The Phoenix Time #32

Previously……….

Her account to Charlotte of her work had to pause occasionally, so that she could make herself heard above the hissing and banging of the coffee-making machinery, and the clatter of cutlery and crockery. She told Charlotte about how she sold some of her images online both digitally and as prints. She explained that she produces calendars and greetings cards from her photos and that she writes books illustrated with them. Before he died, her husband had introduced her to a publisher who was a client of the bank he worked for. He had liked the draft of a book she had written and had published it. Since her husband had died, she’d had several more published – many for the lucrative American market.  She didn’t earn megabucks but it enabled her to continue to live in London.

Continued………

Charlotte was stunned.

‘Oh my God,’ she said, ‘I’ve met a real-life author. I must buy one of your books and get you to sign it for me. My husband – my husband for the time being – he’s a keen photographer. I wonder if he’s ever come across your books.’

Carrie made light of her work and dismissed Charlotte’s praise.

She went on to say that, before she moved on to Devon, her next stop, she’d be returning to Durdle Door and staying until late at night to photograph both the time around sunset and, much, much later, to try to capture the Milky Way over the arch.

Charlotte said that she had never seen the Milky Way.

Carrie asked whether Charlotte would like to accompany her if they were to go towards the end of the week when it was New Moon time. The sky would be dark enough then. It would be company for her if they both went. Charlotte was thrilled at the prospect. Carrie warned her that it would be really very cold and that they’d need to prepare accordingly.

‘Wait until I tell Frank about that’. She thought.

They spent the rest of the day around the shops but also walked around the harbour and along the beach. Carrie related the part the Cobb plays in Jane Austen’s novel ‘Persuasion’. Charlotte had never heard of it – though she did see a TV production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

Carrie was amazed that her friend had never read any of Jane Austen’s novels. She spoke of the author’s role not merely as a novelist, but also as a female novelist, as a writer who had helped to forge the shape of the modern novel form. She told of Jane Austen’s family life and the social context in which she wrote. They visited a bookshop and Charlotte bought a copy. Carrie wouldn’t reveal the wonderful ending.

As they sat on the beach enjoying their lunch, Carrie explained how the photos that she took had to be edited using computer software to bring out the best of them so that they would look better on the printed page. She gave Charlotte a copy of her business card and promised her a leaflet listing a portfolio of her published work.

Charlotte wondered whether Frank had ever thought of doing anything like that to boost his pension. She resolved to ask him and to tell him about Carrie.

That evening, after an early dinner together, they walked to Carrie’s hotel while Carrie collected her camera and tripod. They then walked down to the Cobb and they both took some sunset and blue hour photos. Charlotte saw how the underlit clouds and their vivid  purples, reds, blues and oranges made much more interesting images than those taken in the middle of the day. She’d managed in some of her smartphone shots to capture seabirds swooping across the setting sun and was delighted.

Carrie promised to show Charlotte, the next day, what she does to edit  images she’s taken. Charlotte insisted that it would be her turn to drive.

Featured Photo

I took this photo today (26/02/2021). This is an image of the Silver Jubilee Bridge between Widnes and Runcorn, Merseyside, UK. The bridge was opened originally in 1961 but was recently closed for refurbishment when a more modern toll bridge, the Mersey Gateway was opened. The bridge in the photo will be opened on the 27th February – and, this time, it too will be a toll bridge. You can see the barrier fence across the carriageway which will be removed on Saturday to allow traffic to use the bridge again for the first time since 2017.

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 1/640 at f/8 and the ISO was 200 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #31

Previously……….

Charlotte expected that she would be dining alone that evening. Carrie needed to spend some time in her room doing something with her photographs – Charlotte had no idea what kind of something that entailed. Before they parted for the evening, they arranged to meet after breakfast at a coffee bar near the harbour in Lyme. Carrie suggested that she bring a packed lunch again.

For dinner she chose to go to the restaurant where she’d met Carrie on her first night at Lyme. As she ate, she thought back over their day out together, how well they’d got on, what a beautiful outing it had been. She looked forward to their next day together, wondering what she’d be seeing next. She couldn’t wait to tell Frank about her day out. She’d ring him later, after dinner to give him time to return from Knaresborough. She wondered if she should send him some of her photos from her phone.

