February Flash Fiction – Lens Lovers

‘…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.

Jurassic Holiday

How to take your family to Jurassic Park without the children being eaten by dinosaurs? Enjoy a holiday on the Jurassic Coast.

‘The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the English Channel coast of southern England. It stretches from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, a distance of about 96 miles, and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in mid-December 2001.’

Obviously you won’t see it all on a week’s holiday or a day out, but whether you enjoy beautiful scenery, geology, fossil hunting or relaxing at the seaside, any part of this coast is worth visiting.

https://jurassiccoast.org/

Adults don’t like talking to young children about death if they can avoid it, or scaring them with tales of monsters, but most young children love dinosaurs; they know they are long dead and yet they are full of life to the child. They love their plastic dinosaurs as much as their cuddly teddy and adore the fact that they were huge and scary.

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For our half term holiday with Team H we stayed in two cottages in a village where the borders of Dorset, Devon and Somerset meet. On any English holiday it will rain, but it will also stop raining at some point so it is always worth setting out. Fossil hunting was the main aim and the beach to head for was Charmouth.

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Charmouth, Dorset is one place where everyone is looking down, but not at their phones, they are all looking for fossils. There is a pleasant village with the river Char running gently out to sea; you can step over it at low tide or walk across the little bridge. The row of beach huts is deceptive, walk a little further and this is not a normal seaside beach. Gaze up at black layered cliffs. Don’t go too close, there are regular mud slides and crumbling of the cliff edge. This is why fossil hunting is so popular, new fossils end up on the beach and people are welcome to collect them as they would otherwise be washed out to sea. You can also book a guided walk. At the free Charmouth Heritage Centre you can learn about prehistoric times and volunteers will identify your fossils. The grassy hill is in contrast to the beach and a pleasant walk, but don’t go near the edge. The beach has a lovely heritage centre and a cafe, but the rest is unspoilt coast. When we set off to walk along the beach the first thing we saw was a father and son climbing up the cliff chipping away with their hammers; there is always someone who has not read the boards about dangerous cliff falls!

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https://charmouth.org/

The second full day of our holiday brought the torrential rain the weatherman had forecast. We went into Seaton, a seaside town with an electric tramway that runs along the estuary of the River Axe to Colyford and the village of Colyton. Fortunately lots had changed since the last time we were there and next to the tram station was the new Seaton Jurassic, an excellent centre to escape the rain. Visitors are escorted in and the children given passports for the time machine. It’s all very interactive and older children can stamp their passports and answer clues. It is also quite dark and mysterious with lots of turns and tunnels, so make sure you don’t lose little ones. The final part takes you outside to gardens. Most importantly there is a good restaurant. We had lunch and by that time it had stopped raining and we went on the tramway. The little ones loved being on the open topped tram, the day remained grey, but it was still a pleasant gentle ride with a lovely little station and playground in Colyton.

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https://www.visitsouthdevon.co.uk/things-to-do/seaton-tramway-p141323

The next day was fine and Team H decided to get up very early and catch low tide at Charmouth for more fossil hunting, followed by cooked breakfast at the cafe. We followed them, but not quite so early.

Yes you can find fossils, not necessarily big ones, but if you are sharp eyed you should find some ammonites and children can take anything they find into the heritage centre to show the volunteers, who will tell them how old it is and you can also put your fossils under a microscope.

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