Travel is part of the story – Rome

Sadly, my passion for travel fuels my passion for writing, and we take any chance we can to go away, and hopefully, I can find an interesting location to incorporate into one of my stories.

One location did, eventually, the Trevi Fountain.


We visited Rome in August

It was hot.

It was verrrry hot.

We flew into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino airport after a rather bumpy flight from London.  Unlike most other airports the plane parked at a satellite terminal and after we disembarked we had to catch a train to the main terminal.

The most notable memory of this airport was my daughter’s discovery of a salami shop.

We had booked a transfer to take us to the hotel the Roma Corso Trieste Mercure in Via Gradisca from the airport.  It was a white air-conditioned van and so far we had avoided the heat.

One of the rooms had a faulty air conditioning an absolute must as the rooms were very hot without it and necessitated a room change which was done quickly and efficiently.

The hotel was in the suburbs and without a car we were dependent on public transport.  According to the reception staff, there was a bus stop nearby, and a longer walk to the tram or light railway.  The bus seemed to be the best option as it would take us to the central terminal near the railway station, where all tour buses also operated from, and particularly the open top buses that went to all the major tourist attractions.

That first day basically was given over to traveling, arriving by plane and settling into the hotel, thus we didn’t get to feel the force of the heat.  That came the next day.

After a walk around the hotel precinct to get our bearings and see what shops and restaurants were available, on returning to the hotel we were faced with the limited choices of room service or to go out for dinner.

My daughter and l go for a long walk up Via Nomentana to find several shops and a restaurant.  We went into the restaurant and sat down.   We waited for 10 minutes and got no service nor did anyone come and ask us if we wanted to order food so instead we left somewhat disappointed and go next door to what seems to be the Italian version of a delicatessen and order sandwiches and beer.   I bought a half dozen cans of Moretti beer two of which I drank on the way home.

It was still very hot even at eight at night and the sandwiches are delicious.  It just might be by that time we were starving and anything would have tasted great.

The next morning we are up and ready to chance the weather and some history.  Breakfast at the hotel is limited but very good.

We were going to use public transport and I’d studied up on the Internet.

Traveling on the bus required pre-purchase of tickets which could be bought in certain shops and locally when exploring the area near the hotel, l found a tobacconist.

Next, we needed to understand how to use the tickets. There was no one on the bus who could help so when l tried to scan the tickets and it failed, l gave up.  We had the same issue each day and in the end, the tickets never got used.

The trip to central Rome by bus took about 15 minutes.  In the morning it was reasonably cool and showed us a little of suburban Rome.  We also saw the trams but we would not be able to use them because our hotel not on a direct route.

That first full day we decided to go and see the Vatican.

Not understanding buses and which one we needed to get to the Vatican, we took a taxi.

Wow.  It was the metaphorical equivalent of driving over the edge of a cliff with a daredevil.  It was quite literally terrifying.

Or maybe we just didn’t know that this was probably the way people drove in Rome.

Shaken but delivered in one piece we found ourselves in the square opposite St Peters Basilica.

The square is impressive, with the statues atop a circular colonnaded walkway.  The church is incredible and took a few hours to take in and to top off the day we did a tour of the Vatican museum which took the rest of the afternoon.

Then it was back to the delicatessen for more sandwiches and beer, and an interesting discussion with several elderly Italian ladies, of which I did not understand one word.

The second full day we decided to use one of the open top bus tours and eventually decided on the hop on hop off tour simply because the bus was at the central transport terminal for trains and buses and it was getting hotter.

Our first stop was the Colosseum.  There were other monuments nearby, such as the Arch of Constantine, but as the heat factor increased we joined the queue to go into the Colosseum and gladly welcomed the shade once we got inside.

The queue was long and the wait equally so, but it was worth the wait.  It would be more interesting if they could restore part of it to its former glory so we could get a sense of the place as it once was.  But alas that may never happen, but even so, it is still magnificent as a ruin.

Outside in the heat, it was off to the ruins which was a longish walk from the Colosseum, taking Via Sacra, not far from the Arch of Constantine.  This day in the walkway there were a number of illegal vendors, selling knockoff goods such as handbags and watches, and who, at the first sight of the police, packed up their wares in a blanket and ran.

Included in these ruins were The Roman Forum, or just a few columns remaining, the Palatine Hill, Imperial Fori, including the Forum of Augustus, the Forum of Caesar, and more specifically the Forum of Trajan.  It was, unfortunately very hot and dusty in the ruins the day we visited.

We walked all the way to the Foro Romano and the Septimus Severo Arch at the other end of the ruins, past the Temple of Caesar.  I found it very difficult to picture what it was like when the buildings were intact, so I bought a guide to the ruins which showed the buildings as ruins and an overlay of how they would have looked.  The buildings, then, would be as amazing as the Colosseum, and it would have been interesting to have lived back then, though perhaps not as a Christian.

