The Phoenix Time #51

Previously……….

He explained to Gloria that he’d buy his evening meal out somewhere, so that she could have a natter with her mum. He asked her to text him once Charlotte had returned home. It had been a quiet day. David had spent the afternoon watching sport, Gloria had been to the shops to pick up some snack foods for when her mum arrived. Davina was in her room revising. It was still raining, so he donned a raincoat before he left to drive to the pub. He looked forward to the carvery. Charlotte wouldn’t be eating anything as nice as that.

Continued………

Tuesday – Week Three

 Local History Group

When Charlotte arrived at the Library, just before ten, it had stopped raining but the dark clouds promised more to come. She saw that most of the other members had already arrived, so she went straight to her usual table and greeted her usual group. They all commented on her tanned complexion and asked about her holiday, but their discussion was soon brought to an end as Renee, the Chairperson, called the meeting to order.  The Secretary answered questions and comments about the minutes of the meeting Charlotte had missed. As Hazel was speaking, Charlotte read silently her copy of them. She’d already picked up her copy of the agenda for today’s meeting. Everything looked to be uncontroversial.

At the interval, she  took her cup of tea to her table with her biscuits and continued her tale of what she’d done and where she’d been. Some of the group had been to the area previously and added their confirmation of Dorset as a glorious part of the country.

The second half of the meeting related to aspects of the industrial past of the area – coal-mining, engineering and printing. In preparation for the next meeting Renee announced that Hazel and herself would be looking at aspects of local history through the epitaphs on headstones of graves in the local churchyards. Volunteers were invited to accompany them and to email copies of any photographs they took. Charlotte thought that it might be interesting, so she volunteered.

Frank

Gloria had texted Frank, just after eight the previous evening, to say that the coast was clear. He’d received the call while he was still at the restaurant. When he’d returned to Gloria’s shortly afterwards, she’d told him how well and happy her mum had looked. Somehow, that didn’t make him feel as happy as perhaps it should have.

On Tuesday morning, while his wife was at her meeting, Frank too was busy – house hunting. By now, Frank knew by sight the staff at most of the lettings agencies and estate agencies. It was lunchtime before he finished visits to their offices, but he’d arranged half a dozen appointments to viewings over the next few days – one of them for that afternoon.

He went back to Gloria’s first to do a bit of housework and to start preparations for their evening meal. He stood, peeling potatoes at the kitchen sink, looking out at the garden. The Sun had come out at last and the garden was a blaze of colour – many of the flowers were ones he knew would also be blossoming in Charlotte’s garden: Welsh poppies, primroses, aubretia, lithospermum and fuschias. From the rear fence, white clematis cascaded, and above it all, the Rowan tree was full of blossom. It was only the other day that he’d cut the grass and, after the recent rain, it looked green and healthy.

He left the peeled and chopped potatoes in a pan of salted water, together with other vegetables that he’d prepared. He washed and dried his hands and put on a jacket to look at the house he’d arranged to see.

It was another wasted journey. The house was still a work-in -progress. The landlord was there together with the builder, who was plastering one of the walls. There were still clearly a lot of other jobs that would need to be finished. Frank asked the landlord to phone him in two or three weeks when the work was complete. If he hadn’t found anywhere else, he might be interested.

Featured Photo

Another photograph today from when I was walking back from Happy Valley at Carr Mill along the woodland path – returning the way that I’d come. This image shows the stream flowing into a tunnel and the effect of the red, iron rich water pictured in yesterday’s image as it entered the main stream.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP crop sensor camera with a 35mm f/2 prime lens lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/100 seconds at f/13. The ISO was 3200. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #50

Previously……….

The rain was relentless and the spray from passing vehicles was occasionally dangerous, resulting in almost zero visibility. She stuck to Lane One as far as was possible, overtaking only the slowest of heavier vehicles. She’d called in at three service areas on the way North, braving the rain to use the facilities and to rest her eyes and her brain for a while. So far though, she shouldn’t be more than forty-five minutes behind her scheduled arrival

Continued………

A visit to Gloria

Having reached home, unloaded the car, freshened up and changed her clothes, she made herself a quick snack from the contents of the fridge. She’d managed to have a cooked meal at one of the motorway service areas earlier, so she wasn’t all that hungry. She phoned Gloria, confirmed that Frank wasn’t there and climbed in her car again for the short journey to see her daughter.

