‘Well, there you go, man. Come back and tell everybody else what you’ve been learning. Anyway, wasn’t it you who gave that talk about rainy-day photography? Photographing things about the house?’
‘These days, I’d want to get some proper lighting gear,’ Jack says, ‘Set up a mini studio.’
Frank says nothing for a moment while he thinks. Jack makes to leave.
‘I’ve got to go, mate. My sciatica won’t let me stand like this. My hip and leg are killing me.’
‘If you’re that bad, you wouldn’t be much use walking about Durham would you? Listen. I’m sorry about your sciatica, but before you go, I’ve just had an idea.’
Jack looks at Frank but says nothing.
Frank starts clearing a space in the back of his van..
‘Come round the back and let me show you something,’ Frank says, turning away and rummaging in the back of his van.
‘What about social distancing?’ Jack asks.
‘Bugger social distancing for a minute,’ Frank replies, ‘Come here.’
Once Jack has made his way between the stalls to the other side of Frank’s counter, he sees that his friend has pulled out a large, glass fish tank on to a clear space between other unsold stock. The tank’s about two and a half feet long by two feet tall and the same deep.
“Not fucking likely!’ Jack says, ‘There’s no way you’re going to persuade me to start keeping tropical fish.’
‘Don’t be so bloody miserable. Who said I had tropical fish in mind anyway? Use your imagination.’
Jack stands, his arms folded, but one arm up and his knuckles under his chin. His brow is furrowed.
‘Well, go on. Enlighten me.’
Frank turns the tank on its side so that the open-end faces Jack.
‘Enlightening! Just the word!’ Frank says, pointing to the upper glass wall of the tank.
‘Aah!’ says Jack, ‘A mini studio. A light box.’
‘Exactly!’ says Frank.
The two men talk and point, excited, animated as they exchange views about how the tank could be used – lighting from above, kitchen foil lining one or both sides to reflect the light inwards, and coloured mountboard, cut to use as backdrops and as a base.
‘How much?’ Jack asks. He’s smiling now. In his mind he’s lining up things to photograph in the tank – flowers, jewellery, food – even insects.
‘A tenner,’ Frank says.
‘How much?’ Jack repeats – the emphasis on the word ‘how’.
‘I’ll do you a mate’s rate, Jack – on one condition.’
Jack waits for the catch.
‘A fiver if you re-enrol with the group and give us a presentation with photos of how you’ve used it. We’ll all be glad to see your ugly face again. Think of the pals you’ll have to keep you company.’
‘But how am I going to get the damn thing home, Frank? I can’t carry it. Look at the size of it.’
Frank roots in his apron for a pen and paper.
‘Write your address and phone number on that,’ he says, passing them to Jack. ‘I’ll deliver it in the van personally. Will you be in at teatime?’
Jack nods as he writes. He hands the pen, paper and a five-pound note to Frank.
Covid forgotten, the two men shake hands and agree that it was nice to see each other again.
Jack has another look at the fish tank before he leaves.
Frank notices the smile on Jack’s face, and that, as he walks away, he holds himself more upright and his gait seems more purposeful.
‘I hope that he keeps his word and comes back to the flock,’ he thinks.
‘The price is right and it’s all gotta go!’ he shouts, looking around for potential customers and stuffing the paper and cash into the money bag around his waist.
Another shot from our garden, also taken on Easter Day. Tulips growing up through a dandelion weed. Beauty can overcome even the toughest obstacles.
I took this on with my Pentax K-1 36 MP full-frame camera, this time using a Pentax 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. The EXIF data are 1/20 secs @ f/3.2 and 68 mm. The ISO was 100. I used a tripod.