NaNoWriMo – Day 21 – Not long to go, need to write faster!

Three weeks down and the finish line is just around the corner, and over that invisible hill.

The legs are like rubber, and the going is getting harder.  I’ve never run in a marathon but I’m beginning to think I know what it might be like.

I’d hate to run out of steam and get only 49,999 words written before they cart me off to the rehydration tent.

It’s hard work, lonely work, but like building a house, you get to see the physical results of that work.

Enough, I’ve got to get back to work.

I can see the hill!

A rainy day that fuels the imagination

It’s one of those wet mornings where you can hear the gentle pattering of rain on the rooftop, and on the leaves of the trees outside the window.

The dark grey clouds inhibit the sun, keeping it unnaturally dark inside, enough to trick you into thinking you have more time to sleep, ignoring the fact the clock beside the bed is telling you the exact opposite.

That could be a problem if you have a day job.

But, today is Sunday, and it’s just what I need.

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

OK, that not working for me.

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?) waiting for a train, and seeing the woman of your dreams go past, standing in the doorway, and in that fraction of a second your eyes meet and a connection is made, just before the doors close and the train departs.

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.

The rain falls harder, and going outside is not an option.

Notes hastily scribbled in a notebook for later reference.

Time to curl up on the couch with a mug of soup and watch an old movie!

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.

Burning the midnight oil

It’s an interesting phrase, one that means someone is working overtime at the office till late at night, or early next morning.

You know, “Been burning the midnight oil again, Frank?”

It prompted me to look up its real meaning.  It goes back to the days before electricity where a worker toiled into the night using only an oil lamp or candles.

In my office, I now have LED lights that are reasonably bright, not like the neon lights I used to have that made me feel like I was in a television studio.  Either way, it’s not quite the atmosphere needed when looking for inspiration.

That inspiration might be better attained in a more subdued atmosphere, perhaps even using candles.  In one of the other rooms, we have a wood fire and that projects a very soothing glow, as well as providing warmth, and there I sit sometimes, Galaxy Tab in hand, writing.

But all of that aside, those hours leading up to and after midnight are the best time for me to write.

At times the silence is deafening, another rather quaint but relatively true expression.

At others, there are what I call the sounds of silence, which for some reason are much easier to hear than during the daylight hours.

The bark of a dog.

The rustle of leaves in the trees.

The soft pattering of rain on the roof.

The sound of a train horn from a long way away.

The sound of a truck using its brakes on the highway, also a long way away.

The sound of people talking in the street.

I’ve never really thought about it until now, but it will be something I can use in one of my stories.

Perhaps it will be the theme of another.

Damn, sidetracked again!