A grandparents job is never done

It’s not for the faint-hearted, so that’s why we took the grandchildren skating.

Unless you are a skater of the roller variety there is little for the guardians to except sit back relax and listen to the head banging music that is luckily for us, of our era.

ACDC, ‘Thunderstruck’, over the loudspeaker system is just like being at a rock concert.

Little by little the floor starts to fill with skaters of all types of skill level from the side wall huggers to the almost falling over, and of course, the experts who glide effortlessly in and out of the novices.

First game of the night for anyone who can actually skate, collect little red witches hats, those that get one stay in, those that don’t, well, you know how this works

Fewer and fewer witches hats each time leads to an eventual winner, a youthful skater of considerable skill.

Now we have Queen.  Not exactly headbanging but a classic, ‘We Are The Champions’.  This cuts to a track by The Vapors.  How do I know this?  We have a video screen.  I’m just surprised some of these songs had a video made of them.

Well, there is always Shazam.

The second game of the night; I think only the organizers know what it is about.  I try to get the gist and instead wished music would come back.

Ok, those that couldn’t skate still can’t, and after an hour there is attrition.  More room for those who can.

But wait there’s more, the doors are still open and more people are arriving.

And thankfully we’re back to ACDC.

I have three grandchildren out on the floor each with a varying grade of skill.  They don’t do this very often so each session begins a little rusty and by the time they go home, it’s too soon to go.  At least they can stay on their feet and not, as some do, crash into the walls, thinking that is the best way to stop.

Bring on the music!  Next is the Divinyls.

Forget that, we now have Men At Work. ‘I Live in a Land Downunder’.  I’m missing the full effect of the stadium sound because one of my charges had decided to practice in the baby pen, a small area set aside for beginner skaters to get their bearings, or practice before they go out on the main floor.

I suspect this is a ploy for her to get me to buy a slushy without the other two.  Sadly that will not work.  We’ll have to wait and see till after the session.  Only an hour to go.

The sad pleading eyes are meant to weaken my resolve.

An exhibition of speed skating in different directions give our charges a chance to rest, relax, and have their slushies. A timely break before the last session.

But what the heck, we’ve got ‘you got nothing I want you’ve got nothing I need’.  Good old head banging music.   Then I’m in seventh heaven, with Michael Jackson blasting through the stadium.  It’s not hard to imagine his ensemble dancing on the floor, ‘don’t stop till you get enough’.

Bring on the kaleidoscope lighting.

No, forget that just bring back ACDc.  Oh, they just have.  ‘Highway to hell’!

Last game of the night, just when the three girls are just about out of steam.  Red Rover.  They sit this one out, and as the skaters get fewer and fewer, the speed and evasiveness of those left is breathtaking, and end up with a few collisions with the floor.

What do they say, no pain no gain?

That’s why I’m the chauffeur.

To round out the night, INXS and Midnight Oil.

A great night out?  Hell yeah!

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 doozie, 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!


Looking for locations: Somewhere in Tuscany, Italy

The thing is, all hilltop towns in Tuscany are quaint.

My problem was, we saw so many unless you wrote down the name when you were there, they become a blur.

This one had the main road in, and then you could go in one of two directions, left or right.

They were not made for cars, and the streets are so narrow, often you find mere inches between the walls and the side of the car.

Instead, there are lots of narrow walkways and alleys to explore.  I’d hate to be given an address of a house, and then try to find it.  I doubt even a GPS would be about to locate it.

This is the main street into the town

Sorry, you can only go right

Pedestrians share the road with cars, and it’s no surprise that in Europe, and particularly Italy, a lot of their cars are very small.  Now I know why!

They also have lots of arches, and I wonder if that’s someone’s bedroom overlooking the roadway

There’s very little room for gardens, and every bit of building space is utilized

Who knows where this alleyway leads

What seems to be a guard tower on the outskirts of the town, overlooking the valley below, perhaps waiting for invaders of a different sort

Perhaps you don’t like the idea of having neighbours.

And, of course, there’s always a church, and the door is always open

We have this sport called football, Australian style

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

The stadium is the mcg, one of the best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, 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 those 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 rancour, 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 favourite 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 whom 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.

It’s heating up

Round about now, in our part of the southern hemisphere, spring is nearly a month gone and leading into November, we start having hot days.

