Travel is part of the story – Rome

We visited Rome in August

It was hot.

It was verrrry hot.

We flew into Rome’s Leonardo di Vinci-Fiumicino airport after a rather bumpy flight from London.  Unlike most other airports the plane parked at a satellite terminal and after we disembarked we had to catch a train to the main terminal.

The most notable memory of this airport was my daughter’s discovery of a salami shop.

We had booked a transfer to take us to the hotel the Roma Corso Trieste Mercure in Via Gradisca from the airport.  It was a white air conditioned van and so far we had avoided the heat.

One of the rooms had a faulty air conditioning an absolute must as the rooms were very hot without it and necessitated a room change which was done quickly and efficiently.

The hotel was in the suburbs and without a car we were dependent on public transport.  According to the reception staff there was a bus stop nearby, and a longer walk to the tram or light railway.  The bus seemed to be the best option as it would take us to the central terminal near the railway station, where all tour buses also operated from, and particularly the open top buses that went to all the major tourist attractions.

That first day basically given over to travelling, arriving by plane and settling into the hotel, thus we didn’t get to feel the force of the heat.  That came the next day.

After a walk around the hotel precinct to get our bearings and see what shops and restaurants were available, on returning to the hotel we were faced with the limited choices of room service or to go out for dinner.

My daughter and l go for a long walk up Via Nomentana to find several shops and a restaurant.  We went into the restaurant and sat down.   We waited for 10 minutes and got no service nor did anyone come and ask us if we wanted to order food so instead we left somewhat disappointed and go next door to what seems to be the Italian version of a delicatessen and order sandwiches and beer.   I bought a half dozen cans of Moretti beer two of which I drank on the way home.

It was still very hot even at eight at night and the sandwiches are delicious.  It just might be by that time we were starving and anything would have tasted great.

The next morning we are up and ready to chance the weather and some history.  Breakfast at the hotel is limited but very good.

We were going to use public transport and I’d studied up on the Internet.

Travelling on the bus required pre purchase of tickets which could be bought in certain shops and locally when exploring the area near the hotel, l found a tobacconist.

Next we needed to understand how to use the tickets. There was no one on the bus who could help so when l tried to scan the tickets and it failed, l gave up.  We had the same issue each day and in the end the tickets never got used.

The trip to central Rome by bus took about 15 minutes.  In the morning it was reasonably cool and showed us a little of suburban Rome.  We also saw the trams but we would not be able to use them because our hotel not on a direct route.

That first full day we decided to go and see the Vatican.

Not understanding buses and which one we needed to get to the Vatican, we took a taxi.

Wow.  It was the metaphorical equivalent of driving over the edge of a cliff with a daredevil.  It was quite literally terrifying.

Or maybe we just didn’t know that this was probably the way people drove in Rome.

Shaken but delivered in one piece we found ourselves in the square opposite St Peters Basilica.

The square is impressive, with the statues atop a circular colonnaded walkway.  The church is incredible, and took a few hours to take in, and to top off the day we did a tour of the Vatican museum which took the rest of the afternoon.

Then it was back to the delicatessen for more sandwiches and beer, and an interesting discussion with several elderly Italian ladies, of which I did not understand one word.

The second full day we decided to use one of the open top bus tours and eventually decided on the hop on hop off tour simply because the bus was at the central transport terminal for trains and buses and it was getting hotter.

Our first stop was the colosseum.  There were other monuments nearby, such as the Arch of Constantine, but as the heat factor increased we joined the queue to go into the colosseum and gladly welcomed the shade once we got inside.

The queue was long and the wait equally so, but it was worth the wait.  It would be more interesting if they could restore part of it to its former glory so we could get a sense of the place as it once was.  But alas that may never happen, but even so, it is still magnificent as a ruin.

Outside in the heat it was off to the ruins which was a longish walk from the colosseum, taking Via Sacra, not far from the Arch of Constantine.  This day in the walkway there were a number of illegal vendors, selling knockoff goods such as handbags and watches, and who, at the first sight of the police, packed up their wares in a blanket and ran.

Included in these ruins were, The Roman Forum, or just a few columns remaining, the Palatine Hill, Imperial Fori, including the Forum of Augustus, the Forum of Caesar, and more specifically the Forum of Trajan.  It was, unfortunately very hot and dusty in the ruins the day we visited.

We walked all the way to the Foro Romano and the Septimus Severo Arch at the other end of the ruins, past the Temple of Caesar.  I found it very difficult to picture what it was like when the buildings were intact, so I bought a guide to the ruins which showed the buildings as ruins and an overlay of how they would have looked.  The buildings, then, would be as amazing as the colosseum, and it would have been interesting to have lived back then, though perhaps not as a Christian.

I lost count of the number of bottles of water we bought, but the word ‘frizzante’ was ringing in my ears by the end of the day.  Fortunately water did not cost a lot to buy.