Continued………

Dorset – Day Three  – A day in Lyme Regis

Charlotte was a little later rising this morning. The fresh air yesterday had helped her to sleep better than for a long time. The previous evening she hadn’t managed to get through to Frank’s phone until after ten. He’d stayed in Yorkshire until he could get some sunset shots. She’d sent him some of the ones that she’d taken and he’d looked at them while he’d been on the train returning home. He’d said how impressed he was.  They talked for more than half -an-hour before Charlotte needed to admit that she was becoming very sleepy.

He’d told her that David had mentioned cutting her grass. However he’d added that he’d told David that he’d do it tomorrow.

After she showered and changed she checked her phone. Frank had sent her copies of photos that he’d taken. She replied saying that it looked to be the kind of place she’d like to visit someday. She then texted replies to Gloria and David who’d messaged her to check she was okay.

She had a leisurely breakfast then collected the lunch she’d booked, brushed her teeth, picked up her jacket and backpack and made her way down the steep hill towards the harbour.  Before she went to meet Carrie, she called into a shop to buy a few picture postcards and some postage stamps. Carrie was already in the coffee shop talking to one of the staff. Charlotte walked to her table to greet her, left her backpack and jacket on one of the chairs, and went to order.

‘Good morning,’ she said, as she returned with her Americanos, ‘What time did you arise then?’

‘About five,’ Carrie answered, ‘with the larks, or at least the seagulls.’

‘What?’ Charlotte was incredulous. ‘Why?’

Carrie explained that she’d wanted to be up before sunrise to photograph the harbour. She explained it the same way that Frank had justified staying until sunset – for the soft light. Charlotte congratulated her on her keenness. Carrie’s response had amazed her. Carrie said that her search for excellence was because she sold a lot of her images. Since her husband had died, she’d supplemented her widows pension from writing and photography.

Her account to Charlotte of her work had to pause occasionally, so that she could make herself heard above the hissing and banging of the coffee-making machinery, and the clatter of cutlery and crockery. She told Charlotte about how she sold some of her images online both digitally and as prints. She explained that she produced calendars and greetings cards from her photos and that she wrote books illustrated with them. Before he died, her husband had introduced her to a publisher who was a client of the bank he’d worked for. He had liked the draft of a book she’d written and had published it. Since her husband had died, she’d had several more published – many for the lucrative American market.  She didn’t earn megabucks but it enabled her to continue to live in London.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a couple of days ago (18/02/2021) while taking Ted for a walk. I began near the nineteen arches at Carr Mill, St Helens, Merseyside, walked along the woodland path to its junction with Carr Mill Road at Chadwick Green, crossing though a housing estate along Powell Drive, Avon Road and Trent Road, to Birchley – and returning along Birchley Road and Martindale Road. This shot (others will follow in the next few days) was taken, looking into the field where the horse was grazing.

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 1/250 at f/5 and the ISO was 500 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #30

Previously……….

She finished unpacking and storing the contents into drawers, on top of the various flat surfaces and the wardrobe with its rail and shelves. She had booked in as a single adult but had been given a small double-bedded room, so there was adequate space for her to move around. She felt goosebumps on her arms and shivered. If there had been any heating on earlier, it had certainly gone off now.

She decided to leave having a shower until morning and just got ready for bed. She shivered as she got beneath the duvet but soon warmed up and fell asleep quickly. She slept well except for waking up once, in the early hours, disoriented by the unfamiliar surroundings and panicky when she realised that Frank wasn’t by her side.

Continued………

Dorset – Day Two

Even though the day promised to be fine, both women had brought warm outerwear in case the way they were dressed for the journey, would not be adequate for walking outside in a coastal wind. Even before they reached the car park it had been clear that they would be good company for each other for the coming days.

Before breakfast, Charlotte had taken a thermos flask from her suitcase and filled it with milky coffee, courtesy of the hotel’s room facilities. She’d made do with a continental breakfast and some fruit, and collected her packed lunch on the way to Reception to leave her room key.

Carrie had brought on her phone details of a walk from the Lulworth Cove car park. Before they left the car, they shouldered their backpacks containing their lunches. From there to Durdle Door was less than one and a half miles. Long before they reached their destination, Charlotte was enchanted but she was glad she’d thought to bring walking boots.

There was a bit of a climb up a well-marked path initially, but nothing that either of them had any trouble with as long as they stopped every now and then to admire the views.  There were farmers’ fields on one side and dizzyingly steep cliff drops on the other.  Both of them stopped frequently to photograph the rising and falling white limestone cliffs undulating away from them. When Durdle Door itself came into view, Charlotte gasped. She saw the natural stone arch that crossed the waves from the shingle beach and was awestruck.

