Started to write a post, get so far, and another theme or idea slips in, and demands to be written first?
I’m on this nostalgia kick, simply because when I turned on the TV to catch up with the latest COVID news, it was on a channel that shows old movies.
In case you don’t realize it, I love old movies, not just those from Hollywood, but also from Britain.
What was on?
An American in Paris.
Well, it had to be one of my favorites, even though I’m not a great fan of Gene Kelly, the sheer majesty of the music more than makes up for the story in between.
Could it be said, then, this was from the golden years of Hollywood? Such bright and cheerful movies such as Singing in the Rain, and An American in Paris, perhaps exemplify the Hollywood musical.
Years before, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were the quintessential musical stars, followed by the likes of Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin, and later Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. A couple of musicals, in particular, comes to mind, firstly the Wizard of Oz and then High Society.
Moving forward to more modern times, several stand out in the1960s, My Fair Lady and Sound of Music. By this time theatergoers were dining on the superb talents of Rogers and Hammerstein, and Learner and Lowe. Of the former, musicals such as Carousel, South Pacific, and The King and I were on my list of favorites.
Even later still in the 1970s, there is Funny Girl, and Hello Dolly, which has a connection to the past with its director, none other than, yes, Gene Kelly.
But it seems once the 60s had passed the notion of the Hollywood blockbuster musical had gone, and we were left with clip shows like That’s Entertainment, put together while Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were still alive. WE still had the film versions of the stage plays, but the lustre had, somehow, gone.
Perhaps it will return, who knows, after all, everything old is usually new again, it just takes time to go full circle.
Investigation of crimes don’t always go according to plan, nor does the perpetrator get either found or punished.
That was particularly true in my case. The murderer was very careful in not leaving any evidence behind, to the extent that the police could not rules out whether it was a male or a female.
At one stage the police thought I had murdered my own wife though how I could be on a train at the time of the murder was beyond me. I had witnesses and a cast-iron alibi.
The officer in charge was Detective Inspector Gabrielle Walters. She came to me on the day after the murder seeking answers to the usual questions when was the last time you saw your wife, did you argue, the neighbors reckon there were heated discussions the day before.
Routine was the word she used.
Her Sargeant was a surly piece of work whose intention was to get answers or, more likely, a confession by any or all means possible. I could sense the raging violence within him. Fortunately, common sense prevailed.
Over the course of the next few weeks, once I’d been cleared of committing the crime, Gabrielle made a point of keeping me informed of the progress.
After three months the updates were more sporadic, and when, for lack of progress, it became a cold case, communication ceased.
But it was not the last I saw of Gabrielle.
The shock of finding Vanessa was more devastating than the fact she was now gone, and those images lived on in the same nightmare that came to visit me every night when I closed my eyes.
For months I was barely functioning, to the extent I had all but lost my job, and quite a few friends, particularly those who were more attached to Vanessa rather than me.
They didn’t understand how it could affect me so much, and since it had not happened to them, my tart replies of ‘you wouldn’t understand’ were met with equally short retorts. Some questioned my sanity, even, for a time, so did I.
No one, it seemed, could understand what it was like, no one except Gabrielle.
She was by her own admission, damaged goods, having been the victim of a similar incident, a boyfriend who turned out to be a very bad boy. Her story varied only in she had been made to witness his execution. Her nightmare, in reliving that moment in time, was how she was still alive and, to this day, had no idea why she’d been spared.
It was a story she told me one night, some months after the investigation had been scaled down. I was still looking for the bottom of a bottle and an emotional mess. Perhaps it struck a resonance with her; she’d been there and managed to come out the other side.
What happened become our secret, a once-only night together that meant a great deal to me, and by mutual agreement, it was not spoken of again. It was as if she knew exactly what was required to set me on the path to recovery.
And it had.
Since then we saw each about once a month in a cafe. I had been surprised to hear from her again shortly after that eventful night when she called to set it up, ostensibly for her to provide me with any updates on the case, but perhaps we had, after that unspoken night, formed a closer bond than either of us wanted to admit.
We generally talked for hours over wine, then dinner and coffee. It took a while for me to realize that all she had was her work, personal relationships were nigh on impossible in a job that left little or no spare time for anything else.
She’d always said that if I had any questions or problems about the case, or if there was anything that might come to me that might be relevant, even after all this time, all I had to do was call her.
I wondered if this text message was in that category. I was certain it would interest the police and I had no doubt they could trace the message’s origin, but there was that tiny degree of doubt, whether or not I could trust her to tell me what the message meant.
I reached for the phone then put it back down again. I’d think about it and decide tomorrow.
