely good workmates and we’re probably better at what we do because we can banter and enjoy a laugh with each other.’

It was Mel’s turn to put her head in her hands.

‘Listen, I don’t find jealousy attractive. Perhaps some women find it reassuring – I don’t. To me it’s a sign of possessiveness. If you’re going to get jealous every time I smile at a man or joke with him, Jamie, marriage isn’t going to be on the cards at all.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘It’s just that I love you so much, and I’m scared that you’ll find someone that you feel that you can relate to better. I realise that jealousy isn’t nice, but I was worried, and I felt that I had to ask.’

She thought about what he’d said for quite a few minutes. He didn’t dare break the silence.

Eventually, she looked up.

‘Okay,’ she sighed, ‘You’re a dope, but you’re my dope. You were right to ask – but you should have asked sooner. I don’t want you to have worries festering in you. However…,’ she paused, ‘Did you really not know?’

‘Know what?’ he asked.

‘Marcus is gay. He has a husband who works for the Council.’

She laughed at the horrified expression on Jamie’s face.

‘Come on,’ she said, ‘It’s not illegal – and you can’t sack him for it.’

‘How could I not know?’ he asked.

Mel moved closer to him and put her arm around him.

‘Oaf!’ she said.

He nodded his head.

‘Am I forgiven?’ he asked

She pulled his head to hers.

They kissed with a deep longing for each other, gasping for breath when their faces parted, and laughing happily’.

Later, they strolled to a restaurant in the town and walked back to the lakeside after donning some warm outerwear.

They sat on a bench, their arms around each other and watched the Sun set over the lake, the trees in their rich autumn colours and the facing mountains. She shivered and cuddled into him as they exchanged words of love. As if by telepathy, their heads parted, they looked at each other and laughed.

‘I’ll race you back to the lodge,’ she said, ‘Winner gets into the hot tub first.’

After a second night of energetic lovemaking, the following morning they reluctantly faced up to the knowledge that they didn’t have much time before they’d have to check-out of the holiday park.

They sighed, showered, dressed and packed before they went for another cooked breakfast to prepare for the long drive home.

Her final words before they left the lodge were,

‘I should have brought my camera, if only to photograph that stiffy, so I could remind you of this weekend when you’re old and bent.’

Featured Photo

I continue with another of the architecture shots that I took on my afternoon in Liverpool a few weeks ago. For today’s photo, I’m using an image of India Buildings in Water Street Liverpool. I remember when I first started work in a bank, after leaving school in 1960, this building was directly opposite the bank and we used to pop into the basement Mecca café at morning break time for a coffee. The building is now being refurbished for future occupation by HMRC staff – Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – as a regional office.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/200 secs @ f/5.6 and 16 mm.

Regarding Melissa #70

…..Previously

‘A few months ago, you came across to me as a hating all men because they wanted to have sex with you, next thing you tell me that you need to see whether I cut the mustard in bed, then you all but rape me.’

‘Rape?’ she asked, ‘Me? Rape you? I never heard you say “No”. I’m quite sure that what we did was consensual, Your Honour. If anything, I was the one getting raped, Your Honour. I rest my case.’

He laughed.

‘I’m not complaining,’ he said.

‘I should bloody well think not!’ she said, ‘Anyway, I’m a woman. I’m entitled to change my mind. Ask your mum.’

‘Of course,’ he said, slapping the side of his head in mock self-chastisement, ‘You’re a woman. How come I didn’t notice that?’

Continued…..

She reached across to tickle him under his arms and, somehow, ended up kissing again.

They noticed that they were attracting considerable attention from the other patrons, smiled at their audience, finished their drinks and left, unrepentant, but with as much decorum as they could manage in the circumstances.

Considering that it was Autumn, there were still a lot of tourists walking around, window-shopping like them. Mel noticed that she and Jamie seemed to be getting more than their fair share of glances. She asked him to turn round but could see nothing out of place. She asked him to check for labels hanging out or anything unusual about her. He couldn’t see anything amiss.

‘Do you think that they can see?’ she asked, ‘that we’re new lovers – perhaps a honeymoon couple?’

‘No,’ he said, ‘I doubt it, but you are looking incredibly beautiful this morning. Perhaps they think that you’re a famous actress, but they can’t remember which film it was.’

She placed her arm around him and held him to her – his side to hers as they walked.

‘You say the nicest things, Mr Hannay,’ she said.

They bought hot pies in a shop and ate them on a bench, watching swans at the lakeside.

‘Isn’t this romantic?’ she asked.

‘Everything I’d hoped for,’ he replied.

By mid-afternoon, they were back in the lodge, lying side by side, fully clothed, facing each other.

‘God, Jamie,’ she said, ‘think back to what I said in the Park. How are we supposed to keep our hands off each other after this, when we’re supposed to be working?’

‘It really is a good thing that we’ll be working on separate floors ‘he said, ‘and that I’ll be in the room next to where dad will be working.’

‘Where do we go from here, Jamie?’ she asked, ‘Just more snatched weekends?’

He looked into her earnest gaze, not wanting ever to look away from those beautiful eyes.

‘Is it too early for me to ask you to marry me?’ he asked.

