Past conversations with my cat – 19


This is Chester, he thinks he is invisible.

No one has told him he’s not a zebra, and that he doesn’t have stripes the same color as the blinds.

I’ve told him over and over, just because he cannot see me, it doesn’t mean I can’t see him.

But, once again, we have to play the ‘game’.

I should be writing, but once again Chester has successfully distracted me.

If it was a cunning plan on his part, it worked.


In a word: Stern

It’s what I’d always expected of my teachers, having to stand up the front of the classroom and look like they were in control.

These days, not so much, but back in my day, teachers, and particularly the men, were to be feared, and stern expressions were the least of the features of an effective teacher.

So, in this context, it means a hardness or severity of manner.

Whilst in a sense that was frightening to us kids, another form of the word also can be used to express a forbidding or gloomy appearance.

Grandfathers also have that stern look, but it’s more forbidding, more authoritarian, more severe, more austere, well, you get the picture.  A six-year-old would be trembling in his or her boots.

There again, in facing up to either possibility above, you could stand firm with a stern resolve not to buckle under the pressure.

Of course, not a good idea if you’re facing a tank (with a stern-looking tank master)


If you’re standing at the end of the boat, not the front, but the rear, you would be standing at the stern of the boat, or ship.

Oddly, when issuing instructions to go in reverse, not something you would say if you were on the bridge, you would instead say, or possibly yell, full speed astern, because you’re about to hit an iceberg.

Or some idiot in a jet ski who likes to think he or she can beat the bullet (or 65,000 tonnes of a ship that has very little mobility).

Back to those ‘old days’ again

I started out by saying I didn’t want to be a lone voice in the wilderness.

Apparently I am, still.

Well, that might be a little harsh in the circumstances, but the monkey on my shoulder is telling me I should start writing something that someone might want to read.

I guess the trials and tribulations of a writer who basically is a lone voice in the wilderness is as boring as everyday life.

I mean, who wants to read about someone’s miserable, or, on rare occasions, good, day.

Yet, if I was to pick up any book written in the 18th and 19th century, all it seems to be about is everyday life, but what makes it interesting is the fact we never lived it, nor realized how hard it was for some, and how good it could be for others.

Best not to be born poor.

So, I was wondering, in 200 years time when someone sits down to read about the vicissitudes of my life, will it be interesting to know what it was like back in the ‘old days’ that is really today for me?

Interesting how a change in time frame makes something interesting, and ‘classic’ literature.

But one difference between then and now is the fact we, today, can write about science fiction, spies and all manner of events that come out of recent inventions.  Odd too, that people are still the same, those that tell the truth, those that are pure of heart, those who are as evil as the devil himself.

Some things never change.

Just the when, where, and how.

NaNoWriMo 2019, I’ve just put up my novel for this year

Nanowrimo graphic

As I have for the past few years, once again I’m going to try and put out 50,000 words.

The title of the novel will be “Betrayal”, though that might change as the novel progresses.  Sometimes a better title comes to me later on in the writing.

It’s another spy thriller, though with a slightly different angle this time, and I’ve spent the last few days working on an outline which is, to say the least, very general at the moment.

I know how it will start.

I know how it will end, or at least I think I do.  Having an end in mind is quite new for me because I tend to write and see where it goes, like being in the reader’s seat and not knowing what will happen next.

Over the next few days I will refine the cast of characters and then work on some of the introductory plot points.

Right now, as I’m writing this, I can see a rather dank prison cell somewhere in Moscow, where one of the main characters is languishing.

The other, in rather different circumstances, has just got through the throes of a semi amicable divorce and is considering how the next chapter of his life is going to be written.

That, of course, could change in the next twelve hours, after I’ve slept on it.

It’s now 2am here and time to get some sleep (or either pleasant or unpleasant dreams, depending on the character whose shoes I want to step into).


Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 21

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.

The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritising.

But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.

An unlikely ally?



It seemed that I had managed to scare her.  Either that, or she had decided to be a little more forthcoming.  I stopped and waited until she caught up.  I was nearly at the top of the stairs.

“Look, I have to go back to my people, and I’ll get them to look into those two people you don’t seem to trust, who were they, Nobbin and Severin?”