They agreed that, once they’d taken all their photographs, they’d make their way down to the beach for different, closer viewpoints.

Carrie’s camera was a bit like Frank’s, and she carried, strapped to her backpack, a small, lightweight tripod. Charlotte was sure that Frank had something similar, but she’d never seen him use it. She hadn’t used anything other than her smartphone for years. They sat on the beach to eat their lunches and compared the photographs they’d each taken. Carrie explained why she’d decided to shoot some of her images from different angles than those Charlie had used.

In warm sunshine, they watched people swimming, paddling and walking near the arch. Charlotte hadn’t felt so relaxed for as long as she could remember,  Carrie told her of some of the photo journeys she’d been on in America from mountains and deserts to the sea; of the Grand Canyon and the cities she’d been to.  Although Charlotte loved seeing the photos that Carrie had on her phone of those scenes, Charlotte knew that she would never be going to see them.

Neither she nor Frank enjoyed air travel. Thoughts of passports, visas, airport parking, check-in, security hassles, waiting for gate calls and then the hurdles of baggage reclaim and customs clearance at the other end – memories of all these hoops to jump through on past holidays were enough to dissuade them from repeating the horrors.

When they arrived back in Lyme, Charlotte expected that she’d be dining alone that evening. Carrie needed to spend some time in her room doing something with her photographs – Charlotte had no idea what kind of something that entailed. Before they parted to return to their hotels, they arranged to meet after breakfast at a coffee bar near the harbour in Lyme. Carrie suggested that Charlotte bring a packed lunch again.

For dinner she chose to go to the restaurant where she’d met Carrie on her first night at Lyme. As she ate, she thought back over their day out together, how well they’d got on; what a beautiful outing it had been. She looked forward to their next day together, wondering what she’d be seeing next. She couldn’t wait to tell Frank about her day out. She’d ring him later, after dinner to give him time to return from Knaresborough. She wondered if she should send him some of her photos from her phone.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a couple of days ago (18/02/2021) while taking Ted for a walk. I began near the nineteen arches at Carr Mill, St Helens, Merseyside, walked along the woodland path to its junction with Carr Mill Road at Chadwick Green, crossing though a housing estate along Powell Drive, Avon Road and Trent Road, to Birchley – and returning along Birchley Road and Martindale Road. This shot (others will follow in the next few days) was taken, looking across the field from the woodland path tp a farmhouse.

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 1/250 at f/5 and the ISO was 200 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #29

Previously……….

Charlotte – she asked to be called Charlie – told Carrie that Frank had asked her, if possible to bring back some photos of Durdle Door. Carrie said that, if she were interested, she’d be visiting Lulworth Cove the following day anyway and suggested that they travel together. She explained that it would take about one and a half hours to get to the car park there and asked Charlotte if she’d like to travel with her.

Continued………

Charlotte was delighted at the prospect of having company but insisted that she should contribute to the costs. Carrie asked whether Charlotte had brought walking boots with her – the short hike from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door would be a lot easier in boots rather than trainers. Charlotte had – and would bring them with her for the walk. It was soon agreed. Carrie would pick her up at Charlotte’s hotel – which was less than half a mile from Carrie’s. Shortly after their meal, Charlotte pleaded tiredness and returned to her hotel to sleep.

On her return, she asked at Reception about the possibility of a packed lunch to take with her and was assured that she could collect it at breakfast time.

She switched on the room lights. It wasn’t a bad size for the price and was comfortably furnished. She walked across the room and pulled the curtains closed. The view from her window wasn’t much to look at – a small garden and the backs of other buildings , lower down the hill. Still, she thought, she didn’t intend to do much more than sleep in it.

She checked her phone and saw that she had three missed calls – one each from Frank, Gloria and David. She returned all three calls in sequence – they all wanted to know that she was safe and ensconced in her lodgings. She told Frank where she was going the next day and he promised her that she’d enjoy the day out. He said that he hadn’t heard anything from Betty about rented property yet and told her that he’d be taking the train to Knaresborough to do some photography.

She finished unpacking and storing the contents into drawers, on top of the various flat surfaces and the wardrobe with its rail and shelves. She had booked in as a single adult but had been given a small double-bedded room, so there was adequate space for her to move around. She felt goosebumps on her arms and shivered. If there had been any heating on earlier, it had certainly gone off now.