I have an electronic note book on my smart phone and writing pads at the ready at home in my office/writing room/library.
As soon as one hits, I get it down, either on paper, or on the phone app. I use SomNote as it’s easy to export the text to an email, or have a version of the app running on my computer and just copy and paste. SomNote is great because I can used it anywhere.
Of course, it doesn’t work so well in the shower, so I’m still waiting for a waterproof phone. Or perhaps it can wait for a few minutes until I’m finished.
But, the trouble with that it, these ideas come so quickly and are sometimes so vivid that they need to be put down as quickly as possible. I have come up with the perfect dialogue for a tricky scene, and played it all out in my head, and by the time I got to the paper, it was almost gone.
Perhaps a whiteboard and a permanent marker on the wall.
Or is that going to far?
A long time ago, I received a portable tape recorder for a present, you know, the one you can hold in your hand, and the tapes so small you wonder how much will fit on it. The gifter said that when ideas came to me, all I had to do was speak. It was also voice activated.
Needless to say that conjured up a few ideas right there.
But, I used it, but I found it quite weird to be talking, ostensibly to myself, in the car whilst driving home, or go to, work, and the curious looks I’d get from others. One thing it did teach me was that when a conversation was repkayed, it would sound ok or like most of the time, hardly what one expected a conversation would really be like.
So, because of that device, I learned to read out all conversations, and if they sounded stupid, they were.
So, ideas come in the shower, ideas come while driving, ideas come when reading the newspaper, ideas even come when reading books.
Which leads me to another point that I learned early on. Writers must read. Not only novels of their chosen genre, but any reference books that go with it. Research was, a friend and more successful author than I told me, was mandatory.
So too was the reading to the classics, old English, and sometimes American, literature, to gain an appreciation for the written word. We might not follow those styles, but we can learn the majesty of the English language.
That author taught me a lot, though at the time I didn;t realise it. Perhaps I thpought I was already smart enough to write, but I’m guessing that it took a long time before I felt my writing was worth reading before publishing it.
I don’t profess to have a fully understanding of the language. I might have loved that school subject called English, and later in University, creative writing and literature, but not all of it soaked in. But writing is one of those odd things, that it can take many forms and styles, but at the end of the day, if the reader understands where the story is going, and when at the end, is satisfied that it was ‘a good read’, then the author’s work is done.
The only trouble is, getting the next idea, and then the were withal to write a second book, or third. It is said everyone as one book in them. For those who can write more, well, that might be what might be called, a gift.
My trouble is, I have too many ideas, too many starts and brief outlines to work with, I don’t know which story to start on next. I guess being spoinlt for choice is a good thing, yes?
With my attention elsewhere, I walked into a man who was hurrying in the opposite direction. He was a big man with a scar running down the left side of his face from eye socket to mouth, and who was also wearing a black shirt with a red tie.
That was all I remembered as my heart almost stopped.
He apologized as he stepped to one side, the same way I stepped, as I also muttered an apology.
I kept my eyes down. He was not the sort of man I wanted to recognize later in a lineup. I stepped to the other side and so did he. It was one of those situations. Finally getting out of sync, he kept going in his direction, and I towards the bus, which was now pulling away from the curb.
Getting my breath back, I just stood riveted to the spot watching it join the traffic. I looked back over my shoulder, but the man I’d run into had gone. I shrugged and looked at my watch. It would be a few minutes before the next bus arrived.
Wait, or walk? I could also go by subway, but it was a long walk to the station. What the hell, I needed the exercise.
At the first intersection, the ‘Walk’ sign had just flashed to ‘Don’t Walk’. I thought I’d save a few minutes by not waiting for the next green light. As I stepped onto the road, I heard the screeching of tires.
A yellow car stopped inches from me.
It was a high powered sports car, perhaps a Lamborghini. I knew what they looked like because Marcus Bartleby owned one, as did every other junior executive in the city with a rich father.
Everyone stopped to look at me, then the car. It was that sort of car. I could see the driver through the windscreen shaking his fist, and I could see he was yelling too, but I couldn’t hear him. I stepped back onto the sidewalk, and he drove on. The moment had passed and everyone went back to their business.
My heart rate hadn’t come down from the last encounter. Now it was approaching cardiac arrest, so I took a few minutes and several sets of lights to regain composure.
At the next intersection, I waited for the green light, and then a few seconds more, just to be sure. I was no longer in a hurry.
At the next, I heard what sounded like a gunshot. A few people looked around, worried expressions on their faces, but when it happened again, I saw it was an old car backfiring. I also saw another yellow car, much the same as the one before, stopped on the side of the road. I thought nothing of it, other than it was the second yellow car I’d seen.
