Conversations with my cat – 3

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This is Chester.  Back on the bed.

Another argument lost, another smug ‘I’ve got the better of you, again’ look.

Time to move on, pick a battle I think I can win.

Food.  There’s the old wives tale, that cats love fish, and it’s true to a certain extent.

Chester doesn’t believe fish live in cans or plastic packets, despite how it’s dressed up.  Fresh fish, he’s into it, but there always seems to be a measured reluctance to eat something out of a can.

I think he regards us humans with disdain when our food comes out of a can or packet.

He refuses to eat the leftovers!

Then there’s chicken, or its more expensive neighbor, turkey.

He loves turkey.

I’m sure he’d eat quail and spatchcock too, but no, he’s a cat, and cats have to get used to eating chicken.  We’ve had this discussion, one too many times.

And just for good measure, I told him if he thinks he’s coming to Italy with us, he’d better get used to the idea of eating pasta.

Of course, always with the last word, he said, quite nonchalantly, ‘then you’d better call me Garfield’.

Grrrrrrr.

Conversations with my cat – 1

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This is Chester.

Don’t be fooled by the benign expression, I’m getting the ‘your conversation better improve, and quickly’ look.

I guess it’s the talkative Tonkinese in him, tempered by the crabby Siamese part.

But …

We were talking about the state of the world, and he agrees it isn’t looking good, especially for travelers in Europe.  Of course, he is averse to either of us leaving him alone for any length of time, so he would say it was unsafe and we’d better stay at home.hat

I suppose that selfish part comes from the Burmese in him.

However …

I have scratched Germany, Austria, France and England off the list for the time being and consider it’s time to see a lot more of Italy.

We’ve been there several times, to Rome, in summer, to look at the Ancient ruins (Chester was rather impressed when I showed him a picture of the Collosseum), to Florence several times, just for the ambiance, and to Venice simply because we love it.

Then, we have also spent a few days in Tuscany, in an apartment very close to the town center of Greve in Chianti.

Chester, of course, was dismissive, but, he says, if we agree to take him with us …

 

 

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…

OK, I’m sure I’ve heard these words before, like the rhythm of a song you can’t get out of your head, perhaps because the guy next door won’t stop playing it over and over.

There’s a story there, but it can wait.

I’ve just been reading the news, and there’s a lot of plotlines in the offing, but I’ve changed the names even though you will have no trouble recognizing the perpetrators.

 

Plotline 1

It’s a conspiracy doosie, beleaguered President realizes that if he can get a particular candidate into the Supreme Court, all his troubles with his extramarital affairs, and one in particular, will go away.  It happens and changes the course of history forever.

No, hang on, it’s removed the past 200 years of history and we’re back where we started from, the dark ages.  The Vatican is in the process of posting help wanted ads, “soldiers required for inquisition”.

Talk about a blockbuster time travel novel that doesn’t just shift one, two, or even three people, but the whole world…

 

Plotline 2

Why is it that every journalist that disappears had to be a ‘dissident’?  Journalists disappear all the time, some on long boozy lunches, some down the rabbit hole called taking a hiatus, but it’s only a story if there are a few ‘so-called’ secret agents flying in around about the same time.

Of course, it works better if it isn’t necessarily a journalist, but some rocket scientist that’s suddenly dropped dead in the street, particularly if it is one from a perceived ‘enemy’ country.
Plotline 3

Space travel for the common man, well, a common man who will be able to afford it.  Seems HG Wells stories are about to come true.

Will a real-life Star Trek be next?  I kind of like the idea of being instantly beamed from one place to the next.  I’m sure it will be far less than a plane ticket, and thank the Lord, there’ll no longer be a ‘middle’ seat!

 

I’m thinking about hiding … in plain sight!

All in all, this is just the place I was looking for to write into a story.  A perfect blend of fact and fiction could make this into something else, or just plain hiding in plain sight.

If you are not skiing, not hiking, not horseriding, and have come for the fishing, this is the place to be.