“I don’t think you want to do that.  You start making waves, your people will send out feelers and they’ll get to hear about it, and they will know exactly where it came from, and it’ll come back and bite you.  For your own peace of mind, I’d let the sleeping dogs lie.”

She seemed over-eager to get ahead using this as a steppingstone.  I’d seen the type, in the training ranks, and in former jobs.  She was clearly assigned this job because of her looks, and she might be a good agent too, but she hadn’t thought this through.

“Are you telling me to back off?”

“I’m trying to save your life.  If I have no idea who to trust, then I have to assume both of them are theoretically the enemy.  I’m still counting the blessings I’m still alive, but I suspect that will only last until the USB is found.  The rest of my team are dead.”

Now that put the right amount of fear into her.

“If they’re willing to kill everybody that’s come in contact with this information, I doubt they’d stop at killing the both of us if we got in their way.”

“Then you have a plan?”

“At the moment that plan consists of one line.  Stay alive and find the USB before they do.  After that, I’ll see what happens.”

I caught sight of an incident, two people almost colliding, and one, I noticed, was more intent on his phone which is what caused the clash.  And, a second later, I thought I recognised one of the two.

Maury.  Severin’s offsider, and more likely cleanup man.  My guess, he was the one searching O’Connell’s flat, and Jan’.”

I think it was safe to say she was compromised.

“Ok,” I said quietly, “we have a problem, well two problems.”  And if I was wrong about her, and she was one of Severin’s people, which, seeing Maury just turned a probable into a likely, I had three.

If she was, I hadn’t seen that coming. 

“What now?”

Time to test the water.

“One of Severin’s men is downstairs, mingling, which means he knows I’m here, and maybe you two.”

I did a quick check of my scan of O’Connell’s, thinking I might have picked up a bug.  It was the only explanation why Maury was here.  And, it was likely he was not alone.

Not me.  Jan?

“Did you take anything from O’Connell’s?”

“No.  Why?”

“Are you sure.  Think”

While scanning the lower floor of the station looking, no doubt, for Maury, and anyone that might present a problem, she looked like she was recounting her steps.

“Damn.  A pen.  I left it there the last time I saw him.”  She pulled it out of her bag and went to toss it in the bin.

I snatched it, and as someone brushed past me, I dropped it into their pocket.

A flash of annoyance, then, “Hey, that cost a lot of money.”

“Then be grateful it didn’t cost you your life.  Yet.”

We waited, keeping far enough back from the stairs, but with still a good view of the station.  I kept an eye on the man whom I gave the pen as he made his way across the floor towards one of the platforms.  Luckily it was at the furthest end, and as he approached it, I saw three figures, and Maury slowly make their way towards him forming a blockade so he couldn’t escape.

“Time to go.”

She had noticed the movement too.

We went down the stairs and headed towards the first available exit.  As we were going out the door, we heard a commotion, the team obviously apprehending the wrong man, who would be wondering why four burly men were accosting him on his way home.

We didn’t wait to find out what happened to him.


© Charles Heath 2019

Searching for locations: The Castello di Brolio, Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy

The castle is located in the southern Chianti Classico countryside and has been there for over ten centuries, and owned by the Ricasoli family since 1141.

Like any good castle, it has strong defences, and I was looking for a moat and drawbridge, but it looks like the moat has become a lawn.

The very high walls in places no doubt were built to keep the enemy out

The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the last 900 years.  It was part of the Florentine defences, and withstood, and succumbed to many battles with Siena, which is only 20 km away.  More recently, it still bears the scars of artillery fire and bombing in WW2.

The room at the top of this tower would have an excellent view of the countryside.

Here you can see the old and the new, the red brick part of the rebuilding in the 1800’s in the style of an English Manor

We did not get to see where that archway led.

Nor what was behind door number one at the top of these stairs.  Rest assured, many, many years ago someone wearing armour would have made the climb.   It would not pass current occupational health and safety these days with a number of stairs before a landing.

Cappella di San Jacopo.  Its foundations were laid in 1348.

Renovated in 1867-1869, it has a gabled façade preceded by a double stone staircase.  The interior, with a crypt where the members of the Ricasoli family are buried, has a nave divided into three spans with cross vaults.

The 1,200 hectares of the property include 240 hectares of vineyards and 26 of olive groves, in the commune of Gaiole.