She decided to leave having a shower until morning and simply prepared for bed. She shivered as she got beneath the duvet but soon warmed up and fell asleep quickly. She slept well except for waking up once, in the early hours, disoriented by the unfamiliar surroundings and panicky when she realised that Frank wasn’t by her side.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a couple of days ago (18/02/2021) while taking Ted for a walk. I began near the nineteen arches at Carr Mill, St Helens, Merseyside, walked along the woodland path to its junction with Carr Mill Road at Chadwick Green, crossing though a housing estate along Powell Drive, Avon Road and Trent Road, to Birchley – and returning along Birchley Road and Martindale Road. This first shot (others will follow in the next few days) was taken, looking up at the weathervane, from outside the gates of Otter Swift Farm on the woodland path just further on than Nineteen Arches.

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 1/250 at f/5 and the ISO was 200 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #28

Previously……….

He thought about her dancing class and wasn’t surprised that there were plenty of willing partners for her. He imagined her in her hotel in Dorset – sat alone at her table until a stranger asked if he could join her.  If she met someone she really liked, would she still want to avoid a divorce?

He still loved her and missed being with her – why was it so difficult for them to get on with each other?

All this thinking wasn’t helping. It was getting dark now. Perhaps the family would be back from their meal. He’d find out from them what they’d learned.

Continued………

CHAPTER SIX

A holiday for Charlotte

Charlotte was ready to leave. She’d done most of her packing before the family dinner yesterday, so she was able to set off by mid-morning. From her house to the hotel in Lyme Regis was about 270 miles and, according to the internet, would take about five hours. She planned to do as much of the drive as she could using the M6 and M5 motorways. Because it was such a long way, she intended to make stops at the Frankley, Sedgmoor and Exeter service areas. She had dressed for comfort in flat black shoes, bootleg jeans and a blue cardigan over a white tee shirt. There was a light waterproof hiking jacket with her bags in the boot of her small Fiat 500 car. Her mobile phone was already charged but she connected  it into  the car’s usb port; her satnav was also plugged in and programmed.

The weather forecast had been for nationwide light cloud, and that’s certainly how it looked to be shaping up as she set off for the short trip to the initial Southbound junction of the motorway. Frank had phoned her before she set off to wish her a safe journey, and she’d been glad that he’d called.

The Monday morning journey was as she’d expected, with several stretches of nose-to-tail crawling traffic. Radio Four provided her listening background. It did take longer than she’d hoped for to reach her first planned stop, and she was more than ready to use the facilities. After a coffee and toilet break, she had a walk in the car park to get some fresh air – or at least as fresh as such a large car, coach and lorry park can afford. The next stretch was easier, but after her final break at Exeter, she was pleased to get on to the lesser roads for the final stretch.

It was six in the evening when she arrived to check-in at her hotel in Lyme Regis, on a road raised above the harbour and beach. She’d booked on a bed and breakfast basis to avoid a daily dash back to the hotel for evening meals. After a quick shower and change of clothes, she walked down to the seafront area to check out the restaurants. Following the road down towards Marine Parade, she came across a vegetarian restaurant that looked nice. She sat at a vacant table for two and selected  a polenta dish.

While Charlotte was waiting for her food, a lady about her age or perhaps a little older, smartly dressed, and speaking in an American or Canadian accent, asked if she could join her at the table. Charlotte was happy to agree. They fell into conversation easily – her companion was an American expatriate who’d lived in England for five years. She and her late husband Carl had moved to England because of a transfer to the London headquarters of the bank he worked for. He’d died three years ago of a heart condition and she’d decided to stay.

Charlotte explained her much more recent change in circumstances. Carrie – that was her companion’s name – sympathised, but was sure that Charlotte would get back together with her husband soon. Carrie had arrived in Lyme only the previous week, and was staying for two weeks before moving on to Devon then Cornwall. She intended to spend the summer in the Southwest rather than in London where she lived. She explained that she was a keen photographer, and had seen so many online images of beautiful vantage points of the area that she felt that she had to see for herself.