Gloria threw her arms around her mum when she opened the door and saw her.

‘Thank God you got back safe,’ she said, herding her mum into the house, ‘It must have been Hell driving in this weather.’

When Charlotte took off her coat for Gloria to hang somewhere to drip, Gloria remarked on how tanned and well Charlotte looked. Peter and Davina joined them in the hall to welcome her.

‘What did you say to Dad in your text?’ Gloria said, ‘I got the impression he was sulking afterwards.’

Charlotte explained and Gloria put her hand to her mouth.

‘You didn’t?’ she said, ‘Really? Just like that? Aaaw! That’s awful.’

‘I know,’ Charlotte said, ‘ I did it on the spur of the moment and I’ve been regretting it ever since.’

‘I bet he’s in some pub somewhere, sheltering from this deluge,’ Gloria said, ‘He’ll be touring the estate agents again tomorrow, you’ll see.  I hope he doesn’t find anywhere. I like having him here. You can’t have him back. He’s too much help around the house for me to lose him now.’

‘Ooooh!’ said Charlotte, ‘It’s like that is it? Well, I’m glad someone thinks he’s useful.’ She laughed. ‘You keep him then.’

‘Anyway,’ Peter interrupted, ‘ tell us about your holiday.’

Much of what Charlotte had to say was about Carrie and their friendship. The weather and some details of the places they’d visited was mentioned, but Gloria noticed how her mum became a little upset when she spoke of Carrie being like the sister she’d never had.

Charlotte eventually changed the subject to ask how they’d all been – and about the Sunday dinner.

Frank

He couldn’t deny he was hurt. His invitation had been a genuine offer of help if she’d wanted it. It was fine that she was making other plans, but why did she have to be so snotty? A simple ‘Thanks but no thanks. I’ll get something on the way back,’ would have been an ample but polite rejection. He wouldn’t ask her again.

He had no problem with her wanting to see Gloria without him being there. That was simple mum and daughter stuff. The second kick had been in the tail – the bit telling him to get off his backside and start house hunting in earnest. It was the very thing that he’d already decided to do when the letting agents re-opened after the bank holiday.

He explained to Gloria that he’d have his evening meal out, so that she could have a natter with her mum. He asked her to text him once she’d gone home. David had spent the afternoon watching sport, Gloria had been to the shops to pick up some snack foods for when her mum arrived. Davina was in her room revising. It was still raining, so he donned a raincoat before he left to drive to the pub. He looked forward to the carvery. Charlotte wouldn’t be eating anything as nice as that.

Featured Photo

Another photograph today from when I was walking back from Happy Valley at Carr Mill along the woodland path – returning the way that I’d come. This image shows some red, iron rich water entering the main stream – probably from an old, long-forgotten factory or mill.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP crop sensor camera with a 35mm f/2 prime lens lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/100 seconds at f/13. The ISO was 3200. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #49

Previously……….

David and Peter were in favour of everyone going for a walk afterwards, but the rain had become a persistent drizzle and the women refused en bloc. Frank remarked how well Charlotte had fared weather-wise. He passed on the details of the daily texts he and Charlotte had exchanged. Gloria and David looked at each other, eyebrows raised. This sounded like a separation without very much separation.

Continued………

Monday – Week Three – The return home

In Dorset it was still sunny, but there was increased cloud. Charlotte had looked at the weather forecast and had seen that she’d be heading into rain. In a way she’d been glad – the bad weather might deter some drivers who’d otherwise be wanting to travel to popular bank holiday destinations. Against that of course, visibility would be reduced and the road surface potentially treacherous.  Whatever the weather, she was going home.

Frank had sent her a text before she left the hotel, offering to take her out to dinner when she got back that evening to save her cooking.  She’d sent a fairly harsh reply:

‘We can’t keep having meals together whenever you feel like not being separated. I want to spend some time with my daughter tonight. Please don’t be there until after I leave. I never get the chance to see her on my own with you being there all the time. Why can’t you find a place of your own?’

It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, passing Keele services, she regretted her impulse. She still wanted to see Gloria without Frank being there, but she could have handled it more graciously. In retrospect, he’d just see it as more evidence of her being a ‘total bitch’. ‘It would have been nice not to have to cook. It was actually very thoughtful of him. Still, what was done was done’.

