As the month ended, Mel reflected on the six months past – a marriage, a birth, a growing child, and a death. She pondered how her own life would relate to those seasons and how she should weigh the decisions that she knew that she should not, could not postpone forever.
April – An update
It was three years now since Mel had begun her employment with Hannay’s. Her role as photographer was now firmly established. Mel was often to be found using the studio and lighting equipment for portraits of customers and their families, thereby contributing handsomely to the shop’s profits. Mel now chose the images which hung in the shop’s gallery and in the shop, and her shots always sold well. When it became known that Mel would be presenting a Group tour, it was always a sell-out success. She’d helped, in her own time, to work with Jamie to develop the shop’s website which now included online courses that she had produced about equipment and photographic techniques. The presence of Marcus as her assistant in the shop had been a boon. He was now fully conversant with the products, procedures and with how to assist customers. He even helped with the occasional evening presentation.
Mel now owned – initially using an interest free loan from her parents – a small second-hand Suzuki hatchback car that she loved to drive. She liked it, especially for the independence it had given her. She now also owned her own professional digital camera and a couple of professional class lenses, funded from her private photographic activities. She still prized her old Mamiya for the extra “something” that photos she took with it conveyed. She’d also made some stunning shots with the Leica that Duncan had left her.
During the past two years or so since the magazine article, Mel had entered several national and international photographic competitions and had firmly established her reputation amongst the community of professional photographers. She used much of her spare time writing articles for magazines, often by invitation, and she had exhibited some of her best work in local and regional art centres.
Through fees and prizes – and because of her hard work and dedication – Mel now had a substantial private income and, despite paying-off the loan to her mum and dad, she had considerable savings. All-in-all, she was aware that she could resign from her employment at Hannays, and use the time and independence thus released to travel, and to build her career as a professional – as she had first imagined.
Tony, recognising this possibility, had in fact asked her whether she intended to continue working in the shop. He and Lucy had become concerned that she worked too hard – she seemed to have no life outside her photography. At the same time, it was this work ethic and outstanding ability that lay behind the shop’s ability to remain open when so many other small shops were closing each month. They had no idea how they’d replace her if she were to resign.
Of the occasional times she chose to relax, she spent almost as much time with the Hannays as with her parents. Lucy too, had recently asked her whether she’d ever thought about becoming a freelance professional. Mel had been at their house for a meal and Lucy had posed the question afterwards as Mel relaxed with the family in their living room.
Her answer had been immediate.
‘My private work is something that I do because I can,’ she said, ‘I love being out with my camera, and I get a buzz from seeing my work being published or displayed – whether it’s in the gallery upstairs or in a museum somewhere.’
She looked at Lucy and placed her hand on Lucy’s arm.
‘But I get a different kind of buzz from what I do in the shop. On top of that, my shop wages are regular – freelancing is risky. Above all, I can no longer imagine what my life would be without the shop and without Jamie, you and Tony.’
Lucy reached across, placed her hand on top of Mel’s and squeezed it.
‘Listen Mel, I can’t imagine the shop now without you.’
Her self-imposed restriction of her personal social life had meant that she had no boyfriends other than Jamie. They had become an established couple and the fact that Jamie now worked upstairs at the shop meant that they had some time to look forward to together after work. Her circle of friends outside the Hannays now included almost no one except Stacy, Connor and their eighteen-month’s old toddler, Amber.
She still had no plans to be a bride. She had long since got over her initial doubts about Jamie whom she loved, but Craig, Sean and Geoff had been her tutors in a hard school of life, and the behaviour of men in general, in the way that they looked at her or spoke to her, continued to aggravate her misandry.
The relationship between Mel and Jamie was complex. Jamie was keen for them to become engaged. She, however, was still suspicious of engagement with its traditional associations of church weddings. She was content for them to plan for a life together, living together, but it would be more difficult for them than for Stacy and Connor, both of whom earned high incomes. Mel didn’t want them to have to rent somewhere together, and, because of that, they’d been saving for a deposit towards buying a place of their own when they could afford a mortgage.
The other fly in the ointment was that Mel was now the higher earner of the two, solely because of her private work. She couldn’t see how that could be maintained, however, without her spending regular holidays from the shop, travelling on assignments. She’d also been approached, more than once, to work for international companies, as a photographer on a substantial salary, but there again, that would have meant long periods away from home. Mel was ambitious, but she knew that, eventually, such a life could only be at the cost of a split from Jamie, and she was not prepared to risk losing the love that she’d now found with him.
So, in the meantime, the two worked together, often sat at the same table for meals, had occasional dates and, when they could, booked a weekend together. That was as far as it went in April 2018.
Today, I continue my series of photos taken in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.
This next shot is a scene from the canal that runs through the town.
For all these 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. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/160 secs @ f/11, focal length 16 mm, and ISO 400.