Jamie loved his Arran sweater and he’d bought Mel a silver charm bracelet.
She couldn’t resist teasing him about it.
‘Did you get this from a chain store?’ she asked.
‘No,’ he said, ‘Well from a franchise I suppose. Why.’
‘Am I supposed to wear it round my ankle as a sign that I’m your slave?’
He took a while to see that she was pulling his leg.
For the first time in years, the shop remained closed on New Year’s Day – a Friday – so the couple had three free days together. They used the time to have a City Break in London – sightseeing, shopping and, in Mel’s case, taking photos as they rubbernecked.
May – A wedding
Even before the Christmas decorations had been put back in attics, it had been back-to-work at Hannays’ for the New Year sales.
Outside of work, Mel spent much of her spare time with Stacy, preparing for her wedding. Jamie hardly saw her. Connor was being given all the help that he needed by fellow officers. The upside was that Jamie had more time to devote to thinking about how to optimise the shop’s online presence – to drive shoppers internet searches to Hannays’ rather than to their competitors.
Even Easter was a washout, with Storm Katie ripping across the country and causing widespread power outages.
April saw Mel’s first anniversary of working with Jamie. It was a date she later remembered well because Tony called her aside to talk to her about her performance over the year. He reminded her of his promise to review the bonus that he’d granted her six months previously. He praised her continued efforts and informed her that a slightly increased amount, pro rata would be built into her monthly salary for the coming year. She and Jamie celebrated with a meal at a restaurant together that night.
Eventually May arrived.
By that time, Mel had tried on and acquired all of her bridesmaid’s finery and was looking forward to the forthcoming event. Jamie was puzzled by how excited she seemed about her friend’s nuptials, in contrast to her opposition to a church marriage for herself. Not for the first time he wondered whether it was himself she didn’t want to marry – would she have accepted a proposal from someone else?
The service took place on the Saturday after the May Day bank Holiday, in the old parish church close to Stacy’s home. It was an eighteenth-century building whose stonework had been long-since darkened by age and industry. It had a tall spire with a weathercock and an attractive lychgate. Lilies and Cosmos blazed in that part of the churchyard that remained in the sunshine out of the shadow of the building. Elsewhere, there were old spreading yew trees, and ancient leaning gravestones that predated the current church building, and whose epitaphs had been rendered almost illegible by time.
In the road outside the front of the church, cars were still arriving, ferrying relatives, friends and colleagues of the couple. People stood on the paths in front of the church, hugging, shaking hands or merely chatting to others whom they had not seen for ages.
‘What do you think about……?’
‘Did you hear about……….?’
‘Have you seen…………?’
Suits with white buttonhole roses, white shirts, multicoloured ties and polished shoes – none of which had seen the light of day since the last funeral or wedding invitation – mingled with pastel shaded outfits and wide-brimmed hats bought especially for the occasion. Babes-in-arms and in prams were displayed to anyone who cared to look, and young children met and played with friends despite injunctions to stay clean from parents frazzled by their attempts to get their offspring washed and dressed in time.
Jamie had arrived early, but without Mel who was busy with her bridesmaid duties. He mentally admired the florist’s work in decking the aisle with flowers and silently read the order of service. He couldn’t wait to see Mel in her dress.
As the time for the actual ceremony drew near, guest by guest, couple by couple, and family by family made their way into the impressive dark interior with its high, wooden vaulted ceiling and sunlit stained glass. Ushers issued service booklets and directed newcomers to the appropriate sides of the aisles according to whether they were there for the bride or for the groom.
As people settled themselves into the pews, many looked around to see anyone whom they recognised and felt obliged to acknowledge. The organist’s rendition of a variety of organ concertos and toccatas struggled to make itself heard above the growing volume of conversation and wailing children.
Connor and his best man stood nervously at the front, looking to see Stacy’s arrival. They’d been briefed by the vicar as to their respective roles, and Connor’s best man had removed from his pocket the wedding rings, to show that he had remembered to bring them. Jamie made his own frequent looks back to the door, watching for Mel.
The roar diminished in volume as the Vicar, alerted to the arrival of Stacy’s wedding car, made her way up the aisle to the back of the church to greet the bride.
As the organist played her in, Stacy, with Mel by her side, followed the vicar down towards the front of the church and a very relieved Connor, who looked at her and realised how lucky he was.
Jamie sat in one of the front rows watching Mel in her bridesmaid’s finery and feeling almost sick with love. To him, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He listened to the vows that Stacy and her groom had made to each other and wished that he could soon exchange promises words with Mel.
The newly married couple left the church door along a line of police officers who had formed an honour guard.
Jamie stood by Mel’s side for photographs – she was making mental notes of how the photographer managed to organise his subjects. Stacy and Connor were driven away together to the Reception venue, while Mel and Jamie followed in his car. They sat at the top table together for the wedding breakfast.
Afterwards, when the newlyweds were on the dance floor to lead the way for their guests, Mel took his hand and encouraged him to join her in the dancing. He’d never felt so clumsy in his life. He had no previous experience in dancing and was afraid to tread on her toes or to crease her dress. He was so overwhelmed by her closeness as they danced, intoxicated by her perfume and by the feel of her body so close to his, that he couldn’t turn his mind to moving his feet and body as fluently as the music required. He was conscious that he was blushing with embarrassment and that his hands and face were sweating in self-consciousness.
Mel felt sorry for him, recognising and understanding his embarrassment, and held him closer to reassure him, whispering that he was doing fine and that he should just relax.
As the music for the dance ended, they moved apart, Mel smiled at him, squeezed his hand and let him lead her to their seats with her family. She knew that Brian and Jean – who thought the world of Jamie – would make him feel more comfortable. He used a handkerchief to wipe-off his perspiration.
‘Never mind, Jamie,’ Tony said, ‘just think of it as a practice run for if you and Mel ever tie the knot’
Both Mel and Jamie, looked at each other, open mouthed – Mel with shock and Jamie with hope.
‘In his dreams,’ Mel said.
Jamie’s heart sank.
I conclude this series of architecture shots that I took on an afternoon in Liverpool a few weeks ago with a view of a recently constructed 14 storey building in the Knowledge Quarter of Liverpool, otherwise known as Paddington Village. Standing almost within shouting distance of the Liverpool Royal hospital, the building’s upper four floors and lower floors are occupied by the Royal College of Physicians. The remainder of the building is available to pre-let to other health, science and education-focused occupiers. The building is known as The Spine, named after a striking staircase that runs up the north elevation of the building. The ceramic façade, complete with 23 million unique polygons that mimic human skin, wraps the building and reacts to the local environment, reducing glare and noise.
In tomorrow’s Blog I’ll be moving the location of my photos to the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.
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 1/125 secs @ f/8 and 21 mm.