At the next intersection, I realized I was subconsciously heading towards Harry’s new bar. It was somewhere on 6th Avenue, so I continued walking in what I thought was the right direction.
I don’t know why I looked behind me at the next intersection, but I did. There was another yellow car on the side of the road, not far from me. It, too, looked the same as the original Lamborghini, and I was starting to think it was not a coincidence.
Moments after crossing the road, I heard the roar of a sports car engine and saw the yellow car accelerate past me. As it passed by, I saw there were two people in it, and the blurry image of the passenger; a large man with a red tie.
Now my imagination was playing tricks.
It could not be the same man. He was going in a different direction.
In the few minutes I’d been standing on the pavement, it had started to snow; early for this time of year, and marking the start of what could be a long cold winter. I shuddered, and it was not necessarily because of the temperature.
I looked up and saw a neon light advertising a bar, coincidentally the one Harry had ‘found’ and, looking once in the direction of the departing yellow car, I decided to go in. I would have a few drinks and then leave by the back door if it had one.
Venice is definitely a city to explore. It has an incredible number of canals and walkways, and each time we would start our exploration at St Marks square when it’s not underwater
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.
This is a photo of the Hilton Hotel from the other side of the canal.
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.
This is looking back towards San Marco from the Accademia Bridge:
And this, looking towards the docks:
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.
50 photographs, 50 stories, of which there is one of the 50 below.
They all start with –
A picture paints … well, as many words as you like. For instance:
And, the story:
Have you ever watched your hopes and dreams simply just fly away?
Everything I thought I wanted and needed had just left in an aeroplane, and although I said I was not going to, i came to the airport to see the plane leave. Not the person on it, that would have been far too difficult and emotional, but perhaps it was symbolic, the end of one life and the start of another.
But no matter what I thought or felt, we had both come to the right decision. She needed the opportunity to spread her wings. It was probably not the best idea for her to apply for the job without telling me, but I understood her reasons.
She was in a rut. Though her job was a very good one, it was not as demanding as she had expected, particularly after the last promotion, but with it came resentment from others on her level, that she, the youngest of the group would get the position.
It was something that had been weighing down of her for the last three months, and if noticed it, the late nights, the moodiness, sometimes a flash of temper. I knew she had one, no one could have such red hair and not, but she had always kept it in check.
And, then there was us, together, and after seven years, it felt like we were going nowhere. Perhaps that was down to my lack of ambition, and though she never said it, lack of sophistication. It hadn’t been an issue, well, not until her last promotion, and the fact she had to entertain more, and frankly I felt like an embarrassment to her.
So, there it was, three days ago, the beginning of the weekend, and we had planned to go away for a few days and take stock. We both acknowledged we needed to talk, but it never seemed the right time.
It was then she said she had quit her job and found a new one. Starting the following Monday.
Ok, that took me by surprise, not so much that it something I sort of guessed might happen, but that she would just blurt it out.
I think that right then, at that moment, I could feel her frustration with everything around her.
What surprised her was my reaction. None.
I simply asked where who, and when.
A world-class newspaper, in New York, and she had to be there in a week.
It was all the time I had left with her.
I remember I just shrugged and asked if the planned weekend away was off.
She stood on the other side of the kitchen counter, hands around a cup of coffee she had just poured, and that one thing I remembered was the lone tear that ran down her cheek.
Is that all you want to know?
I did, yes, but we had lost that intimacy we used to have when she would have told me what was happening, and we would have brainstormed solutions. I might be a cabinet maker but I still had a brain, was what I overheard her tell a friend once.
There’s not much to ask, I said. You’ve been desperately unhappy and haven’t been able to hide it all that well, you have been under a lot of pressure trying to deal with a group of troglodytes, and you’ve been leaning on Bentley’s shoulder instead of mine, and I get it, he’s got more experience in that place, and the politics that go with it, and is still an ally.
Her immediate superior and instrumental in her getting the position, but unlike some men in his position he had not taken advantage of a situation like some men would. And even if she had made a move, which I doubted, that was not the sort of woman she was, he would have politely declined.
One of the very few happily married men in that organisation, so I heard.
So, she said, you’re not just a pretty face.
Par for the course for a cabinet maker whose university degree is in psychology. It doesn’t take rocket science to see what was happening to you. I just didn’t think it was my place to jump in unless you asked me, and when you didn’t, well, that told me everything I needed to know.
Yes, our relationship had a use by date, and it was in the next few days.
