This year’s NANOWRIMO

Once again, it’s into the fray come November 1.

This year, I will not be necessarily starting from scratch though it will feel like it.

Since my eldest grand daughter was about 5, now nearly twelve years ago, I’ve been promising a YA chapter book about a princess, based on her.

She seemed to like the idea of being a royal pain in the neck, which is what I said she would be in the book, but, by the end of her adventure, she will have transitioned from spoilt brat to a woman worthy of becoming a Queen.

A long time ago, when my wife was in hospital having an operation, my daughter who is also the editor and mother to said princess, and the princess herself were sitting around in the hospital room waiting for my wife to return from radiology, and decided to come up with the quest said princess had to go on.

Thus, over the next hour, we came up with a lot of different ways to make her ‘suffer’, ten in fact, because at the end of each ‘trial’ she had to collect a magic stone, ten altogether, which had to be arranged correctly to fulfil the prophesy.

And, of course, save the realm from destruction.

Yes, there’s always some sort of world threatening calamity behind every quest.

And since then, she had become unofficially Princess Marigold, and the title hovering between The Dark Horse and The Legend of The Dark Horse. Or maybe, when it’s finished, something else.

Over the twelve years I have been writing bits and pieces, and in the last month been putting it together in a single file, as well as a synopsis, and, God forbid, a plan, which I found quite by accident, and we must have put together on a forgettable day in 2015. That’s the date on the file.

So, come November, it’s back to it, and hopefully it will be done by her 18th birthday, in September next year.

At least now, she had grown so much, that she will be able to dress up as the princess, and feature on the front cover!

And, as each day passes, I will trying to keep everyone informed of my progress.

Searching for locations: The Paris Opera House, Paris, France

This was one of the more interesting experiences for the grandchildren as they were, as all young girls are, interested in ballet.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit which included some time watching ballet practice.

I could not convince anyone to take the elevator back down to the ground floor as it was suspected we might be ‘attacked’ by the ‘phantom’.  Certainly, the elevator was very old and I think at the time it was being repaired.

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Part of the Grand Staircase in Palais Garnier Opera de Paris

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The ceiling above the main staircase.  The ceiling above the staircase was painted by Isidore Pils to depict The Triumph of ApolloThe Enchantment of Music Deploying its CharmsMinerva Fighting Brutality Watched by the Gods of Olympus, and The City of Paris Receiving the Plan of the New Opéra.

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The ceiling of Chagall at the Palais Garnier

On 23 September 1964, the new ceiling of the Opéra Garnier was inaugurated with great pomp.  It was painted by Marc Chagall at the request of André Malraux

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Amphitheatre and Orchestra Pit entrance

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Interior, and doorways to boxes

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Box seats in the auditorium

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Ornate ceilings and columns

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Seating inside the auditorium

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The day we were leaving Paris, was the first night of the Bolshoi Ballet.  My two granddaughters were greatly disappointed at missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime, to see the Bolshoi Ballet at the Paris Opera House.

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But we did get to see the principals practicing.

The things you hear…

It’s not that we often go out to cafés for lunch, but this week we decided to spend a few days out of the city.

Not that our travel options are all that plentiful far afield because of the coronavirus travel restrictions, but our state, Queensland, has a lot of places not far from home, but can make it feel like you are.

So, here we are in Canungra, a small town in what is known as the Gold Coast hinterland, or more generally the “Scenic Rim”.  

Before going to the cottage we have booked for a few days, we’re stopping off at a cage we know has good coffee, and cakes, to have lunch, and, of course, coffee.

But, here’s the thing…

Sometimes its not just the food that’s the draw, it’s the atmosphere, and the diverse collection of patrons.

Being a tourist destination, you’re more likely to be surrounded by visitors from far afield than locals, and this day was no exception.

And although we are still practising social distancing, people are close enough, and in some cases, loud enough that you can overhear their conversations.

Like, the fish and chips in Ceduna, located in another state, South Australia, are dreadful, because of the fat dripping off the batter on the fish.   A handy hint indeed, if I’m ever in Ceduna.

Then, like a lot of older people do, a discussion turns the medical problems and procedures, described, at times, in gory detail.  Thank God I was not eating at the time, because vivid descriptions are about as bad as watching medical dramas on TV, and one in particular, “Transplant”.

I guess when you’re 74 there’s not a lot you have in common with others except the frailty of the human body.  And if you’re a caravanner, the places you’ve been, good and bad.

Sadly my idea of camping is a four star hotel.

Then the food arrives, a rather large hamburger, stabbed to death by a steak knife, just to make sure it’s truly dead, and my selection, beer battered flathead and chips with the largest salad I’ve had in a long time.

