This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 1310 words.
As he struggled back to the flat, Benny wished he had arranged for a cab home. He was carrying a box with a printer in it, and a tripod balanced across it. Over his shoulder hung a battered old camera bag containing a four year-old Canon Digital SLR, and two zoom lenses. Nan had got back with the promised cash not long after the bank had opened that morning, so Benny took most of it, and headed off to the secondhand electrical shop less than ten minutes away, where Hampstead Road became Camden High Street.
The old bloke inside looked more like a vagrant than a shopkeeper, but seemed to know his stuff. The camera was basic, but in good condition. It came with the two lenses, and one was still in the wrapper, never been used. It had a built-in flash that would do for now, and the original instruction book. Benny didn’t know much about cameras, but the bloke had shown him how to set it on ‘Program’, and that would sort out the settings automatically.
It was marked up at two-twenty-five. But when he realised Benny wanted other stuff, he became amenable to some haggling. He threw in the big tripod, two memory cards, and the bag to carry it in. Then showed him the printer, a compatible Canon with a scanner and copier facility. It was a bit scratched, but demonstrated as working. After some debate, he added a sealed replacement printer cartridge, and a neck strap with ‘Nikon’ woven into it. He started at three-sixty for everything, but when Benny said he would think about it, and made to leave, he settled for two-seventy-five for the lot, as long as it was in cash.
While he was out, Lilian got ready for the planned photo shoot. Nothing too raunchy, just her favourite purple dress, paired with some ancient black seamed stockings attached to a suspender belt. On her feet she had some wicked high heels. She couldn’t possibly walk in them any more, but they really went well with the outfit. She layered on the make-up, and spent ages doing her hair. When Benny got back, he set up the camera on the tripod, and moved the sofa out the way. Then he got one of the dining chairs and placed it by the window, closing the curtains to create a backdrop. Lilian had thought of something that would help remind her fans, and confirm her identity. She had got one of the bigger old photo prints, a sixteen by twelve glossy, and said she would hold it on her lap, so they could tell it was her, back in the good old days. Benny thought it was a sound idea. “Good one, Nan. Sort of a ‘then and now’ moment”.
He clicked away for ages, moving the zoom back and forth, trying some with flash on, some without. Nan crossed her legs in what she called a ‘seductive pose’, and flashed a bit of stocking top for the fans. Then she did some leaning-forward poses, so they got a good look at her cleavage. Benny had to admit she knew her stuff. She had snapped back into her Betty Baxter character in a heartbeat, and despite her age, she was certainly a very natural model. They lost count of how many shots he had taken. The built in motor clicked off a lot of times whenever he pressed the shutter, so it was a lot. Right at the end, he shot a few seconds of video; Nan crossing and uncrossing her legs, blowing kisses, and twisting around on the chair. Satisfied, Benny took the camera off the tripod, and removed the memory card. “I’ve got to get this round to Noddy now, Nan. See if he can work his magic on the website”. She seemed very pleased. “OK, love, see you later. Don’t forget to get something to eat”.
Mrs Hall showed no surprise this time, simply saying “Hello Benedict”, and opening the door to let him in. Noddy took the memory card, and plugged it in to something. Images flashed up on the screen, and Noddy’s fingers worked the keyboard like a young Chopin at the piano. Benny sat at the end of the bed, watching over his friend’s shoulder. He was glad of the rest, as the day had already been busy, and they had lots more to do yet. After forty minutes or so, Noddy waved for him to come closer. “This is a preview, how the website will look once I press to get it up and running. Once it’s live, I will go onto the forum, and create ‘The Real Betty Baxter’ as a username, with a thumbnail photo, and a link to the new site. It will be held for moderation by whoever runs the forum, but the site will be active straight away. I have done some research around memberships of similar sites, and come up with this”. He clicked into a separate screen. It was marked up as ‘Join Here’, and had monthly rates for membership via Paypal, followed by a row of boxes where members had to give a lot of personal details, including their real name, an email address, and an acceptance of monthly subscriptions via Paypal. There was a thirty-day cancellation clause, and an agreement to abide by the terms and conditions.
The monthly fees were impressive. Thirty pounds for UK members, and thirty Euros for Europeans. For anyone paying in US dollars, it was fifty a month. Other currencies by arrangement, and all paid via Paypal accounts. It seemed a lot, and Benny asked the question. “Seems a bit strong, Noddy. Do you reckon they will wear that much?” His friend was ready, and started to click on other sites offering unlimited access monthly memberships. They were all around the same price, and many were much higher. Noddy pointed at the screen. “See these, they are pretty basic, and people have joined them. Your Nan is in a niche market, and with the benefit of a ready fan base, mostly of older blokes who have the money to spare. You can expect some drop off later, but if you keep the new photos coming, and make sure the forum threads are answered, it should do well. In fact. there’s no reason why we can’t run a Q and A on this site, on a different page. That saves bothering with the forum once we get going”.
Noddy waited until Benny had taken it all in, before continuing. Once the payment is processed, I email them a password they can use to access the site with their username. That lasts for thirty days, and expires immediately if they fail to renew with more money. All the photos will be protected from being able to be copied, and any video clips will be embedded, so not able to be copied either. I can’t stop them giving someone else their login details at the moment, but there is a way round that, and I will have that cracked soon. The photos are not that great, but I have cleaned them up on Adobe Photoshop, and they are good enough for web use. They can only be enlarged by members, so they have to pay to see any details. I’m still working on a ‘Shop’ page for the site, where you can sell the prints, DVD films, and anything you like. I suggest that you let anyone access that page, as well as members. Some random surfer might well decide to buy something, even if they don’t want to subscribe. We have to look at all sources of income generation”.
Benny patted his shoulder. “Outstanding, Noddy mate. It looks great, just like a real professional website”. Noddy sighed. “That’s because it is”.
Then he hit ‘Enter’.
To be continued…