In a word: Fourth

When you realize you are the fourth child, you are really hoping that the split is two boys and three girls.  Woe betide you if you are a boy and you have three sisters.  It could also be as interesting, notice I didn’t say intolerable) if you are a girl with three brothers.

Hang on, I know someone who was in that exact same situation.  Fortunately, being a girl and the youngest, she could do no wrong in the eyes of her father.

But I digress (as usual)

The meaning of fourth is self-evident, just count to four and it’s the fourth number, perhaps better explained by the fact it is one after the third in a series

Then we use it with other words like,

Fourth-gear, usually reserved for the highway where one expects to geta clear run.  Of course, with more and more cars on the road, sometimes it’s difficult to get out of second.

The fourth estate, no, not what a rich person owns, along with a lot more one guesses, but another name for the press.

One fourth, your share of an estate, if of course, you have three other siblings.  And, in murder mysteries, usually those fourths seem to die mysteriously, and your fourth becomes a third, a half, and then you go to jail.

in fourth place, where it seems all the horse I back run

And,

This is not to be confused with the word forth, which sounds the same but means something entirely different, like

I’m sure we’ve all been told to go forth and be something or other, which means to go forward or come out of hiding

It is also a Scottish river, one notably called the Firth of Forth, and if it sounds odd, so do a lot things in Scotland

You could also place back and forth, much the same as you would in a hospital waiting for the birth of your first child.

Writing about writing a book – Day 11

Once again, instead of writing, I have been obsessing over the planning and creation of a website for the book.

And, that being the case, now I have to give the book a name so I can name the site/blog after it.

The word Starburst has featured in the story so tentatively I’m going to name it “The Starburst Conspiracy”

The site will be on WordPress.  There will be progress blog posts, there will draft writing and possible chapters for beta reading and comment.  There will be separate pages for each of the characters.

I’m not sure how I’m going to build an email list so perhaps I’ll build a following first.

So, having mapped out a plan for the site, I’ve made the first post and written the ‘About’ page which basically gives a bit of history about the book.

Bear in mind the original book of about 400 pages scribbled over a long period of time, and not really a book in the sense of the word (more a collection of ideas set in some form of chronology) and set in the early eighties and will probably stay there but will be the basis for the new novel.

Another interesting aspect of this exercise is to see how far I have come writing-wise in the last 30 years and how easy it is to spot the issues with the original manuscript.

I’ve also created a master page for the cast of characters and only a page for the main character so far.  Others will follow.

There will be another page with an ongoing, updated synopsis.

Shortcuts to these pages, as the information flows will be in subsequent posts.

 

For now, it’s back to writing, after a long gap, and the ideas have been churning in my head.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

“Second Thoughts”, a short story

Get me to the church on time.

It was a tune out of My Fair Lady, and it was in my head the moment I woke up that morning.  And this day was, to quote some immortal’s line, was supposed to be the happiest day of my life.

But, somehow, it didn’t feel like that and lying under the warm covers of my bed, perhaps for the last time at my parent’s home, the last place I thought I’d find myself, I began to consider how it was I had ended up in this situation.

It was not a question of who the bride was, we had been friends from an early age and used to joke about getting married, but at the age of six or seven, that was a concept rather than something we might act on in the future.

Except that was how it panned out, and, not for the reasons one might think would lead to such an eventuality.

Yes, we were close friends till the early teens, then my family went in one direction, New York, and her family went in another, San Francisco, and in each place both families built successful businesses.

Josephine, the intended bride, and I met off and on over the next fifteen years, some of that mutually when we were at university together, and, I might add, living together.  Even then, there had been no suggestion of permanency because we each had to go home to eventually work in the family business.

In those few years, it had been easy because there had been no expectations by either of us.  We simply came together, stayed together, and parted at the end both happy to have enjoyed the experience.

Then, several events changed the course of our lives.

My father died unexpectedly at a crucial point in the company’s expansion, and without his direction, it began to flounder.  Then, Josephine arrived in New York to open a branch of her family’s business, and just happened to arrive on the day of my father’s funeral.

I thought it a coincidence and was grateful for her support at a time when I needed it.

A month after that, one of the lead investors in the new expansion plan pulled out, as was his right because the loan had been contingent on my father overseeing the project.  It was the end of a very bad week, and instead of being the last to leave the office, I left early, called up an old friend, Rollo, who had followed us to New York, and we went to his favourite bar.

He suggested a night on the town was called for and I agreed with him.  I think by that time I’d had enough of the problems for a few days.  But with Rollo, I learned no invitation was without its twists and turns, so when he said his sister was bringing a friend, I had to act happy even if I didn’t feel like it.  Her friends could be a little strange.

Another coincidence, the friend was Josephine.  Hearing from her once maybe, but twice in the same week, I didn’t think so, so I let it pass.  Yet despite my reservations, in the end, I had to admit I was glad to see her because the last thing I wanted to do was entertain a quirky woman I didn’t know.