She sat up, he turned to lie on his back and look up at her.

‘Honestly?’ she asked, ‘Marriage in 2019? Why marriage rather than a civil partnership or simply living together? Anyway, where would we live? Neither of us is loaded with money.’

‘What do you have against marriage?’ he asked, ‘Seriously, neither of our respective parents seem to have made a bad job of it. Why should it be wrong for us?’

‘“Let me count the ways”,’ she quoted, ‘Marriage in church – really? Is there something that you’re not telling me – like you’re actually a Godbotherer?’

‘Lapsed,’ he said, ‘Not a regular churchgoer but I do believe that there could well be some form of Creator.’

‘Hmmm!’ she said, ‘Fancy me not knowing that. Okay let’s put that to one side for a moment. Me, promising to obey?’ She screwed her face up and she’d stressed the word “Me?”

‘I get that,’ he said, ‘but, these days, you have to opt into that particular clause.’

‘All right,’ she continued, ‘“Till death do us part,” or whatever. Come on, Jamie. I love you, but we still hardly know each other. You’ve just proved that. Look at the cases of marriage break ups because of infidelity, cruelty or just plain boredom after a while? Wouldn’t divorcing someone who’d become impossible to live with be a problem for you if you’re a Christian – even a secret one?’

‘I get your point,’ he said, ‘but you can get civil marriage these days. No God involved.’

‘I’m trying to get my head round us even talking like this yet,’ she said, her head in her hands.

‘Listen, Jamie, now isn’t the right time. Again, you may think that I’m being cheeky – after all you may not ask me again. You may not want to risk another rejection, but I want you to understand that I merely want us both to have more time.’

‘Mel,’ he said, ‘I already know what I want.’

‘I hadn’t finished explaining yet, Jamie,’ she said, ‘Please just listen to what I’m saying.’

He sat back and raised the palms of his hands in surrender.

‘I don’t think that you really know what marriage to me would be like, love,’ she said, ‘I don’t think that you’d be strong enough as you are now.’

‘How do you mean, not strong enough,’ he asked.

‘Jamie, you are too serious, you get hurt too easily by my banter. You can’t take a joke. But I’d also want to change you.’

‘Change me how?’ he asked.

‘Well, for a start, you’re twenty-nine and you still live with your mum and dad. That doesn’t say much for your thirst of independence, for your dynamism – for your get-up-and-go, does it?’

‘You still live with your Mum and dad.’ he argued.

‘That’s different, Jamie,’ she said, ‘I’m a woman. That’s not being sexist. Society still has different expectations of women, but also, I don’t have the finances in place yet to strike out and buy a house.’

‘Jamie, you must be aware that I’ve been disappointed by almost every man I’ve ever met. I’m always on the alert for danger signals. Not many men would put up with me – I would be a real ballbreaker. You would get, hurt, upset, angry after a while because I would criticise any attempt to mould me into something I could never accept.’

She paused, and turned to sit astride him, cupping his disappointed face with her hands. She bent and kissed his forehead.

‘Okay, I’ve just said that I’ll want to change you,’ she said, ‘but I won’t let you change me. That sounds unfair, but most men come with almost innate cultural expectations of superiority. You must have heard the expression “glass ceiling”. It’s a fact. Women have fewer chances of succeeding at interviews, getting promoted or being paid equally. Lots of men seem to feel that it’s okay to grope women, to mentally undress them or to leer at other women than the woman they’re supposed to love.’

‘I’m not like that, Mel,’ he insisted.

‘I agree, from what I’ve seen of you so far, ‘she said, ‘but what would you be like once your ring is on my finger?’

Featured Photo

I continue with another of the architecture shots that I took on my afternoon in Liverpool a few weeks ago. I captured today’s image while I was walking back towards the financial district from the river. I was simply struck by the difference in the styles of the two buildings featured.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/200 secs @ f/5.6 and 43 mm.

Regarding Melissa #69

…..Previously

Afterwards, she studied his face as he lay facing her. He looked different somehow – more handsome. “Was that because of the love that I’ve grown to feel for him?” she wondered. “Or was it because the sex had been so very enjoyable – leisurely, in a nice bed and guilt free?”

She reached up and moved a lock of his hair off his face.

‘I think that I love you too, Mr Hannay,’ she said, and kissed him again.

‘Did I pass the test?’ he asked.

Continued…..

She snuggled her head into the space between his neck and his shoulder. She could feel his hand on her bottom, and he could feel her breasts against his chest, their stomachs touching.

‘I’m sure that I noticed a minor error,’ she teased, ‘I believe that a retest could be booked very quickly. I do have a question though.’

‘Uh, oh!’ he said, ‘Go on!’

‘Nine out of ten for technique, ‘she said, ‘but you didn’t get to be such a wonderful lover without going round the block a few times. You didn’t learn that from reading books about marketing. What happened to the girls you’ve been practising with? I take it that they are all ex-girlfriends now.’

‘Come on, Mel,’ he argued, ‘You’re not a virgin either. What happened to your exes?’

‘A couple turned into bores afterwards, a couple disappeared like rockets once I’d served my purpose, one – the last one – was a controlling bastard. You’ve met him – Craig. Now you.’