Needless to say my expectations were exceeded, and it was not only filling, but delicious.

I’m sure we’ll be back again in the not too distant future, surprisingly because if there was no coronavirus we may never have discovered this little slice of paradise.

Searching for locations: The Castello di Brolio, Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany – The Old Castle

The castle is located in the southern Chianti Classico countryside and has been there for over ten centuries, and owned by the Ricasoli family since 1141.

Like any good castle, it has strong defences, and I was looking for a moat and drawbridge, but it looks like the moat has become a lawn.


The very high walls in places no doubt were built to keep the enemy out

The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the last 900 years.  It was part of the Florentine defenses, and withstood, and succumbed to many battles with Siena, which is only 20 km away.  More recently, it still bears the scars of artillery fire and bombing in WW2.

The room at the top of this tower would have an excellent view of the countryside.

Here you can see the old and the new, the red brick part of the rebuilding in the 1800’s in the style of an English Manor

We did not get to see where that archway led.

Nor what was behind door number one at the top of these stairs.  Rest assured, many, many years ago someone wearing armor would have made the climb.   It would not pass current occupational health and safety these days with a number of stairs before a landing.

Cappella di San Jacopo.  Its foundations were laid in 1348.

Renovated in 1867-1869, it has a gabled façade preceded by a double stone staircase.  The interior, with a crypt where the members of the Ricasoli family are buried, has a nave divided into three spans with cross vaults.

The 1,200 hectares of the property include 240 hectares of vineyards and 26 of olive groves, in the commune of Gaiole.

We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we were attending such a game.

Of course, this was last year.  This year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, only without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or go to a game.  For a while, it was just be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, as some of the states began to get on top of the virus, football teams moved from Victoria, and played in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and the Northern Territory.

And as the Victorian situation got worse, the decision was made to move the grand final, which had never left the MCG in Victoria, to Brisbane. It was like America never losing the Americas Cup, until they did.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and has returned in a limited sense as coronavirus restrictions eased (but not completely), a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern-day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes, and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run, and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quickly as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of that hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and who turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

In a word: arm

Like leg, arm is a word that is mostly associated with a body part.

Like being legless, another description for being drunk, being rendered ‘armless’ means you are no threat, in a rather awful but funny way by saying it.

I guess we all have a dash of ‘sick’ humour in all of us.

However, arm can also be used to describe a part of a structure too.

It could also describe the arm of an ‘armchair’.

But…

Arm also means to give people weapons like guns, usually from an armoury.

I’m guessing that a whole lot of people with arms is an army!

You can also say that taking those weapons away would be to disarm them.

It might take the long arm of the law to do it, too.

And to disarm someone doesn’t necessarily mean to take away their arms, but to ‘charm’ them with your wit and humour.

An arm can also be a river or streams tributary, so I could say instead of staying on the main river, I’ll take the ‘named’ arm, but just remember, sometimes this can be dangerous, getting off the main route.

On a boat, there is a yardarm, and this was once used to hang seamen who committed serious crimes such as mutiny.

A call to arms was to declare war,

And lastly, an arm of the defence services could be any one of Army, Navy, Marines or Airforce.

Just steer clear of the Navy for the aforementioned reasons.

It’s one of those days…

You know, the sort of day where you have the best of intentions, you get up ready to start attacking the agenda you’ve told yourself you’re finsally going to sit down and get on with.

The same set of words you’ve been using to fire up the enthusiam you really don’t feel much of the time, but this time, having worked yourself into a high degree of positivity just before going to bed.

Everything is set up. All you have to do is’ bound out of bed, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to go.

That was the first mistake. You went to be very late, around 2 am, and when you wake up, it’s feels like death warmed up. No bright eyes, and definitely no bushy tail.

But, there’s work to be done.

Before that, there’s other stuff, and as each succeeding chore is down, the less the enthusiasm feels. I have to clean up the dining room, which, at the moment, is the go to for all the tools, paint, tile glue, tiles, everything that’s being used in the latest round of renovations.

Frankly, the room is a mess. I can move a lot of the tools out to the shed now that I’ve finished with them, and the rest, a few pain brushes and the tiling equipment, we be used over the next week.

An hour and a half later, the room is now clean.

I go out to the writing room and look at the list. Good thing I’d didn’t put a time against anything, because if I have, I was now looking at being at least four hours behind.

A phone call made that timeline worse. People always call when you don;t need any calls to dstract you. It’s one of the reasons why I have seriously considered getting the land line cut off. And if it wasn’t for the grandchildren, who know they can call on that line, with a number that’s easier to remember than a mobile, I would.