I lost count of the number of bottles of water we bought, but the word ‘frizzante’ was ringing in my ears by the end of the day.  Fortunately, water did not cost a lot to buy.

At the end of the day, we caught the hop on hop off bus at the Colosseum and decided not to get off and see any more monuments but observe them from the bus.  The only one I remember seeing was Circo Massimo.  Perhaps if we’d know it was going to be twice as hot on the bus, yes, there was no air-conditioning; we may have chosen another form of transport to get back to the hotel.

The third and last day in Rome we decided to go to the Trevi Fountain, see the pantheon and walk up the Spanish Steps.  We spent most of the morning in the cool of a café watching the tourists at the fountain.  By the time we reached the top of the Spanish Steps, we were finished.

It was time to move on to Paris.

What happens after an action-packed start – Part 9

It’s still a battle of wits, but our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because the enemy if it is the enemy, doesn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.


My turn to put him under the spotlight, for a minute, then two.

“There are no optional questions here, Mr. James.”

No, but some needed careful consideration, like throwing the dead pilot under the bus.

“Roy, the pilot, was adding some hours to his fly time, probably looking for a promotion.”

“So it was not a proper sanctioned operation.”

Looking for a scapegoat higher up the food chain.

“You need the commander’s authority to go up, so it was sanctioned.”

“Then this commander could have ordered the pilot to fly into the no-fly zone.”

My thought too, but I wasn’t going to fuel his suspicions.

“For what reason, after all, it’s not called a no-fly zone just so people can write the words on a map.”

He didn’t reply.  I had thought he might tell me he was the one asking the questions.

He let me stew for a few more minutes, then, “You don’t seem to know much about anything Mr. James, whereas we know a lot about you.”

The ‘you’ he was referring to wasn’t just me, but our whole operation and what we were doing, which, of course, I wasn’t privy to.   Did we have a spy in our midst?

“One more time, Mr. James, can you tell me what the helicopter was doing in the no-fly zone?”

It was accompanied by another of those smiles, all-knowing perhaps, or trying to make me believe he did.  But the bottom line was if he did, he was not going to tell me.

Instead, the smile turned to a scowl.  “I do not believe you are as uninformed as you say you are so I suggest most strongly that you give up this appearance of innocence.  I shall ask once more Mr. James, and if you are not forthcoming, the matter will be out of my hands.  I assure you, you will not like the alternative.”

I was sure I wouldn’t like the alternative.

“The answer sadly will still be the same, so if you must, I’m sure I won’t be able to talk you out of it.”


© Charles Heath 2019

Who wants to go on a treasure hunt?

My mind will not rest.

Down here, it is summer, and the last few days have been rather hot, well, it is summer after all, but tonight it is particularly hot.

So, as I can’t sleep, I’m lying on the couch staring at the ceiling, otherwise known as the cinema of my dreams.

Where am I?

Well, the location is in keeping with the weather, hot, humid, and cold drinks are mandatory.


I have no idea where or when I got sucked into this game of searching for treasure.  Boggs had been reading some newspaper article relating to a Spaniard who had survived a shipwreck off the coast and had supposedly come ashore dragging his treasure chest, all that he could save from the sinking ship.

I think my priorities may have been slightly different.

Standing on the beach where Boggs believed the man came ashore, we looked inland at the coastal plain now overbuilt with holiday houses and apartments, behind that, some parkland, under threat from the developers, and behind that, the mountains.

I could guess what Boggs was going to say next.

“It has to be somewhere in the mountains, a cave perhaps.”

My map told me there was a mountain face for about 25 miles in either direction and rising to two to three thousand feet up.  I didn’t calculate the area, I just considered it big.

“If he came ashore here, dragging a heavy chest, and barring all of this building, he would take the most direct route inland.”

He pointed in the direction he thought the Spaniard took.

My eyes followed his arm and stopped at a beacon halfway up the hillside. 

That was a long way, pulling a heavy chest.

“Not up the hill, maybe, but somewhere along the base.”

“And don’t you think every man and his dog would have made the same assumption, and covered the ground already.”  The treasure hunt was beginning to bore me.

His expression changed, the sort that told me he might not have considered that possibility.  Boggs was like that, always thinking he had the original idea.

“Perhaps, then, a drink and more thought on the matter.”

We trudged through the soft sand to the bar just off the sand, a small place called The Spaniard.  A sign on the window said ‘Treasure Maps for sale’.


Well, the bar was air-conditioned, and the beer was cold.  I have one myself and see where this cinematic experience goes

© Charles Heath 2019


Conversations with my cat – 13


This is Chester.  He’s pushing his luck.

