It’s been an interesting afternoon

We live in a country which has a unique sport, which is something a lot of countries can’t boast.

England has soccer and cricket, America has baseball and basketball, Canada has ice hockey, all sports that are played all over the world.

Australia has this strange game called Australian Rules Football, and it be true to say that ask anyone anywhere else in the world about they would only look at you strangely and say “What?”

It would be true to say that this form of football is a religion, such is the fans devotion. It’s not unusual to hear of wating to be buried in your favourite player’s guernsey. You pick a team, or generally a team is picked for you, and it’s your team for life. You don’t desert them, and stick with them through the highs and lows, and sometimes the lows can be for a long time.

And like religion, there are such things as mixed marriages, each spouse will support a diffrent team, and when thise teams play each other, well, it’s best to be someone else afterthe final siren.

But, be that as it may…

We reached the pinnacle of our season, the playing of the Grand Final in the home of AFL, the MCG, one of the largest stadiums in the country, holding over 100,000 fans, an ideal venue for this game.

And, although the game was not the expected exciting and close spectacle we we hoping to see, at least all of the supporters of the winners will be deleriously happy. For the losers and their fans, there is no describing the depths of despair.

I know how that feels because I’ve been on both sides of the emotional spectrum.

Our team wasn’t playing this year so we were spared the emotional roller coaster, but we still watched the game, and no, we’ve never been to a grand final in person, and it’s unlikely we ever will.

But it’s a great way to spend an afternoon watching our team play on TV, have a pie, traditional fast food, chips, and a few bottles of beer.

And, now football season is over, we now swith to ice hockey and our adopted team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fortunately their season starts when ours ends and vice versa.

Go leafs, go!!!

What the hell time is it anyway, and why should I care?

And why is a coyote baying?

Oh, that’s right, were in Canada, and the ice hockey channel is running in the background while I’m trying to work.

it’s an interesting concept, the movement through time zones, and how it is possible to live the same day for nearly two days, as close as I’m going to get the ‘Groundhog Day’.

It’s not something that I’ve considered when writing stories because usually we are grounded in one particular time zone, or if we’re travelling, we just go from one chapter to the next, each a different location, and the reader is no wiser.

Except the editor is and pulls me up when it appears I think it’s during the day, when in reality it’s really 3am.

But, just to illustrate my point, the following is what I wrote last Christmas, and boy was it confusing at times.

 

Alright, we’ve arrived in Lake Louise from Kamloops, and there’s been a time change.  Being from Australia, we lost or gained so many hours I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

Yes, I left on the 26th December, travelled around half the planet, and it’s still the 26th, after a stopover in Shanghai where it was the 27th.

Can someone tell me what the hell is going on?

Today it is the 30th.  Yesterday was my wife’s birthday in Australia and we got a number of calls on the 29th, which was amusing, to say the least.

Now, we’ve gone from Kamloops to Lake Louise, and apparently now that we are in Alberta, it’s an hour later.

The rental car we’re driving didn’t get it, and we’re still an hour behind.

My phone didn’t get it, but it is understandable because I didn’t connect it to the Canadian network to give us an internet connection because it will cost money.

It did on my wife’s phone which is connected to the network and it’s the only device we have that tells the correct time.

And why do we really need to know what time it is?

So we make the plane the day after tomorrow, from Calgary to Toronto.

I never realized that time was so important, and I wonder how people who travel the world remain sane with all the changes to the time zones.

 

Just how do road warriors get on?

A writer’s experience – this will go in a book

New York is amazing place, filled with a multitude of experiences that often you have to go looking for, or, as in the case of the Brooklyn Diner, stumble over when out for a walk around the block, a very large block I might add.

This is one of those surprise discoveries.

On an early morning walk, I discovered the Brooklyn Diner, a small restaurant tucked away in a street not far from Columbus Circle, perhaps a piece of history from the American past.

After all, if you’re going to take in the sights, sounds, and food of a country what better way to do it than visiting what was once a tradition.

This one was called the Brooklyn Diner.  It had a combination of booths and counter sit down, though the latter was not a very big space, so we opted for a booth.

The object of going to a Diner is the fact they serve traditional American food, which when you get past the hot dogs and hamburgers and fries, takes the form of turkey and chicken pot pies among a variety of other choices.

Still looking for a perfectly cooked turkey, something I’ve never been able to do myself, I opted for the Traditional Turkey Lunch, which the menu invitingly said was cooked especially at the diner and was succulent.  I couldn’t wait.

We also ordered a hamburger, yes, yet another, and a chicken pot pie, on the basis the last one I had in Toronto was absolutely delicious (and cooked the same way since the mid-1930s)

While waiting we got to look at a slice of history belonging to another great American tradition, Baseball, a painting on the wall of the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets field, long since gone from their home.

The Turnkey lunch looked like this

which didn’t seem to be much, and had this odd pasta slice on the plate, but the turkey was amazing and lived up to the menu description.