Except…

There is something about a summer resort town in the middle of winter.

Or maybe it’s like this all the time.  After all, I have been here in Spring and Autumn and it was just as deserted on the main street.

And not just deserted it is almost like a ghost town, and I suspect the few people that are here are the few hapless tourists wandering about wondering where everyone else is.

It’s about 2 pm and we are heading for the local Coffee club for lunch and coffee.  It might be past lunch but I don’t think that’s the reason why there are so few customers

There is just no one here.

Perhaps it’s probably a different story on weekends when the city people come down for the snow and are passing through.

But, essentially, Taupo is a holiday town, and if you take a closer look, all you will see is cafe’s, dining establishments and motels.  A quick tour of the shopping center shows more shops are closed or vacant than there are open.

It’s not surprising that a lot of businesses cannot survive, because to stay in business, you need a steady stream of customers all year round, not just in Summer.

Unlike their winter counterparts, the ski resorts who seem to have a different working model, take as much as you can while you can, they only have to operate a few months of the year, use non-permanent seasonal workers, and can adjust if there’s no snow.

An indication of just how much custom there is in Taupo in winter is trying to organize horse riding.  Admittedly it is rather cold for both humans and horses, but not every day is a loss.  We sought out the local Taupo horse riding establishment and found it closed for Winter.  Understandable perhaps, but the more telling point was the fact it had a big sign up “Business for Sale”

To me, after visiting the town for the fourth time, there’s no reason to go back again.  I don’t fish, there is precious little to do there in winter, and I prefer to stay closer to the snowfields in winter, or even summer when there is more than just skiing.

Reasearch, the bane of the writer’s existence

So I’m incorporating a plotline that is centered around a snow theme, and of course, we are going to New Zealand just so our granddaughters can see snow for the first time.

It’s what you call mixing business with pleasure.

Ok, forget the pleasure…

You would think it is a relatively simple thing to get to the snow.

Of course, there are a few necessities like skis, boots, poles, and warm dry clothing, but that can all be bought or rented when you get there, or if you are an enthusiast, you already have the gear.

So, you get in the car, set the navigator, and off you go.  Till you get within 20 k of the ski field, it’s all plain sailing, everyone is excited, and mentally preparing.

Then it all starts to go sideways.

Those last few kilometers to the top are going to be arduous particularly if it’s been snowing and the roads are icy, but the weather is fine with blue skies and no recent snow falls.  Were expecting a slow drive and a parking spot.  The road is open.

But…

So late in the morning, a sign at the bottom of the mountain warms all the car parks at the ski field are full, but we venture on anyway.

And for some odd reason, we picked the very day everyone in New Zealand also wanted to go up to the ski fields so parking, even near the Chateau Tongariro was gone and there were endless cars looking for parking spots and traffic wardens had their hands full trying to keep traffic moving

So, for us and everyone else, everything stops at Chateau Tongariro, and from there the only vehicles allowed up are buses.  It’s about 10:30 and we are advised the only way we were getting to see snow was to take a bus

Now, there are two types of busses.  You can go up on a local bus, from Whakapapa Village that costs $20 a person which in the context of the cost of skiing not very much, but if you’re not, it’s quite expensive.

The second, one we were advised to use, operates from a place called National Park, about 9 km away, a snow shuttle that costs $6 each.  The trouble is by the time we were ready to go there, to catch a shuttle, there were no more shuttles.

The granddaughters are disappointed, and I have a new plotline for my intrepid adventurer to get tangled up in.

Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow.

I’ve always wanted to be in a disaster movie

But not one where the plane crashes.

It seems almost inevitable when traveling anywhere on a plane that something can and will go wrong.  Not necessarily with the plane, but that happens too, but rarely, if ever, have I been on an overseas flight that has not left or arrived late for any one of a multitude of reasons.

The last was just one in a long line of many…

It is not always a problem with the aircraft that causes delays.  Whilst often it is a case of technical difficulties, but this time it wasn’t.

We are missing a passenger.