Charlotte – she asked to be called Charlie – told Carrie that Frank had asked her, if possible, to bring back some photos of Durdle Door. Carrie said that, if Charlotte were interested, she’d be visiting Lulworth Cove the following day anyway, and suggested that they travel together. She explained that it would take about one and a half hours to get to the car park at Lulworth and asked Charlotte if she’d like to travel with her.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a couple of days ago (18/02/2021) while taking Ted for a walk. I began near the nineteen arches at Carr Mill, St Helens, Merseyside, walked along the woodland path to its junction with Carr Mill Road at Chadwick Green, crossing though a housing estate along Powell Drive, Avon Road and Trent Road, to Birchley – and returning along Birchley Road and Martindale Road. This first shot (others will follow in the next few days) was taken looking towards Gate Two cottage looking towards Billinge Hill from Martindale Road.

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 1/250 at f/5 and the ISO was 200 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #27

Previously……….

Before they all left, Gloria and David insisted that they’d help to wash-up and clear everything away, aware that their mum would be very busy the following morning preparing for the long drive South.

Charlotte asked David, if he had a chance, would he cut the grass for her. She’d tried to use Frank’s petrol mower, but she didn’t have the strength to pull the cord properly. He promised that it would be done well before her return.

Her children told her that they expected her to keep in touch so that they’d know that she was all right.

Preparing for sleep that night, Charlotte reflected that the evening hadn’t gone too badly – and that now this first meal without Frank was over, the next time would be much better.

Continued………

Frank

While Gloria and her family were at Charlotte’s, Peter made himself a simple salad. He was getting used to being in this house on his own now, but it still didn’t feel right invading his daughter’s home like this.

Afterwards, he went for a walk. He sat down in the park on the same bench that Charlotte had sat the previous Monday. He thought about her driving all that way and hoped that she’d be safe. He felt that he should phone her to wish her a happy holiday but he didn’t want her thinking that he was interfering now that he’d left.

He pictured their situation as being like a thousand-piece jigsaw, where the pieces had been mixed randomly then divided so that they each had five hundred pieces. They both knew roughly what the final picture should look like but neither was prepared to let the other side see which pieces they had.

He thought about her dancing class and wasn’t surprised that there were plenty of willing partners for her. He imagined her in her hotel in Dorset – sat alone at her table until a stranger asked if he could join her.  If she met someone she really liked, would she still want to avoid a divorce?

He still loved her and missed being with her – why was it so difficult for them to get on with each other?

All this thinking wasn’t helping. It was getting dark now. Perhaps the family would be back from their meal. He’d find out from them what they’d learned.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a couple of days ago (18/02/2021) while taking Ted for a walk. I began at Gate Two Cottage, near the nineteen arches at Carr Mill, St Helens, Merseyside, walked along the woodland path to its junction with Carr Mill Road at Chadwick Green, crossing though a housing estate along Powell Drive, Avon Road and Trent Road, to Birchley – and returning along Birchley Road and Martindale Road. This first shot (others will follow in the next few days) was taken looking towards Billinge Hill looking towards Billinge Hill from Martindale Road.

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 1/250 at f/5 and the ISO was 200 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #26

Previously……….

‘What has he had to say about your dance class?’ David asked.

‘He seemed a bit taken aback when I told him how several widowers all wanted me as their partner,’ she answered.

‘Is that right, then?’ he asked.

‘Well, yes – up to a point,’ she said.

Continued………

‘How do you mean,’ Gloria asked.

‘It’s true that I had no shortage of widowers and divorced men wanting to dance with me, but what I didn’t tell him is that I didn’t enjoy dancing with them, and that after a while I chose only to dance with other women.’

‘You crafty so-and-so,’ Gloria said. ‘What was wrong with these men then?’

‘I tell you, even with those under eighty who didn’t have two left feet, bad breath, or a charm gene deficit, it wasn’t nice being pawed like that – being held tight by someone with sweaty hands trying to squash my boobs into his chest. And that’s when they weren’t trying to squash other parts of their anatomy into me. God, it was awful. I’d rather turn lesbian.’

By the time she’d finished describing her experience, her  guests were in stitches, laughing.

‘You’re rotten, leading him on like that,’ Gloria said, but she was laughing too. He’ll miss you, you know,’ she said..

‘I know, and I’ll miss him,’ Charlotte replied, ‘I just couldn’t resist leading him on, but it’s driving me mad being in this house on my own.’

‘I’ve watched him at our house,’ Gloria said. ‘He’s not the same. I’m sure that he’s missing you.’

‘Well, he knows where I live,’ her Mum retorted.

‘You also know that it isn’t as easy as that Mum,’ Gloria said.

‘Do you think that you’ll ever get back together again?’ asked David.