The other texts that she’d sent had been much nicer. She’d exchanged farewell messages with Carrie and she’d let both Gloria and David know what time she expected to arrive. She’d phone Gloria once she’d reached home.

The rain was relentless and the spray from passing vehicles was occasionally dangerous, resulting in almost zero visibility. She stuck to Lane One as far as was possible, overtaking only the slowest of heavier vehicles. She’d called in at three service areas on the way North, braving the rain to use the facilities and to rest her eyes and her brain for a while. So far though, she shouldn’t be more than forty-five minutes behind her scheduled arrival.

Featured Photo

Another photograph today from when I was walking back from Happy Valley at Carr Mill along the woodland path – returning the way that I’d come. I took this image because, unlike some of the others, it shows how popular this path is as people leave their homes for fresh air relief from Covid restrictions.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP crop sensor camera with a 35mm f/2 prime lens lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/125 seconds at f/11. The ISO was 2500. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #48

Previously……….

Thinking of food, his mind moved on to the meal he’d be enjoying with the family that evening. David and his children would be there – everybody but Charlotte. ‘His’ family, but without Charlotte being among them he felt that it wouldn’t be the same and that he’d be like a spare priest at a wedding.

Since he’d been living there, he’d helped out in every way he could: shopping, dusting, cleaning, washing-up, preparing food for when the family returned. He always did his own laundry and ironing. He knew that Gloria was grateful for the extra pair of helping hands. She hadn’t been willing to take money from him – ‘it’s as easy to cook for four as for three’ she’d said. He felt guilty nevertheless.

He’d just have to make an extra effort to find somewhere to rent.

Continued………

He heard footsteps on the landing outside his door; from the direction of travel and their weight, he guessed it would be David. He roused himself, straightened his bed and put on his dressing gown. Perhaps he could help with the breakfasts.

Ashton-in-Makerfield – Dinner for seven

Gloria  wouldn’t let him near the kitchen.

‘Remember the last time you got in a woman’s way in the kitchen Dad,’ she teased, but she noticed how his face fell at the memory.

‘Sorry Dad,’ she said, ‘Only teasing.’

She touched his arm.

‘You go and sit down. David will be here soon.’

He left her and Frank in the kitchen. Gloria’s kitchen was considerably larger than that ‘at home’ – he still thought of it as ‘home’. It had been extended to become a kitchen diner. The couple had obviously spent a lot of money on modernising the layout, cabinets and equipment. The wall tiles were white, long and narrow – laid like house bricks. The work tops were shiny and black. They had a separate utility room for things like the washing machine and tumble-drier – or whatever they called them these days..

Davina was upstairs getting ready to meet her cousins. He picked up the Sunday paper that he’d bought that morning. Most of the front pages were about the previous week’s local elections. The other major headline was about a senior cabinet minister who’d been sacked about a leak. He read the first few pages then turned to the editorial. There was nothing he couldn’t have anticipated having watched the previous evening’s television news.

When David arrived, he and Jake joined Frank in the living room, having spoken to Gloria and Peter in the kitchen. Grace had run upstairs to talk to Davina.

Jake picked up the newspaper’s colour supplements to look through. David jumped straight into asking Frank about how things were between him and Charlotte. There wasn’t much new to tell him. Frank got David talking about what was happening at the sixth-form college where he lectured. Most of it was about the coming exams and the remainder about bureaucracy. At least it moved the conversation away from more sensitive matters.

Gloria and Peter laid on a splendid spread of food for the three-course meal. There was a watercress and celeriac soup with cheese croutons, followed by roast lamb with parsnips, broccoli boiled and roasted potatoes. The dessert was summer pudding – Frank’s favourite. Frank managed not to knock over his glass of red wine.

David and Peter were in favour of everyone going for a walk afterwards, but the rain had become a persistent drizzle and the women refused en bloc. Frank remarked how well Charlotte had fared weather-wise. He passed on the details of the daily texts he and Charlotte had exchanged. Gloria and David looked at each other, eyebrows raised. This sounded like a separation without very much separation.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a a little more than a week ago (21/02/2021) while I was out for a walk. I’d gone to take my daily exercise a couple of miles further from home than usual. I began near the Ship Inn at Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside. I parked near the Ranger’s Hut and walked, initially along the Canal and then beside the stream along the woodland path to its junction with Garswood Old Road at Happy Valley, Carr Mill. I’d taken my camera and I’ve already posted some photos a few days ago.