I was thinking, she said, that you might come with me, you can make cabinets anywhere.
I could, but I think the real problem wasn’t just the job. It was everything around her and going with her, that would just be a constant reminder of what had been holding her back. I didn’t want that for her and said so.
Then the only question left was, what do we do now?
Go shopping for suitcases. Bags to pack, and places to go.
Getting on the roller coaster is easy. On the beginning, it’s a slow easy ride, followed by the slow climb to the top. It’s much like some relationships, they start out easy, they require a little work to get to the next level, follows by the adrenaline rush when it all comes together.
What most people forget is that what comes down must go back up, and life is pretty much a roller coaster with highs and lows.
Our roller coaster had just come or of the final turn and we were braking so that it stops at the station.
There was no question of going with her to New York. Yes, I promised I’d come over and visit her, but that was a promise with crossed fingers behind my back. After a few months in t the new job the last thing shed want was a reminder of what she left behind. New friends new life.
We packed her bags, three out everything she didn’t want, a free trips to the op shop with stiff she knew others would like to have, and basically, by the time she was ready to go, there was nothing left of her in the apartment, or anywhere.
Her friends would be seeing her off at the airport, and that’s when I told her I was not coming, that moment the taxi arrived to take her away forever. I remember standing there, watching the taxi go. It was going to be, and was, as hard as it was to watch the plane leave.
So, there I was, finally staring at the blank sky, around me a dozen other plane spotters, a rather motley crew of plane enthusiasts.
Already that morning there’s been 6 different types of plane depart, and I could hear another winding up its engines for take-off.
People coming, people going.
Maybe I would go to New York in a couple of months, not to see her, but just see what the attraction was. Or maybe I would drop in, just to see how she was.
As one of my friends told me when I gave him the news, the future is never written in stone, and it’s about time you broadened your horizons.
I don’t think anyone can predict the future, not anymore, and definitely, now it is a distinct possibility that someone can create a virus that will in essence shut down the whole world, and quite possibly destroy it
This is patently clear after the recent troubles with COVID 19 and although a remedy has been found, it is not a perfect solution, or a means of eradicating it. It has shown that while we might be able to combat one version of it, it’s the mutations that will throw up questions about ever getting back to some sort of normal.
And that begs the question, what is, or was, normal?
It’s been a year or more, and I think we’ve forgotten. What we have discovered, though, is the disparate states of the various nations and ethnic groups, and how they have fared in the wake of the pandemic.
It has highlighted systemic problems the world over, problems that have always been there but simmering below the surface. Problems that could be resolved, but perhaps will not.
But as a first-world nation, we have not been immune to external forces, forces that have tried to break us while reeling from the ravaging of a virus that was brought here, and through no fault of our own.
But from the outset, we seem to have been in a different bubble here.
I will admit that I live in a country with about 26 million people whereas the United States has about 330 million, there is a significant difference in numbers, whereas the US is only 1.3 times larger in size.
All this means that the US has a much larger problem in containing the COVID 19 virus, and probably why, down here, we are having a lot more success in getting the infection rates under control.
One thing we have all learned in the last month or so is that lockdowns, such as those hated by, and rallied against in the US, do actually work when you have much less population to deal with. This is why the actions taken by smaller populated countries such as Australia and New Zealand have been so successful.
Yes, we have had outbreaks, but it has been proved these can be contained. We have rigidly been adhering to the science, and the advice of our medical specialists without political interference, to keep the infection rates down.
Yes, we have limited freedom, but nearly everyone, except those from overseas who came here as immigrants and refuse to accept any form of ‘control’, has adhered to the medical-based requests. Those that don’t, those that have railed against the rules, they are predominantly people who have come here from other countries.
I’m happy for anyone to come here and get away from whatever horrors they leave behind, but only on the condition they leave those horrors behind and try in some small way to assimilate with us, without having to give up their cultural and religious beliefs. When they use that as an excuse for their bad behavior, they should be sent home. Obviously, this country isn’t good enough for them.
We are an island, so it is much easier to guard our borders. No one can get into this country without going through quarantine, and that who try to lie their way in are promptly returned on the next plane out. We cannot leave without a valid reason, and if we do, when we come back, we have to spend a fortnight in quarantine, guarded by the defense force personnel.
For countries like the US, it is so much harder to maintain borders. There will be problems in the future with travelers coming from overseas, especially if the science behind the vaccines being touted doesn’t stand up to a very high standard. I suspect that anyone claiming to have a vaccine and using it as an excuse to re-enable overseas travel will find their pleas falling on deaf ears.