‘There were a couple for whom I wasn’t ambitious enough, a couple who didn’t like the hours I work, two or three who just wanted rings on their fingers. I wasn’t ready and they weren’t girls that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.’

‘Where do I fit in the Jamie scheme of things. Are you going to bin me off too now that you’ve had your wicked way with me?’

She pouted.

‘Mel, my love,’ he said, ‘Just one lifetime with you won’t be long enough.’

‘We’d better make the most of this one then,’ she said, sliding her hand down towards his stomach.’

Later, they went for cooked breakfast and coffee in the restaurant. Afterwards, they walked into the town, exploring the shops. There was an art gallery up the hill that Mel loved particularly.

‘This was a great idea,’ she said, ‘It’s somewhere else that I’ve never been but always wanted to.’

They chose a café for a mid-morning coffee, got served and sat down, side by side on a bench seat.

‘Didn’t you bring your camera:’ he asked, ‘I’ve not noticed it in our room.’

‘I hadn’t though that we’d be seeing much daylight,’ she answered, looking sideways at him.

‘I can’t get over you,’ he said.

‘How do you mean?’ she asked.

‘A few months ago, you came across to me as a hating all men because they wanted to have sex with you, next thing you tell me that you need to see whether I cut the mustard in bed, then you all but rape me.’

‘Rape?’ she asked, ‘Me? Rape you? I never heard you say “No”. I’m quite sure that what we did was consensual, Your Honour. If anything, I was the one getting raped, Your Honour. I rest my case.’

He laughed.

‘I’m not complaining,’ he said.

‘I should bloody well think not!’ she said, ‘Anyway, I’m a woman. I’m entitled to change my mind. Ask your mum.’

‘Of course,’ he said, slapping the side of his head in mock self-chastisement, ‘You’re a woman. How come I didn’t notice that?’

Featured Photo

I continue with another of the architecture shots that I took on my afternoon in Liverpool a few weeks ago. I captured today’s image from near the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, looking down Hope Street, past the Everyman theatre, towards the Anglican Cathedral.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/100 secs @ f/8 and 75 mm.

Regarding Melissa #68

…..Previously

‘You’re no fun, Jamie,’ she said, laughing, ‘you have no idea how to take my jokes.’

She pulled him to her and hugged him, telling him that she liked his credible nature.

She asked whether he’d brought any leaflets, and they were still discussing them over a drink at a table for four when Stacy and Connor arrived.

Stacy joined them while Connor went to the bar. Once she was seated, Mel pulled Jamie’s leg, telling Stacy about his suggestion of walks during their weekend. Stacy suggested that such an idea was probably an arrestable offence.

Jamie felt that his world was being turned upside down, but he liked it.

Continued…..

A weekend of discovery – and a proposal

In the end they’d agreed to book a lodge on a holiday park. They’d chosen one on the edge of Lake Windermere at Bowness. It was close to the town, accessible by main roads, detached from neighbouring lodges and seemed to have great lake views according to the website. It promised to be well-equipped and there was an onsite shop and restaurant.

The drive there took a couple of hours, but they stopped at a motorway service area on the way there for coffee and a toilet break. The forecast was for glorious weather, and it had been a gorgeous late afternoon when they’d set off. Jamie let Mel drive his car for the second leg of the journey. The controls of his Volvo felt quite different from those of the Ford Fiesta that she’d learned in. During the past few weeks, she’d been looking at secondhand cars hoping to find one suitable for herself. She’d listened to the recommendations of friends and family. Eventually, she bought the car she liked best of those she’d seen – a Suzuki Swift – small, nippy – and the local dealership was quite close to the shop.

When they arrived, Mel was impressed by the lodge – a sort of wooden caravan by her reckoning – it was spacious, well-equipped and it did have great views of, and easy access to the lake.

Jamie had asked whether she’d packed hiking boots and clothes. She told him that she hadn’t, and she asked him whether he’d packed plenty of food in case they didn’t have the strength to walk to the restaurant.

The first thing that they discovered was that it included a hot tub. After trying that out, the next thing they learned was that the bed was comfortable and that, after the hot tub experience, getting undressed was not going to be a problem.

Looking at her naked body, Jamie saw how the promises that had, beforehand, been afforded by her clothes, had not lied. Mel was, every nude inch of her, an unbelievably beautiful woman. Mel noticed that the erection that had been promised during that glance in the shop hadn’t lied either.

‘Hmmm!’ she said, ‘I think I can find a use for that.’

He turned out to be a skilled and considerate lover – more so than Mel had really expected given his normally shy nature.

The following morning, she was the first to wake. Sunlight was streaming through a gap in the curtains. The room felt chilly – they hadn’t bothered with the central heating the previous evening, and, in any case, they’d generated their own heat.

They were still both naked. He was lying with his back to her, her arm around him. She traced his name on his back with her finger, then, reaching across his body, woke him in a way he was to remember for a long time.  After making love again, they lay facing each other.

‘I love you, Miss Harrington,’ he said.

They kissed, long and passionately.