We return today to where I took this next photograph walking back from Happy Valley at Carr Mill along the woodland path – returning the way that I’d come. Along the path there is a pool with nice reflections and the path curves nicely alongside it. Two men were walking on the path in the same direction that I was headed and a couple were approaching from the far side of the pool. I thought that the composition looked okay and I liked the S-curved shape of the path as it led into my viewfinder frame.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP crop sensor camera with a 35mm f/2 prime lens lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/125 seconds at f/8. The ISO was 1250. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #47

Previously……….

Both women were close to tears as they hugged each other before parting.

When she reached her room, Charlotte sat down on the bed feeling a deep sense of loss. Her reverie was broken when her phone notified her of an incoming message.

Back to the real world!

Continued………

Ashton-in-Makerfield – a soliloquy

While Charlotte was waking to sunshine on her final day in Dorset, Frank was wakened by the sound of gusts of wind and heavy rain pelting his window. He picked up his phone from his bedside table and looked at the time. It was only six but he didn’t feel that he was going to be able to get back to sleep. He checked his phone for notifications.

He saw that Charlotte had finally answered his text but when he saw the time that she’d sent it he remembered what she’d been doing the previous evening.  He wondered how she’d got on at Durdle Door. She promised in the text to send him some photos. He had an idea that she’d really enjoyed her holiday and that she’d found a friend in this Carrie woman. ‘Good on her!’

The morning was getting lighter judging by the light that managed to sneak through his curtains. It was still raining though. He checked the time again: getting on for seven now. That hour had flown. He wondered if he’d managed to drop off to sleep in the meantime.

He fancied the idea of a cup of tea but he didn’t want to wake anybody. It was Sunday morning – a bank holiday Sunday – and they deserved a lie-in. His mind returned to his future. It was nice that Gloria wanted him to stay and he liked being with them, but at moments like this he didn’t feel in charge of his life. Gloria was his daughter – and he knew that she loved him – but, in effect, he was an intruder, not really independent. This wasn’t what he’d envisaged when he’d left Charlotte.

Another insight that he’d had, since he left, was that his hoped-for freedom to roam at will to take photographs had been a bit of a let-down. It wasn’t just that he wouldn’t have as much to spend on travel as he’d expected, though that had been a bit of a shock. He’d come to realise that his attitude to photography had changed.

He’d been to see some of the places that he’d wanted to photograph, but having done so, he was disappointed. He was asking himself why he’d bothered. He’d come to see that the reason he’d chosen those places was because he’d seen images of them that other photographers had taken.

His images were every bit as good as those, but thinking about them, had given him an insight that doing something just because someone else had done it wasn’t a good enough reason. What he’d now like to be doing at this stage in his development was finding things to shoot because he personally had seen the potential of the subject.

Lying there, waiting to hear that someone else was up and about, he thought about Charlotte and her growing interest in photography. ‘Wouldn’t it have been nice for us to feel happy to go out together and develop our interest together. We’d have had each other’s company and plenty to talk about’.

He wondered what she’d be doing. Judging by the time she’d texted him, she’d probably still be asleep. She’d be coming home the next day. He decided to offer to take her out for a meal on her return – save her having to cook for herself.

Thinking of food, his mind moved on to the meal he’d be enjoying with the family that evening. David and his children would be there – everybody but Charlotte. ‘His’ family, but without Charlotte being among them, he felt that it wouldn’t be the same and that he’d be like a spare priest at a wedding.

Since he’d been living there, he’d helped out in every way he could: shopping, dusting, cleaning, washing-up, preparing food for when the family returned. He always did his own laundry and ironing. He knew that Gloria was grateful for the extra pair of helping hands. She hadn’t been willing to take money from him – ‘it’s as easy to cook for four as for three,’ she’d said. He felt guilty nevertheless.

He’d just have to make an extra effort to find somewhere to rent.

Featured Photo

This is the third and final of the photos that I took on Saturday 6th March, 2021 while walking around Carr Mill Dam. I took the shot from the Nineteen Arches pedestrian viaduct looking towards the Fishing Lodge on the far side of the Dam. The building is used these days by Lancashire Power Boat Racing Club, who host regular race meetings on the lake.

I used my Pentax K-1 36 MP full-frame camera with a 24-70mm f/2.8 full-frame short telephoto lens attached. The shutter speed was 13 seconds at f/13 and 63 mm. The ISO was 100. I rested my camera on the ledge of the viaduct and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #46

Previously……….