That’s because, as we are learning, vaccines are not infallible, there will be the transmission, and not everyone will be willing to have a vaccine, so even here, as anywhere else, we will not be rid of the scourge for a long time. Travel might be possible, but who will want to take a risk going to another country where it’s not completely under control?
I guess, at this time of our lives, our chance to see the rest of the world is over, and it’s time to tour our own country.
Whether we live long and prosper, well, that’s a story for another day.
This case has everything, red herrings, jealous brothers, femme fatales, and at the heart of it all, greed.
See below for an excerpt from the book…
An excerpt from the book:
When Harry took the time to consider his position, a rather uncomfortable position at that, he concluded that he was somehow involved in another case that meant very little to him.
Not that it wasn’t important in some way he was yet to determine, it was just that his curiosity had got the better of him, and it had led to this: sitting in a chair, securely bound, waiting for someone one of his captors had called Doug.
It was not the name that worried him so much, it was the evil laugh that had come after the name was spoken.
Doug what? Doug the ‘destroyer’, Doug the ‘dangerous’, Doug the ‘deadly’; there was any number of sinister connotations, and perhaps that was the point of the laugh, to make it more frightening than it was.
But there was no doubt about one thing in his mind right then: he’d made a mistake. A very big. and costly, mistake. Just how big the cost, no doubt he would soon find out.
His mother, and his grandmother, the wisest person he had ever known, had once told him never to eavesdrop.
At the time he couldn’t help himself and instead of minding his own business, listening to a one-sided conversation which ended with a time and a place. The very nature of the person receiving the call was, at the very least, sinister, and, because of the cryptic conversation, there appeared to be, or at least to Harry, criminal activity involved.
For several days he had wrestled with the thought of whether he should go. Stay on the fringe, keep out of sight, observe and report to the police if it was a crime. Instead, he had willingly gone down the rabbit hole.
Now, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, several heat lamps hanging over his head, he was perspiring, and if perspiration could be used as a measure of fear, then Harry’s fear was at the highest level.
Another runnel of sweat rolled into his left eye, and, having his hands tied, literally, it made it impossible to clear it. The burning sensation momentarily took his mind off his predicament. He cursed and then shook his head trying to prevent a re-occurrence. It was to no avail.
Let the stinging sensation be a reminder of what was right and what was wrong.
It was obvious that it was the right place and the right time, but in considering his current perilous situation, it definitely was the wrong place to be, at the worst possible time.
It was meant to be his escape, an escape from the generations of lawyers, what were to Harry, dry, dusty men who had been in business since George Washington said to the first Walthenson to step foot on American soil, ‘Why don’t you become a lawyer?” when asked what he could do for the great man.
Or so it was handed down as lore, though Harry didn’t think Washington meant it literally, the Walthenson’s, then as now, were not shy of taking advice.
Except, of course, when it came to Harry.
He was, Harry’s father was prone to saying, the exception to every rule. Harry guessed his father was referring to the fact his son wanted to be a Private Detective rather than a dry, dusty lawyer. Just the clothes were enough to turn Harry off the profession.
So, with a little of the money Harry inherited from one of his aunts, he leased an office in Gramercy Park and had it renovated to look like the Sam Spade detective agency, you know the one, Spade and Archer, and The Maltese Falcon.
There’s a movie and a book by Dashiell Hammett if you’re interested.
So, there it was, painted on the opaque glass inset of the front door, ‘Harold Walthenson, Private Detective’.
There was enough money to hire an assistant, and it took a week before the right person came along, or, more to the point, didn’t just see his business plan as something sinister. Ellen, a tall cool woman in a long black dress, or so the words of a song in his head told him, fitted in perfectly.
She’d seen the movie, but she said with a grin, Harry was no Humphrey Bogart.
Of course not, he said, he didn’t smoke.
Three months on the job, and it had been a few calls, no ‘real’ cases, nothing but missing animals, and other miscellaneous items. What he really wanted was a missing person. Or perhaps a beguiling, sophisticated woman who was as deadly as she was charming, looking for an errant husband, perhaps one that she had already ‘dispatched’.
Or for a tall, dark and handsome foreigner who spoke in riddles and in heavily accented English, a spy, or perhaps an assassin, in town to take out the mayor. The man was such an imbecile Harry had considered doing it himself.
Now, in a back room of a disused warehouse, that wishful thinking might be just about to come to a very abrupt end, with none of the romanticized trappings of the business befalling him. No beguiling women, no sinister criminals, no stupid policemen.
Just a nasty little man whose only concern was how quickly or how slowly Harry’s end was going to be.