Afterwards, she studied his face as he lay facing her. He looked different somehow – more handsome. “Was that because of the love that I’ve grown to feel for him?” she wondered. “Or was it because the sex had been so very enjoyable – leisurely, in a nice bed and guilt free?”

She reached up and moved a lock of his hair off his face.

‘I think that I love you too, Mr Hannay,’ she said, and kissed him again.

‘Did I pass the test?’ he asked.

Featured Photo

I continue with another of the architecture shots that I took on my afternoon in Liverpool a few weeks ago. Today’s image is one that I captured while I was standing beside the fencing of the Anglican Cathedral, looking down past the Georgian buildings and traffic of busy Duke Street towards Liverpool One.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/250 secs @ f/8 and 68 mm.

Regarding Melissa #67

…..Previously

During the journey back to Codmanton, she was gratified to receive praise for how well she’d managed the day. Several of the Group were interested to know how she was enjoying her role, and she used the opportunity to explain some of the services the shop would be providing in the months to come.

Terry thanked Mel for involving his company in the outing. It had been a profitable day for him, since four of the group had placed orders for sets of his filters and filter holders. She mentioned to him the ideas she’d been considering for magnetic rather than drop-in filters, and ended the day less sure about what to buy than when she had begun it.

Continued…..

Mel – at Home

When the minibus driver arrived back at Codmanton, after seeing everyone off, and thanking the driver for his role and Terry for his help, Mel headed home. She’d phoned her mum on the way back to give her an estimated time of arrival, and her mum had a hot meal waiting for her. Everyone else had eaten and they were watching television – some game show or other.

 Her brother, Jack, came to sit and talk with her while she wolfed down her food. She was ravenous after the fresh air and exercise. They hadn’t seen each other for a while, and he wanted to know all about what was going on between her and Jamie. She, in turn, asked him about the home game he’d played that afternoon and why he wasn’t at the pub celebrating with the other players.

He told her that he’d had a hectic week and was ready for a chance to put his feet up and to catch up with family matters. He asked whether she’d had any problems since with the stalker, or with the driving instructor, and she was able to assure him that she was feeling safer now than for a while. She didn’t know how much credit should be given to having a good relationship with Jamie these days, and how much to the extra self-confidence she now had from doing well at the shop.

He congratulated her on dumping Craig and was glad that ‘that waste of space’ was now spending most of his time abroad. They washed and dried her meal dishes together and then went in to join her parents.

‘By God, lass,’ her dad said, ‘you never seem to have a minute for us these days. Come and sit down. I’ll turn the box off.’

Her mum wanted to know how Mel had got on in the Lake District.  Mel described her day and said that she didn’t want to stay down late – she needed to process the images on her camera media card for the day.

Her dad told her that she mustn’t overdo it: in his view she was working above her pay scale. She said that she didn’t care – she loved her job, and being busy was so much better than being unemployed.

‘Anyway, Dad,’ she said, ‘more and more, I’m doing things that are helping me build a private income outside work – print sales, magazine work, online articles. I’m buzzing with what’s ahead of me.’

‘How will all that private work play out with you and Jamie?’ her mum asked.

‘I don’t have a clue, Mum,’ she said. ‘It’s still early days with Jamie and I don’t want to be put in a position yet, or ever, of having to choose between them.’

‘Jamie seems a nice lad,’ her mum said, ‘A different kettle of fish from that Craig. I know that you’re just turned twenty-six now, but if you’re thinking of ever having children of your own – don’t leave it too late.’

‘Mum!!’ Mel said, ‘We’ve only just starting dating.’

‘I know, love,’ her mum said, ‘but it’s time I had some grandchildren to watch growing up.’

‘There’s no rush, Mum,’ Mel countered, ‘Anyway, it’ll be years before you retire. I think that you’re just trying to ensure that you’ll still have kids wanting to enrol at your school before you finish.’

Shortly afterwards, Mel bade everyone goodnight while she retired to her room to work on her photos from the day. She was starting to build up a nice portfolio for stock photos, magazine submissions, and online sales of framed and unframed images. On top of all that, she hoped that she’d soon have a worthwhile couple of collections to exhibit and she hoped for some new shots to submit for competitions.

An evening at the pub

Mel and Jamie had gone to the pub to meet Stacy and Connor for a drink together. They were first to arrive. As they got out of his car, he mentioned to her a couple of cottages that seemed to be available with pretty walks and views. He offered her a choice of seaside, mountains, lakes or streams.

‘Walks?’ she said, ‘Walks? What am I all of a sudden? A fellow rambler or a lover? I hadn’t intended to leave our room apart from meals – and then only if there’s no room service.’

She could see the shock in his face. She matched his expression with her own mock shock.

‘The intention,’ she reminded him, ‘was for me to find out if you’re any good in bed, but if you don’t have the stamina, let’s call it off now.’

He obviously didn’t know how to respond.

‘You’re no fun, Jamie,’ she said, laughing, ‘you have no idea how to take my jokes.’

She pulled him to her and hugged him, telling him that she liked his credible nature.

She asked whether he’d brought any leaflets, and they were still discussing them over a drink at a table for four when Stacy and Connor arrived.

Stacy joined them while Connor went to the bar. Once she was seated, Mel pulled Jamie’s leg, telling Stacy about his suggestion of walks during their weekend. Stacy suggested that such an idea was probably an arrestable offence.

