Sometimes it’s better to say that an expressed opinion is your own

It’s always a good thing to get that across especially if you work for an organization that could misinterpret what that opinion is, or generally have an opposing opinion.  Of course, by saying your opinions are your own, you’re covering yourself from becoming unemployed, but is this a futile act?

Perhaps its better to not say anything because everything you say and do eventually find its way to those you want most not to hear about it, perhaps one of the big negatives of the internet and social media.

And…

It seems odd to me that you can’t have an opinion of your own, even if it is contrary to that of the organization you work for, and especially if their opinion has changed over time.  An opposing opinion, not delivered in a derogatory manner, would have the expectation of sparking healthy debate, but it doesn’t always end up like that.

I’m sure there are others out there that will disagree, and use the overused word, loyalty’.   Perhaps their mantra will be ‘keep your opinions to yourself’.

This, too, often crops up in personal relationships, and adds weight to the statement, ‘you can pick your friends but not your relatives’.

I’m told I have an opinion on everything, a statement delivered in a manner that suggests sarcasm.  Whether it’s true or not, isn’t the essence of free speech, working within the parameters of not inciting hate, bigotry, racism, or sexism, a fundamental right of anyone in a democracy?

Seems not.

There’s always someone out there, higher up the food chain, with an opinion of their own, obviously the right one, and who will not hesitate to silence yours.  But, isn’t it strange that in order to silence you, they have to use leverage, like your job, to get theirs across.

Well, my opinions are in my writing, and whether or not you agree with them or not, I’m sure you will let me know.  In a robust but respectful manner.

Unlike some, my door is always open.

Being unwell in the time of a pandemic

It’s a rather interesting situation to get unwell in a pandemic, and you have to go to a hospital for medical assistance for something other than being a victim of the virus.

First of all, what we found was that before you could gain access to the hospital’s emergency department, you were quizzed on the potential for having the virus.  Displaying any symptoms will get you tested.

This gives those going into the hospital a sense of relief that there will be very little chance of contracting it in the waiting room.

Second of all, the waiting room, for the first time I’ve been there, was just about empty.  I’ve been coming to this hospital for many, many, years and not once had there been less than 20 people, and quite often, a lot more.  Any hour of the day or night.

This meant we had a better chance of seeing a doctor quickly.

Or perhaps not.

When we arrived there was about 6 or 7 ahead of us.  A half-hour later, there’s now about 20 and a line forming at reception.  There’s a steady increase in the numbers in the waiting room.

After about an hour we are called in.

It’s a preliminary interview where the symptoms are discussed, and the doctor attempts to match a malady to the symptoms.  There doesn’t seem to be anything to indicate what she has is life-threatening, but…

After a cursory listen to what’s going on in the chest region, the doctor decided on a blood test, an x-ray and an ECG.  She thought she heard an anomaly in the heartbeat but wasn’t quite sure what it was.

Blood taken, we are moved to one of the beds in Emergency to have her heart monitored, and this takes about ten to fifteen minutes.  Then it’s back to the waiting area

Another half-hour before she is taken away for the X-ray.  That takes another fifteen minutes.  From there it’s a waiting game.

What is evident today as distinct from other times I have been in the Emergency department is firstly the lack of people, movement, and noise.  The is, if anything, a surreal silence, and total lack of what might be previously described as controlled panic.

There’s a sense of purpose all around.  There were four of us waiting.  Usually, it was overflowing.  I get the impression unless there was an essential reason to be at the hospital, you were quickly dealt with and moved on.

Only one of the five or six beds has a waiting patient, whereas other times they would be full of family members spilling out into the passageways.

There was no one.  The one that had a patient and one visitor was moved on very quickly.

It seemed like they were on a war footing and you can feel it.  Another week I suspect it is going to be a pandemonium of a different sort, and I hope I don’t get to see it or be part of It

Another hour and the doctor has all the results.  Nothing.  She cannot definitively show what is wrong other than it was not life-threatening.  If it’s still prevalent in five days, a GP was the first point of call.

From there, our visit was over.

There were still a lot of people in the waiting room, but in the several hours we were inside the inner sanctum, there were no new admissions.