Today, is is going to be 30 degrees Celsius.

This is the calm before the storm, because round about now, we not only have to contend with the heat, we also have the humidity, sometimes reaching 100 percent.

Those days, every move you make, causes endless perspiration.

So, best not to go outside if you can avoid it.

Some years ago we out in air conditioning and it’s been great for summer. Then, the climate change became a factor in everything, and saw huge increases in the cost of water, and in particular, electricity.

Our bill for summer frequently topped a 1,000 dollars for the three months, and getting worse every year.

So, last year we put on solar panels. What a difference. The air conditioning costs very little and our bills are now about 300 dollars for the three months.

More money then for holidays.

Watching the ice hockey has put in my mind a trip to either Canada or America, to coincide with the Maple Leads playing. In Toronto, if they play there it costs a small fortune for tickets, last time over 1,800 dollars, and they lost. As it happened when we were in New York, they were playing the New Jersey Devils, so we jumped on the train and went. It cost 280 dollars, and they won.

I think there’s a message there.

New York, here we come.

Aside from the lure of ice hockey, there’s the cold. The idea of minus 19 degrees may faze some people, but not us. If you can imagine endless days at 35 degrees Celsius with 100 percent humidity, you would understand why we prefer to be anywhere but home.

But, of course, there’s quite a few places where ice hockey is played, and where it is equally as cheap to go and see them play, so I’m checking out the draw.

And I can check put some new locations for my stories.

That’s what I call win-win.

I think I need some time off

It has any number of names, from Leave of Absence to Vacation, but it is meant to be a time where you can rest and relax.

And by the time you finally get to go away, preferably somewhere as far from home as possible, you are sure ready for it.

Those long days at the office, the decisions, the deadlines, the endless pressure of having to achieve the impossible all melt away when you walk out the door, and what a feeling it is when you tell everyone, ‘I’m off on holidays, see you when I get back.’

As anyone will tell  you, it’s not wise to travel the next day if at all possible, because you need some time to decompress before tackling what sometimes can be an arduous getting to the final destination, especially if it is at a peak holiday period, or on planes where anything and everything can go wrong very quickly.

Been there done that.

We have travelled the next day, and nothing went wrong, but on the other hand, on other occasions not so lucky.

Except …

As a writer and having spent the last few months finishing off my last novel, and it was possible to get away for a few days.

Then, as it always does, despite the best-laid plans of mice and men, once again Murphy’s Law strikes again, and it all comes unstuck.

Inspiration often comes out of left field; something happens, a piece in a newspaper, an item on TV, or just lying down staring at the ceiling, when ‘bang’  it hits you.

As the travel arrangements start to unravel, you’re stuck in a departure lounge having missed the connection, and waiting for the airline representative to come and tell you a miracle has occurred,

You find yourself immersed in the start of a new story, with a theme that you can run with.

Damn, the airline representative comes over, looking flustered, telling us there’s a flight leaving in 20 minutes, and it’s waiting for us to board.

The idea goes back in storage, and we run.

Once on the plane, relaxed, and after dinner is served, I can come back to the idea, and make some notes.

Until I get an elbow in the side, and a dark look from my companion.

This is a holiday, not a working holiday.

Sigh.  Maybe later when she’s asleep!



Is there ever enough time for reading?

It’s a good question.

Between everything else I have to do around the house, the time set aside for writing, the time set aside for maintaining social media, the time set aside for family, is there any time left?

About an hour before I go to sleep, though that time is considerably shortened if the book is boring.

Fortunately, quite often they are not.

The other problem is the intervals between new books from my favourite authors is getting less as they take on co-writers, such as James Patterson and Clive Cussler.   And even more authors are now getting co-authors which means my to be read list is getting longer and longer.

It seems the only time I can steal more than an hour away is when I go away on holidays.  This we try to do several times a year, and this year I’m hoping that we’ll be able to spend a week in New Zealand.

Damn.  It’s a never-ending cycle.

But, at the moment, the list reads like this,

James Patterson, The Inn, Killer Instinct

Clive Cussler, The Rising Sea, Mirage

Steve Berry, The Lincoln Myth, The Lost Order

David Baldacci, Redemption

And, of course, about a hundred others.

As odd as it sounds I’m looking forward to the time in the plane.  Aside from eating, or avoiding eating, there’s little else to do other than read.