Regarding Melissa #9

…..Previously

The walk around the lake and through woodland offered a variety of viewpoints for photography and Mr Waring coached them in the skills of framing focusing and exposing their shots. He related focusing to ideas he’d explained in class about lenses and optics. The outing was a revelation to Mel. She made her mind up during that outing – she wanted to become a photographer when she left school. On the journey home she plied her teacher with a barrage of questions about careers in photography and qualifications required.

Continued…….

From her time in secondary education and through university Mel had always had male admirers and, occasionally boyfriends. Until Craig, none of these relationships had lasted more than a week or two.

It was after her graduation, that she’d started going out with Craig, who’d read for a modern languages degree.  He wanted to work in the travel industry but, after university, his job applications kept getting turned down and he grew increasingly frustrated. Mel was having no better luck than Craig in finding employment, but she always took her camera with her on their walks and remained resolute in her determination to find a way to pursue her dream career,

The word love was never really mentioned but they enjoyed sex together when opportunity permitted – but because of opposition to their relationship from their parents, opportunities seldom permitted.

Mel’s mum and dad disliked Craig’s general attitude, his appearance, but above all they were concerned by how he spoke to and about Mel even in their presence. They knew not to say too much for fear of driving her further into his  control.

On the other hand, Craig’s dad wasn’t too impressed by Mel. Ken Whittaker, Craig’s dad saw Mel as an ‘airhead’ – pleasant enough, but impractical, having her head in the clouds. He wanted Craig to find a girl who was more ‘down-to-earth’.

 Marriage had not been something either had in mind, though they had talked a few times, in very general terms, about moving in somewhere together when they could afford to pay rent. Mel was becoming increasingly irritated by his attitude lately though and was becoming less and less committed to the idea. Meanwhile, because neither her parents nor his approved of their relationship, there was, in any event, zero chance of them being able to live together in either of the parental homes.

Craig

‘You jammy bitch,’ Craig said, ‘How did you manage that?’

Mel had phoned him with her news as soon as she arrived home.

‘I simply dazzled them with my charm, loser,’ she said

‘What? You just walked into the shop, told them you wanted a job and they said ‘Okay’?’

‘You’re just jealous because I showed some initiative. Admit it. Some of us have what it takes – don’t I?’

‘Well, it’s easier for a girl to succeed at interview. I bet they saw things your way just looking at your tits and your legs.’

‘Sexist pig,’ she said. She waited because she could hear Craig’s dad talking to him, asking him what job she’d got. He was shouting at Craig telling him that if ‘Dolly Daydream’ could get a job it just showed how useless Craig must be.

Featured Photo

Just two more photos from the sunset session at Crosby beach. This first one is a simple landscape shot view of the Sun setting over the Irish Sea wind farm.

Once again, I used my Pentax K-1 camera tripod-mounted and paired with my 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. The EXIF data are as follows: Shutter speed 3/10 secs @ f/13 and 24 mm. The ISO was 100.

Regarding Melissa #4

……..Previously

She’d only asked her Mum to lend her some money for some new summer clothes.

‘Get your arse into gear girl, her dad had ordered her, ‘I  need to see you trying harder to get a proper job. Four afternoons a week behind a bar just isn’t the key to self-sufficiency.’

He went on to inform her that she was not to treat her parents like a money tree and gave her an ultimatum in what sounded to be military terms – “shape up or ship out”.

Craig was regularly getting the same type of earache from his mum and dad. He was in a similarly dependent relationship with them.

Continued…….

‘I’m going to go into town tomorrow to have yet another try at handing out CVs in the shops,’ she said, ‘It’s never worked in the past but I have to try something.’

‘We’re doing fine as we are though, aren’t we?’ he asked.

‘It’s just that I seem to have less options as time goes on,’ she said.

‘Fewer,’ he said, ‘Fewer options not less.’

‘Jesus, Craig,’ she said, ‘You sound like my old English Language teacher.’