Jamie felt that his world was being turned upside down, but he liked it.

Featured Photo

I continue with another of the architecture shots that I took on my afternoon in Liverpool a few weeks ago. Today’s image is one that I shot at Canning Dock adjacent to the Royal Albert Dock area. Two modern buildings in the foreground flank views towards the older Three Graces with a clock tower of the Liver Building topped with one of the Liver Birds.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/200 secs @ f/8 and 31 mm.

Regarding Melissa #66

…..Previously

Her work was getting to be known and arousing interest around the town ever since she’d approached a couple of places about displaying a few of her photos. Places like the pub, the bookshop, one of the coffee shops and the garden centre. In each case, when she’d been visiting as a customer, she’d taken her portfolio case with her and asked to see the manager . The images she’d shown had been twenty inches by sixteen – in each case different scenes around a theme. Ones that the local library had agreed to display had all been in black and white.

Most of the places had allowed her to display a brief biography on a piece of A5 card beside her images. In other places, paper copies of her bio were available near the till. The bio sheets didn’t mention whether the photos were for sale or at what prices – she felt that it would have been cheeky – but her email address and the fact that she worked at Hannays were mentioned. She’d sold several copies that way already.

Only the previous week, the local museum had contacted her about contributing to an exhibition together with three other local photographers.

Continued…..

Late October – Grizedale Forest

As things turned out, not as many members as usual had signed up for the day out. It might have had something to do with the long-range weather forecast, which had predicted rain and high winds, though some members had booked for holidays abroad to coincide with school mid-term holidays. Jamie had booked a sixteen-seat minibus plus driver that would be fully adequate for the ten members who’d booked for the day.

A national supplier of neutral density filters had expressed interest in accompanying the group. At first he had expected the shop to pay him for his attendance, but he’d been talked out of that and had even been persuaded that a donation from him towards the cost of the coach would secure both goodwill and potential sales for his product.

Terry, the supplier’s brand ambassador, was pleased with the turnout – despite the forecast, the day had started as a crisp morning with clear blue skies, and everyone who had booked had turned up. He was in his early forties, balding and beginning to run to fat. He didn’t particularly dress like a sales-rep, in his Barbour jacket, white polo-necked pullover, cargo pants and walking boots. On the way up, in the coach, he’d been plied with questions about the various uses of filters in general. It was a good start for him.

Mel had distributed copies of the walk that the Group would be following and had talked them through it, answering questions as she did so. A couple of members had said that they’d already done that walk and wanted to do their own thing. Mel had advised them that, as they were adults and not prisoners, if they chose to find their own route, that would be their choice. She suggested that they would miss the opportunity to get some excellent advice and guidance about long-exposure photography from Terry. She also cautioned them that, if they were not back at the Visitor Centre by four that afternoon, she would assume that they’d be making their own arrangements about getting home that night.

 A cry of ‘Ooooh!’ went up from several people, and one member asked if she’d be getting a whip out if anyone misbehaved.

‘It’s in my backpack – for now.’ She countered.

‘So, unlike our Jamie,’ another said – but it was all good-natured ribbing.

Arriving at the Visitor Centre car park in the heart of the forest, the conversation of the members mainly centred on the views they had seen on the roadway through the forest. There was lots of eager anticipation. As could have been expected, many of the group had visited before, but for most of them, this was the first time they’d been without a family, who’d had no or little interest in photography, to consider. This time they could spend a whole day undisturbed on their hobby.

As usual, the outing began with a visit to the shop to get cups of tea, leaflets, and maps of the various walks. While the Group were doing that, Mel checked the pick-up arrangements with the driver. He’d be doing another job before returning for them.  After the twenty minutes that she’d allowed for refreshments, she rounded people up and led the way. She’d taken the precaution of recruiting one of the younger members to act as a ‘back-marker’ to keep an eye on stragglers.

There were quite a few places with lake views, whose sheltered waters offered mirror-like reflections of the stunning colours of burnt orange, deep reds and amber tones of the forest trees. Terry used these occasions to demonstrate, how to obtain spectacular effects by effective use of polarising and neutral-density filters – separately or together.

He showed, in detail, how to choose and mount the filters, and allowed some eager volunteers to try them on their own cameras. He explained and demonstrated the benefits of using step-up rings to adapt different sizes of lens to the filter holder to keep costs down. His presentations went down well. Mel took aside a smaller group where, using her own camera and filters, she provided a similar demonstration, but ensured that she would have her personal photographic record of the day.

Terry did get a few people asking why anyone should choose his product brand rather than some of the better-known varieties. Some members already used competing makes. At this point, he came into his specialist subject. Mel listened with interest since she was thinking of updating her own set of filters but had been considering a different brand.

Even before the appointed time, all but two of the Group were back at the visitor centre enjoying a drink and a snack, ready to leave and, in some cases, tired by the exercise.

When the stragglers finally arrived, a cry went up, ‘Where have you two been?’ Mel, get the whip out.’

The shamefaced pair blustered their excuses. Mel shook her head, laughing.

