‘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.’
‘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?’
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?’
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.