Long story short, Josephine’s family business came aboard as the replacement investor, but not without some rather stringent requirements, and though no one on either side would admit it, it was suggested that perhaps Josephine and I would make an excellent match.  After all, we were childhood friends, had lived together without the problems that sometimes came with it, and we would be working very closely together.

I proposed, she accepted, and everyone was happy.

Well, not everyone.

 

I was down in the dining room getting breakfast, before the wedding, when Rollo arrived.  It went without saying Rollo was going to be the best man.

Curiously, he was neither surprised nor shocked to learn of my proposal, but it was a surprise to learn, in a roundabout way, he wasn’t exactly happy for me.  It was not anything I could put my finger on, but more of a feeling I had.  And, to be honest, before I had proposed to her, I was sure that Rollo had feelings for her, and at times I thought how much more sense it would make if they were together.

I’d even asked him once or twice if he liked her, and he just said they were friends.

The other side of that equation was his sister, Adrienne, who was, I thought, charming, funny, and sometimes a little offbeat, which is why I was drawn to her.  Over time, I think I may have developed feelings for her, but by the time those feelings were rising to the surface, I was advised that a woman of Josephine’s standing was more my type.

My mother could be very annoying at times, and whilst she might be looking after her son’s best interests, she was also looking after the company’s interests as best she could.  I suspect Josephine’s parents were the same, hoping their daughter would marry advantageously.

Rollo, being on the outside, had summed it up perfectly, ‘if this had been the eighteenth century there’s no doubt you two would be the perfect match’.

“You look as happy as I feel,” I said when I saw him.

“It’s going to be a big day, church wedding, in Latin of all languages, then the society event of the year.  What’s not to be happy about?”

Put like that, I shrugged.  “A registry office, burger and chips at the local diner, then a few days in the Catskills would have sufficed.”

“And on what planet do you think you are right now?”

I didn’t answer.  I simply poured another cup of black coffee and sat down.  It was a large room, with seats for a dozen, and I was the only one up.  I had expected a room full of family members, of which at least twenty were upstairs right now recovering from last night’s festivities.

Rollo poured some tea into a cup and sat opposite.  “OK.  What’s wrong?  Wedding day jitters?”

Could he read my mind?

“It just doesn’t seem right.  I mean, it seems we have been on this track forever, but you know, there’s something missing.”

“Love?”

Exactly.  It was another of those thoughts I had just before I got out of bed.  I liked her, maybe I loved her once, when I didn’t really know what love was, but now?  I don’t know what it was I felt about her.  I had been expecting those mythical thunderbolts to strike, but as the days, weeks, and months wore on, it just didn’t happen.

It was almost if we were going through the motions.

“It feels like it’s going to be a marriage of convenience.”  There, I said it.

And I expected Rollo to start having a fit.  Instead, he concentrated on putting three spoonful’s of sugar into his tea and stirring.  And stirring.  And stirring.

“Say something,” I said.  “Anything.  Tell me I’m being stupid, tell me to get out of my funk and screw my courage to the sticking place, or whatever it is you say in times like this.”

“It’s not like you to drop a bomb like this at a time like this…”

I felt he had more to say, the good part where he’d call me an ass, and then tell me to get my shit together.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

“But…”

“But I rather get the impression this wedding might not be going ahead.”

“It has to.  God knows how many people have put themselves out to be here.  It was, my mother said, a logistical nightmare.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.”

“You’re supposed to be arguing for the wedding, not against it.”

“I would if I knew your heart was in it.  But it isn’t, is it?  I think you’ve spent so much time trying to please everyone else, that you have forgotten about yourself.  I know you’re not happy.  I also happen to know that Jo isn’t either.”

“You’ve spoken to her?”

“Just before I got here.  Call her.  You two need to talk.  In the meantime, you’re going to have to repay a huge debt after I somehow manage to sort this mess out.  My car’s outside.  Leave now, and I’ll let you know when it’s safe to return.”

“Where will I go?”

He smiled.  “I’m sure you’ll know by the time you get in the car.”

It was reckless and would cause a lot of pain and anguish for my mother, but I considered how much more pain it would cause to Josephine if I didn’t call it off.

I made the call on the way upstairs to finish dressing.

“I’m assuming you’ve spoken to Rollo?”  She didn’t wait for me to speak.

“You feel the same way?”

“It started out with the best of intentions, but I can’t help thinking if we were right for each other we would have married after university.  We are best friends, Alan, and I don’t think it’s ever going to progress from there.  I know you feel that too, it’s just the pressure from our families has managed to mask our true feelings.”

“Do you have any idea what sort of storm is about to erupt?”

“Everyone will get over it.  There’s too much at stake on both sides for there to be any real or lasting consequences.  I guess Rollo is going to have his work cut out for him.  I’ll see you one the other side.”

She didn’t say what other side, but I suspect it meant when the dust had settled.