During the journey back to Codmanton, she was gratified to receive praise for how well she’d managed the day. Several of the Group were interested to know how she was enjoying her role, and she used the opportunity to explain some of the services the shop would be providing in the months to come.

Terry thanked Mel for involving his company in the outing. It had been a profitable day for him since four of the group had placed orders for sets of his filters and filter holders. She mentioned to him the ideas she’d been considering for magnetic rather than drop-in filters, and ended the day less sure about what to buy than when she had begun it.

Featured Photo

This is the first of a collection of the architecture shots that I took that afternoon. I took this photo on arrival that afternoon. It’s the interior of Liverpool’s Lime Street Train Station.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/30 secs @ f/9and 16 mm.

Regarding Melissa #65

…..Previously

She left Tony with his spreadsheets soon afterwards and returned to the shopfloor her mind buzzing excitedly – an unexpected bonus to spend and a welcome change to her role. Tony had told her that Jamie would be replacing her ID lanyard description to read, “Mel Harrington, Professional Photographer’. That had been a real morale boost for her – more so than the bonus in many ways.

When she walked back into the shopfloor, she saw that Marcus was busy with a customer and that there were a couple of people waiting for attention. She went across to talk to them before they got fed-up of waiting and walked out.

Later, when she had a chance to be alone with Jamie, she went up to where he was working and thumped him on his upper arm. He looked up from the plans he’d been making for the next Group outing.

‘You slyboots you!’ she said, ‘You knew what your dad wanted, didn’t you?’

Continued…..

‘Oi!’ he said, ‘That’s assault, young lady – probably sexual harassment.’

She stuck her tongue out at him, then thanked him.

‘Sexual harassment?’ she teased, ‘I could hug you for talking your dad into all that – but that would really be sexual harassment.’

She returned downstairs, but she’d noticed that Jamie had been studying an Ordnance Survey map of the southern Lakes.

They’d dated a few times since September, and sexual harassment by Jamie was no longer something she was worried about – in the shop at least – and outside the shop it was unlikely to be harassment anyway. She wondered whether the map was anything to with their plans for their next date. She was looking forward to their ‘dirty weekend’ together.

Whenever Jamie looked at Mel’s smiling face, he couldn’t help wishing that she could feel about him as he felt about her. He realised that, even with their new closeness, he’d have to be careful – he’d been well taught about the invisible lines that had to be drawn. He remembered the warnings from one of his business-organisation tutors – ‘don’t get too close to someone that you might, one day, need to fire.’ He was confused about what was happening between them.

Mel had been right that night in the park. She’d foreseen the potential problems of their getting too close and now they were considering trampling all over that advice. Whatever the risk, he admitted to himself that he was besotted and couldn’t resist her allure.

The risk of Mel committing such gross misconduct as would justify sacking her was a possibility he could never envisage happening anyway – and he’d never be able to bring himself to do it. That would mean never seeing her again.

He reflected that, as usual, life isn’t always fair.

He picked up the map that he’d been looking at then walked downstairs to talk to her again.

‘What do you think about Grizedale Forest for the Group outing? Not too far and there should be lots of Autumn colour?’

She felt some initial disappointment that his map studies had been about work rather than their weekend together, but cheered herself up by having another Lake District outing to look forward to.

They chatted about suppliers who might be talked into funding the cost of a coach – to minimise the use of Group subscriptions. That was another thing: since the magazine article, some new customers had expressed interest in joining the Group. Jamie said that he’d talk to his dad about possibly limiting the size of membership and opening a waiting list. It was either that or form a second Group. Mel agreed that a second Group would be unmanageable, and said that a  waiting list for the Group they already had might even add to its cachet.

Jamie checked that Mel was happy, in her new role as Professional Photographer, to lead the Group solo and that she’d make time in her diary for it. She agreed – she was thrilled to be asked. So many good things happening at once.

Jamie promised to do some phoning around to raise funds – that was more in his province anyway as marketing guru.

Her work was getting to be known and arousing interest around the town ever since she’d approached a couple of places about displaying a few of her photos. Places like the pub, the bookshop, one of the coffee shops and the garden centre. In each case, when she’d been visiting as a customer, she’d taken her portfolio case with her and asked to see the manager . The images she’d shown had been twenty inches by sixteen – in each case different scenes around a theme. Ones that the local library had agreed to display had all been in black and white.

Most of the places had allowed her to display a brief biography on a piece of A5 card beside her images. In other places, paper copies of her bio were available near the till. The bio sheets didn’t mention whether the photos were for sale or at what prices – she felt that it would have been cheeky – but her email address and the fact that she worked at Hannays were mentioned. She’d sold several copies hat way already.

Only the previous week, the local museum had contacted her about contributing to an exhibition together with three other local photographers.

Featured Photo

More of Liverpool. I said that I’d intended to do try my hand at street photography. I did manage to bring back a few shots. Today’s photo, the last of the street images, is a panning shot of a Deliveroo food delivery courier – on his bike, turning into Church Street, to deliver an order or orders.

Tomorrow, I start with the first of a collection of the architecture shots that I took that afternoon.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/40 secs @ f/9and 16 mm.