‘God alone knows,’ Charlotte said, ‘I hope so, I do. This house is too big for one person. I know that I’m always complaining that the kitchen’s too small for two people, but I even miss him getting in my way. Making meals is all wrong now. I’m used to preparing portion sizes for two. Everywhere’s too quiet with him not being here.’

‘Would you have him back then Mum?’ Gloria asked.

‘Like a shot – but I won’t let him know that. I’m not going to beg.’ Charlotte said. ‘I don’t know how it could happen, but I hope that it will – and soon.’

The youngsters, usually determined to join in any discussions were very quiet, listening intently.

Before they all left, Gloria and David insisted that they’d help to wash-up and clear everything away, aware that their mum would be very busy the following morning preparing for the long drive South.

Charlotte asked David, if he had a chance, would  he cut the grass for her. She’d tried to use Frank’s petrol mower, but she didn’t have the strength to pull the cord properly. He promised that it would be done well before her return.

Her children told her that they expected her to keep in touch so that they’d know that she was all right.

Preparing for sleep that night, Charlotte reflected that the evening hadn’t gone too badly – and that now this first meal without Frank was over, the next time would be much better.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (16/02/2021) during a walk with Ted in the Brickfields woodland near where I live. It is land that has been reclaimed from its industrial past by Forestry England and other organisations.

I used my Samsung Galaxy A51 smartphone. The EXIF data are: shutter speed 1/160 secs @f/2 and aperture 4.6 mm ISO 32. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #25

Previously……….

He shouted after her, ‘You can send me the bikini ones as well.’

She turned, ‘I was going to save those for the widowers at the dance group.’

She stuck her tongue out at him, turned and continued walking.

As he started walking back to the car park, it struck him that, because Gloria, Peter and Davina would be having their Sunday tea at Charlotte’s, he’d need to do some food shopping himself. It wouldn’t do for him to be spending all his pension in restaurants and cafes. He braved the rain as he headed to the Supermarket to browse for something tasty but easy to cook. He might even see Charlotte there for some advice.

Continued………

Sunday again – the first day of Week Two.

Dinner for seven

Charlotte stood in the kitchen, looking out at the garden. Birds were still flocking to the feeders. The grass had grown a couple of inches since the last time Frank had mowed  it. Everywhere there was colour now, tulips, fuchsias, the gorgeous blue lithospermum, berberis, the azaleas. She was looking at the spectacle, but not really noticing it. It had not been much later than this the previous Sunday, when she had lost her temper with Frank – and look what that had led to. She could have done with him here now to do some of the fetching and carrying that she’d sent him to do last time. At least there would be enough chairs out: he hadn’t put the extra ones back in the loft.

“Oh! This all feels so wrong,” she said out loud to herself.

The first to arrive was David, with Jake and Grace.  She noticed immediately that they seemed uneasy. What had happened last week was an ‘elephant in the room’. None of them were making proper eye contact with her. There was none of the usual verbal sparring between the children. It was as if she’d grown an extra head.

‘Dad’s not back yet then?’ David asked.

‘No love, he’s not,’ she replied.

‘Well,’ she said, ‘Come on, out of the kitchen kids. David, love, you couldn’t lend me a hand could you?’

She asked him to carry some things through to the dining room. As he was doing this, Gloria arrived with Peter and Davina. Gloria went to help her mum in the kitchen while Peter and Davina joined Grace and Jake.

Conversation during the meal was polite but somewhat forced, as if everyone, including Charlotte was remembering the last meal they’d all shared. Frank’s empty chair might as well have been a gravestone.

After the meal, Charlotte ordered everyone into the lounge. She insisted that she’d have plenty of time after they’d gone to clear up.

It was still light outside through the leaded bay windows: sunset wouldn’t be for more than an hour yet. David was the one to break the ice.

‘Gloria tells me that you’re having a few days away mum,’ he said.

She confirmed that she would be leaving the following morning and would be returning on the Monday of the following week. She described her planned route and told them that the hotel she’d booked was in Lyme Regis. She told them also of the places that she hoped to visit, weather permitting.

‘What does Gramps say about your trip?’ asked Davina.

‘Not a lot,’ she replied, ‘I was teasing him about it yesterday.’

She described their exchange.

‘What has he had to say about your dance class?’ David asked.

‘He seemed a bit taken aback when I told him how several widowers all wanted me as their partner,’ she answered.

‘Is that right, then?’ he asked.