Again on the way out we passed the Covid-19 testing station, and all was calm.  The only change was the person on the other side desk.

I’m sure what I was witnessing was the calm before the storm.

Looking for inspiration in all the wrong places

I’m wandering through a shopping mall.  Not exactly what you’d expect from a writer looking for ideas.

Not that I came to the mall with that in mind, we have to do some shopping and a visit to the bank.

It’s one of those odd things we writers do, subconsciously looking for characters, character traits, or plots.

One came to me when I saw someone running.  Had they stolen an item and were they running from the store manager?  Were they escaping from a situation?  Perhaps they were just trying to catch up to the rest of their party.

Then, in another corner, not so private from everyone else, a couple are having an argument.  They are young.  There could be any number of subplots going on, were they breaking up?  Had one found out the other was cheating?  Were they married and discovered they were about to have a child they couldn’t afford?

Shopping malls are not exactly places that can be woven into a story unless it’s about teen angst, and there’s a lot of that in the after school hours and k as the night shopping.  I have never understood the need for teens to gather together and wander the halls of a shopping center.  Perhaps it’s just to hang out, whatever that means.

My teens used to gather and go to the cinema.  Years later we discovered they used to get drunk first then go to the cinema and misbehave.  It seemed like one of the ‘passage of rites’ thing for young people.  Not in my day, but times were different for them.  Nowadays it’s all about drugs and rage parties

Is this the sort of angst that finds it’s way into YA novels even though they might have a paranormal and/or fantasy theme.  People are still people no matter what the setting, so are we trying to sort out the problems of youth living in the current perilous times using a mythical background?

So much for finding subplots, now I’m looking at solving the world’s problems. I guess it’s time to go to the bank and solve my own problems and leave the rest to more competent people than myself.

Still, food for thought.  Perhaps a short chat with my 15-year-old granddaughter might make some sense of it.

Memories blur over time

I was reading an article about the bible the other day, and what I gathered to be the writers intent was that the end result was an accumulation of many time retold and translated stories.

It sort of relates to another story I read years ago and reenacted with a few friends to check its veracity. What happens is the first person is given the correct story, then having memorised it, relates it to the second and then so on along a chain of ten people.

The end story related by the tenth person, when compared to the original, had only part’s of the original story and for some reason new elements that somehow were misinterpretations of original story elements.

This perhaps could be put down to the individuals upbringing and background, which always gets used in the interpretation of what they are told. We all use different methods to remember things and this will always impact how we interpret and relate information.

It’s also the same when three different eyewitnesses to an accident will rarely agree on the details. Certain elements will be the same, but others will not.

When family’s recall events involving all of them, each will remember seminal events differently, and usually from their perspective it will revolve around where they perceive they fit in the family hierarchy. A stronger brother of sister will always see it differently from a weaker one.

My childhood memories are basically different to my brothers, and I suspect those events that he fails to recall are deliberately cast away because either they didn’t affect him, or there were so horrible, he deliberately cast them out.

We all tend to do that. Some members ok tries he has of the so called old days I have no recollection of.

Memories are a choice. We choose to remember the good ones and cast out the bad. Was that the case of when it came to put the biblical story down on paper (or stone as the case may be).

However we look at it, remember it, or relate it, the old days, the days of yesteryear, will always be different. For me, the 60’s and 70’s were horrible, for everyone else, well that’s another story.

When is it ever an easy flight home?

In the days when we could freely travel…

The course of plane travel can run like clockwork, or rapidly come apart at the seems.

Every time you go to the airport, it can become an adventure. Checking in, battling the airline’s kiosk, printing and attaching bag labels, going to bag drop, remembering that every airline does it differently.

Today we are arriving at Hong Kong airport which is huge and there are endless boarding gates. Being dropped off in the zone that belongs to the airline you’re flying might lead you to think finding the check-in for your flights is going to be easy, but it’s not. The next stop is to find the aisle letter where your flight is checking in and then do the automated boarding pass and baggage label.

If it’s international travel which it is today, there’s the added stress of negotiating immigration, and the duty free stores. We followed the rules, got there early, had the usual problems at the kiosk requiring the assistance of two Cathay Pacific staff, and finally made it to the initial departure concourse.