Carrie explained that she hadn’t added a thing to the photo, she’d merely used the computer to develop the information that the camera had captured and brought out the beautiful details.

‘And that’s a photo that I took?’ Charlotte asked.

‘All of those images in the filmstrip are from your camera Charlie. You took them all. Would you like to have a try now?’

Continued………

They swapped places and, guided by Carrie, Charlotte moved the sliders and completed the processing. Before long, Charlotte was able to cope alone and had made up her mind to acquire that software. She made a careful note on her phone of what to get. She had one last favour to ask of Carrie before she removed the SD card.

Carrie agreed and exported the processed files back to a file from which she emailed them to Charlotte.

Carrie said that she’d already developed her own images and showed them to Charlotte, who could see that there was a visible difference in quality between hers and Carrie’s but, as Carrie explained, her camera was a professional model that she needed to produce photos which she could confidently offer for sale. Charlie was, nevertheless delighted with her photographs, which she could now show to friends and family.

They spent the remainder of the afternoon walking around Lyme, occasionally resting to enjoy the views across the Cobb and out to sea, watching boats bobbing and birds swooping, adventurous souls swimming and people just walking or sitting. The two friends sat listening, depending on where they were at the time, to the sounds of the sea, the shrieking of the gulls, the breeze, the people talking or the passing traffic.

Too soon, it seemed to Charlotte, it was time for her final meal with Carrie, at least for the time being, because she hoped against hope that they’d see each other again. They strolled slowly to their restaurant.

By now they already knew each other’s postal and email addresses, telephone numbers and birthdays. They reminisced as they ate, about the places they’d seen together, the things they’d enjoyed most. Before they parted, standing where they could overlook the Cobb, Charlotte reached into her bag and handed the envelope to Carrie.

‘Carrie, I had no idea what to get you as a keepsake, but there’s something in there that I know you’ll make good use of. It isn’t much, but I just wanted to say thank you for your company and for making this such a wonderful holiday.’

‘But I haven’t got anything for you Charlie. You shouldn’t have – but thank you.’

‘No. Thank you for teaching me so much – and I don’t just mean about photography.  Listen Carrie, I have a lovely brother, but I always wanted a sister and, this past week, you’ve been like the sister I always wanted. I do hope that you find all the shots that you could wish for on the remainder of your tour in Devon and Cornwall and I hope that you’ll find time to come North and spend some time with me – and meet my family.’

Both women were close to tears as they hugged each other before parting.

When she reached her room, Charlotte sat down on the bed feeling a deep sense of loss. Her reverie was broken when her phone notified her of an incoming message.

Back to the real world!

Featured Photo

This is the second of the photos that I took on Saturday 6th March, 2021 while walking around Carr Mill Dam. The Dam is used a lot by anglers and the photo shows, in the foreground, one of the many anglers’ pegs around the water’s edge – and in the background, the trees on the bank as it rises above the lake.

I used my Pentax K1 36 MP full-frame-camera with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 short telephoto lens attached. The shutter speed was 30 seconds at f/14 and 24 mm. The ISO was 100. The shot was tripod mounted and I used a six stop neutral density filter. I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #45

Previously……….

He looked at his watch. It was time to get back to Gloria’s. She was making a risotto for tea and he didn’t want to be late for that. He was being spoiled, but it would be wrong to impose on her good nature for much longer. He decided to have a word after tea if he could get her on her own. He sent a text to Charlotte to ask how she was but didn’t expect a reply. She’d be getting ready for a long night of star-watching and would probably be conserving her phone battery life.

He looked forward to joining the family including David and his children for their dinner the following evening.

Continued………

CHAPTER SEVEN

Sunday – first day of Week Three

Dorset Day Seven – A day in Lyme relaxing

The final moments of Charlotte’s waking dream were rudely broken by the five notes of a message notification on her phone. As had happened each day this week she suddenly sat straight up, looking for Frank, aware that she wasn’t in her room at home. She remained in that seated position, the fingers of both hands to her mouth as she took in her circumstances and surroundings.

The morning sun was streaming through a crack in her closed curtains. She rubbed her eyes, sighed, rose from her bed, and walked around it to the bathroom. She felt better once she’d showered, dried off and applied her make up before dressing for the day. She looked at the time – ten past ten – she’d missed breakfast.