‘Your occasional grammar lapses could cost you an interview, Mel,’

‘Your perfect grammar hasn’t got you a job, has it though,’ she countered, ‘if I was you I’d be looking for work outside this area.’

‘Were – not was,’ he said, ‘you should have said, “if I were you”.  If suggests a hypothetical situation that requires you to use the subjunctive mood of the verb.’

‘There you go again,’ she said, ‘Nobody but you would be so picky. Everyone I know would have understood immediately what I said. If you don’t like how I speak, fuck off and find someone who speaks proper English.’

‘Okay, okay,’ he said, ‘I was only trying to help.’

Craig tried a way out of the hole that he’d dug for himself.

‘Listen, Mel,’ he said, ‘if I seem a little edgy it’s because I keep thinking about that bloke you kept eyeing up at the bus-stop earlier.’

‘What bloke?’ she asked. She was angry now. It wasn’t the first time that he’d accused of something like that.

‘Oh, come on, Mel,’ he said. ‘You know very well which bloke. There were only two of them and you kept staring at the taller of the two. A dark- haired guy in a leather jacket.’

Mel was flummoxed. ‘I don’t even remember seeing anybody else at the bus stop, Craig,’ she said, ‘let alone staring at them.’

She turned her head and looked at him, puffing her cheeks out in exasperation.

‘I know,’ he said, ‘you’re just trying to spare my feelings – but it is hurtful.’

He turned his head to her and pulled her close to him.

She decided not to argue. It would just make things worse. It was the wrong time and the wrong place. She’d pick her moment in her own time. He kissed her forehead and they cuddled, as if comforting each other, but Mel didn’t feel comforted.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a couple of days ago while walking around Bold Country Park – another shot featuring water, reeds and reflection in an industrial setting of reclaimed colliery land. I used my Pentax 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5-5.6 telephoto lens.

The EXIF data were 1/60 secs @ f/11 and 31 mm. The ISO was 100.

Regarding Melissa #3

……………Previously

They’d started going out together a couple of years before, after a party, and still saw each other regularly, but the relationship had never moved on to anything particularly romantic or permanent. The way things were playing out, they were never likely to do so.

Continued…………

Mel looked around at her surroundings. On their bank of the canal there were signs of Spring. She could see pussy willows and the yellow flowers of gorse. Blossom was emerging on short hawthorn trees and the first green shoots were emerging on the taller deciduous trees – though not enough yet to disguise the bare branches of the recent Winter. Across the canal, beyond the trees, she could see the cooling towers above the skyline of their home town, Codmanton – a post industrial town in the Dales of Northern England.

Their conversation progressed that afternoon as slowly as the water in the canal, which sluggishly sought a surly path through tall reeds that begrudged it passage to the navigable stretch beyond. The “reeds” that would have impeded any hopes of a future together – other than Mel’s growing disenchantment with Craig – were their employment and earnings prospects. The “open stretch” beyond could have promised them a home of their own and a secure life together – if Craig were ever to propose, or she to accept.

Mel’s dad, Brian Harrington, had been explaining economic reality to her only an hour ago.

‘You’re twenty-five, jobless and seem to expect to think that you can go living here without contributing a penny towards your keep,’ he’d said, ‘It’s three years now since you graduated.’

Brian was an architect, a partner in a small local practice. The family wasn’t short of money. With his earnings and the salary of his wife, Jean – a headteacher at a local primary school – they were quite well-off. Brian, however, didn’t want his daughter to remain in the ranks of the local army of young people who were living without hope of a secure career.

She’d only asked her Mum to lend her some money for some new summer clothes.

‘Get your arse into gear girl, he ordered her, ‘I  need to see you trying harder to get a proper job. A few afternoons a week behind a bar, when they want you, just isn’t the key to self-sufficiency.’

He went on to inform her that she was not to treat her parents like a money tree and gave her an ultimatum in what sounded to be military terms – “shape up or ship out”.