Next there’s the temptation of overpriced airport food if you’re hungry which we are not. But we have a McCafe coffee to satisfy a caffeine fix before the flight.

The shops are all expensive at the initial departure concourse, so we decide to see if there are other shops near our departure gate. To get to it we descend to the train and get off at 40-80. It’s a short journey and then when we arrive there is a collection of more affordable shops where we proceed to buy every man and his dog a selection of sweets with our remaining Hong Kong dollars.

From there it’s a couple of travellators, which sounds ridiculously short, but are, in reality, very, very long, to our gate and we get there ten minutes before boarding is supposed to commence.

Today we are travelling on an Airbus A350-900, a relatively new plane so you would think there could not be anything wrong with it. We had the same plane coming to Hong Kong, and no trouble with it.

We find a seat in the gate lounge and wait, along with everyone else. I’m still surprised at the number of able bodied people who take the disabled seats for the sake of being closer to the start of the line, and worse the woman who not only took up one of the seats but also another seat for her cabin baggage which was extensive.

Boarding starts late, and routinely for the first and business, and disabled passengers. The rest now start to line up in the economy line. Some people haven’t moved, perhaps they know something we don’t.

We eventually join the line, and go through initial formalities while waiting. And waiting. As the minutes tick by and nothing is happening, other than what appears to be growing consternation by the gate staff. The tipping point for immediate concern is when the previously boarded passengers begin to come back through the boarding gate into the departure gate lounge.

One of those who had been on board came our way and said there was a problem with the plane. They were told it was due to technical difficulties, the official non scary description for your plane Is broken. In the face of growing consternation among the queued economy passengers, there was an official announcement that advised of the technical difficulties, and boarding would be delayed.

We all sit back down, but this time there were a number of disabled and elderly people who needed seats, and our able bodied lady and her baggage did not move. Shame on her. We are lucky that where we were in the waiting line was adjacent to nearby seats

Now we were able to watch the other passengers jockeying for position to race to be first in the economy class boarding queue the second time around. I think they don’t realise they have the same seat if they are at the front of the line or the back. Because we were all asked to sit down, those at the front of the queue would now find themselves at the end.

After a delay of about an hour and a half we are finally boarding. The worst aspect of this delay is losing our slot in the departures and I’m guessing this was going to have an effect on our actual takeoff time. It appears to be the case. Boarding does not take very long and shortly after the doors are closed we’re pushing back from the gate.

From there, it becomes a chess game when we get a slot. We are in a queue of planes waiting their turn, and on the taxi ramp before the main runway, planes are separated into two queues, and we are in the second. Since we are the only one, I suspect we’re in the delayed take off queue, and sit watching four or so other planes take off before we finally get on the runway.

On the plane we discover one of the toilets is out of action so perhaps that was the technical difficulty with our plane. It’s not full so one toilet down will have little effect. Leaving in the early afternoon will get us into Brisbane late at night. It was meant to be around 11 pm, but with the delays, and possibly making up time in flight, it will now be after midnight when we arrive. Fortunately we have a 24 hour airport in Brisbane.

The flight from Hong Kong to Brisbane is without event. Lunch after takeoff, then a few hours later, an hour of so before landing, we have dinner. Both of us are not hungry. As expected, we landed after midnight, tired but glad to be home.

,,,

I can’t say at this moment in time I miss travelling.

That helicopter story that keeps me awake – Part 2

On the ground, not daring to move

Lying there, afraid to move, I honestly believed that was just the stupidest thing I’d ever done.

Aside from the fact I could see we were about to be blown to kingdom come by a rocket, I had that split second to decide if I wanted to be incinerated, or in possession of 206 broken bones.

I guess I was assuming I’d survive the landing. 

After all the helicopter was only about twenty to thirty feet above the ground and not moving very fast, in fact, it was slowing, and turning away, when the pilot saw the rocket launcher.

I could hear the crackling of fire not far from me, a result of the helicopter hitting the ground.  It wasn’t a large explosion, and certainly not accompanied by a hail of red-hot metal parts.

Not yet.

I moved and it hurt.  Understandable.  But there didn’t seem to be any broken bones, which was nothing short of a miracle.  I did try to affect a roll when landing as we were trained in parachute jumping, and maybe that had helped.