Picking up her phone she checked and replied to her notifications and messages – all bar one from family – she still thought of Frank as family despite recent history.  The one that wasn’t from family was from Carrie.

‘You up? Call round when you’re ready and bring your camera. We’ll develop our photos then have a walk – if you’re up to it.’

She replied.

‘Only just got up. Not had breakfast yet. Be round in an hour. That okay?’

Carrie agreed by a return message. She checked that she had all she needed, then walked down the hill to the shops and cafes. It was the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend. Plenty people were up and about already, many of the men were armed with a Sunday newspaper.

Before she went for breakfast, she called in at a couple of shops and bought a Thank-You card and a media card. While she waited at her table for her food, she wrote the card, addressed the envelope and sealed the card and media card in the envelope, which she put in her handbag for later. It was a lovely sunny morning again – she couldn’t quite believe how lucky she’d been with the weather – so she walked from the shops to Carrie’s hotel.

Carrie made them both a drink, using the room hospitality-tray facilities, and they chatted generally for a while before Carrie asked Charlotte for the media card out of her camera. She placed her laptop on the desk, plugged its cable into a wall socket and switched on the power. She inserted the media card into a slot on the side of the laptop and the contents of the card loaded straight into the software program for processing photographic images that Charlotte had seen after their trip to Sidmouth.

Using the first image in a filmstrip of thumbnail photos, Carrie demonstrated the sliders she was using to improve the exposure, contrast and colours. She used an option to transfer the partly processed image into a different program to improve the quality of the image then exported it back into the original software. Charlotte was stunned by the transformation.

Carrie explained that she hadn’t added a thing to the photo, she’d merely used the computer to develop the information that the camera had captured and brought out the beautiful details.

‘And that’s a photo that I took?’ Charlotte asked.

‘All of those images in the filmstrip are from your camera Charlie. You took them all. Would you like to have a try now?’

Featured Photo

I took this photo last weekend (Saturday 6 March, 2021) while out especially to take some daybreak photographs at Carr Mill Dam. Obviously then, the photo was not taken at the same time as those in the past few posts, but this shot – and the ones tomorrow and the day after, fit nicely into the sequence before we leave Happy Valley and Carr Mill completely.

I photographed this shot from the bank of the Dam looking across to the Nineteen Arches – a pedestrian viaduct from the western side of the Dam to the Eastern side.

I used my Pentax K-1 36 MP full-frame camera with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 full-frame short telephoto lens attached. The shutter speed was 30s at f/8, 24 mm and the ISO was 100. The shot was tripod- mounted and and using a six stop neutral density filter. I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #44

The Phoenix Time #44

Previously……….

She used the key she’d been given to unlock the hotel door. There was still someone manning the reception desk and she returned the key to him. He asked her about her day and she showed him some of the images on her phone.

In her room she looked at the text messages she’d received but decided not to reply until the morning.

Continued………

Day Six – May 5th  – Ashton-in-Makerfield

While his wife and her recent acquaintance were enjoying themselves in Dorset, Frank, on the outskirts of Merseyside, set off after breakfast to do some house hunting. He’d told Charlotte, the previous evening, that he’d be going to Wigan, but he amended his plan. He headed into St Helens first to see what was available there. He bought a copy of the weekly, local free-sheet newspaper and looked at the adverts. There were a couple of houses to-let privately. He was a bit wary because the landlords wouldn’t necessarily be licenced – so there was the possibility of being let down on things like maintenance or refund of deposits. He decided to contact directly the people who’d placed the adverts to arrange a viewing. There was no answer from the first number he rang but he left a message. He managed to speak to the next advertiser and was invited to visit immediately.

The place was a former council house. Having seen the outside, Frank recognised that it was of non-standard construction and the owner probably wouldn’t be able to sell it. Mortgage companies would probably run a mile. That would be the reason for letting he guessed. From the inside it appeared to be a decent size and to be neat and tidy, but he noticed signs of damp in the corner of a ceiling near the window and that one of the double-glazed windows at the rear was blown. He thanked the owner but said that it wasn’t what he was looking for. The rent asked in the advert hadn’t been excessive but the few issues that he’d noticed worried him.

He drove back into the town centre and collected some details leaflets from the lettings agents’ offices. He’d decide which properties he wanted to view when he’d read a bit more about them than from what he’d heard from the agent.

