Travel is only part of the story – Venice – 2

Venice is definitely a city to explore.  It has an incredible number of canals and walkways, and each time we would start our exploration from St Marks square.

Everyone I have spoken to about exploring Venice has told me how easy it is to get lost.  It has not happened to me, but with the infinite number of ways you can go, I guess it is possible.

We started our exploration of Venice in St Marks square, where, on one side there was the Museo di Palazzo Ducale and, next door, the Basilica di San Marco.  Early morning and/or at high tide, water can be seen bubbling up from under the square, partially flooding it.  I have seen this happen several times.  Each morning as we walked from the hotel (the time we stayed in the Savoia and Jolanda) we passed the Bridge of Sighs.

Around the other three sides of the square are archways and shops.  We have bought both confectionary and souvenirs from some of these stores, albeit relatively expensive.  Prices are cheaper in stores that are away from the square and we found some of these when we walked from St Marks square to the Railway station, through many walkways, and crossing many bridges, and passing through a number of small piazzas.  That day, after the trek, we caught the waterbus back to San Marco, and then went on the tour of the Museo di Palazzo Du which included the dungeons and the Bridge of Sighs from the inside.  It took a few hours, longer than I’d anticipated because there was so much to see.

The next day, we caught the waterbus from Sam Marco to the Ponte di Rialto bridge.  Just upstream from the wharf there was a very large passenger ship, and I noticed there were a number of passengers from the ship on the waterbus, one of whom spoke to us about visiting Venice.  I didn’t realize we looked like professional tourists who knew where we were going.    After a pleasant conversation, and taking in the views up and down the Grand Canal, we disembarked and headed for the bridge, looking at the shops, mostly selling upmarket and expensive gifts, and eventually crossing to the other side where there was a lot of small market type stalls selling souvenirs as well as clothes, and most importantly, it being a hot day, cold Limonata.  This was my first taste of Limonata and I was hooked.

Continuing on from there was a wide street at the end and a number of restaurants where we had lunch.  We had a map of Venice and I was going to plot a course back to the hotel, taking what would be a large circular route that would come out at the Accademia Bridge, and further on to the Terminal Fusina Venezia where there was another church to explore, the Santa Maria del Rosario.

It was useful knowledge for the second time we visited Venice because the waterbus from the Hilton hotel made its first stop, before San Marco, there.  We also discovered on that second visit a number of restaurants on the way from the terminal and church to the Accademia Bridge.

Items to note:

Restaurants off the beaten track were much cheaper and the food a lot different to that in the middle of the tourist areas.

There are a lot of churches, big and small, tucked away in interesting spots where there are small piazza’s.  You can look in all of them, though some asked for a small fee.

Souvenirs, coffee, and confectionary are very expensive in St Marks square.

Travel is only part of the story – Venice – 1

We have visited Venice twice, in 2006 and not so long ago.  Not much had changed from visit to visit.

Instead of staying in a hotel selected by a travel agent, the Savoia and Jolanda on the waterfront of Riva Degli Schiavoni, because I’m a Hilton Honors member, more recently we stayed at the Hilton Molino Stucky.  It was located on an island, Giudecca, and had its own transport from the hotel to St Mark’s Square for a very reasonable one-off charge for the stay.

The first time we visited Venice we took a taxi from the Railway Station.   We had taken the train from Florence to Venice.  A fellow passenger told us that it was a way to see some of the city by the canal, but to be prepared to negotiate a price.

We were not very good negotiators, and it cost 60 Euros.

But, despite the cost, it was worth every Euro because the taxi driver took us by the scenic route, directly from the Station to the doorstep of our hotel.  For the first time in Venice, and you want to see it from the water, a water taxi is the best option.

The first time we stayed at the Savoia and Jolanda Hotel, which was at the time quite old, and the room we had, on the ground floor, was comfortable enough, but being November, they had just stopped using the air conditioning, it was still quite warm, and at times uncomfortable.  There were better rooms, but this was beyond the knowledge of the travel agent, and one of the reasons we stopped using agents to book hotels.

The most recent visit we had driven down from Salzburg to Venice airport where we had to return the hire car.  From there we were intending to take a private water taxi from the airport to the hotel, for an estimated 120 Euros.  We saved our money and took the ACTV public waterbus, from the airport to the hotel, with one-stop.  It took a little over an hour and was equally as scenic.

Our room in the Hilton was on one of the upper levels, floor four, and had a view of the canal, the large passenger ships coming and going, as well as a remarkable view of Venice itself as far up the canal as St Marks Square in one direction, and the port for the passenger ships in the other.