Enough time to recover, I rolled over and got to my knees.  Ok, that hurt, twinges in my lower back, a slight sprain in my right ankle.  No running then.

Then I heard the gears crunching, so sort an old Toyota pickup would make, followed by an over-revving engine.  A novice driver.  Or a man in a hurry.

Damn.

The pickup was coming back to check the wreckage.

And if there were any survivors.

No gun, lost that in the jump.  But, as luck would have it, an AK47 was lying on the ground between me and the burning wreckage.

Only one problem.  The pickup would be on me before I could get to it.

Is this the very definition of being between a rock and a hard place?

‘The Devil you Don’t’ – A beta reader’s view

After escaping from a relationship that could have been ripped from the pages of a celebrity scandal sheet, John decides to do what he always does when everything gets too hard to handle; go stay with his grandmother.

With one minor exception, on the way there he’s agreed to do a favour for a friend while in Rome and it is this one fated nod that sends his world spiralling out of control.

It is also this one fated nod that brings him into contact with a beguiling, and unbeknownst to him, murderous woman, Zoe the assassin.

But she, too, is having problems of her own brought on by a callous and deceptive handler and she is beginning to question his motives and her choices.

In bringing both John and Zoe together you end up with a besotted but wary fool and an assassin who just can’t kill the target. In the end, they both discover they have both become targets in a much larger game.

It has a cast of characters worthy of an Agatha Christie novel, a relationship that sparks but is fated to fail, a friend who is not what he seems, and a grandmother who’s as crusty and explicit as the dowager countess from Downton Abbey.

An immensely readable thriller in the unputdownable category.

Available for $0.99 at Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

Skeletons in the closet, and doppelgangers

A story called “Mistaken Identity”

How many of us have skeletons in the closet that we know nothing about? The skeletons we know about generally stay there, but those we do not, well, they have a habit of coming out of left field when we least expect it.

In this case, when you see your photo on a TV screen with the accompanying text that says you are wanted by every law enforcement agency in Europe, you’re in a state of shock, only to be compounded by those same police, armed and menacing, kicking the door down.

I’d been thinking about this premise for a while after I discovered my mother had a boyfriend before she married my father, a boyfriend who was, by all accounts, the man who was the love of her life.

Then, in terms of coming up with an idea for a story, what if she had a child by him that we didn’t know about, which might mean I had a half brother or sister I knew nothing about. It’s not an uncommon occurrence from what I’ve been researching.

There are many ways of putting a spin on this story.

Then, in the back of my mind, I remembered a story an acquaintance at work was once telling us over morning tea, that a friend of a friend had a mother who had a twin sister and that each of the sisters had a son by the same father, without each knowing of the father’s actions, both growing up without the other having any knowledge of their half brother, only to meet by accident on the other side of the world.

It was an encounter that in the scheme of things might never have happened, and each would have remained oblivious of the other.

For one sister, the relationship was over before she discovered she was pregnant, and therefore had not told the man he was a father. It was no surprise the relationship foundered when she discovered he was also having a relationship with her sister, a discovery that caused her to cut all ties with both of them and never speak to either from that day.

It’s a story with more twists and turns than a country lane!

And a great idea for a story.

That story is called ‘Mistaken Identity’.

Read an extract tomorrow.

Searching for locations: A long, narrow, winding road to the top of a hill

Or in other words, going up the mountain to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.

The road, from the turn off the Greenlee cottages, Is narrow, winding, and not one you can go faster than 40kph. Buses and trucks are restricted to 20kph, but as you get further into the mountains, it’s difficult to see how they can get along the road at all.

It’s difficult enough in a mid-size SUV.

At times the road is so narrow that you wonder how trucks and buses could get between the trees, because the close you get to the guest house, the narrower the road. And, at times, the car has to scrape by the overhanging branches, especially when having to make way for oncoming traffic.

The road in places is definitely not wide enough for two cars, but there are a lot of points where you can pull off to the side to let them pass.

It is tarred, but being in the middle of a dense tropical forest, it’s pitted and rutted, and very uneven. There is not one moment where can relax, or tale your eyes off the road, as some of us do, to take in the surrounding scenery.