He decided to call into one of the cafes to have some lunch before he went to Wigan.

He wasn’t really very familiar with the area surrounding Wigan, although he knew the town-centre well. When he got there, the first thing that he did was to obtain a local map. Once more he started by picking up leaflets and getting some idea of what the agents themselves were like. He returned to his car and read the leaflets, worked out an itinerary using the local map and drove around, familiarising himself with local geography and the types of areas where the nicest properties were located.

He was learning that there appeared to be a definite correlation of rental costs with the type of area and size of house – although he’d already suspected that. It would all be something to think about when he got back home.

He looked at his watch. It was time to get back to Gloria’s. She was making a risotto for tea and he didn’t want to be late for that. He was being spoiled but it would be wrong to impose on her good nature for much longer. He decided to have a word after tea if he could get her on her own. He sent a text to Charlotte to ask how she was but didn’t expect a reply. She’d be getting ready for a long night of star-watching and would probably be conserving her phone battery life.

He looked forward to joining the family including David and his children for their dinner the following evening.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a a little more than a week ago (21/02/2021) while I was out for a walk. I’d gone to take my daily exercise a couple of miles further from home than usual. I began near the Ship Inn at Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside. I parked near the Ranger’s Hut and walked, initially along the Canal and then beside the stream along the woodland path to its junction with Garswood Old Road at Happy Valley, Carr Mill. I’d taken my camera and took lots of photos to show you over the next several episodes of this story. Most of them will show the path and the water beside it.

I took this next photograph standing beside Carr Mill Dam looking at some swans.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2 full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/250s at f/5 and the ISO was 250. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #43

Previously……….

 From where they were on the beach, they’d be able to get some great shots and it would be a brilliant place from which to do their star shots. However, remembering the steepness and difficulty of the steps down to the beach, neither of them fancied making the return journey to the car in pitch-black darkness – with or without torches. They decided to take  some photos while they could, and agreed to return to the clifftop where they could head back towards Man O’War Beach in time for sunset.

Carrie’s hopes were fulfilled. There were just enough clouds that were underlit in gold but turning to shades of purple, as the Sun sank below the horizon, to create a beautiful sunset scene.

Continued………

By the time they got back to the car to collect their things for the night, the sky was turning a beautiful shade of blue and the clouds were disappearing.  They went, westwards again, to where they’d stood before, assessing the view towards Durdle Door’s arch. They knew by then that they’d still be able to get some great photos and it would also be much less dangerous returning to the car park.

Carrie had been correct, there were quite a few other photographers there, but almost all of them were spread along the beach below. Only a few had, like themselves, opted for safety. They used the time and opportunity to take, what Carrie described as Blue Hour shots. She explained to Charlotte how, from now on, they would definitely need to use their tripods. Because there was less  light, they’d need to use slower shutter speeds and, on its own, that would require changes to other settings to get a bright enough and sharp enough photo.

Carrie explained how the earth’s rotation meant that all the stars would appear to be moving across the sky as they took their photos. This movement meant that they’d only be able to keep their shutters open for a few seconds. Otherwise the stars would appear as short streaks rather than as clear, round points of light.

There was a breeze getting up, and it was beginning to get chilly, so they donned their warm clothing and hats and put gloves on while they waited. Every now and then, another photographer or photographers would come over to them to talk about things like camera types and settings – or about using torches to illuminate the arch below. Charlotte was fascinated. Photography clearly was a devoted – perhaps even obsessive – sub-culture.

The spectacle of the stars as they appeared, first singly then as constellations, lastly as a gorgeous canopy, amazed Charlotte. She had never seen so many stars in her life. Nevertheless, when they started taking photographs of the Milky Way, she was disappointed because it didn’t seem as bright to her as she’d hoped or expected. Carrie explained that their cameras, using the settings she’d explained earlier, would collect a lot more light than her eyes could see. By this time, the warmth of the day had departed and, despite the additional layers of clothing that she’d brought and put on, Charlotte was shivering. Her camera and tripod were now almost icy cold and her cold fingers found it increasingly difficult to operate the settings.

They compared their images on their preview screens and Carrie said that she’d show Charlotte, the following day. how to process them to show off their full glory.

By eleven they were making their way back to the car, having checked that they’d not left anything behind. As Carrie had warned, in the moonless darkness, without their headtorches they’d have had great difficulty finding their way back to the car. Having each other to talk to eased the eeriness of their walk back.