I literally ran downstairs, mainly because I heard movement and didn’t want to run into anyone, and out the door towards Rollo’s car.

Once again I had to admire the fact he had exquisite taste in cars, and the one he’d brought was no exception, a Lamborghini, yellow, fast, and he knew I wanted to drive it.

What I didn’t expect. His sister, Phoebe, sitting in the passenger seat.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Searching for locations: Venice, Italy

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 San 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.

Just one of many reading lists – part 1

**Please don’t assume that you have to, nor would I ever expect you to,  read any or all of these books.  You don’t.**

Everyone, it seems, will publish what they call the top 100 books that you should read.  Some are voted on, some belong to the opinion of the editor of the book review section of a newspaper, and, as you know, there are a lot of newspapers, a lot of editors, and a lot of opinions.

I’m not a newspaper, I’m not an editor, but I have a list, based on personal experience, and many, many years of reading.

It’s in no particular order.

  1.  The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne.  Don’t ask me why but I found this an interesting slice of life in England in the 1700s
  2. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray.  I met a direct descendant of him in England on a research visit which fuelled an interest in the book.  Another large tome recently brought to life by the mini-series on television.
  3. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.  Arguably the first detective novel, it was fuel for the imagination of any budding detective novel author.  He also wrote The Woman in White.
  4. Middlemarch by George Eliot, a remarkable novel, and famous for the fact it was written by a woman who thought it was best to use a male name in order to get recognition.
  5. Any of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. New Grub Street by George Gissing, very, very gritty
  7. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, another of those incredibly well-written spy stories
  8. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, a novel that brings up the subject of the British Empire
  9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald, a story from the jazz age and the mysterious Jay Gatsby whom no one could figure out
  10. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, one of the few books that opened up the world of the Private Detective, and fostered a brilliant movie with Humprey Bogart as Sam Spade.
  11. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, the author who introduced us to Philip Marlowe, with two definitive characterizations by Humprey Bogart and Robert Mitchum
  12. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, the classic about a family in the Great Depression, and my first introduction to Henry Fonda in the movie version of the book
  13. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I had to read this when I was at school and probably a time when I didn’t understand it’s importance.  Seeing the film with Gregory Peck much later helped.
  14. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.  A friend recommended this and after I read it, I wondered what the hell it was about.  Only now do I understand it’s anti-war undertones
  15. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy was the novel that introduced me to Hardy
  16. Rural Rides by William Cobbett is a slice of life in the southern English countryside in the 1800s
  17. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the first book of hers I read and found it fascinating.  Of course, when Mr. Darcy was brought to life in the television series, it found a whole new generation of readers
  18. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the remarkable story of Pip, Miss Havisham, and the mysterious benefactor
  19. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, apparently the temperature that paper burns, but this is more about Guy Montag and the saving of books rather than burning them
  20. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, probably the most depressing novel I’ve ever read, about a woman married to a mediocre doctor and seeks to escape to a fantasy world that leads to disappointment and devastating consequences

The list continues …

In a word: There

Yes, the dog is over there.  It’s a place somewhere other than where you are currently.

Or, you could say, there was a brave man, but he couldn’t help so there was no hope.  It doesn’t refer to a place.

Or I’m taking you to the border, but from there you’re on your own.

Confused yet?

Let’s try by adding a similar word, their

It means belonging to a group as in, it was their dog that caused the damage.

Of course, this can be twisted a little, and you could say, everyone has to bring their own pack, meaning at times it could refer to one, or many,

Then just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, there’s they’re.

This is a contraction for they are, so it’s they’re not going to go as their told, and that sounds a little strange, and possibly not correct.

Wow, it starts getting complicated when you use two or more of those similar words in the same sentence.

Confusing?

That’s why it always pays to have a dictionary handy.

Just in case autocorrect fails, which it seems to quite often for me.  I’m not sure why.

In a word: Double

I was watching a TV program and the words ‘double standards’ kept being thrown about with little attention being paid to what it really means.

Like statistics, words can be used in any manner to support or debunk what someone else will call a fact.

Fact, of course, is another word that’s thrown around like a football.

But double standards, what does it really mean?

“a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups”

Put simply, if you own a cat, and I hate cats, I’m likely to say to you I like cats because of who you are and what I might want from you.

It has far more reaching consequences in reality because some of us might profess they regard everyone as being equal ‘in the eyes of the Lord’ but have a very different private view.

Personally, I believe everyone should be treated equally.  The problem is, a great many people around me do not, and it seems that I am slowly becoming a minority in my own country.

How do we rectify this?

I don’t think we can.  Politicians are now running scared in their own constituencies because of the increasing multicultural population, and cannot be seen to favor one group or another.

Until lobby groups come into play, campaign funding to the politician is discussed, and very subtly, votes are bought.

Does your political representative work on the basis of double standards?

Maybe it’s time to find out before it’s too late, and you too will be living in shanty huts on a reservation.