‘…so next week it’s back in the hall; of course you can wear masks if you feel more comfortable doing so and the chairs will be spaced out.’
The chairman’s announcement was greeted positively by most members at the zoom meeting of the Lens Lovers camera club. Down in deepest Devon the local village hall was slowly coming back to life with activities, from Beavers to barobics, that had last been enjoyed early in 2020.
Paul Gibbons, New Member of the Year 2021, was horrified by the news, how was he going to get out of this? That he was a brilliant photographer was never in any doubt, all the images he shared on screen were his. The travels financed by his ill gotten gains had provided the opportunity to snap polar bears before they snapped him as he liked to joke. He did not mention that he was in a helicopter at the time. From the sands of Namibia to the trains of Siberia, from the Antarctic research station to local Devon scenes, he had tantalising tales for show and tell and had given regular talks far more interesting than their guest speakers.
It was Paul’s mother who had passed on the link to Lens Lovers’ zoom meetings; a friend from the old holiday home days had thought she might be interested. She wasn’t, she never wanted to see a camera again after her husband’s photography fatality, but she thought it would be an excellent diversion for her son during his lockdown. She had assumed he would tell the members he didn’t actually live in Devon.
Paul had not intended to deceive the club, but he had looked up their website and saw members had to live within a fifteen mile radius of the village hall to join, even for zoom meetings. At the time it had been a bit of a laugh, but he had become pathetically addicted to the fortnightly meetings. The many photos of socially safe lockdown rugged walks brought back childhood memories of more innocent times and then later the happy family holidays with his now ex wife and estranged children.
Zoom camera club hardly compared with his world wide adventures, but it was more exciting than Facetime with his mother and the weekly ‘Moving Forward’ sessions with the group. With digitally produced scenic backgrounds anyone on Zoom could be anywhere and his tropical island setting gave no clue to the cramped misery of his bleak bedsit.
Paul put on a smile for the squares of friendly faces as he rubbed his chafed ankle.
‘Yes, great news, though I might not be at every meeting, I think it’s time I booked a holiday.’
‘Oh well done Paul, does that mean you’re in remission?’
For a moment he wondered what Barbara was talking about, then remembered he had implied he had Multiple Sclerosis to explain why he had not been on the local outdoor shoots for fit, covid free members. Why had he mentioned holidays, he could have got away with implying he was still CEV, clinically extremely vulnerable. Though last week he had lied that he had just had his fourth vaccination.
‘Lucky you’, said Eddy, the oldest member ‘the only place I’m going is down Memory Lane.’
‘Well we are looking forward to meeting you in person Paul’ urged the chairman ‘and the hall is very disabled friendly, no trouble with your wheelchair and you can bring a carer, even if they are not a member.’
‘Oh thanks, all being well then…’
The only place Paul would be going on holiday was Memory Lane.
He glanced down at his electronic ankle tag, as if it might have miraculously disappeared. Even if he was living in Devon and not hundreds of miles away in a dreary city suburb, his curfew did not allow him out in the evenings.