Regarding Melissa #64

…..Previously

‘If you don’t know what you’re doing you can ruin the photographic record that the family expected you to produce for them. That could lose us a lot of goodwill. Are you with me?’

‘Of course I am,’ she said, ‘that’s why I suggested what I did. People want a professional job doing. If we can offer that with confidence, it could snowball – even in these days of smartphone cameras. Word of mouth recommendations are gold dust.’

Continued…..

‘Can you offer that with confidence, Mel?’ he asked, ‘I’ve seen your landscapes and some of your portraits in your portfolio, but weddings – isn’t that a lot riskier. You can pretty well guarantee conditions in a studio setting with proper lighting can’t you? But what about outdoors?’ He looked at her, checking that she was with him.

‘I can see what you’re worried about, Tony,’ she assured him. ‘And you’re absolutely right. Wedding photography has unknowns – like the weather, the light inside a church or licenced building, babies not smiling on cue or guests who need to be herded into posing nicely.’

‘So, you see my point?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she agreed, ‘and that’s just the start. Wedding Photography has changed dramatically even in the past ten years or so from what I’ve read. Increasingly, families want a proper video record, and, at the top end, they expect drone photographs of key parts. Weddings would probably be best left to specialist operators who have a couple of technicians working with the stills photographer.’

He breathed a sigh of relief.

‘That is one big load off my mind, Mel,’ he said. ‘I was expecting that you’d want to argue me into agreement.’

She laughed, ‘I’m not stupid, Tony – a challenge is one thing but risking someone else’s profits is quite another.’

‘Right!’ he said, pleased to have had that concession ceded so easily, ‘Now let’s see what can be done, in practical terms, about some of your other ideas.’

They discussed aspects such as modifications to provide a room for a studio and the purchase of lighting, props and backdrops. He said that he’d discussed some of that with Jamie already, but he’d like her input on the choice of specific equipment requirements.

She even understood that Tony wanted the new arrangements to begin in the following Spring to allow time for getting everything in place – partitioning off a dedicated area for her studio work, electrics for lighting – so many things to consider!

One of the most expensive pieces of equipment she’d requested was one that Tony hadn’t thought of. She asked for a professional laser printer capable of prints up to 24 by 100 inches, but agreed that anything above A3 size – which would be an exceptional requirement – should be outsourced to a professional laboratory, together with anything requiring canvas or metal printing.

Mel accepted that she couldn’t justify the additional capital cost or the extra space that would be needed for anything other than that. She also agreed to using an outside firm for framing needs.

She left Tony with his spreadsheets soon afterwards and returned to the shopfloor her mind buzzing excitedly – an unexpected bonus to spend and a welcome change to her role. Tony had told her that Jamie would be replacing her ID lanyard description to read, “Mel Harrington, Professional Photographer’. That had been a real morale boost for her – more so than the bonus in many ways.

When she walked back into the shopfloor, she saw that Marcus was busy with a customer and that there were a couple of people waiting for attention. She went across to talk to them before they got fed-up of waiting and walked out.

Later, when she had a chance to be alone with Jamie, she went up to where he was working and thumped him on his upper arm. He looked up from the plans he’d been making for the next Group outing.

‘You slyboots you!’ she said, ‘You knew what your dad wanted, didn’t you?’

Featured Photo

More of Liverpool. I said that I’d intended to do try my hand at street photography. I did manage to bring back a few shots. Today’s photo is of some food delivery couriers – presumably waiting for orders.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/15 secs @ f/9and 18 mm.

Regarding Melissa #63

…..Previously

That afternoon, Mel and Jamie were downstairs planning an ‘Autumn Colour’ Sunday outing for the Group. They were debating whether to head for the Lake District or the Forest of Bowland. When the shop phone rang, Marcus answered the call and after listening for a moment called to Mel, and said,

‘Tony, for you.’

She went to the counter, picked up the receiver and said, ‘Hello’.

‘Mel,’ he said, ‘Can you spare me a moment and come up to the office for a moment please?’

Continued…..

She agreed and replaced the receiver. She shrugged her shoulders, raised her upturned palms of her hands to Marcus and pulled a puzzled expression on her face, raising her eyebrows.

He laughed and mouthed, ‘Go on. It’s probably something and nothing.’

As she climbed the stairs, in her head she was running through possible reasons for Tony’s summons. She couldn’t remember having done anything to warrant a disciplinary warning. “Could a customer have complained about me?” she wondered. Nothing came to mind. “Perhaps it’s something to do with my hours”.

She poked her head round his open door and saw him beckoning her to enter. She approached the table where he was pushing some papers to one side. He indicated that she should sit down. She felt relieved. Had it been a disciplinary matter he’d have kept her standing, she reasoned.

‘Listen, Mel,’ he said, ‘You’ve with us now for getting on six months and it’s time for a review of your work.’

 He noticed her worried frown.

‘Jamie and I have been talking and we agree that you have proved to be an exemplary worker, so far. We’ve agreed that you deserve a bonus – it’s a one-off rather than a regular pay rise. We’re offering you £1,200 which will be included in this week’s pay slip.’

Mel cupped her hands to her mouth. Her eyes were open expressing her surprise.

She started to tell him of her thanks, but he cut her off.