We got to see three or four very large passenger ships come and go, along with a lot of other craft.  I hadn’t realized how busy the waterways, and the Grand Canal, were.

Each evening after a day’s exploring we would end up in the Executive Lounge, and then one of the many restaurants, usually Il Molino for breakfast, and the Rialto Lobby Bar and Lounge for dinner.  After that, it was a stroll down the waterfront taking in the night air, and perhaps to walk off the delicious dinner.


Being Inspired – the book

Over the past year or so I have been selecting photographs I’ve taken on many travels, and put a story to them.

When I reached a milestone of 50, I decided to make them into a book, and, in doing so, I have gone through each and revised them, making some longer, and almost a short story.

50 photographs, 50 stories.  I’ve called it, “Inspiration, Maybe”

It will be available soon.


Past conversations with my cat – 5


This is Chester.  He is contemplating the mess on the floor.

I’ve asked him many times to stop unraveling the extension cords, or to play with it as it it was a ball of string.

I’m not sure he understands the implications of playing with electrical wires.


He is recovering from the visit by our grand children.

Sometimes, when they’re very quiet, he assumes they have gone.  He comes down to see what’s for dinner, or if there are any ‘snacks’.

Then, suddenly he realizes they have not gone, and panic sets in.

Sometimes he gets away.

Sometimes he is trapped, and forced to take large doses of child affection.

Yesterday, it was very close.


What happens after the action packed start – Part 25

Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.

Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in.


When I woke up, it was in a whole new world, but not necessarily of pain.

It was a different room, not quite dark, not hot or cold, looked much like a hospital room layout with a hospital bed, and bright lights outside the doors.

I had no idea if it was daylight or night.  Classic disorientation procedure before a different sort of interrogation.

What I also realised, though I was not sure why was that the casts and bandages I had back at the previous base hospital were gone, and everything looked, well, different.

That there was nothing wrong with me.

It’s a terrible thing to realise your own people had basically told you a web of lies about your condition, and how the mind adjusted to those lies.  And yet, I would have sworn on a stack of bibles my pain was real.

Drugs.  Not only could they do good, but they could also do some very bad things, to the mind and the body.  At a guess, I would say it was for Breeman’s benefit.  If I’d come back in one piece there would be a truckload of questions.

So, I’d been moved, and kept under the whole time.  And if there was nothing wrong with me, why was I still in what looked like a hospital?  Maybe it wasn’t.  There was only one bed in the room.  Perhaps it was a cell for recovering transportees.

My worst fears then, a black site.

My waking must have triggered an alarm because I heard the door open and someone come into the room.  The exact position of the door was hidden by a curtain, but I could see the light from outside intensify when it opened and slowly drop ass it closed.

The curtain moved on its rings to show a man in a white coat, perhaps a doctor, but more likely the interrogator or his assistant coming to check the viability of their target.

I had to ask, “Where am I?”

“In a camp, at a location, I’m not at liberty to disclose.”

“When did I get here?”

“Yesterday, late last night.  It was busy.  We had three new arrivals.  You must be on the right side because you didn’t arrive in chains, the other two did.”

He took my temperature, blood pressure and some other tests, and wrote the numbers on a page in a file.

“You haven’t reacted to the serum we gave you.  That’s good.”  He saw my look of concern.  “Oh, it’s only used for transporting injured people from one base to another.  It helps to minimise the external forces causing them unnecessary pain.”

“Apparently I’m not injured.”

“No.  Not quite sure what happened there, but, whatever happened, it’s above my pay grade.  By the way, don’t try to leave this room.  There’s a guard outside who had been told to shoot first and ask questions later.  I’ve seen the results of her work.”

It had to be Monroe.

That means Lallo would be around soon enough.


© Charles Heath 2019

“The Devil You Don’t”, be careful what you wish for

John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums.  Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favor for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favor’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follows.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.




A case for Harry Walthenson PI, a new episode

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 1930s, 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

Episode 98 – Edwina goes to Sykes


I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 19 – Revised

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new instalment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

And the perils of writing on the fly often leads to back revisions to aid moving forward, and this is one of those occasions.  A few revisions were required.


Short of jumping over the side, there was no way we were getting away.  And judging from the expression on Rico’s face, now very plain to see halfway along the pier, he was not happy to see us.

Boggs stepped off the deck and joined me on the pier, just as Rico made it to where we were standing, just as it started in a gentle up and down motion with the water, churned up by a passing speed boat, but it was fear rather than the pier’s motions making me feel sick.

The sound of another boat caused me to glance in the opposite direction, out towards the sandbar, where I could see another large boat coming in our direction very quickly, and by the shape of it, quite possibly a police launch or the coast guard. 