Yep, on a plane that carries 301 passengers, we were missing the one.  And because they have not made the boarding cutoff, their baggage has to be offloaded.  Since there are 300 other bags to sort through, it will take time.

Scheduled departure time 8:45, an announcement about the offloading at 8:35, it’s now 8:50.  Ok, now we’re closing the front door.  Let’s see what happens now.

8:52, the captain says we’re sorted, but…

Oh, the dreaded we’ve missed our slot and now have wait for the next.  Last time that happened, in France, we waited an hour.  This is Brisbane, not so large an airport so it may not be a long wait.

9:01, we’re pushing back.  Finally a slot.

But…

There are five other planes in front of us, so it’s all adding up to a delayed arrival.  9:15 and still taxiing.

9:30, 45 minutes late we finally take off.  Let’s see how this affects our arrival time.  The flight time is advised to be 2 hours and 25 minutes.  This means if the flying time is correct, we should be landing in Auckland at 13:55 pm, local time.  New Zealand is, by the way, two hours ahead of Brisbane.

11:45, (or 13:45 local time) we commence our descent.  Landed at 14:10 local time.

It could have been worse.

What am I saying, we have now to negotiate immigration and baggage.

Melbourne in winter

I have, when younger, lived through many a cold winter in Melbourne.

Not that you could call it cold in the same sense that people who live in the northern states of the US and in particular, from personal experience, places like Chicago.

It just depends on personal experience.

But, now that I live in a warmer climate, where days in winter often hover above 20 degrees Celcius, coming back to a city where the maximum is going to be 10 degrees Celcius is something of a shock.

I mean, we do have cold weather where I live, but it doesn’t have the wind chill factor.  Melbourne is notorious for having four seasons on one day, but right now, it’s just winter and colder than we’re used to.  Perhaps it has something to do with Victoria’s proximity to Antarctica.

A great day to stay in, light the fire, and read a book.  I’m sure most of us have a large amount of reading we’ve been putting off till the next rainy day.

Well, that’s here, and there’s a lot of reading I’ve been putting off.  And like most modern houses, there’s no fireplace, just reverse cycle airconditioning.  Curling up and reading a book in that scenario isn’t quite the same as the almost mesmerizing flames of a real fire.

And it is, or was about half an hour ago, raining, with a gusty wind that has the element of penetrating even the thickest layers of clothing and chill you to the bone.

The problem is, we’re away, not necessarily on holiday but with a lot of activities in mind so rail, wind chill, miserable weather is just another highlight of traveling.

This morning when we wake up it is pouring with rain, and the wind is howling through the nearby trees and you can feel the cold, as much in your imagination as it is in reality.

I shudder, and it’s hard to say what drives it.  We have to go out so we’ll see what it’s like when we’re ready to leave.  A lot can happen, weather-wise, in a few hours.

But, that pull of the sport, that level of dedication to support your team does not leave you, because it is ingrained in you from the day you are born, and stays with you till the day you die, no matter where you live, anywhere in the world.  Thank God there is the internet.

Remarkably the sun comes out from behind the clouds which are thinning out.  The sunshine does not raise the temperature because the wind, gusty at times, is still very chilling.

This is definitively Melbourne in winter.  And I can tell you, I don’t miss it.

That doesn’t mean I dislike the cold, far from it, it’s just the sustained variations of cold assisted by sheeting rain and blustery wind gusts I can do without.  It’s never just purely cold like it can be in the northern hemisphere.

But the weather is never that bad we don’t go out.  This morning we are heading to the South Melbourne market.  Cold weather doesn’t stop anyone and it’s nigh on impossible to find a parking spot, and in our search, we pass other shoppers being blown about by the wind.

The walk to the market itself is chilling.  In the food aisle street side, it is warmer, with fires burning to keep the customers warm, and the food aromas tempting.  We are here for the spring rolls, the dim sims, and the potato cakes.

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And the wide variety of fresh produce available that would put a supermarket to shame.  I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live nearby and do my shopping at the market.  We probably would be eating a lot healthier.