‘Well, yes – up to a point,’ she said.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (12/02/2021) at Sherdley Park, St Helens, Merseyside. It’s another of several shots that I took of the bare-branched trees. The branches of most of them already bear buds, and soon these lovely structures will be hidden by summer foliage.

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 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 640 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #24

Previously……….

Gloria was pleased that he’d phoned her mum. She was fascinated by his account of his conversation about her mum and how she was considering dance classes. She was even more interested by the Dorset plan and impressed by Charlotte’s show of independence. She was amused again by her dad’s reaction to her mum’s decision. The questions that he seemed to have been asking, in Gloria’s mind, indicated that her dad might be having second thoughts.

Continued………

Saturday  April 27 Week One – A visit to the Bank

Frank had phoned Charlotte again on the Friday evening. He’d wanted to check that she still intended to attend the appointment at the bank. If he were honest, it hadn’t been his only reason for the call. He’d made sure to ask – as if it were an afterthought – how she’d enjoyed her first dancing lesson.

He seemed to remember that there was a Spanish proverb, something along the lines of, ‘He who spies through a keyhole will see what annoys him.’

Charlotte had clearly had a good time. She’d sat with the woman from the Local History group, but by her account, she hadn’t sat down much. It seemed that there were several widowers there who’d asked her to be their partner for various of the dances they were being taught.

That hadn’t been what he’d wanted to hear.

They met just inside the bank’s doorway on the Saturday morning, as they’d arranged the previous evening. It was as well that they’d fixed that as their meeting place, because it was teeming with rain outside – late April showers. His jacket, trousers and shoes were soaked – Charlotte had brought her Golf Umbrella. She didn’t play golf but she’d bought it a couple of years previously for days like this.

Perhaps it was his imagination but she seemed to be positively glowing – and she was dressed to impress. She looked lovely and he had the grace to tell her so.

They had to wait about ten minutes inside the bank building before they were called in by the appointed official. They waited in a seating area where they watched the Saturday morning customers at the cashiers’ row of counters, and others queuing at the Reception desk. Some were sat talking to advisers whose area was sectioned off for mortgages. Through the wide glass windows, steamed up on the inside and rain streaked outside, they could make out blurred details of pedestrian shoppers, passing in both directions – singly, in couples, some with prams. The ten minutes or so passed quickly.

It was obvious that the young woman was very familiar with their type of situation. There was quite a lot of paperwork for such a small request, but apparently it was all to do with reducing money-laundering. They each left with a new personal account into which the appropriate amounts had been transferred from the now defunct joint account. The person they spoke to arranged for direct debits to be switched and explained that they’d each be receiving new debit cards for their new accounts. Frank had explained that some large transfers would be made from his new account to whatever letting agent he contracted with. All went well and they left her office, each carrying a folder of information about their accounts.

Before they ventured outside and into the rain, Frank asked Charlotte if she’d like to join him for a coffee or perhaps lunch, but she said that she had quite a bit of shopping to do. Gloria and David would be coming to have their tea with her the following day and she also wanted to get some things she’d need for her Dorset trip. He wished her a safe journey and asked her to bring back some photos – particularly if she went anywhere near Durdle Door – a coastal rock formation popular with photographers.

‘Trust you,’ she said, ‘always thinking of your landscapes. If you thought anything about me you’d be asking me to bring back shots of me in my bikini.’

She laughed at his shocked expression, turned and walked away.

Frank assumed that she was having him on, but chuckled, thinking that his wife was probably adjusting to the separation better than he was. It was a load off his mind really.

He shouted after her, ‘You can send me the bikini ones as well.’

She turned, ‘I was going to save those for the widowers at the dance group.’

She stuck her tongue out at him, turned and continued walking.

As he started walking back to the car park, it struck him that, because Gloria, Peter and Davina would be having their Sunday tea at Charlotte’s, he’d need to do some food shopping himself. It wouldn’t do for him to be spending all his pension in restaurants and cafes. He braved the rain as he headed to the Supermarket to browse for something tasty but easy to cook. He might even see Charlotte there for some advice.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (12/02/2021) at Sherdley Park, St Helens, Merseyside. It’s another of several shots that I took of the bare-branched trees. The branches of most of them already bear buds, and soon these lovely structures will be hidden by summer foliage.

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 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 640 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.

The Phoenix Time #23

Previously……….