Rico had seen it too.  “What have you done?”

“I called the police,” I said, trying to act braver than I felt.  Even with the police on their way, Rico could still do something we’d all regret.


Movement by the fishing store caught my eye, and I saw it was two of the men who’d left the boat with Rico earlier, retreating.  They’d seen the situation and were retreating.  A police car with its siren blaring and lights flashing just stopped at the entrance to the pier and two officers were getting out, guns in hand.

Those men would getaway.  Rico had seen them too and looked relieved.  Odd for a man about to find himself in a lot of trouble.

Boggs blurted out, “There’s a dead body in the cabin.”

Rico shook his head.  “That’s not possible.  I’ve been gone for an hour and it isn’t possible he put himself there.”

He looked around to see the officers coming from the land side of the pier.  There was no escape for him, or for us, but this could still end up a sticky situation for us if Rico decided to shoot his way out.  Boggs said he owned a gun, and if it was not on him, it might be in the boat.

Rico climbed on board and then moved to the hatch.  He lifted the hatch cover and folded it back to show an opening into the cabin.  It hadn’t been locked; it just looked like it was.  Just as the officers made it to the boat, he stepped in, then down into the cabin.

A minute later, when he came up  Rico looked visibly shaken like he’d seen a ghost.

The police launch had arrived just off the stern, kicking up the water and causing the boat and pier to rock violently, two men at either end ready to secure their boat to ours.  The land-based officers also arrived, somewhat out of breath, to join Boggs and I on the pier.

I recognised the officer who appeared to be in charge, a man called Johnson, the police chief’s deputy.  He was known to shoot first and ask questions later.  What worried me the most, he had his gun drawn and ready to shoot.

He looked at me, Rico, Boggs, then back to me.  “What’s this all about?”

“There’s a body in the cabin,” Boggs said before I could say a word, still sounding very frightened, but whether it was the body in the cabin, Rico’s fury at his meddling or the fact the police were involved was hard to say.

He switched his glare to Rico.  “That true?”

Rico nodded.  “I don’t know where it came from, but it wasn’t there an hour ago.”  A last look back at the cabin, he stepped off the boat onto the pier.

The seaman aboard the police launch slipped a rope over the bollard at the rear of our boat and then jumped on board to secure it.  Another seaman did the same at the bow.  Two more jumped on board, one covering Rico and the other going into the cabin.

When he came back up on deck he was talking into his cell phone.

I think Rico had a lot of explaining to do.


© Charles Heath 2019

A matter of life and … what’s worse than death – Episode 13

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination in what happened during the second worlds war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…


I remained on the spot, not moving, for at least five minutes before I let out a sigh of relief.  It would be relatively safe because I had heard them walk off, following the river, and Jack, as my eyes and ears, had been out and had come back,. tail wagging slightly.

I was hoping he was not in league with Jackerby.

“So,” I said quietly to him, “you think it is safe out there?”  To be honest, I was not sure why I was asking the dog, or, for that matter, if he understood a word I was saying.

I  took tail wagging as a good sign.

Until, all of a sudden he went quiet and very still again, ears up and listening.

Then, I heard what he had heard.  The cracking sound of a foot on a twig or dry branch.

From behind me.

We both turned slowly.

An Italian man, about mid 30’s with a dated rifle in his hands, aimed at my head, not twenty feet away.  I was not going to take the chance he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.

“Who are you?”  He started with schoolboy German, obviously not his first language.

The problem I had was deciding whether he was the traitor, or with the resistance that hadn’t been betrayed.

“Not a German for starters,” I said.

I noticed Jack was standing very still with teeth bared.  He didn’t like this man.  Perhaps he too didn’t like the odds of rushing the man with the gun.


The way a German would call an Englishman.

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Are you from the castle?”

That was a trick question if I say no, he wouldn’t believe me, and if I said yes, I’d be tarred with the German brush.

“I escaped from there, so in a manner of speaking, yes I am from the castle.”


It couldn’t hurt to tell him.  “Sam Atherton.”

He let the gun drop, but it was still in a position to shoot me if I tried anything.

“Are you from the resistance?  I mean the group that hasn’t been compromised by a traitor?”

“I don’t know anything about the resistance if there is one.  I’m a farmer, trying to go about his business in the middle of a war.  What are you doing here?”

It might seem to anyone rather odd to be standing around in the woods.  “Hiding from two men who have come from the castle to follow me.”

He looked around.  “Where are they now?”

“Supposedly following me into the village, in that direction,” I pointed to where I thought the village was, “where I’m supposed to be leading them to the resistance, which, you said, doesn’t exist.”