At the end of the day, we caught the hop on hop off bus at the colosseum and decided not to get off and see any more monuments but observe them from the bus.  The only one I remember seeing was Circo Massimo.  Perhaps if we’d know it was going to be twice as hot on the bus, yes, there was no air-conditioning; we may have chosen another form of transport to get back to the hotel.

The third and last day in Rome we decide to go to the Trevi Fountain, see the pantheon and walk up the Spanish Steps.  We spent most of the morning in the cool of a café watching the tourists at the fountain.  By the time we reached the top of the Spanish Steps, we were finished.

It was time to move on to Paris.

Light at the end of the tunnel

It’s a long-standing joke that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an express train coming right at you.

Metaphorically speaking this is quite often true if you are a pessimist, but since I’ve converted to being an optimist, a bit like changing religions, l think I’ve seen the ‘light’.

It’s a lot like coming up from the bottom of a deep pool, breaking the surface and taking that first long gulp of air.

Along with that elated feeling that you’re not going to drown.

What’s this got to do with anything, you ask?

Perhaps nothing.

As an allegory, it represents, to me, a time when l finally got over a period of self-doubt, a period where a series of events started to make me question why l wanted to be a writer.

I mean, why put yourself through rejections, sometimes scathing criticism, and then have the people whom you thought were your friends suddenly start questioning your choices after initially wholeheartedly supporting them.

Are we only successful or supportable if we are earning a sufficient wage?

Or sold a million copies?

Is this why so many people don’t give up their day job and then find themselves plying the ‘other’ trade into the dark hours of the night, only to find themselves being criticized for other but no less disparaging reasons?

It seems like a no-win situation, but these are the times when your mettle is tested severely.  But, in the end, it is worth it when the book is finished and published, even if it is only on Amazon.

You can sit back and say with pride; l did that.

That metaphorical light, you may ask.

When you make that first sale.

Monday, Monday …

It was a song, sung by the Mommas and Papas I think.  I suspect that will show my age.

I don’t like Mondays – another song, not sure who sung it.

Well, it’s official, I don’t like Mondays.

I’ve been procrastinating since last Thursday, telling myself I have to get the next part of one of my stories written, but I keep putting it off.  I have to go to Africa, the Niger Delta to be exact.  It can wait, I’m not ready for the steaming jungle and hostile villagers yet.

I didn’t do anything on Sunday, and, as a writer, I guess that’s not very good.  I’m supposed to be writing a page, or a hundred or thousand words a day, just to keep the juices flowing.

I’m not in the mood.  I sit and stare at the computer screen, and nothing is coming.  Is this the first sign of writer’s block?

I dig out several articles on how to overcome it, and start putting their suggestions into action.  No.  No.  Maybe.  No.  I don’t think it’s writer’s block.

Perhaps I need some inspiration so I go to my tablet playlist, spend 10 minutes trying to find the headphones carelessly discarded by one of my grandchildren the last time they were here.

And, yes, the tablet was left in the middle of playing a minecraft video which has drained the battery.  Now I can’t find the charger!

Back at the computer, holding a dead tablet, and a pair of headphones, inspiration is as far away as the mythical light at the end of the tunnel.  Today it is an oncoming express train.

Perhaps pen and paper will work.

An idea pops into my head ….

 

Is it possible the passing of a weekend could change the course of your life?  An interesting question, one to ponder as I sat on the floor of a concrete cell, with only the sound of my breathing, and the incessant screams coming from a room at the end of the corridor.

It was my turn next.  That was what the grinning ape of a guard said in broken English.  He looked like a man who relished his job.

What goes through your mind at a time like this, waiting, waiting for the inevitable?  Will I survive, what will they do to me, will it hurt?

The screaming stops abruptly, and a terrible silence falls over the facility.

Then, looking in the direction of where the screams had come from, I hear the clunk of the door latch being opened, and then the slow nerve tingling screech of rusty metal as the door opens slowly.

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, no.

 

No writer’s block.  But I have to stop watching late night television.

 

 

 

 

The Cases of PI Walthenson

How thrilled Harry Walthenson, Private Detective, had been to see his name painted on the translucent glass window in the door to his office.  Located in Gramercy Park, in an old building full of atmosphere, he had a space renovated to resemble that of Spade and Archer in a scene right out of the Maltese Falcon.  His desk had an antique phone like those used in the 1930’s, and a lamp that cast eerie shadows at night.  Along one wall was a couch, his bed for more nights than he wanted to remember, and on the other a filing cabinet, waiting for the big case files.

Up till now it had been missing cats and dogs.  Then, everything changed…

Starts at episode 1 – The Wrong Place, The Wrong Time

http://tinyurl.com/PIWalthenson01

To read the latest episode:

http://tinyurl.com/PIWalthenson40

 

My Website:

http://charles-heath.com

My latest blog entry:

My latest travel blog entry:

http://tinyurl.com/Tvl-Venice2

 

Enjoy

 

PS  Please leave a comment, make a suggestion, or join in the conversation

Slowing, slowing …

Express trains have always fascinated me.  In our country, Australia, express trains really don’t go all that fast.