He took his remaining sandwich and a top-up of his drink, and sat in Gloria’s conservatory. His plans were still going through his mind. “Maybe it’s as well doing things in stages,” he thought, “Given the vagaries of English summer weather, hoping for a solid ten or eleven days of dry weather would be very optimistic.” Doing it a day or two at a time he’d be able to check, with more confidence, the weather forecast for dry spells just before leaving. He also realised that leaving his rented house for an entire week or more was increasing risks such as burglary. Being insured was not the same as peace of mind. On top of all that, he didn’t really want to have on his conscience that Charlotte would be completely alone for such a long time. Not living with her didn’t mean that he didn’t love her or care about her.

He decided to ring her a bit later when she’d be back from the Library.

Continued………

Tuesday April 23 Week One – At Gloria’s – Frank

 It was just after three that Frank rang his wife from Gloria’s house. He was sat in her living room.

‘Hello love, it’s only me,’ he said when she answered.

‘Hello,’ she replied, ‘I thought that you were supposed to have left me.’

‘I can ring off if you’re going to be stroppy,’ he said.

‘Oh, don’t be so touchy,’ she said, ‘I’m pleased you’ve rung. How are you? What have you been doing with yourself?’

‘I just wanted to check in, hear your voice and make sure that you’re okay,’ he said, ‘Did you go to your Local History meeting?’

They spent forty minutes or so telling each other what they were up to. Frank hadn’t said anything about his original plan of spending more than a week away in a solid block and was a bit surprised when Charlotte dropped her surprise on him.

‘The long-term forecast for the South West looks as if it’s going to be nice,’ she said, ‘I’ve booked a holiday in Dorset next week. Do you mind?’

‘How could I object – as if I would anyway? Are you going on your own?’

‘Why, Frank?’ she answered, ‘Are you worried that I’ve found myself a fancy man already?’

‘Have you?’ he asked, and he wasn’t sure if she were serious.

‘Don’t be daft,’ she said, ‘It was bad enough having to try to housetrain you. I’m in no hurry to take on the trouble of another useless man.’

‘Well, that’s put me in my place,’ he said.

‘Isn’t that why you left?’ she said.

Frank felt that he’d managed to put himself on the defensive.

‘I just wondered if you might be going with one of the women from the Library group,’ he said.

‘No,’ she said, ‘I’m planning to go on my own, but before I left, one of the women there asked if I’d considered taking up ballroom dancing. She was telling me that a new session of lessons was about to start in the Community Room.’

‘What did you tell her?’ he asked.

‘That I’d think about it and let her know before Thursday evening when it starts.’

‘Are you serious?’ he asked.

‘As I said, I’ll think about it,’ she said, ‘I might turn up for the first night and see how it goes. I won’t be going next week though when I’m away.’

‘When are you leaving?’ he asked.
   ‘ Next Monday,’ she said, ‘for eight days – seven nights. I’ll go down on the Monday and come back the following Monday – May Bank Holiday – it’s later this year.’

‘As soon as that’? he asked.

‘I managed to get one of those last-minute deals,’ she said.

Frank didn’t want to admit it but he was worried. He didn’t know why – after all, it was only that morning that he’d been planning to be away for almost two weeks. He didn’t want her to think that he was jealous – he supposed that by leaving he’d forfeited any right to be jealous – but he hoped that he had nothing to be jealous about. He trusted that she’d be all right on her own. He thought that it was quite adventurous of her and, on reflection, felt sure that it would do her a world of good.

‘Will you be driving down to Dorset?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘ that’s what I’m planning.’

‘It’s a long drive,’ he said, ‘You will be careful won’t you?’

‘Oh!’ she said, ‘You almost sounded as if you cared.’

‘Now, now,’ he said, ‘just remember, it wasn’t because I didn’t care that we ended up separated.’

Almost as soon as he put the phone down, Gloria phoned to ask how he was. He told her about his conversation with Charlotte.

Gloria was pleased that he’d phoned her mum. She was fascinated by his account of his conversation about her mum and how she was considering dance classes. She was even more interested by the Dorset plan and impressed by Charlotte’s show of independence. She was amused again by her dad’s reaction to her mum’s decision. The questions that he seemed to have been asking, in Gloria’s mind, indicated that her dad might be having second thoughts.

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week (12/02/2021) at Sherdley Park, St Helens, Merseyside. It’s another of several shots that I took of the bare-branched trees. The branches of most of them already bear buds, and soon these lovely structures will be hidden by summer foliage.

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 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 1250 The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.