Craig was regularly getting the same type of earache from his mum and dad. He was in a similarly dependent relationship with them.

Featured Photo

Well, two for the price of one today! The featured photo shows the cooling towers – not at imaginary Codmanton – at Fidlers Ferry, near Widnes UK. I took the shot in 2019 across a small lake at the Clock Face Country Park, St Helens. For this image, I used a Pentax K3ii 24 MP camera with a a 16-85 mm f’3.5-5.6 telephoto lens. The EXIF data were 1/500 secs @f/6.7 and 48 mm, The ISO was 200.

The photo of the Heron among reeds on the Sankey Canal, Blackbrook Branch, St Helens is one I took in March this year using my Pentax KP 24 MP camera and a 35 mm f/2 prime lens. The EXIF data were 1/60 secs @ f/14 and ISO 500.

Regarding Melissa #2

CHAPTER ONE

April, 2015 Codmanton, Northern England

Shadows spoiling the sunshine

‘What on God’s earth am I going to do, Craig?’ she asked, kneeling to take a photo. A swan was on its nest with its mate, among reeds on the far side of the canal. Every now and then it stretched  its long neck to select another piece of reed to add to the nest.

‘Well, for a start, stop playing with that fucking thing,’ Craig responded, charming as ever.

The “fucking thing” in question was Melissa’s pride and joy  – a second-hand Mamiya Pro SD medium format film camera. It had accompanied her through her photography degree course. She wasn’t going to tell Craig just now – but if it came to a choice between him and the camera, then goodbye Craig.

‘I’m not playing, mate, I’m practicing and building my CV,’ she answered.

‘Don’t be daft, Mel’ he argued, ‘Nobody uses antiques like that to take photos – they have these things called smartphones with amazing cameras.’

‘You want to be a languages teacher, Craig,’ she came back on him instantly, ‘Who needs to learn languages when they can use translation apps on those same smartphones?’

He wanted the last word though – he always did, ‘Pressing a button on a camera isn’t the same thing as using fluent face to face conversation.’

The April afternoon light, subdued for the moment behind thin, high cloud, meant that the beautiful bird, perfectly reflected along with the reeds would provide a great shot for her postgraduate portfolio. She sat back down beside Craig – though she resented his attitude..

He and Melissa – whom everyone knew as Mel – were looking across the canal, watching the birds. They sat on bin bags, though the ground was quite dry now after several successive dry days following Easter. Their arms were wrapped around  their knees, which were pulled up in front of them. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful stretch of water. Created by armies of labourers in the nineteenth century, to enable cargoes of coal and textiles to be ferried profitably between sources and users, it had been allowed to fall into neglect.  Melissa and Craig, however, weren’t discussing economic history so much as their personal current economic status.

You wouldn’t put them together at first glance – or perhaps even a second glance. Melissa Harrington, mid-twenties and unemployed was beautiful by any standards. Five-foot ten, long blonde hair, blue-eyed, slim and long-legged she could probably have had her pick of single young men in the town. She could probably have had her pick almost anywhere – even from married men.

Craig Whittaker was of a similar height and build and while his long straggly hair would not have looked out of place on a rock star – he was not a rock star. He was also unemployed but with his stubble, narrow face and thin lips he often looked sullen. He wasn’t ugly and he wasn’t conventionally handsome – you’d just have wondered, superficially perhaps, what a girl like that would have seen in him.

They’d started going out together a couple of years before, after a party, and still saw each other regularly, but the relationship had never moved on to anything particularly romantic or permanent. The way things were playing out, they were never likely to do so.

Featured Photo

I’ve tried to make today’s photo fit the setting of the story for a change. This is a shot that I took in March of this year while I was dog-walking along a local canal. I was using my Pentax 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm full-frame prime lens. I don’t pretend to be a pro photographer as I’ve imagined Melissa to be.

The shutter speed was 1/200 secs @ f/13 and ISO 3200.