The Chicken Pot Pie looked like this

And looked a lot larger in reality than the photo shows.

But, sadly while it was not bad, it was a little dry, and could possibly do with using the more succulent thigh part of the chicken.

All of this was washed down by Long Island Ice Teas and Brooklyn Lager.

AS for the Diner experience, it’s definitely a 10 out of 10 for me.

New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town…

I’ve been to New York a few times now, and each time it feels like I’m coming home.  The first visit was one of awe at the size and scope, and in all of the things, a visitor could do.

The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and so much more.  Each time it has been in the dead of winter, and usually after very heavy snowfalls that have shut off a lot of the city.

I’m a strange sort of person because I like snow, especially when it falls in cities.  I know it causes havoc, but what’s a little havoc for the week I’m there.  I’m sure New Yorkers, of course, hate it with a passion because they have to endure it for a lot longer.

This time, at the end of last year, there was no snow, and I would not exactly call it cold.  Days had sunshine, the walks in Central Park were invigorating, the squirrels were out in force, and the skaters of the rink were no less in number.

Every morning I went for a walk, either uptown, or downtown, soaking up the early morning of people going to and from work, visitors emerging from their hotels, unsure of what to expect, or purposefully as if they knew where they were going.  On the way back I’d call into a coffee shop, a cafe, or a deli, I could never really tell the difference between them, and order a coffee in a language that none of the baristas seemed to understand.

Double shot decaf skinny latte.

OK, decaf I think they understood, and the latte, but skinny.  Apparently, they have a different name for their milk.

Also, their coffee seems to come from a push-button behemoth, and there’s no human interaction in putting the coffee into a shot and running water through it.  Strength is always determined by how hard the tamp is pressed down on the grinds.  I doubt a machine could ever determine that.

It explained why over the course of a week, it was a different interpretation of what I wanted and seven completely different cups of coffee.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  It’s part and parcel with what I expect as the New York vibe.  Along with the variety of food you can get at a deli.  Those places are amazing, and you can buy a complete meal, which is very handy if you don’t want expensive hotel food, and you want to sample the local cuisine.

It was a week filling the mental notebooks with sights, sounds, and atmosphere in a city that never stops.  We visited more restaurants, went over the Hudson to New Jersey and went to a hockey game, and pre-dinner at an establishment that was filled with expectant hockey fans of both sides.

We were there to see the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it didn’t matter.

This is the material I want, to fill pages with locational atmosphere, to breathe life into my chartacters, to feel it the way I had.

This time we stayed in the middle of everything.  One way is Broadway, and down the road, Times Square.  Go the other way, and we’re in Fifth Avenue, looking in shops that I can’t possibly afford to buy anything.

Yet it feels good to think one day I might.

And to magnify the stress level through the roof, we hired a car from Avis whose office was in West 54th Street and then went ‘joy riding’ through the streets of New York on our way to the Lincoln Tunnel and further south to Philadelphia.

There’s something about being out in the minus 1 temperatures, dodging the rain, looking at the low mist, or clouds, hiding the high rise buildings.

It took us two days to find the Empire State Building.

We haven’t been to any museums yet, nor have I found a good bookshop, which is practically sacrilegious for me, but it’s now very high on the list of things to do.  There was a Barnes and Noble in 5th Avenue, which is not far away, but in all of the excitement, I didn’t get there in the end.

But we dined at Ruby Tuesday where I had the best hamburger, simplicity in itself, and Cassidy’s Irish pub where I had some strange meat burger thing and vegetables which was delicious, and a slice of apple pie that would take three people to finish off.

And a bucket of beer.

I can’t wait to come back.

It must be the seasonal change

Earlier today, or yesterday now since the clock has ticked over to a new day, I was writing a post about the weather.

Boring as hell, except it gradually turned into a rant about greed, both corporate and government,

There has to be better stuff to talk about than that.

Like today is father’s day.

It’s possibly the most interesting aspect of my life, having never expected as a teenager that I would ever become a father.  No, back in those dark and gloomy days I had neither the confidence or the wherewithal to be or do anything.

I guess meeting someone, falling in love, and getting married, pulls you out of the lethargy of youth and forces you to take stock, and become someone, someone who has to have a good job that pays good money so you can get the necessities like a house and a car.  You might have these before you get married, we had the cars, but not the house.

Then you realise you need more money because you never seem to earn enough until a baby comes along, and your whole life as you knew it turned upside down and inside out.  Bad enough trying to sustain two, it’s now three.

More money, larger house, larger car, a damn good washing machine, and lots of nappies.  Wow, I had thought having a baby meant more than a clothesline perpetually filled with nappies.

Until another baby comes along, the cycle repeats, then one has to go to school, and a whole new money pit opens and this costs more than the annual house payments.