When I was last in Europe we decided to get the Eurostar, from London, through the Chunnel, to Paris Disneyland.  My granddaughters came along for the ride.

And to make it look like they had ‘forced’ us to go when really it was the other way around.

Again I digress …

It’s the braking effect.

I feel it happening now.

You are hurtling along at up to 160 kph, thought it feels a lot faster, and then you begin to brake, and it seems like nothing is happening, except for some outside friction noise, and the speed dropping.

I feel like that now, heading for the bottom of the abyss.

It’s called rock bottom.

I’m told once you hit tock bottom the only way is up.

The question is, who do you know that has fallen into the abyss, and come back to tell you about it?

Put into layman’s terms, hurling down the abyss is like having a severe episode of depression.  There are different types, some worse than others.  Hitting the ground is roughly the equivalent of looking for a way out that eases the pain, and that, for some people, is a quite drastic answer.

But the sign that the free fall is braking, like the express train slowing down, is a sign that you’ve seen the light, that there are external forces that can render assistance.

I see them now, the hands of friends, the hands of people I don’t know, but who are concerned.

Writers like any other professional people, are the same as everyone else, but with one rather interesting difference.  It is a profession where a lot of the time you are on your own, alone with your thoughts, your characters, your fantasy world, which sometimes so frighteningly drifts into your reality.

Some of us will make a fortune, most of us will make an adequate living, and live the ‘dream’ of doing the one job they always wanted to, and some will not.

I’m not rich, I’m not one who gets an adequate income, yet.

But I will get out of this abyss.

I can feel the brakes.

My eldest granddaughter, who is 12, tells me the fantasy story where she is a princess I’m writing for her is brilliant.

The free fall has stopped.  I step out into the sunshine.

All it needed was a little praise.

Going Down?

Like getting into an elevator at the Empire State Building, 80 odd floors, going down.

Only I’m still in free fall.

This is the point where your life starts flashing before your eyes, where you start thinking you could have made better choices.

Ah, the benefit of hindsight eh?  If only we knew what a mess of our lives we were going to make when we were 10.  Things would be different?

Or not?

My youngest grand daughter is 6.  I remember when I was 6.  And I don’t want to remember when I was 6.  All I can say is the worst things that happen to you are caused by other family members. and at that age sometimes parents thing you have too active an imagination.

I know now I didn’t.

Primary school was great, but secondary school was about bullying and toughening up.  My father often said it was ‘a cruel world out there’.  It was.

But, now for the best part, meeting an d marrying the most wonderful girl in the world.

She pulled me out of the abyss the first time around.

We have two boys, they have three girls.

Pity this isn’t a cartoon where I could start slowing down, and then tread air, walk over to the side and start climbing back up.

I look up.  There’s daylight, and hope.

And six smiling faces willing to come back, and get on with that novel I promised I’d write the girls.

And, dammit, there are not going to be any unicorns.  They are so yesterday!

 

 

I think I’ve been watching too much TV

It’s never a good idea to look at the news.  I don’t know about you, but it always seems to be bad news, not good news.  I suppose if all they showed was good news, no one would watch it.

However, despite the negative aspects of it, sometimes it’s a source of plotlines, even a new book.  IT’s usually a paragraph on page 17 that no one is supposed to notice but tonight it’s something different.

Well, two things really.

I’ve been on roller coasters, and they actually scare the hell out of me.  It was not always that way, but watching the news and seeing how they can come adrift and leave you literally hanging quite a distance up in the air, well, that has had some effect.

It started me thinking, and that’s not a good thing sometimes.

My fear, now, is that the car is going to come off the rails.

A bit like my life really.  Amazing sometimes how the mind works and makes parallels with something else that’s entirely unrelated.

I’m in the abyss and free falling.  The first thousand yards feels exhilarating.

I’m not sure if everyone has done skydiving, but it’s like that time before you pull the ripcord.

Absolute adrenaline rush.

Followed by a single thought.  Will the parachute open.  Again, I’ve seen too many TV shows where ripcords don’t work.

Ok, I get it, if you don’t like the heat in the kitchen …

But, I digress

Now I’m at a point where I’m starting to think about the landing.

You dash headlong into a job, thinking yep, you’ve got it covered, but, what if you haven’t.  What if there are variables you never thought of, what if the people around you, so happy to cheer you on at the start, are now starting to change their tune.

Abyss, job, choice of vocation, lifestyle, following a dream, there’s very little difference.

Writing is an individual thing.

Are we writing for ourselves first, or are we writing simply to make money?  If it’s the latter, it ain’t going to work, at least not until you are established.  If ever.

So, yes, it’s back to the day job.

Sigh!

Still in the abyss, or hanging upside down 300 feet in the air waiting to be rescued

Maybe tomorrow there will be good news!