‘I said that we’re not giving you an increase in your regular hourly rate – not yet anyway, but if you continue to work as hard and as well as you have up to now, I promise you that we’ll certainly be reconsidering your salary at the end of March next year. Does that sound reasonable so far?’ he asked.

‘That’s fantastic,’ she said. She was already considering how to spend her windfall.

‘I’ve not quite finished,’ he said. ‘The other thing that I want to talk to you about is your role in the shop. OK?’

She nodded.

Jamie mentioned to me your ideas about us offering a limited range of photography services – family occasions and suchlike. Is that right?’

Again, she nodded, delighted that Jamie had remembered what she’d said at the family meal.

‘Mel,’ he said, ‘the reason that we’ve never done anything like that so far is that neither of us are ‘proper’ photographers.’ He emphasised the ‘proper’.

‘The passport photos we do are straightforward, but photographing babies, graduations, engagements, weddings and so forth – these are special memories for families – as you no doubt know.’ He looked at her seeking agreement.

‘If you don’t know what you’re doing you can ruin the photographic record that the family expected you to produce for them. That could lose us a lot of goodwill. Are you with me?’

‘Of course I am,’ she said, ‘that’s why I suggested what I did. People want a professional job doing. If we can offer that with confidence, it could snowball – even in these days of smartphone cameras. Word of mouth recommendations are gold dust.’

Featured Photo

More of Liverpool. I said that I’d intended to do try my hand at street photography. I did manage to bring back a few shots. Today’s photo is of some shoppers going about their business in Church Street, Liverpool – one of the city’s busiest shopping streets.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/30 secs @ f/9and 60 mm.

Regarding Melissa #62

…..Previously

A couple of visiting amateur photographers also had liked the photograph of The Sentinels in the monthly magazine, and, along with many of the regular Group members, came to talk to Mel about it – about the equipment she’d used and her settings. This interest resulted in a couple of people trading in their cameras and lenses for models such as Mel had used.  It wasn’t a fortune, but it was the first green shoots of further interest. Tony and Jamie were delighted.

Jamie used the photo and details of the article on the shop’s website and that decision brought not only lots of favourable comments but also some further sales.

Continued…..

It was now exactly six months since Mel had started employment there – ‘Only six months!’ was what Jamie had said. Tony and Jamie had been looking over the shop’s trading figures for that April to October period. Turnover and net profits had been rising throughout that time. When they printed-off a year-on-year comparison there was an even more marked improvement. The only difference to the growth in net profit that they could think of was the influence of Mel.

More customers were now asking specifically for Mel’s advice, but she made sure to bring Marcus into such conversations whenever he could be spared from the counter.

Jamie had noticed this a few times and he hoped that neither of them was having their heads “turned”. He was able to work on internet promotions without being asked to assist downstairs, but he’d have liked to have been a “fly on the wall”.

Otherwise, both Tony and Mel were less stressed since her appointment, and it was undeniable that she was amazing at converting enquiries into sales orders. Possibly some of it could be attributed to her looks and some to her personality. The remainder, however, was unquestionably due to her knowledge of photography and equipment – and to her ability to explain that knowledge simply – jargon-free.

Tony was forced to admit that Jamie had been right. It was time to give Mel her head and to develop some in-house photography services ready for launch the following Spring. He also agreed with Jamie’s current suggestion that they increase her wages. Jamie had put it bluntly.

‘Listen, Dad,’ he’d said, ‘she knows so much about the business already, in only six months, that she could be approached by one of our competitors in the city as a manageress. With her dad’s contacts, she could possibly even get funding to start up on her own in competition with us. Anyway, you’ll be able to write most of it off against tax, won’t you?’

Tony put his head in his hands and sighed, before pulling his iPad towards him and opening the accounts copy spreadsheet. He made an extra copy and started punching in some figures to work out the implications of the proposed increased wages bill on net profits. He showed Jamie, but Jamie argued for more on the grounds of the current rate of growth probably continuing to justify it. Tony agreed on the grounds that it was to be put to Mel as a lump-sum productivity bonus rather than as wages increase – and with a review in six months to consider further recognition.

Jamie understood his dad’s point but felt that he’d made his point. A “plus” point for him was that it would put more distance between Mel and Marcus.

That afternoon, Mel and Jamie were downstairs planning an ‘Autumn Colour’ Sunday outing for the Group. They were debating whether to head for the Lake District or the Forest of Bowland. When the shop phone rang, Marcus answered the call and after listening for a moment called to Mel, and said,

‘Tony, for you.’

She went to the counter, picked up the receiver and said, ‘Hello’.

‘Mel,’ he said, ‘Can you spare me a moment and come up to the office for a moment please?’

Featured Photo

More of Liverpool. I said that I’d intended to do try my hand at street photography. I did manage to bring back a few shots. Today’s photo is of a street musician at a crossroads in the centre of Liverpool’s shopping area. His drumsticks are blurred through their rapid beat, Two young men talk nearby, as if unaware of the drummer’s efforts. From around the corner, two young women approach – one of them turns her head, laughing with a young man who appears to be trying to attract their attention.

For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/100 secs @ f/9and 39 mm.