“I didn’t say it didn’t exist, only that I don’t know anything about it.  What makes you think there is a resistance unit in these parts?”

Good question.  And, depending on what side he was on, still to be determined, I was not going to give them away.  “I’m acting on some sketchy intelligence we got in London, along with the possibility that the men in the castle, who are supposed to be Englanders, as you call them, but who are actually working with the Germans.  Seems they were right on one count, because they caught me and put me in a cell, and possibly wrong, according to you, on the other.”

“How did you manage to get away, if you were in a cell.”

So, here comes the part that sounds totally improbable.  “One of the two men following me broke me out.”

Yes, the look on his face said it all.

I shrugged.  “Ask the dog.  He’ll tell you.  His name is Jack by the way, but I’m not sure if he understands English.”

The dog went still again and turned his head.

Another crack, another person in the undergrowth, coming from the other side of the bushes.  My first thought, my two pursuers, realizing they’d lost me, had circled back to find me.

The man in front didn’t raise his gun, so it was someone he knew.

“Who is he?”

A woman’s voice.  I turned my head slightly.  She was older, perhaps this man’s mother.  She had a pistol in her left hand.

“Claims he escaped from the castle.”

“They all do.”

I heard a soft bang, and then something in my back, like a needle.

Seconds later my heard started spinning, and few more seconds later my legs gave out, and darkness followed.


© Charles Heath 2019

This is my reading list, my first, and it opened up a whole new world.

A long time ago, when I was 17 or 18, I used to do a lot of reading.  It was a long ride in on the train from home to work, and back again, and I did, then, have the time to read.

Having my own money, I was able to buy my own books, and these generally ran to mysteries and thriller, and naval stories.  The latter took my interest for a while because I had notions of becoming an Ensign until I realized I needed better educational qualifications and a higher level of fitness.

So much for those aspirations, so I just read about what it would be like.


I worked with a number of interesting characters, including one, a chap who was about 25, really old and wise to a 17-year-old, who deplored my reading choices.

It seemed Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Brian Callison, Hammond Innes, and Alistair Maclean didn’t quite fit the reading profile he thought I should follow.

Well, I hadn’t been to university, and I hadn’t realized there was such a thing as English, or any other, literature.  He was adamant that if I wanted to call myself a ‘man of books’ I had to read ‘proper’ books.

So, what eventuated, was a reading list.

If I wanted to converse with him on literature, I had to read every book on the list.

And I wanted to appear, at least, slightly more sophisticated, than the reader of penny dreadfuls.  I didn’t know what that meant, and in those days there was no internet, so it remained for a long time a phrase of mystery.

But, the reading list,

‘Hard Times,’ and ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens

‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ by T.E. Lawrence, yes, that famous man who was better known as Lawrence of Arabia

‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ by Thomas Hardy, which fuelled a desire to read most of Hardy’s books

‘The Day of the Triffids’, by John Wyndham, a rather strange addition to the list since it was science fiction.  I suspect he was a closet Trekker.

‘To the Lighthouse’, by Virginia Wolff

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen

‘And Quietly Flows the Don’ by Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov.  I had great fears that I would have to learn Russian, but that wasn’t the only shock, so was the size of the book

‘War and Peace’, talking about long books, by Leo Tolstoy

‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and thereby concluding the Russian classics

Of course, your definition of literature can change, and as a result of reading all of these books, and it took quite some time, and this led to selecting a more interesting collection of books to read, which he, in some small measure, took the credit for.

I discovered R.F Delderfield, and the trilogy, ‘A Horseman Riding By’, which led to ‘The Headmaster’, ‘The Avenue’, and ‘God is an Englishman’

C.S. Forester and the Hornblower series, but who also wrote several mysteries

F. Scott Fitzgerald and ‘The Great Gatsby’ as well as several other classics

Eric Ambler, master of thrillers from the ’30s and ’50s, particularly spy novels, and was probably the one who introduced me to the world of espionage

and last but not least, Dashiell Hammett’s ‘The Maltese Falcon’.

But, let’s not forget the most important point being made here.  This is not a list that I recommend for everyone to read for any reason.  I do not have the wisdom or the right to say what is good or what is bad, only what it did for me.

Am I wiser or smarter?  Who knows.  All I knew was that reading opened up new horizons for me, showing me there were other worlds out there other than the humdrum miserable existence I had back then.

And it fuelled a desire to create new fictional worlds that I could immerse myself in, where I could be anything other than who I was.  After all, isn’t that why we read, to get away from the tedium of our real lives and become someone else, if only for a few hours?