The drive back to Lyme was uneventful. Even with the car’s temperature control set high, it took some time for them to stop shivering. Charlotte offered to take over the driving if Carrie were tired but she seemed wide awake – their minds were still buzzing with memories of what they’d seen.

She used the key she’d been given to unlock the hotel door. There was still someone manning the reception desk and she returned the key to him. He asked her about her day and she showed him some of the images on her phone.

In her room she looked at the text messages she’d received but decided not to reply until the morning.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a a little more than a week ago (21/02/2021) while I was out for a walk. I’d gone to take my daily exercise a couple of miles further from home than usual. I began near the Ship Inn at Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside. I parked near the Ranger’s Hut and walked, initially along the Canal and then beside the stream along the woodland path to its junction with Garswood Old Road at Happy Valley, Carr Mill. I’d taken my camera and took lots of photos to show you over the next several episodes of this story. Most of them will show the path and the water beside it.

This next photograph is of the railway viaduct at Happy Valley at Carr Mill. The viaduct carries trains from Liverpool to Wigan and to stations beyond.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2 full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/250s at f/5 and the ISO was 200. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #42

Previously……….

She showed Charlotte examples of interesting compositions as they walked, and explained how photographers use light. When they came across a view of particular interest, she demonstrated with her camera how she chose the settings to use – and why. For some scenes, without explaining how she’d approach the shot, she asked Charlotte to set up her camera and tripod, and asked her to choose the composition and settings. Afterwards, each time, she talked Charlotte through her preview images and explained alternative approaches.

Again, for other shots, she taught Charlotte how to set features such as shutter speed, exposure and sensitivity. Charlotte was a quick learner and was soon using her new knowledge like an expert.

Continued………

There were plenty of opportunities to photograph the stunning white cliffs along the South Western Coastal Path on their way to Lulworth Cove, where they took the chance to use the public toilets provided. Carrie then led them on a loop, firstly down to the Stair Hole and Crumple then onto the Cove itself. At the Stair Hole viewpoint, they marvelled at the easily seen classic stages of erosion, such as caves, blow-holes, arches, stacks and stumps. At the Lulworth Crumple, they saw how once flat sedimentary beds had been lifted up, tilted and twisted to form amazing patterns. 

When they got back to the Lulworth Visitor Centre, they bought a drink and made sure to visit the toilets again. Neither of them wanted to need a toilet break after dusk.

It was getting on for six before they got back to the car. Carrie reckoned that it would be at least another four hours before the bright galactic core of the Milky Way would be bright enough to be worth trying to photograph. She told Charlotte of her hopes that they might even be able to see the full arch of the Milky Way. Before that, once they’d eaten, she suggested that they scout out viewpoints for an evening’s photography.

When they set off, they still planned to return to the car following their recce, so they left most of their things in the boot. Firstly, they walked Westwards to get a clifftop view, looking slightly downwards.  Then they walked Eastwards beyond Man O’War Beach to find a spot for a sunset photo.  Afterwards, they made their way back and descended to Durdle Door Beach, where they had the usual tourist view with the arch at eye-level. They discussed tactics.

 From where they were on the beach, they’d be able to get some great shots and it would be a brilliant place from which to do their star shots. However, remembering the steepness and difficulty of the steps down to the beach, neither of them fancied making the return journey to the car in pitch-black darkness – with or without torches. They decided to take  some photos while they could, and agreed to return to the clifftop where they could head back towards Man O’War Beach in time for sunset.

Carrie’s hopes were fulfilled. There were just enough clouds that were underlit in gold but turning to shades of purple, as the Sun sank below the horizon, to create a beautiful sunset scene.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a a little more than a week ago (21/02/2021) while I was out for a walk. I’d gone to take my daily exercise a couple of miles further from home than usual. I began near the Ship Inn at Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside. I parked near the Ranger’s Hut and walked, initially along the Canal and then beside the stream along the woodland path to its junction with Garswood Old Road at Happy Valley, Carr Mill. I’d taken my camera and took lots of photos to show you over the next several episodes of this story. Most of them will show the path and the water beside it.

This next photograph is of Happy Valley at Carr Mill and shows the old and later overflows from Carr Mill Dam.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2 full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/100s at f/13and the ISO was 640. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.