Then there’s sport, and extracurricular activities like dancing (though we didn’t have girls, thankfully), then kids get to be very good at sport, so, you guessed it, another money pit.  And a steadily growing grocery bill as they get larger and start eating you out of house and home.

There’s never a let-up, from the moment they’re born till the moment they leave home, and that, sometimes, can take a few more years than you expected.

Along the way you hope that your kids will respect you are theuir father and their mother.  Sometimes that’s a forlorn hope.  Other times children become a blessing and are always there.  At least we don’t have to travel to either the other side of the country, or the other side of the world, to see ours, and with any luck, I will see them both later today.

I don’t expect much.  My relationship with my father is strained, now, but for many years I was there for him, much more than I should according to my wife.  I don’t want for them what happened to me, so I do what I can to make sure it doesn’t happen.

But the unexpected surprise, that one thing that you never expect when this life long journey starts, is the eventuality of grandchildren.  Yes, it’s a natural progression in the circle of life, but often it doesn’t quite happen.

We have three granddaughters, and though I know as we get older we will not see them as much or if at all as they make their way out into a very large and far more accessible world than we had at the same time, but I will cherish those moments I have with them now.

I guess today, being the first day of spring, is not such a bad day after all, and it’s amazing that twelve hours later after feeling the gloom and doom of the world, that mood has changed, and that it took so little to change it.

Perhaps that’s what life is really all about.

Family.

 

So it’s the middle of the night, and I’m in a hospital

At what point does the journalist come out in a writer?

Quite often journalists become writers because of their vast experience in observing and writing about the news, sometimes in the category of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.

I did journalism at University, and thought I would never get to use it.  I had to interview people, write articles, and act as an editor.  The hardest part was the headlines.

How much does that resemble the job of coming up with a title for your book?

Well, several opportunities arose over the last few months to dig out the journalist hat, put it on, and go to work.

Where?

Hospital.  I’ve had to go there a few times more in the last few months than I have in recent years.

And I’d forgotten just how hospitals are interesting places, especially the waiting room in Emergency.

After the second or third visit, I started to observe the people who were waiting, and ran through various scenarios as to the reason for their visit.  None may have been true, but it certainly was an exercise in creative writing, and would make an excellent article.

Similarly, once we got inside the inner sanctum, where the real work is done, there is any number of crises and operations going on, and plenty of material for when I might need to include a hospital scene in one of my stories.

Or I could write a volume in praise of the people who work there and what they have to endure.  Tending the sick, injured and badly injured is not a job for the faint hearted.

Research, if it could be called that, turns up in the unlikeliest of places.  Doctors who answer questions, not necessarily about the malady, nurses who tell you about what it’s like in Emergency on nights you really don’t want to be there, and other patients and their families, all of whom have a story to tell, or just wait patiently for a diagnoses and then treatment so they can go home.

We get to go this time about four in the morning.  Everyone is tired.  More people are waiting.  Outside it is cool and the first rays of light are coming over the horizon as dawn is about to break.

I ponder the question without an answer, a question one of the nurses asked a youngish doctor, tossed out in conversation, but was there a more intent to it; what he was doing on Saturday night.

He didn’t answer.  Another crisis, another patient.

I suspect he was on duty in Emergency.

It’s raining, it’s pouring…

It’s one of those grey, dark, wet mornings where you can inadvertently sleep in because the bedroom remains dark for an extra two hours.  That could be a problem if you have a day job, but I’m one of the more fortunate, I am supposed to be retired.

Pity then the rest of the family haven’t quite got it yet.

But, today is Sunday, and there’s no pressing requirement to get up.  It’s one of those times when you are comfortable and warmly ensconced under the doona, somewhere between asleep, and in a sleepy haze.

Time to mull over the latest storyline, marshal my thoughts, write the prose in my head.

Too many storylines, and nothing to do with any of the current projects.

The rain is getting heavier, and is splashing outside; the steady waterfall of overflow from the gutters is taking away my concentration.

 

Rain, rain, go away …

 

I have two different visions.

A cold, grey day in London (is there any other sort of day in my second favourite city) waiting for a train, and seeing the woman of your dreams go past, standing in the doorway, and in that fraction of a second when your eyes meet, a connection is made.

I suspect it has fuelled many a song such as ‘The Look of Love’.

The second is on a desolate section of coastline as for north as you can go in Scotland (yes, I am a glutton for punishment), and she is standing on the cliff top gazing out to sea, hair blowing in the wind.  Silent, strong, resolute.

Hang on, I think that happened further south, Cornwall in fact, and her name is Demelza.  With red hair!

 

The rain has gone.  That degree of comfortability is now gone after a gentle nudge that reminds you, you cannot stay in bed all day.

And the cat is forcefully reminding you that he needs to be fed.  A cat that’s begging to get sent to Siberia on a very slow boat.

Notes hastily scribbled in a notebook for later reference.

Time to think about tending the garden…