A meeting in the Marketplace – a Short Story – Part Two


‘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.

Featured Photo

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.

A meeting in the Marketplace – a Short Story – Part One

Frank is arranging items on his town square market stall. It’s in a reasonable spot – located at the far end of the market and backed up to his van. It’s the first day back for the market since the Covid restrictions were lifted in June 2020. His stall is one of twenty or so, though some haven’t yet re-opened. It’s a bright day, and the faded, striped awning over his stall flaps noisily in the stiff breeze. Not many shoppers yet – COVID has put a lot of folk off – but Frank is an optimist. He chats to Dennis on the DVD stall next to his as he works. Every now and then he pauses to encourage trade.

‘The price is right and it’s all gotta go!’ he shouts. The “all” is stretched out and louder.

Dennis laughs and shakes his head.

Frank’s stall is organised chaos: too neat and the punters will assume his goods are overpriced. There’s a mixture of secondhand tools, hardware and accessories: hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, wrenches, spanners, vices, screws and nails; plus some bric-a-brac.

As he pauses to take a sip of tea from a large, chipped beaker, he notices a familiar face among the shoppers working their way along to his stall.

‘Hello!” he says to Dennis, ‘I’ve not seen him for a while.’ He points with his hand.

The man in question is Jack Swift. Frank and Jack have both been keen amateur photographers since way back. He used to see Jack at the monthly meetings of the local over-55’s digital photography group. Jack hasn’t been to a meeting for almost two years now. He’s looking older – a bit stooped and he’s walking with a slight limp.

At the moment Jack’s looking at the paperback books on Alice’s stall on the other side of Frank’s. As Jack looks up from the books, his eyes meet Frank’s friendly gaze in recognition. Frank nods to him.

‘I see you’ve got your mask on, Jack. Good lad! Some folks seem to have forgotten that the virus hasn’t gone away.’

‘Morning, Frank,’ Jack says, ’You okay?’

 Frank notices that Jack’s voice is quieter now and that he hasn’t shaved.

‘Not seen you for a while, Jack. Josie not with you?’

Jack says nothing for a minute. He just stares at Frank.

‘Didn’t you see it in the paper, Frank? She’s dead. Car accident in January eighteen months ago. Drunken driver.’

‘Oh God, Jack! I’m so sorry. How are you? How’s Clare taken it?’

Clare is Jack’s thirty something year old daughter. She was the apple of her mother’s eye.

‘Bearing up. Having to work from home. We only see each other by Skype. She’s scared of me catching the bug off her and losing me as well.’

‘Bloody Hell, Jack! How are you coping?’

‘Not well, Frank. The house is too quiet. I know Josie could nag for England, but it was only because she worried. I don’t half miss her voice and her bustling around the place.’

‘Are you managing to get out much yourself? I see you haven’t got your camera with you. You used to have it on that shoulder strap everywhere you went.’

‘Nowhere to go, Frank. Rules say only local exercise once a day. I’d hoped to get up to the North East – Scarborough, Whitby, Durham – as far as the Edinburgh bridges for a few weeks. Get me out of the house, take some photos. I’ve always wanted to do that trip. Covid’s buggered that up too. Not been my year!’

‘Come back to the group Jack. It’ll be company.’

‘You must be joking! Even if I wanted to, you lot can’t meet anyway now.’

‘True. But we meet via that Zoom app. Have you heard of it?’

‘Yes, but I’ve never used it. Any good?’

‘So-So! It doesn’t always work and Bert’s bloody useless with anything technical.’

They both laugh.

A passing community policeman looks at them and waves to Frank.

‘So, you’re not getting any use from your camera at all, Jack?’

‘Nothing to photograph worth bothering with is there?’

‘For God’s sake, Jack! What’s up with you man? That’s not like you. There’s other places round here you could go.’

‘What? Photograph boarded-up shops, streets piled high with litter and dog shit. I don’t think so.’

‘Why did you stop going to the group, Jack? You always had ideas for times like this when you were a member.’

‘I wasn’t learning anymore Frank. I was bored. I learned loads more just being out taking photos. Learning more about my camera. Trying out new approaches that I’d read about online.’

‘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; set up a mini studio.’

Frank says nothing for a moment while he thinks. Jack makes to leave.

Featured Photo

For a change I include a shot from my garden to represent the coming of Spring. The flower was on my Magnolia Stellata bush. I took the shot on Easter Sunday this year and I was reminded of it because the bush is in bloom again.

I took the photo using my Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera paired with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. The EXIF data are 1/320 secs @ f2.8 and 70 mm. The ISO was 100 and I used a tripod.