But, whilst most of it looks the same, it’s certainly not boring, and every now and then you break out of the darkness into a clearing. And, sometimes a house.

Yes, people do live on the side of a mountain, and, just to be clear, their view, every morning, from the back verandah must be spectacular

At the end of the three quarters of an hour drive we emerge onto a mountain top, and what is O’Reilly’s guest house, though after a more investigative look around, the guests stay in motel like rooms. Those were the rooms we could see, but apparently there are villas that are part of the rainforest, but we did not get to see them.

That would be where I would stay, if I was going to stay up here.

There is an old wooden structure, but if this is the original guest house, it doesn’t look like people stay there any more.

But, it’s not the accommodation the people come here for, it’s the endless bush walks. Of course, there’s other stuff there, but I suspect for most people, it’s more about communing with nature, discovering the wildlife, and taking in the fresh country air.

Oh, and a plane, like one that had crashed nearby, with an interesting story to go with it.

We went into the souvenir story and whilst the prices are higher than I expected, there’s a wide variety of items that are worthy of being a reminder of the place.

We also went into the cafe, a large cavernous space that was a reminder of the chalet style building in alpine areas, made completely of wood. I was expecting it to be older than it was, but certainly, it was more atmospheric than the modern cafes. The food, though expensive, was good, and the coffee excellent.

It was a pity that we could not do more walking that day, but it was a pleasant interlude, and a place I would go back to.

Searching for locations: An old country homestead, Canungra, Australia

Or to be more precise, the homestead at what is now O’Reilly’s vineyard, where there is a pleasant lawn out back running down to the river for picnics, an alpaca farm next door, and the homestead plays host to functions, and wine tastings.

My interest was that we had assumed there was a restaraunt, and we were going to have lunch. There might be one, but not the day we visited, it was just cafe food or a picnic available.

I was more interested in the old homestead, because it was a fine example of the homesteads built in the ‘outback’.

Today we are having lunch in the Platypus room, in the O’Reilly’s vineyard farmhouse, which, if you close your eyes and let your imagination run free, could see it as the master bedroom of a homestead.

Certainly the building is old, made completely of timber, inside and out, with the traditional high ceilings to keep the heat at bay.

At one end, a large bay window, which would be ideal to sir and view the outside, past the sweeping verandah.  There is a small lawn and a rotunda, but beyond that what might have been extended gardens, is the vineyard.

The homestead is in an ideal position midway between the main road and the river, has the traditional surrounding verandah, and shows signs of being extended on almost all sides.

On the other side of the wide corridor that leads you to the bar, and, coincidentally, down the centre of the house, is a smaller bedroom, also used as a dining room, and ubiquitously named the library.

It may be small but it does have a fireplace.  Which the assumed master bedroom does not, but now I’m thinking that room might have been the morning room.

Behind the room we’re in is another bedroom, or perhaps this might be the master, because it does have a fireplace and is quite large.  And a name, the Ambassador room.  Now it serves as the pick up place for picnic baskets.

There is another room on the opposite side of the corridor called the Drawing Room, but is not open to the public.  But, going into the room with the fireplace adjacent to it, you can sell the aroma of pizzas, so it’s probably an extension of the kitchen, and, walking around the outside that side of the house proves it to be case.

After all, they do catering for weddings and need a very large food preparation area which I discovered runs down the whole of that side of the house.

At the end of the corridor I’d the bar and spare space, and running off that and behind that is where there is a large dining area, perhaps prior to COVID, the restaurant.

It’s not hard to imagine that area as a very large entertaining area, either for very large dinner parties, or dancing.

As for the food, it’s either a picnic basket, or pizzas.  We chose the latter, not realising the bases were not home made, but bought in.  

The toppings however were both plentiful and tasty.  It could have been hotter, because it was a cold day, and it was cold in the room.

As for something to do other than taste the wine, and buy a few bottles, you can get up close to the vines, which, at this time of the year gave been pruned back and look quite dead, look at or walk an alpaca, even feed it, or all of them, or go down to the river and see if you can spot a Platypus.

Perhaps next time we’ll have a picnic down by the river.