Yes, he had finally made up with my 15-year-old granddaughter, but no, he cannot sleep on her pillow.

After getting admonished for sitting on the settee, he had now got a second serve for sleeping on her pillow.

And, no, giving me the sad eyes is not going to weaken my resolve.

Looks like it’s back to his chair!


“What Sets Us Apart”, a mystery with a twist

David is a man troubled by a past he is trying to forget.
Susan is rebelling against a life of privilege and an exasperated mother who holds a secret that will determine her daughter’s destiny.
They are two people brought together by chance. Or was it?
When Susan discovers her mother’s secret, she goes in search of the truth that has been hidden from her since the day she was born.
When David realizes her absence is more than the usual cooling off after another heated argument, he finds himself being slowly drawn back into his former world of deceit and lies.
Then, back with his former employers, David quickly discovers nothing is what it seems as he embarks on a dangerous mission to find Susan before he loses her forever.


Experiences, or asking the right questions

We as writers are inspired by many different means.  Even when we are not looking for it, there it is.

Watching television, reading an obscure paragraph or two on page 21 of the newspaper,  something we see in a shop, or a street, in a building, railway station, bus stop, or airport.

We can be inspired by people.  They can fuel the traits of our characters, can become part of a character, with admirable qualities and respect.

But …

We do not know them.  We do not have any real idea who they might be, and even though we can close, and think over the years we do, sometimes nothing can be further than the truth.

I give you a case in point.

Many years ago I had a friend, we shall call her Anne.  I had known her for a number of years and she was kind, bright, always happy and got along with everyone.

Then she contracted cancer.

She remained that bright happy person, and I  believe, as everyone did, that she was the bravest, most amazing person, who’d come to terms with her condition, and had made her peace.

I was so moved, I wrote a story that had a central character who had contracted cancer and was all but parallel the life of Anne.

I gave it to her to read just before she died.  What she said shocked me.

Her life was anything but that which I had seen, and with one sentence made me realize that as a writer unless I had experienced what she was living through, I really had no idea what it was like.

It was, she said, a great story, but that was all it was.  I did not know the pain, the medication, the sacrifices, and the fears she had managed to hide from everyone including those closest to her.

It was happening to her, so how could I, or anyone else, know what it was like.

It thought, if I ever had another chance, I would do more research on how it affects people, ask the right questions, and, maybe, inject some more realism.

Although a writer does not necessarily need to have experience in any particular subject, having experience goes a long way towards making a story or a character more believable.

As fate would have it, I have a health issue, it’s not cancer, but it uses the same medication as cancer patients.

Whilst I know my condition does not give me a finite time to live, I realize now what she meant.

I have the same fears, suffering the after effects of the medicine, what it will be like as it progresses, how you appear in the eyes of others, and I know I feel only a small part of how it was for her.

That story is now being changed.

She had inspired me to write that story; I have now the experience to make it the story it should have been.

I think I’ve been watching too much TV

It’s never a good idea to look at the news.  I don’t know about you, but it always seems to be bad news, not good news.  I suppose if all they showed was good news, no one would watch it.

However, despite the negative aspects of it, sometimes it’s a source of plotlines, even a new book.  If you read newspapers, it’s usually a paragraph on page 17 that no one is supposed to notice, but tonight it’s something different.

Well, two things really.

I’ve been on roller coasters, and they actually scare the hell out of me.  It was not always that way, but watching the news and seeing how they can come adrift and leave you literally hanging quite a distance up in the air, well, that has had some effect.

It started me thinking, and that’s not a good thing sometimes.

My fear, now, is that the car is going to come off the rails.

A bit like my life really.  Amazing sometimes how the mind works and makes parallels with something else that’s entirely unrelated.

I’m in the abyss and free falling.  The first thousand yards feels exhilarating.

I’m not sure if everyone has done skydiving, but it’s like that time before you pull the ripcord.

Absolute adrenaline rush.

Followed by a single thought.  Will the parachute open.  Again, I’ve seen too many TV shows where ripcords don’t work.

Ok, I get it, if you don’t like the heat in the kitchen …

But, I digress

Now I’m at a point where I’m starting to think about the landing.

You dash headlong into a job, thinking yep, you’ve got it covered, but, what if you haven’t.  What if there are variables you never thought of, what if the people around you, so happy to cheer you on at the start, are now starting to change their tune.

Abyss, job, choice of vocation, lifestyle, following a dream, there’s very little difference.

Writing is an individual thing.

Are we writing for ourselves first, or are we writing simply to make money?  If it’s the latter, it ain’t going to work, at least not until you are established.  If ever.

So, yes, it’s back to the day job.


Still in the abyss, or hanging upside down 300 feet in the air waiting to be rescued

Maybe tomorrow there will be good news!