But that of course leaves me open to the half dozen scam calls a day, trying to sell cladding, solar panels, defend myself form a car crash that I never had, fend off illicit charges from Telcos, and now Amazon. Not forgetting my friend from the NBN who rings once, sometimes twice a day telling me my internet is about to be cut off.

To be honest I wish they would, but as much as I tell them to cut it off they never do, perhaps knowing that if they do, they can’t scam call me anymore.

By the time I get back to my office, it’s time for a cup of tea.

Or something stronger.

The morning has gone, and the afternoon is half over, and all I’ve done is look at the list.

And since blog posts are on the list, this is why I’m writing this whinge.

How is your day going? I hope it’s better than mine.

In a word: well

At first, you would think this word has something to do with your health.

You’d be right.  “Are you well?” or “Are you well enough?”

Of course, it can cause some confusion, because how do you measure degrees of wellness.

Reasonably well, very well, not well, or just well.  Not a good descriptive word for the state of your health, maybe.

How about what if the team played well.  Not health this time, but a standard.

There’s ordinary, mediocre, as a team, brilliantly, and then there’s well.

It seems it can be used to describe an outcome.

Well, well.

Hang on, that’s something else again.

What about, then, we use the word to describe a hole in the ground with water at the bottom.

Or not if it is a drought.

A lot of people get water from a well, in fact in the olden days that was a common sight in a village.

What about those environment destroyers, oilmen.  They have oil wells, don’t they?

And when I went to school, there were ink wells on every desk.

Messy too, because I was once the ink monitor.

But if the well’s dried up?

It becomes a metaphor for a whole new bunch of stuff.

OR what about a stairwell?

And at the complexity of it all, for such a small word, tears well up in my eyes.

Looking for news that doesn’t include Trump or COVID

So, what else is happening out there in the world. It’s very hard to find anything of newsworthy note other than the now what seems to be a farcical US election, or COVID 19, which continues on its merry way killing almost a million people worldwide.

What’s in the New York Times, allegedly one of the purveyors of fake news, a small headline appears, 356 elephants dropped dead in Botswana. For those who don’t know where Botswana is, it’s in Africa. Algae infected waterholes or people poisoning them are two possible reasons for the calamity in a country that has largely succeeded in conservation of the animals.

And a very interesting piece about sled dogs and planning for the unknown. I have to say, after I read it, we should all be looking for a sled dog as our guide through life, because they know more about what’s going on around them, especially in the remote parts of Alaska, than any of us humans. While I’m not packing my bags and immediately heading for Alaska, it’s made it to my bucket list.

Over at CNN another conspirator in the fake news brigade it took a long hard look to find anything other than a report that Qantas in Australia is selling off old Boeing 747 carts full of goodies (wine, pyjamas, throw rugs, and other items offered on flights) to the public. They sold out quickly.

Of course that’s not the only item Qantas is in the news for., In these COVID times when traversing state borders is a trial in itself, Qantas is offering flights to nowhere. & hours of flying over some of the sights Australia is famous for, beaches, reefs, and very, very large rocks. The first of these also sold out very quickly. There may well be a lot more of these nowhere flights as Qantas has lots of planes sitting on the ground doing nothing.

As for news that really isn’t news, a South Korea official was shot dead after crossing the border, proving once again, North Korea is the last place you would want to go.

And for information that you desperately needed, how to grow tomatos in the desert, and in particular, the Arabian desert.

There was a small piece on the fires in California, but I suspect since these have been linked to Climate Change, a subject that isn’t getting much of an airing, it doesn’t rate as newsworthy over Trump and COVID 19, other than in the latter’s case, it is all but gone.

Someone else’s words, not mine.

In a word: Toe

A toe is one of five at the end of your foot, and from time to time you wriggle.  It’s also one of the first things to go when you get frostbite.

And when was the last time you stubbed your toe?  It hurts!

It can also mean something at the tip or point, such as the toe of a country like Italy, or England.

What does it mean when someone treads on your toes?   You upset or annoy them.

What if you go toe to toe with someone?  Two people having a ‘robust discussion’.

What about that boss that keeps you on your toes, especially when he’s looking over your shoulder!

And what about a toe-poke, a hard kick of the football with your toe?

Of course, it’s not to be confused with the word tow, which basically means to pull something behind you.

Like a tow truck, pulling a broken down, or smashed up, vehicle.

But, do you toe the line, or tow the line?  Or both at different times?

It seems that to toe the line means to do as you are told, or conform to a standard.

Sadly, that doesn’t describe me!